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‘It is extremely important to adapt to the changing consumer preferences’

In the changed circumstances,carefully designed packages with a complete focus on health, safety and affordability for customers are key. Today, travellers want certainty and peace of mind than ever before. Keeping this in mind, many companies have introduced flexible rescheduling, booking and cancellation policies that allow for last-minute changes and cancellations, says Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel in an interaction with Prasenjit Chakraborty

Q.The pandemic has wiped out two consecutive domestic summer seasons. How is the demand for domestic travel with the ebbing second wave of Covid-19? Besides Safety & Hygiene, is there any other demand from the travellers?

The current situation has thrown a new challenge by completely changing the holiday trends and travel patterns in India established over past decades. It is extremely important to adapt to the changing consumer preferences. Travellers are more optimistic about taking a holiday in the next few months. According to our recent consumer survey, nearly 18% customers are interested to travel immediately after relaxation on the lockdowns and 50% within the next 3-6 months period. Himachal, Kashmir, Ladakh, Andaman are the most preferred destinations.Financial security and safety are key determinants driving demand while flexibility in rescheduling and zero cancellation schemes have given people the muchneeded re-assurance to plan their trips without hesitation. Since health/hygiene and safety protocols are paramount, we at SOTC and Thomas Cook India
have redesigned our operations and offerings to end-to-end cover the needs of the intrepid traveller and provide a hassle-free and secured travel experience.

Q.How important is the affordability quotient while designing a holiday package at present?

Carefully designed packages with a complete focus on health,safety and affordability for customers will be the way forward. Flexible Booking: Travellers want certainty and peace of mind now more than ever, and many companies have catered to the current need introducing flexible rescheduling, booking and cancellation policies that allow for last-minute changes and cancellations.
At SOTC, we strive to make our products, prices and holiday designs convenient and affordable. In line with this commitment, we have introduced the SOTC Holiday Card that simplifies the travel experience and offers complete savings and benefits for the aspiring Indian traveller. Customers can plan their perfect holiday while enjoying maximum benefits and great savings. With attractive customer benefits like 15% Extra Cashback, 10% off on COVIDnegative certification services and discounts on ancillary services like visa and passport, the Holiday Card presents travel enthusiasts with an opportunity of a lifetime to book exciting tour packages across top international and domestic destinations.

Q.You have recently launched a scheme called Get One Free & Staycation Free. How is the response for the scheme? What message do you want to send through the scheme?

There have been positive signs with a reduction in the daily counts of new cases and improving recovery rate in India. With the decrease in the number of cases in selected states have started to ease restrictions and this trend comes as a glimmer of hope. People feel positive towards stepping out of their homes and this very reassuring. There has been a 35-40% increase in weekon-week enquiries. Enquiries have been from key metros and tier II and tier III markets. Our customers are displaying strong travel desire – with over 69% keen to travel this year. And so, the launch of our Buy One Get One Free & Staycations Free is aimed at benefiting our customers with very attractive pricing and offers when they book both domestic and international holidays with us. With health and safety being a key consideration for 70% of our travellers, our meaningful TravShield commitment to safety incorporates our comprehensive safety protocols in partnership with Apollo Clinics.

Q.In the backdrop of the pandemic, do lucrative foreign/outbound packages really attract people currently? Elaborate.

Acceptance of India’s vaccine by several European states,reopening of borders and easing of travel restrictions is resulting in significant and growing travel desire. We’ve been working extensively to bring confidence back and create a seamless travel experience for our customers. We’ve also introduced complete flexibility in our holiday propositions. The Thomas Cook & SOTC Third
Holiday Readiness Report (June 2021) revealed a Strong Travel Demand: 69% respondents keen to resume travel in 2021 with Interest for International (46%) destinations.

Maldives, Egypt, Dubai,Switzerland are the most preferred international destinations. Seeing an uptick in enquiries for quick escapes like back to nature and beach destinations, staycation, workations and drivecations are a popular first choice. With festivals and events such as Diwali, Christmas, IPL, Expo 2020 in the UAE, the T20 World Cup in Dubai and Oman, and
the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, we anticipate more people to travel in the coming months.

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