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‘We are very optimistic about the revival of outbound tourism’

At present, the number of people getting vaccinated in a country is the primary enabler for a tourist to choose a destination to travel. Besides this, a scattered population, innovative attractions on offer, flexibility to cancel or modify flight and hotel bookings, destinations located around nature etc. are some of the reasons influencing a traveller’s decision, says Yamini Singh,Vice President – PR & Media, Think Strawberries in an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh.

Q.The travel & tourism representation business has undergone a complete transition with global restrictions in force due to the pandemic. Enumerate on some of the communication strategy changes undertaken by Think Strawberries?

As soon as the nationwide lockdown was announced, we introduced certain tools in the system for uninterrupted internal and external communication whilst ensuring the quality of output remains uncompromised. Needless to say, the digital-led approach enabled us to remain connected even in the most difficult of times. Be it through email marketing, social media, virtual meetings, CRM and elaborate reporting system, we ascertained that we provide timely updates to our clients and as well as keep them at the forefront during the travel hiatus.

Now, as some of the countries have started opening their doors for Indian travellers, we are aggressively rebranding our clients as safe destinations, conducting strategic marketing campaigns and drawing attention to their unique tourism offerings across consumer segments.

Q.In these extraordinary times, what would you term as some of the challenges for destination representation companies while representing large, medium and small nations or variety of products?

Travel restrictions imposed by some destinations for Indian travellers is the biggest challenge at the moment. Other than this, the reduction in number of flights operating through certain routes is another hurdle that we need to jump through. Non-acceptance of some vaccines available in India by international organizations is also another concern. Having said all this, we are positive that with time countries who have been wary of Indian travellers due to safety concerns would soon start welcoming them again. Also, with more number of people getting vaccinated every day, we are certain that reaching pre-Covid number is not a farfetched dream anymore.

Q.How effective has been the digital medium for promotions and outreach compared to the traditional in-person meetings and events?

Extremely effective! Although,digital mediums were an essential aspect of our business even before the pandemic hit the world, COVID-19 accelerated the need for everyone to accept this as the ‘new normal’. From e-meetings and virtual events to social media and tech-led tools, digitalization in Covid times enabled us to remain relevant in the face of one of the most challenging crisis witnessed by the industry.

Q.With uneven vaccine distribution and inoculation still at low pace of populations across the world leading to uncertainty of complete reopening of borders, what are some of the crucial measures required to sustain in the representation business?

While some countries have been slow to implement fast-paced inoculations, countries like UAE and US have vaccinated around 50% – 60% of its population. Even countries such as Maldives, one of our prominent clients, and France, where we represent Disneyland Paris, have successfully vaccinated a majority of its people. Owing to this development, our efforts are currently geared towards positioning our clients as safe destinations and marketing them to diverse customer segments so they remain on top of mind when travel restrictions ease and travel decisions are being made.

In terms of innovation, what are some of the measures you would list to infuse confidence among travellers?

Currently, the number of people getting vaccinated in a country is the primary enabler for a tourist to choose a destination to travel. Other than this, a scattered population, innovative attractions on offer, flexibility to cancel/ modify flight and hotel bookings, home rentals, destinations located around nature etc. are some of the reasons influencing a traveller’s decision. Restoration of confidence
will remain work in progress till the virus is contained, large scale herd immunity is developed or number of cases drop substantially enough for people to fully come to terms with the new normal.

There was hope that outbound would boom once restrictions are lifted. However,with new variants of the virus being cause of concern, how optimistic are you about the recovery pace of outbound once normalcy returns?

We are very optimistic about the revival of outbound tourism. Travelling is one of the innate needs of humans and after being isolated for over a year, people now are choosing to travel for longer duration to short as well as long haul destinations. Although the fear of new variants as well as the third wave of the pandemic is causing people to shift uneasily in their seats, seeing the swift pace of the vaccine drive has been a positive ray of hope. After India bagging the rank of No. 1 source market for Maldives in 2020 and UAE being classified as a country that was most visited by Indians during the pandemic, we are hopeful that 2021-22 too will be favourable for us and our clients.

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