Travel firms get battle-ready for post-Covid scenario even as unknowns loom

The travel industry has come to a grinding halt with imposition of travel bans and curfews across the world and uncertainty remains over when the restrictions will be lifted
Travel companies are working on new business plans, devising ways to engage with customers, and training staff to adapt to a post-Covid-19 business environment.

The travel industry has come to a grinding halt with the imposition of travel bans and curfew across the world and it is unclear when travel restrictions will ease.  “Our priority now is to protect the organisation and the employees,” said Madhavan Menon, chairman and managing director, Thomas Cook India.

“We have several projects underway. We need to see what changes need be made in our products, technologies, customer engagement, and workplace. That is our focus,” added Menon.

The tour operator, in February, had guided for negative impact on its quarterly result due to the coronavirus crisis.

“We are preparing our workforce for a post-Covid marketplace by doing online product and sales skills workshops. Through regular engagement with our sales teams, we are trying to ensure they adapt to the changed business environment and are geared up for new opportunities,” said Isha Goyal, director, STIC Travels.

Even as travel companies formulate business recovery strategies, they are grappling with many unknowns. For instance, it is unclear when visa restrictions will ease and how soon airlines will resume normal operations.

“It is going to be an extremely challenging year for outbound tourism, given all the travel restrictions,” said Madhav Pai, founder-chairman, WOW Holidays.

“The travel industry is going through an extremely difficult time. Most companies are focused on cutting cost and conserving cash. Marketing campaigns have been put on the back burner as have any bonuses for 2019-20 or salary increases for the next year. The recovery is going to be gradual for the industry. Travel, especially international travel, will take more than a couple of quarters to recover,” said Dhruv Shringi, chief executive officer and co-founder, Yatra.

The World Travel and Tourism Council last month said up to 50 million jobs globally in the travel sector are at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With many domestic companies facing liquidity crisis, Indian Association of Tour Operators has sought refund of all advances paid to airlines and hotels, goods and services tax holiday, and a bailout package from the central government.

Menon said Thomas Cook India is comfortable with its cash position. “We have significant cash in our balance sheet and we are reviewing all our cash sources and payables. All non-essential expenses have been stopped with a view to conserve cash,” he added.

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