Post pandemic, a significant transformation in consumer behaviour has emerged, particularly in terms of booking patterns.
As the cost of travel has shown a spike due to inflationary pressures and high global energy impacting travelling budgets, the travellers are looking to find the best and cheapest deals.
Despite the challenges, the global travel company, Brightsun Travel has its strategic planning in place. Focusing on selling cheap packages online for non-repeat customers, providing quality holidays for repeat customers, and serving the corporate, SME and NHI sectors, Brightsun’s business model has remained predominantly the same, pointed out the company’s Managing Director, Deepak Nangla.
Notably, Brightsun has made significant changes by separating sales and customer service teams to better fulfill customer needs and enhance the product range based on understanding the passenger journey.
“These enhancements will continue well into 2024,” Nangla added.
Regarding new plans and initiatives for 2023, Nangla shared that Brightsun will have a consistent approach of innovating and integrating new products within the business.
“In 2022, Brightsun re-engineered its hotel booking process to offer a larger range of results, faster to the customer. In 2023, even as the corporate market seems the last to return to 2019 levels, the Meeting, Incentives, Conference, and Exhibition movement (MICE) is looking strong. Many companies are looking for ways of rewarding and motivating their staff,” he said.
As disposable income rises and customers seek new experiences, Brightsun aims to capitalise on the MICE segment, along with the emerging market of cruising.
“The objective is to add new revenue streams to the business,” Nangla shared.
Short-haul bookings are increasingly going online, with customers selecting flights and choosing hotels for shorter stays. However, long-haul customers are opting for longer trips and spending about 15 per cent more compared to 2019, Nangla added.
Discussing the other significant post-Covid booking trends, Nangla noted a shift from late bookings due to uncertainty during the pandemic to customers understanding the advantage of booking closer to departure dates to secure better prices. “The anticipation is that by the second quarter of 2023, booking trends will align with those of 2019, with leisure bookings made well in advance and corporate bookings closer to the departure date,” he added.
As far as the changes within Brightsun are concerned, the company utilised the opportunity to retrain their teams, improve destination and operational knowledge and recruit new members with additional skill sets, such as cruises, to adapt to the changing demands.
India’s contribution in tourism rebound and government’s hand holding for travel trade:
Regarding the overall rebound of tourism in 2023, Nangla acknowledged India’s contribution to rising tourism numbers and its potential in both domestic and international sectors. “The country has one of the largest domestic tourism sectors in the world with over 600 million trips performed last year by Indians within India. This itself shows the explorer mindset of the Indian traveller,” he shared.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects an eight per cent year-on-year growth in India’s tourism sector until 2030. Nangla affirmed that the country’s plan to establish over 50 international airports by 2028 opens up opportunities for international travellers to experience India’s diverse cultural, adventure, beach, MICE, and business offerings.
“However, there is much work that needs to be done in international markets when it comes to promoting these Indian destinations. This stretches right from having representation in international markets to exploring marketing opportunities to create awareness of what India has to offer,” he advised.
As for outbound international tourism, high pricing and visa application processing times have impacted bookings, but last-minute uptake is still anticipated, Nangla added. “With June 2023 being a prime travel season, we are seeing high pricing leading to less bookings. Airlines should be full to 100 per cent of capacity but many are sitting at 80 per cent. This also has to do with the level of visa applications that the embassies are dealing with and the length of processing time for visa applications. We are still confident of last-minute uptake of inventory,” he said.
Nangla also simultaneously addressed the government’s role in supporting the travel trade segment. “When the tourism sector presents nine per cent of GDP in 2028 surely the investment by the government should also be up to that level,” he added.
Other specific requests, as listed by Nangla include reducing taxation on hotel stays to encourage hoteliers’ investments, particularly in the four-star category and regulating tour operators and travel agents. “This can be done through financial checks of travel companies and through procedures that are used to ensure that disaster management procedures are in place,” Nangla suggested.
Concluding on a positive note, Nangla shared that his company remains positive about the future, with a focus on adapting to market dynamics, offering new experiences and capitalising on emerging segments to drive growth in 2023 and beyond.
Established in 1986, Brightsun Travel is a global travel company offering travel services to a wide range of customers, including individual and trade customers, corporate houses and high net-worth individuals. With offices located in Gurugram, Delhi, Manchester, and London, the company operates on a global scale.
Their service portfolio covers flight bookings to domestic and international holiday packages, catering to diverse budgets. In addition, Brightsun Travel provides ancillary products such as cruises, tours, car hire, travel insurance, and visa services.