Restoring customers’ confidence is one of the major challenges of the travel and tourism sector currently. We speak to an industry expert for insights on initiatives that can be adopted to boost this market.
What will be the role of the OTA market in bridging the gap between accommodation and guests?
Health and safety is a crucial aspect of the information that guests are seeking in order to make informed travel and especially accommodation decisions.
To cater to this need, we have introduced a special feature on our platform that allows accommodation partners to select different health and safety measures they are taking in areas such as hygiene, sanitisation, social distancing and food safety amongst others, which are then displayed on their property page on Booking.com.
Are Indians keen on travelling to international destinations when travel opens up again or are they looking for domestic options?
While the virus’ impact on travel is unprecedented, the crisis will eventually end and people will want to travel again. Currently, countries are at different stages of the pandemic, so exactly where and when travel will return is difficult to predict. However, when it does, domestic and more localised regional travel will recover before long haul international travel, as it remains easier and safer to travel locally.
In early May our domestic accommodation bookings represented approximately 45 per cent of Booking.com’s total global business that increased to approximately 70 per cent. Even for India, there is a similar trend. A large part of our India business was domestic accommodation bookings and that has increased in this pandemic.
There are some early signs of recovery in few markets in the Asia Pacific region with travel behaviour likely seeing some shifts from going to cities for pre-determined dates to non-city, rural, less explored destinations with flexible dates.
What according to you will be the changes in travel booking patterns?
The travel industry will need to be diligent and nimble in its approach to satisfy traveller demands. That said, there are a number of requirements we know travellers will be looking at when it’s time to make that booking.
They will need easy and quick communication with accommodation partners along with flexible policies, particularly for longer booking windows. Great prices and overall value will be key considerations for consumers as travel will depend not only on the overall economy but also on consumers’ financial health and confidence in their ability to take that next trip.
In addition, recent and verified reviews from other guests will be more important than ever as they will bring the most relevant, up-to-date information to ensure travellers’ experiences match their expectations.
Name some domestic and international destinations that are witnessing highest demand on your platform
Taking into account the wish-lists created by Indian travellers on Booking.com in the months of May-June 2020, the data revealed that Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Lonavala are amongst the top wish-listed domestic destinations whereas Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Russia and the UAE were among the top wish-listed international destinations by Indian travellers.
What are the significant developments you see in the travel industry around sustainability?
The pandemic has taught us an important lesson on the impact, our actions can have on the environment (the lockdown’s positive impact on the environment). And in the coming months, we feel that the need for sustainable and responsible travel will gain more momentum, with travellers wanting to support local communities.
As a company, we believe travel has the power to transform lives for the better. But we also know every trip has an impact on the environment and local communities. We can never completely eliminate this impact, but we are committed to reducing it.
Keeping this in mind, we have taken an important step forward in helping our customers make sustainable accommodation choices by introducing the ‘Sustainable practices’ product. All of our partners can select from various sustainable practices for their properties such as removing single-use plastics, using technology to conserve energy or reducing water usage.
What will be the role of technology in ensuring safe travel?
Ongoing advances in AI, machine learning and data science were already empowering us to make increasingly personalised recommendations for our customers, and these technologies will continue to play a crucial role for us in delivering on customer needs and building loyalty in the future.
We have also seen customer behaviour changing over the last months and becoming more digital. Recently, bookings increasingly are being made on our mobile app. Our travel communities, which travellers use to connect with one another and share advice has also seen an increase in the number of people visiting to look for personalised tips for their trips.
What are the additional perks that the platform intends to offer to the travellers?
We understand the importance of flexibility for travellers, in making changes to their travel plans, particularly at this time of uncertainty. To meet this changing customer demand, we have introduced the Flexible-1 Day policy allowing customers to cancel for free until one day before check-in.
In order to boost domestic tourism, we are also offering special deals and discounts.