The Future Of Travel Booking Sites: Will They Survive?

by Natasha Monteiro
The Future Of Travel Booking Sites: Will They Survive?

Travel and hospitality in India and all over the world have taken a major hit through the dreaded coronavirus pandemic. The months of April-May and June were usually chock-a-block with bookings and travel reservations. But with countries shutting down borders, states locking up their entry points and the deadly infectious rate of the pandemic, with no vaccine found yet – it is easy to deduce that travel and tourism were probably the hardest hit industries in India.

Varun Chadha, CEO of Tirun, the Indian representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises said, “The earliest resumption that we see is towards the end of the year for international operations. Our efforts right now are more geared towards people getting their refunds, understanding the market dynamics for onboard products and looking at recovery scenarios to weather the storm.”

Also read: Seychelles Cancels All Cruise Ships Till 2021

Tourism Contribution To Indian Economy & Current State

Travel & tourism industry in India is a significant contributor to the country’s GDP. In fact in 2018, travel & tourism contributed 9.2% in India’s GDP and generated 26.7 million jobs. As per the the Ministry of Tourism (MOT) annual report for 2019-20, over 87 million people were employed in the travel sector in 2018-19 in India.

So it was indeed sad news to hear Apex sectoral body Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) said that India’s tourism sector would see losses double to 10 lakh crore in 2020. “We would like to double the earlier guidance of Indian tourism economic value at risk from Rs 5 lakh crore to Rs 10 lakh crore,” a FAITH spokesperson said.

A report by JLL India said,”“In the third week of March 2020, at an all India level, the hotels’ sector witnessed a decline of more than 65 per cent in occupancy levels as compared to the same period of the previous year. As travel restrictions around the world intensified further, second and third quarters of 2020 are likely to be similarly impacted.”

Coronavirus Effect On Travel Booking Sites

On account of Coronavirus, the Indian tourism and hospitality industry is expecting a potential job loss of around 38 million. India’s largest travel aggregator MakeMyTrip Fired 350 Employees Due To COVID-19 Impact. MakeMyTrip founder Deep Kalra and CEO Rajesh Magow said in an email, “As we revisited some of our strategic imperatives to be able to sustain our business in the long term, it is evident that the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of our business lines in its current form. Keeping this in mind we have had to take this sad but inevitable decision of rightsizing our workforce.”

Then again, it was not just India, but even AirBnB Laid Off 1,900 Employees Amid Slump. AirBnB had to come to a decision of laying off nearly 1900 out of 7500 employees. It comprised about 25% of AirBnB’s global workforce.

While travel booking sites are definitely seeing a slump and are refunding large amounts of money to passengers who have already booked, things have not been easy for them. Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager – India, Sri Lanka, Maldives at said, “In early May, we shared that while historically domestic accommodation bookings represent approximately 45% of’s total business globally, in April 2020,’s domestic share increased to approximately 70%. Having also delved into the travel wish lists created by hopeful Indian travellers on during March and April 2020, in-country stays (domestic travel) feature in nearly 67% of all those wish listed by Indians during this time of uncertainty – a jump from the same time last year when domestic properties accounted for 48% of those wish listed.”

Future Of Travel Booking Sites

Abhishek Daga, co-founder of the travel startup Thrillophilia said, “The pandemic has left people emotionally scarred and as travel is a great stress buster, people would still want to do so. But this time, they’re going to be a lot more cautious about what they do. Beautiful pictures and videos will not be enough to convince them to travel. Travellers will demand to see the physical changes made and visible measures undertaken to make travel safer for them.”

While travelling has just about opened up within the country, the industry is looking at ways to adapt to changing consumer preferences, safety guidelines and social distancing norms. In this post lockdown world, booking sites are trying to introduce new strategies to attract customers.

Also read: Travelling By Bus, Train Or Flight In India? Read These Travel Guidelines First

Mehrotra added, “In the coming months we can assume that the appetite for sustainable and responsible travel to build even more momentum, with the need to give back to local communities both far and close to home.  Technology will also continue to play an integral role in travel – perhaps even more so post pandemic – from early planning stages, to in-trip. Ongoing advances in AI, machine learning and data science were already empowering to make increasingly personalized 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.

Experiencing the world will develop new meaning for the millions of us restricted from doing so, creating memories, experiencing cultures and planning new adventures. We hope to bring business back to our partners, inspire travellers and reward them for supporting local businesses so that, when the time is right, we can continue to make it easier for everyone to experience the world.”

Not just but also SOTC has introduced new ideas to attract potential tourists. Daniel D’souza, President and Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel said, “The recent resumption of domestic operations is a favorable move in the revival of travel within the country. These travel corridors will augment the necessary growth needed for the travel sector. In our preparedness to address the immediate demand with domestic travel, SOTC Travel has introduced “Back to Life” campaign which focuses on fostering a positive outlook to travel.

Also read: Travel Business Will Revive In 6-12 Months, States OYO CEO

According to our Holiday Readiness Travel Report – Future of Travel post COVID-19, Travel is set to rebound as Indians will continue to travel. 14% respondents indicated that they are likely to travel in 2020 once restrictions are lifted. A domestic holiday was the first choice of 64% respondents.”

Well, with Domestic Flights Resuming Operations From May 25th and domestic destinations getting a boost in tourism, it looks like India might slowly but steadily see a revival again. Booking sites & travel aggregators may not be able to immediately recover losses, but they will definitely see a boost in bookings from this month, June 2020 courtesy the reopening of domestic flights. In fact, Vistara CCO said that Air Travel Is Still The Safest Way To Travel.

Well until you decide to travel again, here is a virtual tour of Jaipur for you to sit back and enjoy!