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We are looking at a 6-month timeline before foreign tourists develop the comfort to visit India: Eshan Joshi, Zostel

Brands are coming out with beautifully crafted digital marketing campaigns to help sustain and empower the travel industry to fight back says Eshan Joshi, Marketing Head, Zostel.

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After being locked down for months at a stretch, people will want to get out whenever it is deemed safe. Reinvention is imperative for the travel industry and the industry will witness some new trends with its reopening. Travel brands will have to make an extra effort in communicating information, helping customers with queries and providing other necessary support.

BW Applause and Everything Experiential spoke to Eshan Joshi, Zostel to know the impact of the pandemic on travel segment and the what the future of travel look like:

What has been the impact of the pandemic on the travel segment? How big are the losses?

The travel industry is among the worst hit sectors by the pandemic, as the overall industry suffered almost 80-90% dip in revenue since the start of the pandemic. The impact was particularly steep as the lockdowns came into place, with a complete halt on all travel, accommodation, and hospitality services which drove massive layoffs across accommodation and transport services alike. That being said, the desire for travel among people right now is the highest it has ever been and we expect the domestic tourists to take the time to explore India deeply and more intimately, as has been evident with the steep increase in demand for off the grid destinations. 

Given the direction of the pandemic, it would take a longer time for Foreign Tourist Arrivals to increase in India. While we are looking at a 6-month timeline before foreign tourists develop the comfort to visit India, we are also aware that as soon as the flight bookings open, there is going to be a small section of international tourists who would take the leap and start travel, and these are going to be eventual evangelisers for the broader inflow of tourists to India over time. Nevertheless, we expect a stepped recovery over time as compared to a linear one.

How digital marketing is going to play a big role in the travel & hospitality sector?

Of course, it is digital marketing that has still kept the hopes of the travel and hospitality sector alive. Brands are coming out with beautifully crafted digital marketing campaigns to help sustain and empower the industry to fight back. They are particularly focussing on the survival of SMEs during these difficult times by trying to reignite the passion for travelling.

What tips and strategy should brands undertake to overcome the challenges?

· Communicating transparently about what precautions your brand is taking to guarantee the safety of customers is a failsafe way to improve brand loyalty.

· Influencer marketing can be effective at this time. For example, if you have a resort, invite influencers to stay for a couple of days and then share reviews with their audience. MP Tourism has already received positive responses for their strategic use of travel influencers to make people travel again.

· We think a lot of brands make the mistake of overselling. People are already feeling frustrated cooped up in their houses and want to travel as soon as they feel the situation is right. Hence, offering discounts at this point of time is smart but trying to lure them with discounts will not be a wise choice. We must be patient and wait for the time when people are not apprehensive about travelling.

What is the role of social media in the travel segment to engage the audience?

Social media has always played a crucial role in keeping travellers hooked. You can use pictures, funny GIFs and small videos; there is a huge scope for creative marketing. Whether it’s a new property launch or a safety announcement, social media is the right platform to reach your audience in the fastest and most engaging manner. At present, however, social media is educating people about the current scenario of the travel industry. It is keeping people up to date with travel restrictions and guidelines.

At Zostel, we have always been big on social media. As and when states open up we will further work on campaigns to promote safe travelling in this new normal.

What are some travel trends that will shape up post-COVID?

· Travellers will prioritize safety standards of a property while making a booking. As such, brands that have a robust COVID policy in place will have an advantage over other players. We are even expecting OTA platforms to start incorporating COVID policies in their review section as a new feature.

· International travel is probably far-fetched at this moment. Hence, people will explore their own countries. This can prove to be a good opportunity for the domestic travel industry.

· Road trips will surely increase, as people will prefer using their personal vehicles over public transport.

· Nature will surely benefit from lesser tourism. We believe people will become more conscious of their surroundings while travelling.

· Accommodations will get cheaper, with many brands offering long stay packages to encourage travellers.

How are you looking at the restart? Are there any SOPs that you have created for safe revival?

We have already opened many of our Zostel properties and we are hosting guests as well. Here follows the measures we have taken to ensure our guests are completely safe during their stay.

· Set guidelines about the property are shared with the travellers opting to stay with us.

· Mandatory temperature checks are done every time a guest enters the property.

· All the common areas are sanitized 3 times a day at least.

· Dorms are run at half the capacity to help solo travellers feel safe.

· The staff and homeowners are trained to follow the WHO and government-mandated guidelines at all times.

· Abundant, and fact-checked information are shared on all our social media channels about travelling during COVID.

· 24/7 online help desk on WhatsApp to cater to any queries.


Tags assigned to this article:
travel brands Zostel tourism

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