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Travel industry innovates to beat slowdown blues

Travel industry innovates to beat slowdown blues
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First Published: Mon, Mar 02 2009. 01 15 AM IST

Declining numbers: Tourists at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Foreign tourist arrivals in January were 487,000, against 591,000 last year. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Declining numbers: Tourists at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Foreign tourist arrivals in January were 487,000, against 591,000 last year. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Updated: Mon, Mar 02 2009. 10 00 AM IST
Mumbai: Travel management companies are devising innovative holiday packages in an attempt to attract customers who have been headed for the exits since the economic slowdown began.
And in at least one case, they are playing to a much-feared asset these days—shares. Lifestyle Holidays, which is promoted by brokerage Bulls and Bears Finance Ltd, is offering to buy shares from travellers in return for packages. It accepts equity of 72 firms and is even willing to pay a premium for some stocks.
Declining numbers: Tourists at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Foreign tourist arrivals in January were 487,000, against 591,000 last year. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“There is one more catch as the capital markets are ruling low. We will buy the shares at 10% premium on the value that (they) were trading on the date the transaction was done. We are willing to buy shares of as many as 72 companies,” Mandar Sahasrabudhe, assistant manager (operations) at Lifestyle, said.
Shares that Lifestyle is willing to buy include Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, DLF Ltd, Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd and companies of the Tata group.
Other travel management companies are equally upfront about the fact that these are hard times, and they are doing whatever they can to pass on the benefits to consumers.
A promotional campaign from Kesari Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltd reads: “Oil prices down, tour prices down.” Using this as a platform, the Mumbai-based tour management firm is offering discounts on international and domestic holiday deals.
The print advertisement of Lifestyle Holidays reads: “The global recession has come to our doorsteps. It’s time to save, not spend. But what about that vacation you promised your family?”
“Airlines, travel agents, online travel agents and tour operators are offering freebies to their customers as slowdown has started affecting the market. Besides ensuring continuous revenue inflow, companies are trying to beat recessionary trends,” said Sameer Patil, head of marketing at Arzoo.com, a city-based online travel agency, or OTA.
However, it is not just the private sector that is offering all the goodies; governments of countries that have large revenues from tourism are also pitching in with the effort to boost travel.
The Thai consulate in India is exempting visa fees on tourist visas and visas for medical treatment. Mint has reviewed a circular issued by the Thai consulate-general in Mumbai, dated 24 February.
“Earlier, Royal Thai Consulate was charging Rs1,400 per person (as visa fee). You can see similar attempts by various consulates to woo tourists,” said an analyst who tracks hospitality and aviation, on condition of anonymity.
“Airlines, domestic and international, are also doing their best by lowering fares and offering special schemes. As the travellers are cutting down their budget, these players are trying to beat the slowdown blues by offering freebies,” the analyst said.
The promotions come as the domestic aviation industry has stumbled in the wake of the global downturn. Eight scheduled airline firms in the country, such as National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, which runs Air India, and SpiceJet Ltd, carried 12.78 million passengers between October and January, down from 15.35 million during the year-ago period. This period is considered to be the busy season in India as domestic travellers and foreign tourists travel for festivals such as Diwali and Christmas, and during winter vacations.
According to data from the ministry of tourism and culture, foreign tourist arrivals in January were 487,000, down from 591,000 in the same month a year ago, and 522,000 in December. The data attributed the decline in the number of foreign tourists primarily to the ongoing global slowdown.
In light of the falling passenger traffic, at least two leading OTAs, Ezeego1.com and Yatra.com, are now offering rail ticket booking on their websites, in a bid to provide a single window for all of a traveller’s needs.
MakeMyTrip (India) Pvt. Ltd, also an OTA, last week launched a service that will allow a user to book up to seven flights through a single transaction. It has also introduced an airline rating tab on flight section to assist users in selecting a flight based on on-time performance.
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First Published: Mon, Mar 02 2009. 01 15 AM IST