Tourists opting for low-cost air travel, moderate hotels

January 31st, 2010 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Post the recession, India is witnessing a preference for low-cost air travel, increase in business-driven tourism and a rise in the number of moderate-tier hotels for long-haul travellers. Over the next two decades the focus will be on low cost air travel both in the domestic and foreign circuits, said speakers at a seminar at the SATTE-ITB 2010 travel fair in the capital.
“The focus of Air India is on low-cost carriers as we had been badly affected by changes in the money market in 2007, which had pushed up our cost of operations and an ageing fleet. We are now pulling out the old aircraft and refurbishing our fleet by inducting new Boeing aircraft so that flying becomes an economical experience for travellers and profitable for airlines,” Rohita Jaidka, executive director (Commercial) of Air India, one of the speakers at the seminar on ‘The Challenge of Change’, said.

The airline is receiving its first consignment of 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in November 2010 and replacing its existing fleet with 21 Boeing 777s, six 747s and 24 737s.

“Air India is also joining forces with Star Alliance, an umbrella of 21 airlines in the US,” she said.

The benefits to accrue from the move, Rohita Jaidka said, are “expanded coverage area, more opportunities for frequent fliers, wider network, special schemes for the government of India segment, rise in the volume of student traffic and focus on AI holiday segment. Delhi will be used as a transit point”.

The tourism, aviation and travel segment - the three components that make up the industry - “is learning to listen to customers”, said Aditya Ghosh, president, Indigo Airlines.

“We are now listening to customers. The last three years have shown that we are no different from the world and customers’ expectations and profile have changed,” he said.

Over the last 18 months, travel and tourism trade has been receiving tremendous support from business travellers - much more than the leisure segment - and they are looking for variety in their itineraries and transport.

According to statistics furnished by the Confederation of Indian Industry at SATTE, business travel bookings are expected to show a gentle upswing as the economy steps into 2010.

Business travellers with reduced purses are looking for cheaper bargains and budget hotels, the industry body said.

The Asia-Pacific region has registered a growth rate of 5.1 percent in November 2009 compared to 2.1 percent globally, cites CII. As the economy looks up, business travel is likely to look up in late 2010. Last year, the industry logged 15 percent negative growth.

“There were some customers you thought were yours, but suddenly they felt that they needed to go to Indigo, Jet Airways and Kingfisher. As things move up - 50 percent of them have moved up, we need to build more capacities and choice for customers. We do not give enough choices to our customers. The customer is evolving faster than you thought,” the president of Indigo Airlines said.

As the customers tighten purse, hotels too are restructuring hospitality. While the markets have become softer, business plans of hotels have more strategies to suit the trends, said Matthew Cooper, general manager of The Marriott Courtyard-Gurgaon owned by the J.W. Marriott Group in the outskirts in the capital.

The Courtyard Marriott is a “moderate tier four-star property” of the Marriott chain of hotels.

“Travellers look for right beds, right size rooms, quality beverage and food in a hotel now. We are targeting the long-stay clients so that business stays over the weekend. It also helps the hotel set up a personal relationship with the guests. The meltdown has cut hotel trade down to size,” Cooper told IANS.

The chain is building three Courtyard hotels to “accommodate the needs of moderate tier business travellers”.

Several hotel chains like The Park, the Sarovar Group and Premier Inn India have entered the mid-market moderately priced hotel segment in the last two years.

One of the first movers in the mid-market segment, the Lemon Tree Hotels currently has 10 operating hotels - and 17 more in the pipeline - aggregating over 2,500 under “construction”.

According to Rika Jean-Francois, product manager for South Asia and Pacific of ITB-Berlin, which is looking for strategic partnerships in tourism, India was projected as a potential market in the next five years.

The SATTE-ITB 2010 travel fair, which began Jan 29, ends Sunday.

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