Travel And Tour World: How the global travel industry is gearing to fight against Omicron?
Arun Bagaria: From a preparation perspective, the travel industry is ready to deal with Omicron contingency. Over the course of last two waves, there has been ample capacity building and awareness related to pandemic protocols, and measures to take during the highs and lows of the spread. Thus, there is no panic, but rather a lot of caution. Hotels and transport service providers are proactively deploying technology to counter any threat that may emerge.
Travel And Tour World: Share with us the travel technology update in global tourism scenario.
Arun Bagaria: Travel technology has seen a lot of changes in the pandemic period. There is significant digitization of processes and the emphasis is on a completely hands-free experience from initial query to eventual check out. Hotels have automated front-office operations as well as adopted usage of machines for cleaning, disinfecting and other such hygiene related tasks. AI chatbots are playing a great role automated information sharing and providing support to travellers. Travel agents have gone digital, and are using online communication and payment tools for updating their clients, making and receiving payments through travel marketplaces and other such services.
Travel And Tour World: How TravClan is working to promote a safer and easier travel?
Arun Bagaria: We have built a comprehensive end-to-end travel ecosystem that deploys the most advanced technologies to automate and optimize various aspects of the process. We ensure seamless access to the most updated travel info for all stakeholders, and have created a platform where even the small agents are able to digitally operate, make and manage bookings, market their products and services, make payments and procure best prices. Our aim is to support all ecosystem components in delivering a safe, and smooth customer experience.
Travel And Tour World: How travel insurance is working for a safe travel right now in COVID-19 situation?
Arun Bagaria: Travel insurance is a critical enabler in the current scenario. The international travel scene remains shaky and things like missing connecting flights, lost baggage, injury or illness in a foreign country especially now that the virus is around, or even weather-related risks can be mitigated greatly by travel insurance. While it has been a highly ignored aspect in the past, now most travellers will seek travel insurance as a norm.
Travel And Tour World: Do you think that travel industry will be affected during third wave?
Arun Bagaria: As of now, the third wave is only an anticipation, but we are watching the developments closely. Some of the heartening factors are that there are ample protocols and resources in place so the preparation is much better, and it is being reported that the new variant is much milder. Having said that, there is some panic among the travellers and that’s more due to the uncertainty about travel regulations or lockdowns instead of the fear of getting infected. India has already pushed back the schedule for resumption of international travel and some other countries have shut borders too. Therefore, the impact of Omicron is definitely being felt to some extent, and it will just be a short-term impact if the third wave is prevented or turns out to be less severe than the second wave in India.
Travel And Tour World: How B2B travel industry is working to regenerate travel, airlines and hotel industry? How TravClan is working for MICE and business tourism?
Arun Bagaria: MICE is showing some signs of revival, but it will take a little longer than regular tourism activities to get going. We saw Dubai resume MICE events as early as in July 2020, and some other destinations such as Singapore, and even domestically in India have been trying to resume some MICE activities. Technology is going to be the biggest contributor in MICE as virtual events are now being replaced by hybrid events where the audience has the discretion to join in-person or online. At TravClan we believe in the potential of MICE as a future contributor to the tourism industry, and providing all the assistance on the platform to the travel agents and MICE companies that they need to revive operations. Things are again going to be a little slower for a few months due to Omicron concern, but we are confident of a strong revival in 2022.