Imagining Indian Tourism’s recovery with InterGlobe Technology Quotient’s: Sandeep Dwivedi

Imagining Indian Tourism’s recovery with InterGlobe Technology Quotient’s: Sandeep Dwivedi

TECHNOLOGY

InterGlobe Technology Quotient’s Chief Operating Officer, SANDEEP DWIVEDI, feels that India’s tourism sector will regain its 2019 level by 2022. According to Dwivedi, employing enhanced safety mechanisms, rebuilding comfortable travel experiences and offering more options to travellers can revive confidence in travel and start its recovery.

Here, Dwivedi shares his thoughts about the future of travel and tells us about Travelport’s latest innovations.

By PREM KUMAR

Q. How do you look at the current state of the tourism sector that has been wrecked by COVID-19?

In an unwavering manner, it is with hope and through the lens of technology that we look at the current state of travel and tourism. Backed by decades-old data, we are confident of the resilient nature of our sector and hopeful that it will revive in due time albeit with innovative modifications and technological advancement. From an altered perspective, there has not been just a negative impact but also positive outcomes that are apparent in terms of accelerated advancement of our sector to accommodate safer travel in this pandemic.

Q. According to you, which segment of the tourism industry has been hit hardest due to the pandemic?

A difficult question indeed as every segment seems to be direly hit. Airlines have been deeply impacted. We have airlines filing for bankruptcy, including Virgin Atlantic which has filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the US and LATAM for Chapter 11. We also have airlines like Flybe ceasing operations altogether. In June 2020, IATA projected a collective annual loss of US$84 billion for airlines – almost thrice the amount of loss faced during 2008-09 financial crisis and an additional US$15 billion of loss is projected through 2021, which is going to adversely affect the overall business cycle of the industry. Certainly, the hospitality sector is even more adversely hit. While confidence is slowly building up in travel via airplanes, there is still a huge hesitance when it comes to dining out. Further, it is start-ups and small enterprises in our industry that are massively hit since a lot of them were still in the formative years of growth before taking the pandemic blow.

Q. Looking at the current situation, when do you expect a tangible recovery in the tourism sector?

It is hard to say when the sector will recover considering frequent shifts in market sentiment. But the Indian tourism industry, as many reports seem to claim, is expected to reach close to its 2019 level by 2022. Much still remains to be seen, given the unpredictable and unstable consequences of this pandemic, as spouts of cases emerge soon after slight hope of recovery surfaces. Yet to put it concisely, rise in the tourism sector’s recovery is directly proportional to confidence in the safety of travel and decline in the number of impacted people. So, as the medical industry endeavours to develop a vaccine for this virus, the tourism industry will continue to innovate means for safer, contactless travel during the pandemic, which will ultimately accelerate recovery.

Q. In your opinion, what should be the strategy of the Government and the industry to revive tourism in the country?

Government of India certainly appears to be taking necessary actions for national safety, however, some major support, including but not limited to economic packages for ailing airlines, shall prove a welcome aid. With regards to the tourism revival strategy, our industry has been mindful of the market shifts and sentiments, taking note of enhanced safety requirements insisted or signalled upon by travellers. What we see can revive and instigate recovery is reinstating confidence in travel by employing enhanced safety mechanisms; rebuilding comfortable and enhanced travel experience amid and beyond the pandemic; bringing more options and alternatives for travel to the travellers; and opening channels for two-way and more thoughtful communication; among other things.

Q. How is ITQ navigating through these challenging times?

With mindfulness and innovation is how we have been treading through these challenging times. ITQ has been persistent in picking the smallest needs of our travel agent community and building up our services and products to offer a smooth travel booking and management experience. From consistent revival and development trainings with agents to linear entry for processing refunds; 24X7 support to joint webinars with airlines; a COVID-19 airline policy tracker to an airline health and safety tracker; we have ensured our community of travel agents receive a seamless stream of services and aids for smooth business operations irrespective of the times.

Q. Post COVID-19, how are you calibrating your strategy to meet new reality?

In this ever-changing business environment, we have been staying conscious of the shifts and placing trust in innovation and technology to build back, albeit slowly. Speaking of strategy, it takes a lot to have a vision in this unstable atmosphere across the globe but our focus on offering unmatched travel booking and management experience remains relentless. Our vision is backed by our spirit of service and we are undoubtedly concentrating on mindful innovations to enhance the booking and management capability of our community while simultaneously building tools to bring the power of information to the end consumer via agent community. For our teams, as they continue working from home and serving travel agents strenuously, we are incessantly enhancing support and deploying modern tools.

Q. Are you planning to launch any new product to assist travel agents in the COVID-19 world?

The quest towards a better and enhanced platform is eternal at ITQ and Travelport, irrespective of the times. Naturally, this pandemic has forced us to put enhanced emphasis on safety and that is where we have been working hard to innovate. Recently, our technology partner has launched a COVID-19 Smartpoint Plugin, which gives travel agencies the latest information on government restrictions, lockdowns and safety measures across the globe, all within the agent workflow. They have also launched an Airline Health and Safety Tracker, which highlights the safety measures being undertaken by more than 80 of the world’s largest airlines.

ITQ too has been innovating; we are using chatbot technology among others to bring an enhanced travel booking and management experience for our customers.

Q. How are you guiding and helping your trade partners so that they can survive through these difficult times?

As a strong neural system for the travel agent community, ITQ has been a relentless harbinger of hope and data, be it in the form of detailed documents, including tutorials and insights; or leadership and technical trainings, including exclusive webinars; or innovative tools including policy plugin and tracker. We have stood strong in support of our travel partners, day and night, and are relentlessly innovating to bring enhanced capabilities in addition to our inimitable technology.

Q. How do you see the role of technology in mitigating the impact of the current crisis?

Contactless has been the new normal ever since the world was hit by this pandemic. To normalize contactless, and reinstate comfort and confidence in travel, technology seems imperative. Many innovations have already made, like mass fever screening and biometric-based self-boarding for travellers’ safety and comfort. There are still many in the pipeline building on the science of robotics and artificial intelligence, including a few which seemed rather futuristic before the pandemic but now are due to make their way much sooner than anticipated.

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