UK-based Brightsun Travel heightens focus on the Indian market

UK-based Brightsun Travel heightens focus on the Indian market

Post-pandemic, Brightsun Travel, a renowned UK-based travel company has amplified its focus on the promising Indian travel market, with an aim to ride the Indian travel wave. With India’s expanding middle-class and growing disposable income, the company foresees a tremendous opportunity in India, both in domestic as well international travel. With the post-pandemic churning in the travel landscape, Brightsun is sharpening its focus on the burgeoning Indian market, which is fast emerging as a top contender in long-haul travel.

In an exclusive interaction, Brightsun’s Managing Director, Deepak Nangla, shared his company’s vision and strategy for the Indian market. He also talked about the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry and more.

Brightsun’s expertise

Founded in 1986 in London, Brightsun Travel has carved a niche for itself as one of the most reputable travel companies in the UK. With a diverse clientele comprising travel agents, tour operators, leisure customers, and corporates, the company is renowned for providing top-notch travel services.

Brightsun’s primary business involves transporting customers to long-haul destinations. It sends customers from the UK to destinations like the US, India, Thailand, and other long-haul destinations. Similarly, the company sends travelers from India to Europe, Japan, Australia, and other places. “Our main business is transporting customers to long-haul destinations; we don’t deal in domestic travel,” said Nangla.

An important expertise of Brightsun is that it leverages technology to gain insights into the latest customer preferences and travel trends, thus swiftly becoming able to cater to new trends and demands. “We have always prioritized understanding our customers, their needs, preferences, and new trends. Now understanding customers has become even much easier thanks to technological advancement,” said Nangla.

Weathering the Pandemic Storm

The pandemic dealt a severe blow to the travel industry worldwide, impacting revenues and operations. However, Brightsun’s transparent approach allowed it to weather the storm effectively. Due to its transparent and helpful approach during the pandemic, Brightsun retained the loyalty of its customers and suppliers, which benefited the company when travel returned in 2022. “Our business recovered about 60% in a year. It would be surprising to know that we achieved 60% recovery with only 25% of our pre-pandemic staff strength. Besides the loyalty of our customers, some processes that we put in place during the pandemic enabled us to handle the massive surge in travel with only 25% of our staff,” said Namgla.

An interesting thing that Nangla shared about the pandemic time is that travel companies which faced reality bravely and transparently were the first to bounce back. And those companies which put their head in the sand, closed operations, made no expenses and became losers when travel returned. “The winners were those who maintained transparency in their dealings with their customers; invested in technology, manpower training, etc,” said Nangla.

Talking of the impact of the pandemic on travel, Nangla said that the pandemic was catastrophic for the entire travel and tourism industry. “The industry’s revenues came down to a meager 5% whereas expenses remained as much as about 65%. This situation continued for a year or so. We faced an issue of cash flow. There was no money coming in, but we had to refund the huge amount of money to customers due to the ban on travel, but we behaved transparently,” said Nangla. Along with transparency, investments in technology also helped Brightsun survive and bounced back quickly. “When travel came back, we witnessed that cost of travel increased vastly; the cost of an average long-haul trip increased by about 20%,” added Nangla.

According to Nangla, in the leisure segment, it was the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) segment that returned with a vengeance after about a two-year gap. They did not care even about exorbitantly high airfare.

Brightsun’s India strategy

Brightsun sees tremendous growth opportunities in the Indian travel market. Nangla underscored India’s position as a lucrative travel market, backed by reports projecting it to be the second-largest long-haul market by 2024. Riding on the wave of India’s rising middle class and increased disposable income, Brightsun eyes a promising future in the country. Underling the importance of the Indian market, Nangla said, “All the reports and statistics for long-haul travel indicate that by 2024, India will be the second largest travel market, only next to China. Keeping in mind the impending scenario, it only makes sense for us to start preparing to ride the travel wave that is going to come in India.”

India’s rising middle class and their growing inclination towards leisure travel is a key driver of Brightsun’s growth strategy in India. The company anticipates an increase in extravagant trips from India as consumers with higher disposable incomes seek new experiences. “We are looking at how the Indian middle class is going to expand in the next 10 years. Obviously, with more disposable income, there will be more travel taking place in and out of India,” said Nangla.

India is so important for Brightsun that it is ready to bring a major shift in its policy. While Brightsun specializes in international travel, considering India’s vast domestic tourism potential, the company is ready to promote domestic travel in the country. “We acknowledge the immense strength of India’s domestic travel market, which records approximately 650 million trips annually,” said Nangla. “The one thing we have found in India is that its domestic travel market is incredibly vast. I read somewhere that there are about 650 million domestic trips taking place every year in the country. And it is such a large number that even though our strategy is for long-haul travel, we cannot ignore such a massive domestic market in India,” said Nangla. “Moreover one more thing that we have realized is that the income stream of Indians is slightly different to that of our foreign customers. Per capita income of Indians is a factor that we cannot ignore, so we have to downgrade our expectations for international travels from India,” said Nangla.

Brightsun acknowledges the significance of catering to the vast domestic tourism potential (travel within the country) while keeping in mind the vast domestic tourism market and the economic realities of the Indian population.

Nangla envisions a future where his company’s Indian operations will be on par with its UK counterpart, driven by India’s travel wave and Brightsun’s faith in this market and its strategic vision. Over the years, Brightsun has established a strong presence in India. It has offices in Gurugram, Delhi-NCR, and Mumbai. Brightsun has more people working in its offices in India than in the UK and most of the company’s UK work is done also from its Indian offices.

Nangla stated that earlier the most works being done by Brightsun in India were for its UK market but during the pandemic, “when all travel companies across the world had nothing to do; we decided that now is the time to start selling out of India.”

Brightsun has embraced India’s, especially its millennium city Gurugram’s 24X7 working culture. With a significant workforce in India, the company is harnessing the benefits of India’s 24X7 working culture, providing superior service to its customers. “We have more people working in India than the UK and this has been the case since we opened our office here in Gurugram in 2004. Our India workforce has been increasing continuously since then,” said Nangla. “One of the main reasons that Brightsun has more people working in India than the UK is that India has this 24X7 working culture, especially in cities like Gurugram. There are a large number of people working in Gurugram, who have adapted their family life working around the shift,” added Nangla. “It is what customers want; accessibility 24X7. If we are accessible 24X7 to our customers, obviously we will be ahead in the competition and it is this that has impelled our growth over the years,” added Nangla. In April this year, Brightsun also opened its office in Mumbai.

Talking about Brightsun’s Indian operations contribution to the company’s revenues, Nangla said, “Currently around 95% of our revenues come from the UK and 5% from India.” According to Nangla, the current size of our company in the UK is in the region of about $410 million whereas in India, it would be around $22 million. “In the next 10 years, we expect our size in India to be similar to the UK’s as we would be riding the travel wave in the country,” said Nangla. “It has been one year and a couple of months since we started selling out of India. During this short duration, we have learned a lot, and going ahead we have to learn a lot in India. We aim to stay ahead in the competitive Indian market through innovations, leveraging our long experience and prior knowledge of upcoming travel trends,” said Nangla. “Being in business for so many years enables us to know in advance what’s going to come in India in the next six months or so, and when you know what’s going to come next, it is easier to adapt as per those trends and caters to customers’ demands.” Added Nangla.

Post-Pandemic Trends in India

During the post-pandemic recovery of travel, Brightsun observed significant shifts in travel patterns. Longer international trips and increased demand for experiential travel emerged as key trends, along with enhanced spending on short-haul trips.

In respect of expected travel trends in India, Nangla said, “In short terms, in the next couple of years, we see Indian spending more on travel than previously. We will see more extravagant trips taking place.” As regards international trips from India, Nangla said that the trips are now longer than before; the average duration of a holiday in a long-haul destination has increased from about 10 days to 14 days. In short-haul trips, they’re spending about 20% more per trip. “One of the reasons for this is that hotels are now more accommodating to leisure travellers; because currently, corporate travellers are less so there is more willingness to receive leisure travellers,” said Nangla.

Another trend Nangla mentioned is that there is a huge increase in demand for experiential travel. “Lots of people want to go on wine tours, religious tours, cruising that they’ve never done before. People are fulfilling their long-cherished desires and dreams of experiential travel. Obviously, this means a huge increase in spending on travel,” said Nangla.

Conclusion

As India takes centre stage in the global travel industry, Brightsun Travel’s heightened focus on the Indian market positions it for significant growth. With its dedication to providing top-notch travel experiences, the company aims to capture the hearts of Indian travellers and become a key player in India’s travel landscape. As India’s middle-class soars to new heights, there is tremendous potential for Brightsun to tape and grow in this vast and vibrant market.

 

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