The travel industry was off to a shaky start in 2021 with global recovery rates flattening over fresh lockdowns and spikes in COVID cases. India has emerged a potential key market for the tourism industry with high optimism regarding the COVID vaccine.
The travel industry witnessed uneven business globally in January owing to fresh lockdowns and the emergence of new COVID variants, says RateGain, a SaaS company that has been mapping the latest post-pandemic trends in travel and hospitality. January is usually a busy month for the tourism industry, especially due to Chinese New Year. However, the impact of restrictions on international travel to China was seen in Europe as recovery rates continued to be under 10 per cent in January, said the company’s third Pulse report. South Asian countries and the United States, which also depend on travellers from Europe and China, were also under 50 per cent.
While the UAE witnessed a surge in arrivals from the UK and India in December last year, recent spikes in COVID-19 cases in both regions led to the country imposing more stringent containment measures and travel restrictions. As a result, the recovery rate of the UAE market which was above 100 per cent in December plummeted to 34 per cent in January. However, with strict lockdown measures in Europe and vaccination drives continuing globally, hope is the UAE market will begin bounce back during February and March.
Goa bookings surge in February
India’s optimism over the COVID-19 vaccine makes it a market that could potentially drive recovery for the tourism industry. According to the recently released Edelman Trust barometer, 80 per cent of Indians surveyed were willing to get the vaccine within the first 6 to 12 months of it being available, which was nearly 2.5 times higher than the global average of 33 per cent.
After a lull of nearly a year, Indians began travelling to domestic destinations again in December. According to the second Pulse report by RateGain, Goa, Shimla Pune, Jaipur and Jammu were among the most popular locations for visitors within the country in January. It also noted that post-COVID, Indian travellers are booking last-minute, making it difficult to forecast demand.
In its third Pulse report, RateGain observed that India witnessed the highest check-ins at 24.7K during the eighth week of 2021, which is even higher than that of December when India’s recovery crossed 116 per cent. After a brief lull in January, bookings in Goa increased by over 20 per cent in the last two weeks of February.
Despite lockdown, hotels continue to engage consumers on social media
As border restrictions continue, consumers are choosing to travel vicariously instead, says RateGain’s analysis of social media activity in major travel and tourism markets around the world. While bookings remain low, hotels have been receiving high levels of engagement on social media. Thailand, for example, saw almost a 70 per cent increase in conversations on Facebook in January and Canada’s Facebook engagement increased by 100 per cent despite travel restrictions in the country being extended till April. The UAE too has been witnessing higher levels of engagement on both Instagram and Facebook. This increased social media activity could see bookings at hotels rise once lockdown measures are eased.
Udaipur receives highest social media engagement
Hotels in India and Mexico saw consistently high engagement on Instagram and Facebook as hotels saw high occupancy in January from domestic travel. All eyes were on Udaipur with the city receiving the highest amount of engagement in India on Facebook, followed closely by Mumbai. Pune and Jaipur were were respectively third and fourth on Instagram even though they lagged behind Delhi on Facebook. The drive in engagement, according to RateGain, was Republic Day weekend which saw travellers to Jaipur from Delhi and Pune from Mumbai.