NEW DELHI : As domestic business travel picks up momentum in March, Indian hotels and tour operators are hoping to see growth in the first and second quarters of the coming fiscal year.

Companies like Flight Center Travel Group, Thomas Cook and hotel companies like Sarovar Hotels and Lemon Tree Hotels expect a full rebound by the end of the second quarter of the coming fiscal year, provided it doesn’t. there is no new wave of covid.

Rakshit Desai, managing director, India, of the Flight Center Travel Group, said business travel started to return in November, then went quiet in December and January, likely due to the spread of Omicron. February saw some recovery and the momentum in March took the company by surprise. “To date, speaking of our corporate clients, domestic spending is 80% or more,” he said.

Desai said that for business travel, their operation is evenly split between domestic and international customers. At this point, industries such as pharmaceuticals, consumer products, and digital and infrastructure are showing strong demand for business travel while professional and financial services are lagging, perhaps in because of remote work, he said.

Ajay K Bakaya, managing director of Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, said there had been a fairly strong rebound in travel overall. “Business travel has slowly but surely resumed. We expect strong linear growth in March-July despite the summer. It’s still slow and will be a bit slow,” he said.

Lemon Tree Hotels, which has a strong focus on business travelers, also expects a full recovery in business travel by the second quarter. The company is seeing the return of pharmaceutical customers, SMEs, MSMEs as well as consumer businesses. “We think the IT giants aren’t back yet because a lot of them are still working from home. But we’re seeing some of the smaller IT companies sending their executives out now. By Q2 or Q3 In fiscal year 2022-23, we expect business travel to fully return unless we are hit by another wave of covid,” said Vikramjit Singh, company president.

Flight Center’s Desai said the strong dollar, crude prices and supply constraints have triggered a significant rise in average ticket prices and underlying passenger numbers are still at half normal. That said, he is optimistic about a return to normal by the June quarter, but supply constraints and geopolitical tensions need to ease, he said.

Indiver Rastogi, President and Group Head for Global Business Travel at Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC, said the company is seeing a definite increase in our business and corporate travel segment and our business has doubled month-on-month since January 2022 and the announcement of the reopening of scheduled flights from India is already seeing an increase in positive business sentiment. “We expect to end March at 80% of 2019 levels,” he said.

“Our key industries like IT, as well as SMEs, are driving international and domestic travel demand respectively. Destinations showing strong demand are the US, Canada and the UK; and d “from a national perspective, sectors like Mumbai to Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. What is remarkable is that while the rise is evident in major hubs, Mumbai is experiencing the fastest recovery for our segment of business trips,” Rastogi said.

According to ‘Travel market in India’ from RedCore, the arm of research firm RedSeer. travel activity in pre-pandemic India stood at $75 billion in fiscal year 2019-20. This will exceed $125 billion by the financial year 2026-27, taking into account both domestic, inbound and outbound Indian travel, he said.

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