As India prepares to open up international flight operations after a two-year-hiatus, bookings have begun firming up across the hospitality sector — which include hotels, travel aggregators and other allied service providers.

Trends visible between mid-March and first week of April suggest international corporate bookings across hotels going up by 60 per cent in the major cities that include Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad, while flights to the US are running full capacity with at least 20 per cent increase in fares.

Leisure travel from international visitors is yet to pick up. October to March is generally the best time to travel here for foreign tourists.

Corporate bookings

International bookings are primarily coming in from executives across segments such as IT and ITeS, and defence; followed by FMCG and private investor teams. Delegations and MICE segment queries — for international conferences - are picking up too.

Business class ticket sales and luxury bookings are up, say the country’s two largest travel aggregators, EaseMyTrip and MakeMyTrip.

“Recovery within corporate travel will be close on the heels of luxury travel segment with the first phase being led by non-metro to metro travel followed by group travel for off-sites, meet-ups, etc,” said Vipul Prakash, Chief Commercial Officer, MakeMyTrip.

Room tariffs rise

Room tariffs (corporate sector), in hotels, have inched up to 70 per cent of pre-Covid levels; and should cross pre-Covid level numbers by May-end, hoteliers say.

According to Srijan Vadhera, General Manager, Conrad Bengaluru — a part of the world’s second largest hotel chain, The Hilton Group - international corporate bookings are already at 60 per cent of pre-Covid levels with bookings being made two weeks in advance (as against the pre-Covid 30-45 day window). If the trends continue then by April-end to mid-May, bookings are expected to “back to pre-Covid levels”.

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“The demand is for premium rooms with executive lounge and club facility access; or (for) suites where people can use one of the rooms for hybrid work (like a workspace). Suites have 90 per cent plus occupancy,” he told BusinessLine.

Currently, suites are charged at 50 per cent premium — with demand coming from top level management while executive rooms come at 35 per cent premium (from senior and mid-level management).

Indian travel trends

Indians, meanwhile, have begun looking up short-haul destinations such as Dubai, Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka while long haul places such as London, Paris and Amsterdam are witnessing increased inquiries. The US, Europe and Australia are gaining popularity too.

IATO’s President, Rajiv Mehra, says international bookings have started “trickling in” post March 27 and e-Visa restoration will further “stoke the demand”. “Short-haul destinations will take precedence, followed by long haul ones,” he said.

EaseMyTrip said it was witnessing a 40-50 per cent increase in advance air ticket bookings for the coming months. “There is an increase in inquiries for sustainable tourism and international destinations that adopt environmentally friendly practices,” Himank Tripathi, President, External Affairs, EaseMyTrip said, adding that: “We are expecting the pent-up demand for leisure travel to continue throughout the summer season.”

Flight trends

Indian carriers are also looking to open-up international operations. IndiGo, the country’s largest carrier, has already announced resumption of flights to Thailand. It is currently operating India — Thailand flights (to Bangkok and Phuket) under air bubble arrangements. From March 27, it will operate scheduled international operations.

According to Willy Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo, resumption of flights will also depend factors like arrival guidelines of various countries.

“We are keen on resuming international operations back to pre-Covid levels and have plans to open new destinations in the near future and pump up capacity on our existing routes as travel further opens up,” he said, adding that reaching economies of scale in an environment where ATF and other fixed costs are constantly going up, “becomes challenging”.