With an eye on increasing its footprint in the country and cashing in on the potential that the Indian tourism market presents, travel and tour operator Thomas Cook is expanding its South India operations.
The company, which has seen a 32% increase in its leisure business from South India, will open eight new outlets in the region.
India is the world’s seventh largest tourism economy, a position it has retained from last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the country’s GDP was Rs 14,018.5 billion ($208.9bn). The number translates to 9.6% of India’s GDP in 2016.
India’s travel and tourism sector, which saw a growth of 8.5% in 2016, was also expected to grow by 6.7% in 2017.
Factors like a growing middle class with disposable income, better internet penetration and burgeoning popularity of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have contributed to the growth of the travel and tourism industry in India in the past few years.
“South India continues to power our growth story – it is today our largest and fastest source market, growing currently at 32%. Our strategic focus is to maximise on this market potential via organic expansion and we’ve carefully selected high footfall centres for our new outlets – in prime catchment locations within metros as well as in Tier II and Tier III locations in South India. Our new outlets in this region give our customers (across families, business travellers, millennials, senior citizens, students and NRIs) access to Thomas Cook’s experts right at their doorstep,” said Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head, Leisure Travel and M.I.C.E - Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.
Despite OTAs like MakeMyTrip and others coming into the picture, brick and mortar establishments like Thomas Cook and Cox and Kings are still raking in profits. OTAs are still struggling to come up with a sustainable, profit-making model.
“Tourism in India has significant potential considering the rich cultural and historical heritage, variety in ecology, terrains and places of natural beauty spread across the country. India is the most digitally-advanced traveller nation in terms of digital tools being used for planning, booking and experiencing a journey. India’s rising middle class and increasing disposable incomes has continued to support the growth of domestic and outbound tourism. The Indian government has realised the country’s potential in the tourism industry and has taken several steps to make India a global tourism hub,” said Kale.
Kale agrees that social media has played a huge part in the increasing interest in travel and said that a few new projects targeted towards the digitally savvy are in the pipeline.
“Indian travellers are very tied to their social media presence while travelling. Travel and food bloggers are becoming ever more influential in the world of travel and the mindset of people is changing. This is bringing a lot of opportunities along with disruptions in the market place. With our omni-channel business strategy and technology focus, we are ready to turn every threat into opportunity,” said Kale.