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hospitality | IST

Thomas Cook expects bookings to improve; sees traction in Kashmir, Ladakh

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With India's COVID cases dropping and key states easing restrictions, the travel and tourism industry can finally experience some respite. On the domestic side, Thomas Cook is seeing a lot of travel into Kashmir, Ladakh and Leh, Goa, the Andaman Islands and of course internationally at the moment, in Maldives.

With India's COVID cases dropping and key states easing restrictions, the travel and tourism industry can finally experience some respite.
Madhavan Menon, Chairman and MD of Thomas Cook, said, “I think I have stopped looking backwards, I have now started looking forward. The reality is that with the easing of restrictions, we have seen our bookings go up significantly. We are still quite a distance away from the pre-COVID levels. But what we have witnessed over the last 16 to 18 months, I think we are now growing month-on-month and we are at about 60 percent of what we witnessed in March this year, which was the last travel month before the second wave came in. Our expectation is that as restrictions ease both domestically, as well as internationally, bookings will pick up.”
On domestic and international business, he said, “On the domestic side, I think we are seeing a lot of travel into Kashmir, Ladakh and Leh, Goa, the Andaman Islands and of course internationally at the moment, the Maldives. Our expectation is that some of the other international locations like Europe, especially Switzerland, which has seen a pickup has made a steady start, but it is moving quite quickly. So my expectation is that, the bookings will grow.”
He added, “If I look at a year ago, which is not necessarily the best number to compare, but it is 500 percent over the year-ago period because we were in the middle of a lockdown last year at this time, but if I look at four months ago, we are about 60 percent.”
On return to profitability, Menon said, “We have some distance requirements still, talking about a return to profitability is not yet the focus in my mind. Right now, it is to induce the traveller, many of whom are still anxious about what the hygiene standards and the safety standards are. Unless we get people travelling, the situation will take some time to improve.”
He added, “My expectation is that with Dubai opening up, and the recent announcement by Etihad, Emirates and Qatar that they will transit passengers across the world, it has begun to make a difference. But people still do vary as to whether the vaccines that they have taken are acceptable.  This is a progressive process, my expectation is that we will have a significant degree of opening and let me be very honest with you, none of us have clarity on what and when the complete booking is going to take place.”
On funding perspective, he said, “Over the last 16 months, there has been conservation of cash. We did receive funding from our majority shareholder at the end of the last financial year, which will be more than adequate to take us through the next segment. So, from a funding perspective, we are very comfortable, the balance sheet is still strong.”
For full management commentary, watch the video.