Rohit Kapoor, CEO, OYO Hotels & Homes, India & South Asia tells us about India's favourite tourist hotspots and travel ...
- With COVID-19 impacting the hospitality industry, bringing revenues down to almost zero, to now the steady recovery of the industry, there’s a lot that has happened through the course of the year.
- Hospitality was one of the worst affected industries worldwide, however, with cities unlocking and global restrictions easing gradually, India topped the charts for OYO as the most booked country.
- As OYO launches its annual Travelopedia, Rohit Kapoor, CEO, OYO Hotels & Homes, India & South Asia tells us about India's favourite tourist hotspots, COVID-19 impact on OYO,
travel sentimentthis year and some trends he expects to see in 2021.
The grinding halt on travel and tourism impacted home-grown hospitality brand OYO by bringing its revenue down to zero levels during the lockdown. However, with cities unlocking and global restrictions easing gradually, India topped the charts for OYO as the most booked country while Delhi clocked in the most bookings across the world in 2020. Consumer confidence was at its highest during December 2020 as OYO saw the highest number of bookings since India unlocked.
Today, Ritesh Agarwal’s OYO has reached ~45% of pre-COVID occupancy levels and its used room nights have grown steadily 40% m-o-m since bottoming out in May. Some of the brands are performing much better with
We caught up with Rohit Kapoor, CEO, OYO - India & South Asia to discuss some of the key trends that came out in its third annual report - OYO Travelopedia 2020.
A month down into the nation-wide lockdown, OYO realised that the macro factors cannot be controlled. As the hospitality industry came to a complete halt till the end of June, OYO decided to focus on improving its consumers and stakeholders’ pain points. It also wanted to use its space smartly by giving back to the society. It offered a helping hand to various hospitals and their doctors across the country.
“After a few consumers started showing interest in travel, we launched an extensive campaign across the country to get in touch with our partners and stay in very close touch with our consumers. We tried to identify what consumers were thinking, some problems they were facing and what we could do to solve them. We worked with 24+ state ministries, 50+ government and private hospitals and hosted about a 250,000+ hospital staff and asymptomatic patients during the lockdown. 200+ sailors were safely quarantined at OYOs across India. 1,50,000 litres of disinfectant and 70,000 litres of sanitisers were used since April to welcome our guests,” shared Kapoor.
OYO also on-boarded Sonu Sood as its brand ambassador, who emerged as a knight in shining armour and has been applauded for his humanitarian work to send thousands of stranded migrants back home during the lockdown. It launched a nation-wide campaign with Sood to woo its consumers.
When Vande Bharat started, approximately 73,000 repatriated Indians completed their institutional quarantine at OYOs across India. Amongst these, most bookings were made by guests travelling from the Middle East, primarily UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
Insights from OYO’s Travelopedia
According to Kapoor’s predictions based on travelopedia’s insights, leisure travel is making a steady comeback - with tourist hotspots of Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Tirupati, Goa, Mussoorie recovering faster than other destinations. The data also revealed that Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad ranked as the most popular cities among business travellers while Jaipur, Goa, Kochi were travellers’ favourite domestic leisure hotspots.
Speaking on one of the most important trends this year for OYO, Kapoor said, “One of the most humbling things we found out that has stayed with me is that a guest has stayed with us 128 times this year, something that tells us that we are on the right path and that our customers have immense faith in us even in tough times. While 2021 will be a new learning in itself, we’re hopeful that the changes we have brought in 2020 will set new precedents in the travel and hospitality sector and we are completely motivated to work towards providing safe stays to all our customers.”
We're at that time of the year when people normally are in the mood to travel. Across India, without any surprise, the tourist hotspot of Goa emerged as the most booked beach destination, followed by Kochi, Vizag and Pondicherry. To target these beach-lovers, OYO also launched a campaign earlier this month titled ‘Chalo Beach Chalein.’
Interestingly, OYO has also seen a resurgence in religious tourism. Puri emerged as India’s top pilgrimage destination, followed by Vrindavan, Tirupati, Shirdi, and Varanasi.
In December 2020, over 17 lakh people checked-in over the weekends. December 12, 2020 saw the most number of bookings (so far). The next estimated date is December 31, 2020 (bookings still coming in)
Telling us how December turned out for OYO, Kapoor said, “This month, people are traveling to places they wouldn’t have thought of visiting earlier. For example, many of our users have shown interest in Mukteshwar, Ramgad or Bhimtal. Plus, one big change for everyone is that during this part of the year, people travel to international locations -- that’s not happening this year. That demand is getting funnelled to domestic markets and that is a trend I foresee continuing for at least 12 more months.”
Kapoor has been traveling himself to locations he wouldn’t have been to otherwise. He has been to Jaipur and Udaipur with his family, then he went to Ramgad and worked from there for 15 days. He has also been on a road trip to Lucknow, Allahabad and Kolkata.
From his many road trips to different parts of our country and from OYO’s in-depth research study, Kapoor noticed how people aren’t staying with their relatives anymore. They preferred living in a hotel, which is a cultural shift in our country.
Walking us through Travelpedian further, Kapoor said, “If you look at the patterns emerge, the first unlock started with the big cities and we wondered what is it that these big cities offered: one type of cohort was those who wanted to just leave their homes and work from somewhere else. Secondly, people were worried about going and staying in someone else’s home, which is pretty common in India. I was in Allahabad in September and was trying to book an OYO, it was fully sold out. It was because of an exam which was going on and it was booked by parents whose kids were appearing for that exam. Third thing we saw is seasonality disappearing because work from home is allowed. The classic pattern of people travelling during peak seasons and vacations is phasing out. People are going away for staycations, working for 8-10 hours and using the rest of time for leisure. Lastly, they are also up for impromptu plans because they want to be reasonably sure that they are ready to travel.”
OYO’s goals for 2021
The focus areas in 2021 would be more or less the same at OYO. Kapoor said that one thing that COVID-19 has taught us is that the future is unpredictable and the team is prepared for uncertain 2-3 quarters.
“We have learnt the power of building product-led solutions for partners and that we will continue to invest in that. We want to open OYO-products and solutions to a much wider set of customers. We have all kinds of customers today but I think we have the opportunity to present OYO as the best option for anybody who is seeking good-quality experience. OYO has been recognised as the best start-up to work with and my focus would be to continue being the best place to work with for our target not just in India, but globally as well.”