When lockdowns were announced in the first wave of the pandemic, we witnessed the mass exodus of migrant workers eager to go back to their natives. The situation was distressing. Loss of jobs, no food and water, trains and buses stalled, and a fear of contracting the virus, forced these poor migrant workers to reach home via foot and bicycle. Pained by such incidents, Sonu Sood emerged as the Samaritan, who arranged ten buses for the migrant workers staying in Mumbai to travel back to their homes in Karnataka in the nationwide lockdown imposed.
The saying necessity is the mother of invention stands in its truest form with Sonu Sood’s recent B2B entrepreneurial venture- Travel Union, in the travel and hospitality space catering to the travel needs of rural consumers.
The pandemic has wrecked several sectors, but the maximum damage took place in the travel and hospitality sector. According to a report from KPMG, the Covid-19 crisis might render job losses worth 38 million in the Indian tourism and hospitality sector, ie.70 percent of its workforce employed.
In terms of revenue losses, a report from Thomas Cook India reveals that the consolidated loss in FY 21 amounts to Rs 416 crore from Rs 69 crore in 2020.
What is Travel Union?
Witnessing the difficulties faced by the rural travellers, Sonu Sood realised that the travel sector is highly unorganised in smaller cities and towns Travel Union is an assisted rural digital travel services platform through which a rural traveller can book a train, bus, flights tickets, and book hotels at competitive prices. The Travel Union app is available in English and Hindi language and plans to launch in 11 more languages.
According to a report from KPMG, the Covid-19 crisis might render job losses worth 38 million in the Indian tourism and hospitality sector, ie.70 percent of its workforce employed.
How does it solve the problem for rural travellers?
When a rural traveller plans his journey, it is not pre-planned. The gap was more highlighted when during the pandemic, they had to interact with multiple operators. For a particular search, the travel app aggregates all the available price options and shows the Travel Union agents the lowest prices they can offer their customers. It provides inventory, competitive prices, and state-of-the-art technology directly from airlines, railways, hotels, trips, wholesalers, and aggregators. It also has the facility for online cancellations and refunds, eliminating the long wait customers usually have to endure.
How Travel Union is an employment opportunity for rural travel agents and small travel agencies?
Rural lodges and small hotels never came under the gambit of online booking. Moreover, the potential 38 million job loss is alarming for this sector to revive. Travel Union will onboard travel agents that will cater to the travel needs of rural customers at every district, block, and gram panchayat level. The travel agents to become a member of the Travel Union need not make any investment. However, if anyone wishes to become an IRCTC agent ID, a deposit of Rs 1199 will be needed which will be refunded within 8 months, making the ID free.
The small travel agents with Travel Union will have access to trains, more than 10,000 bus operators, over 500 domestic and international flights, and more than 10 lakh hotels. The revenue model for rural travel agents is through high margins generated from direct booking options with several travel service partners. It has a dedicated 24X7 customer care that will address the travel agent’s queries.
What lies ahead for the digital travel and hospitality platforms catering to rural India?
The launch of such travel tech platforms for the rural space will provide ample revenue opportunities to the small travel agents that are staring at unemployment. Also, it will give the rural lodges and small hotels an opportunity that has long remained untapped by online travel services. Foreigners, in general, are eager to experience rural India, thus in the future, there might be a chance for the rural travel platforms to ensure safe hospitality and hassle-free transportation for them in rural areas.