Pune Inc: A travel agency’s secret to growing revenue in the post-Covid world: Think small, light and on your feet
When Pune-based Rivers and Ridges recently made a group tour of Meghalaya, they found that Shillong had changed from the land the British had called Scotland of the East. It’s now a bustling city that might not match the mood of travelers who have spent the past few days among the hills, valleys, and mountains of the state. The company decided to replace a stay in the capital with a visit to the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, the wet and grassy habitat of the Indian rhino.
“We wanted the group to have good memories, from their arrival to their departure for the airport. It means we have to be more creative, innovative and try different ideas,” says Rohan Ratnapal, founder and CEO of Rivers and Ridges. Started with a personal investment of $5,000 in 2012, Rivers and Ridges was generating an annual gross income of Rs 30 lakh before the first wave of the pandemic anchored the travel industry globally. As the world returns to normal – with more mandatory masks in Maharashtra, among other relaxations – it is companies such as Rivers and Ridges who are leading the response to restore the travel industry to pre-2020 figures.
Recovery is a daunting task with pitfalls such as frequent cancellations as many people are unsure of going out; schools and offices no longer organize outdoor outings; and international destinations suffering the effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine and China’s Covid lockdown, among others. During Lok Sabha Question Time in March, Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy said the government had conducted a study on the effect of Covid-19 on the tourism industry. Job losses in this sector were 14.5 million during the first wave, 5.2 million during the second wave and 1.8 million during the third wave. “Tourist arrival in India dropped 93% in the first wave, 79% in the second and 64% in the third wave,” he said.
On the ground, this means that companies such as Rivers and Ridges get 10-15 people for their group trips, whereas before 2020 there were 30-40 people, although there are indications that many people are interested in travel and social media. are full of travel and fitness images. “The road ahead could mean smaller numbers, but there needs to be a richer experience. Travel entrepreneurs need to be flexible and adapt to each customer because no two people will think alike. Experience will be the buzzword of the future.” We would randomly add an overnight stay in a wildlife sanctuary to an already existing seven-day adventure tour just to make the experience special, so that any itinerary would not be a rather unique repetition of himself in his own way,” Ratnapal explains.
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At Velas Beach in Ratnagiri, they not only briefed the tour group on olive ridley conservation efforts, but also ensured that the food represented the taste of Konkan. “We tried over 20 places in Velas before finding one where we didn’t have the usual sabji, but something different and memorable,” Ratnapal says. Rivers and Ridges likes to include nature in its itinerary in order to “give back to nature by creating awareness as we use nature for our interests”.
Last year, Rivers and Ridges generated revenue of Rs 10 lakh, which was better than the 2020-21 figures. “With the opening of more international destinations, we are lining up to travel more outside than in India. I expect a good turnover of Rs 30-40 lakh if we execute our plans for the year well. coming,” he said.