By Shane McGinley
Online travel portal Cleartrip said bookings had been down 60% but people were still eager to travel
Cleartrip, the India-based online travel portal, has said that customers are still booking flights through its website and it anticipates that, if travel restrictions are removed as expected, this year’s Eid will be one of the biggest travel holidays on record.
“People are still booking,” Matthew Sliedrecht, marketing director at Cleartrip, told Arabian Business on Sunday.
The United Arab Emirates announced on Monday it will temporarily suspend all passenger and transit flights in order to control the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. The restrictions will start from March 25 and will be in place for two weeks.
Ahead of tomorrow’s grounding of all flights, Sliedrecht said that Cleartrip had seen flight bookings down by 60 percent year-on-year. However, he said prices for May had not gone down as bookings were still strong, with people optimistic the two week ban on flights will not be extended long-term.
“When we look at like prices, there are when you look prices from the 22nd of May they have not come down. That marks the Eid holiday… From a forecast perspective, we may see this Eid as one of the largest travel seasons we've seen in history.
“Obviously, we can't predict the future, but it will be the first time people have been able to leave the country. Come end of April, if the restrictions and measures are down by almost every country… people will want to be seeing their families again,” he added.
With many events in the UAE scheduled for the first half of this year postponed until later in 2020, Sliedrecht said this would also give a boost to the end of the year, when prices are usually a bit lower.
“September is normally a lower booking month than other months. So, it really depends, if we start seeing business travel increase significantly, we will see an increase in prices,” he said.
“But it wouldn't be the same [increase] that we see over the school holiday period, the June-July school holiday period, or the Eid periods, where there's a lot more leisure travel in the market than business travel. Maybe we'll see a flattening of prices, kind of across October.”
Cleartrip is an Indian firm with bases in the Middle East. In an interview in February, before the full force of Covid-19 took hold, the company’s chief financial offer Indroneel Dutt said it was on course to pass the $100 million mark in 2020.
Last year, it also announced plans to launch an initial public offer (IPO) in the next 2-3 years.
Despite the obvious drop in bookings overall, and the resultant economic challenges, Sliedrecht said Cleartrip was in a healthy financial position and was redirecting a lot of staff from sales to customer support.
“As an organisation, we are well financed, and we are in a position where we've got a very strong balance sheet. For us, that's not the largest concern. A lot of our teams have been moving into customer service and helping us wherever we can,” he said.