#Voices of Travel: The industry might be ripe for another round of disruption, Jaal from Rezlive.com tells us

In this ongoing series, we explore how humans of travel are mitigating the ongoing COVID19 outbreak. Today Jaal Shah, Founder, Rezlive.com tells us that the COVID crisis will encourage innovative disruption in the travel industry. 

My father, Kalpesh Shah, a veteran in the Travel Industry, pioneered Travel Designer Group in 1999 promoting short-haul tourism destinations. I joined the business shortly after that and we reinforced the business with the launch of products such as Designer Packages and Designer Indya. Following the internet revolution, we found a need for an online B2B reservation platform and launched RezLive.com in 2007. Rezlive.com was one of the first home-grown travel reservation platform and a pioneer in hotel distribution.

Tremendous response for RezLive.com encouraged us to go international and in 2009, we established ourselves in UAE and later expanded to other the Middle East and Southeast Asian destinations. Today, we are one of the leading B2B travel platforms in South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

2020, for us, was and is a year of innovation in product, service and business model. Earlier this year, we launched REZ2020 to give a completely revamped and new booking experience to our clients. Many other projects are in the pipeline and they are being pursued and there is no impact on developmental efforts due to COVID-19. We had plans for expansion in certain markets. We are taking a cautious approach at the moment on those plans. Before the outbreak, we were on an extended growth phase. We take pride that we are one of the most innovative travel platforms in the B2B space. The innovations, simple business model, a clear vision on which products and markets we want to excel in, and our strong financial base ensured that we had strong sustainable growth. Even in many of the saturated markets, we still had double-digit growth rates consistently. 2020 started with great promise. It is unfortunate that we are in such an uncertain environment.

Well, we are not immune to COVID-19. Right now, as we speak, the travel restrictions around the world mean no leisure or business travel. From what we read of the situation, this is going to last for a considerable time and the recovery is going to be slow. The optimism of a V shaped recovery is no more and economists are predicting a “tick” shaped recovery and I agree on that. For us, we are always thinking about our travel partners around the world –our suppliers, hotel partners and clients – and our business team is working on ideas and business models that will ensure sustainable growth for all our stakeholders.
Right from when early news started coming from China, we prepared ourselves for a “Work from home” scenario and all our colleagues were well equipped. When the refund queries started pouring in after the onset of the pandemic, we were in the best position to act on them and refund our clients in the shortest possible time.
We are utilizing this period of time to work on new innovations in the pipeline, training our sales team to be better at what they do, improving processes and preparing ourselves for the recovery. We are also closely interacting with our suppliers, hotels and ground service partners and work hand-in-hand to project and prepare for the recovery. Our sales and operations team are working 24×7 to address clients’ requests and queries. There are also opportunities and we are looking at several developmental projects, which we could not take during busy days and are capitalizing the surplus time to improve our product, processes and skills.

We are very clear where we want to reach. Our goals are clearly defined, and all our people know where we are heading to. The uncertainty and rocky patch now are only a temporary slowdown. While we cannot control the duration of this slowdown, we are doing well in planning for the short term. Fortunately, we had taken several financial measures in 2019 to reduce our risks, expenses and to increase our profit margins. Those projects and subsequent measures reinforced the underlying financial strength of our organization. Today, we can get to hibernation quickly and when recovery is sighted, we would spring back to a strong force. We are also fortunate to have a strong team of dedicated colleagues, who can see the big picture and their roles. These are the people who are going to take us to great heights.

The perspective on COVID19 pandemic is changing every day and it is impossible to predict. While in medium term I am sure that travel will rebound, business leaders must be prepared for the most pessimistic projections in the short term.
The digital revolution disrupted the industry pretty much. However, personally, I think that after the crisis, this industry might be ripe for another round of disruption.

Considering that the travel restrictions may not be removed in May, we are encouraging all our clients to advise the travellers to change the travel dates to suitable future months. In case of cancellations, our team is working round the clock in assisting the agents and guests to provide cancellations with complete refund by negotiating with our service providers. Health and safety of our guests is a primary concern to us and we make sure the holiday plans of all our guests should provide complete peace of mind and hassle-free travel experiences. We have offered amendment flexibility on all our upcoming bookings until the COVID 19 situation will ease out.