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Whatever will be, will be… Let’s Keep Calm!

19 mins. read

It’s rightly said, ‘Diamonds are formed under pressure, but never forget, they are not formed overnight’. You grow when you face challenges. Win over an obstacle and I’ll be waiting for you with another one. Life is a challenge but business is going to be a hurdle race. Ducking out mid-way is not an option. You are even not allowed to exhaust, cry, complain or give up. Every time, you have to emerge victorious! I’ll help you, only if you help yourself.

Stepping into the travel industry, thinking about only how lucrative and glamorous it is? Just hold on! Travel industry comes with its own set of perks & perils. Here, uncertainty is a way of life. Be determined to work hard and rest assured that the almighty will help you take it in stride. Last year, something similar happened with Kerala. The deluge in the state, compelled people to push Kerala down at the bottom in their bucket list, for a period of almost a year. But after nine months of the floods, hope bloomed and God’s Own Country was back on its feet. Beauty has returned to Kerala and all of this has manifested itself into Kerala tours in April-May getting completely sold out.
When it comes to overcoming a catastrophe, I find the tourist destinations like – Kashmir, Bangkok and Bali to be the most resilient. Be it any emergency situation or any untoward incident, like - terrorist attack, flood or earthquake, these destinations have emerged out winners every time. They live with the mindset of overcoming the things out of their control and moving ahead in life. Even tourists have time and again complimented to this optimism and have shown their love to these destinations and helped them return back to normal after every catastrophe. In the thirty five years of my career in tourism, I have observed that every time, these destinations have been back on their feet within a span of less than a month. For example, our Kashmir tours took off in February this year. Guests had a great time on their tour and returned satisfied and happy. Later on, as we all know, the episodes that unfolded in Kashmir, led to its close down for almost one and a half to two months. Our tours were postponed but now Kashmir has bloomed yet again, quite literally with the colourful tulips dancing in the fields. This has definitely lifted the spirits of our guests and yet again they are enjoying Kashmir thoroughly. Just a few days ago, one of our directors, Mr. Sudhir Patil himself travelled to Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam, where he also met the Veena World guests on their tours. Even tourist destinations motivate us to ‘bounce back immediately’, don’t they?
Of course this ‘bounce back’ brings about a great upheaval. In such a situation of unforeseen natural, political, terrorist emergency- airlines, hotel industry, travel companies, tourists - all stakeholders suffer in equal measure. It works something like this – We book the seats with the airlines, almost a year ahead. We make an advance payment or even full payment in the form of heavy deposits to the airlines. In return, airlines provide us with good airfares and the required number of seats. It’s because of this, that we are able to offer tours to our guests at such affordable prices. In Feb-March, considering the safety of our guests, when we were forced to postpone our Kashmir tours by a month and a half, the guests were constantly following up with us and so were we with the airlines for the refund. The airlines refused to look into the matter of refund for they had to say that their flights are operating, it’s only that the seats are going vacant from our end. While on the other hand our guests demanded their money from us, saying that, it was none of their business and that Veena World and the airlines should mutually sort out the problem. While the hoteliers had to say that everything was back to normal at the destination and we should send our guests over there. Everyone was right in their own place but the money and the security of our guests was at stake. Nearly sixty to seventy per cent of the air operations for Veena World’s domestic tours are handled by Go Airways and Indigo. On certain routes even carriers like Air India, Vistara, Jet Airways, Spice Jet extend their co-operation. Owing to a long term relationship we share with Go Airways, with regard to Kashmir, wherever possible, they permitted us to divert the deposit to another sector, and levied minimum cancellation on few routes. We could find a golden mean, thanks to the volume of the business and goodwill. The hoteliers co-operated too and we could offer options to our guests. All of this wasn’t a bed of roses though. As expected, we had to face the annoyance of our guests, whereas at some instances the conversations were heated up. Owing to their dependency on us, stepping into their shoes, it was quite understandable. Our sole objective was to ensure the joy of our guests on their tour or any other tour they have opted for in the future. Everything else was acceptable in the due course. However, in such situations, it’s ideal to avoid panicking in order to take things in stride. When things are out of our control what we can do the most is to keep calm and look out for solutions.
Something similar happened a few days ago. All of us are now well aware of the crisis that has gripped Jet Airways for over a month now. Shimla Manali is Veena World’s forte. Veena World guests are to be found here 365 days a year. At any given time, we have anywhere between 10 to 25 tours on road in Himachal. Currently the season is on for Shimla Manali and our tours are operating full-fledged over there. Most of the tours are Mumbai to Mumbai by Air. For one of such tours, which was operating on Jet Airways, we had made the full payment for the tickets. The flight departed as per the schedule, but just a day prior to the arrival of the tour in Mumbai, the return flight was cancelled by Jet Airways, without making provision for any other alternative. We offered our guests, the option of the return journey on Rajdhani Express, against the refund from Jet Airways, which we yet don’t know, when we’ll receive. Rajdhani Express could have been quite a feasible option. We also began preparing for it. However, someone from the group of our guests on the tour disagreed and insisted on flying back instead of going for the available train option. The demand was, ‘Veena World should take responsibility for bringing them back only on flight’. It wasn’t possible to issue another ticket at the same price on the Delhi - Mumbai route (currently there’s much uncertainty about the refund of this money from Jet Airways). Primarily because, as soon as the Jet cancelled its flight, the tickets of other alternative airlines began soaring. If we required so many flight tickets, the fare of every ticket was equating to almost half the price of the entire tour and even this fare was on the rise by the hour. With Jet Airways not making provision for any other option, Veena World was left high & dry in the situation. And the times we are living and working in have become so uncertain that neither Veena World, nor anyone else can make the provision for immediate funds in such a crisis. But still our guests wouldn’t agree and they didn’t let the coach move. They troubled themselves by halting at one place for almost 8 hours. By this time, we had also missed out on the option of Rajdhani Express. Finally we had to take a firm stand, saying that, neither our guests nor we could be blamed in this situation. So far, our tour was on quite smoothly and joyfully, and that Veena World has not shrugged off its responsibilities and that they rest assured that it never will. However, now this crisis had befallen us. Had they co-operated, we would have departed for Mumbai on Rajdhani Express. They would have liked that experience too. But now we were too late for our big group to be reserved anywhere together. We requested them that wherever available, to make the reservations on their individual mobile phones and as soon as we receive the refund from Jet Airways, it will be forwarded to them as it is. Our tour managers will accompany them all through and we requested them now not to halt mid-way on the road. Finally guests boarded the bus. It was indeed painful to have experienced such a situation. Our efforts are always directed towards the avoidance of any such kind of situation on our tours. However, now that we have had to confront it, it had even taught us a lesson that, rather than enduring a situation for a long time, certain things need to be cleared right at the beginning. It’s true that the best solutions are always found when we trust each other, empathize with the situation and co-operate to find a solution, while keeping our cool.
In continuation to this, I would like to throw light on yet another aspect of the travel industry. Earlier I had used the tagline ‘Carry zero money on tour’ in the advertisement. However, at Veena World I never used it. Going through the recent natural, political or any other crisis situation and turmoil reminded me of this tagline yet again and I changed it to ‘Carry money on tour’. You would be wondering, when we advertise of the all-inclusive tours and when you yourself have experienced that all the essentials on the tour are covered, leaving no scope for spending extra anywhere, what’s this new tagline all about?! It has so happened that guests have begun travelling big time now. The air traffic in the skies is only on the rise and the airports are running short of parking lots. Global warming and an overall imbalance in the nature’s cycle is only adding to the woes with the airline industry and the tourism industry on a whole being held back someplace or other in the world by calamities like ‘floods-fog-earthquake- strikes-the crisis that Jet Airways is currently into, etc.’ Past few days have seen a big number of domestic as well international flights being cancelled. In such a situation, earlier the airlines used to make a provision of hotel stays or meal coupons, etc. However, currently due to the price war and the low airfares, almost all airlines have stopped providing any such services from their end. They’ve now taken up the sole responsibility of availing reservations for the earliest flight possible. Some airlines, do not offer any such options. Even when our entire tour has been very successful, when the airline cancels its flight for any reason, whatsoever, guests still expect Veena World to take up all the responsibility of the flight cancellation and make the provision for optional air travel, complimentary hotel stay and everything else that comes along. When flights get cancelled, it’s practically impossible to provide the guests with complimentary stay. Be it Veena World or any other travel organization. Almost all travel organizations work on a very low margin or on a ‘no loss, no profit’ basis. So providing it complimentary is not a feasible solution. This is the reason why travel organizations and airline industry work in losses or cannot make a remarkable growth. The current situation of the airline industry is a manifestation of this very fact. As one of the responsible leaders in the travel industry, I’m making way for this important declaration that foreseeing any such unexpected crisis, tourists should carry money with them. Because this expenditure which is not a part of the tour price will be borne by them. We can definitely pray for the non-occurrence of any such emergency situation or flight cancellation in the future, but having said this, we got to accept that no one of us has a control over such situations. The question, ‘Why did you book our seats on this very airline?’ is also quite irrelevant. Over the past two months, Garuda, Brussels and Air Italy have closed down their businesses in India. ‘WOW’ airline, which sold ‘Delhi-New York’ flight ticket in mere sixteen thousand rupees went bankrupt. Uncertainty is here to stay and anything can happen. Everyone’s utmost co-operation is expected in challenging times. For everything else, we are at your service, with all our heart.
This year, right at the onset of the holiday season the catastrophe of Jet Airways befell all travel organizations, individual as well as corporate travellers. Every year, over these three months of summer, we take fourty-five to fifty thousand guests to various destinations in India and around the world. Along with the domestic airlines, our guests travel around the seven continents of the world on Etihad, Emirates, Singapore, Malaysian, Oman, Turkish, Qatar, Air India, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Nepal Airlines, Druk Air, etc. Our home grown airline – Jet Airways, was pride of every Indian. Other airlines, which had started off along with Jet, like – Damania East West, Raj and later on Kingfisher, even before we knew it, disappeared from the skies. But until very recently, Jet Airways was everyone’s favourite airline. We can only wonder, as to what exactly went wrong, but the disappearance of such a prominent and popular airline from the Indian skies and the world air travel scene is definitely harmful to the image of India and will go on to haunt all of us for a long time. Currently we are amidst the holiday season. Like us, even many individuals have booked their own tickets. Of the fifty thousand of our guests, travelling abroad, one thousands of them are on the international route of Jet Airways. We had paid the deposits and reserved their tickets some eight months to a year in advance. Currently the airfares are sky-rocketing with very few options available. There are challenges, but there’s hope in some form or the other. We fly Qantas Airways on our Australia New Zealand tours, but since it doesn’t connect directly to India, Jet Airways used to be the preferred choice for flying to Singapore, Bangkok or Hong Kong on the way to Australia New Zealand. These tours are completely sold out. We are in touch with the guests. Solutions are somewhat gradually surfacing. Tours are on road without hiccups. Of course, larger groups need to be divided in two to three flights for either departure or arrival. We’re trying our best, so that our guests need not pay any extra. But we’ll have to inform our guests wherever there’s absolutely no option and they’ll need to pay the applicable extra charges before the tour. Now the tours are all set to take off. Any kind of refund from anywhere is impossible. Facing the situation together, is the only option left. It’s quite a disturbing situation for us too but in this situation of utmost crisis, it’s going to be the fact of this season. This time, twelve thousands guests are all set to tour Europe with Veena World, of which, three hundred and fifty guests are on Jet Airways. We booked the England Scotland Ireland tours on Jet Airways owing to the fact that Jet provided, the best option of arriving at Manchester and departing from London. Now Manchester flight has been cancelled and Jet Airways has confirmed seats on the London flight. We can still see the flight on the system... but with a big question mark. Likewise is with two Tulip Gardens Special Amsterdam tours. Our team is working hard for making alternative arrangements. Owing to the limited flight options for Nepal, we had to postpone our Nepal tours in April, as Jet Airways cancelled its flights on this route. The guests co-operated with us and we could successfully make alternate arrangements for them in May on Nepal Airlines.
Be it life or travel, the hurdle race will only get more intense. It’s important that we keep calm and find a way out… Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Whatever will be, will be… Let’s be patient! Let’s be optimistic! Let’s look forward to our well-deserved vacation… May be along with some challenging experiences but we’ll deal with it head-on and still enjoy regardless!


(This article was written on Tuesday, 16th April, 2019 and doesn’t contain any further development and its impact thereon)

April 24, 2019


Veena Patil
Veena Patil

‘Exchange a coin and you make no difference but exchange a thought and you can change the world.’ Hi! I’m Veena Patil... Fortunate enough to have answered my calling some 40+ years ago and content enough to be in this business of delivering happiness almost all my life. Tourism indeed moulds you into a minimalist... Memories are probably our only possession. And memories are all about sharing experiences, ideas and thoughts. Life is simple, but it becomes easy when we share. Places and people are two things that interest me the most. While places have taken care of themselves, here are my articles through which I can share some interesting stories I live and love on a daily basis with all you wonderful people out there. I hope you enjoy the journey... Let’s go, celebrate life!

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