Festive demand drives bus rentals business


NEW DELHI : The online bus ticketing business, which was battered by covid-19, is on a recovery path with leisure travel destinations and pilgrimages starting to see crowds returning. Intercity travel has reached pre-covid levels on most routes across India, while certain routes crossed pre-covid numbers, according to online ticketing platforms.

IntrCity SmartBus, a tech-enabled fleet of intercity buses, said it will cross its pre-covid levels of 50 million daily travellers by December. It witnessed 20-25% higher bookings during this festive season compared to 2019, across functional and leisure travel. Demand is increasing across leisure and pilgrimage destinations such as Goa, Manali, Katra and Tirupati, along with demand on functional routes such as Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Punjab, and Delhi, the startup said. “Demand for functional routes rose significantly in recent months following an increase in business activities and offices returning to hybrid work mode, resulting in employees shifting back to their cities of work. The connectivity between Bengaluru-Chennai-Hyderabad has reached near pre-covid levels for this reason,” said IntrCity’s co-founder Kapil Raizada.

“Southern routes such as Chennai-Madurai and Bengaluru-Hyderabad reached pre-covid levels of 5,000-6,000 daily bus travellers this Diwali weekend and Chennai-Coimbatore and Bengaluru-Chennai are at 65-70% of pre-covid volumes,” Raizada said.

Last year, even Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp. (IRCTC) had launched its online bus booking portal. The government-run company told the media that it had generated gross revenue of 5 crore from the vertical in FY22, and generated net profit of 35 lakh.

MakeMyTrip, too, reported a near doubling of its bus business. Earlier this week, the online tour operator said its revenue grew 91.8% to $16.1 million in the quarter ended September from $8.4 million in the corresponding quarter of last year. Gross bookings rose 103.2%, primarily due to the strong recovery in domestic travel as covid-19 restrictions eased and people were more confident to venture out. The company runs RedBus. “Bus travel is usually up during the festive months as most people prefer to travel back to their hometowns to a nearby destination. Our bus bookings were up 20% in the Diwali month as compared to the previous month. Mostly, the bookings were on Bengaluru-Hyderabad and Chennai-Bengaluru. We also saw a surge in bookings to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand from many backpackers during Diwali,” said Rikant Pittie, co-founder, EaseMyTrip.

According to IntrCity, daily bus travel between Delhi and Katra is around 2,000 and is expected to grow 30% or more during November and December. Pilgrimage travel in the budget category significantly contributes and Diwali travel is going full capacity with private operators adding 35-40% more buses on Tirupati, Madurai, Katra and Shirdi routes.

The trend prompted ixigo, an online ticketing firm, to acquire bus-ticketing portal AbhiBus. Its group CEO and co-founder Aloke Bajpai had said in July that it intended to drive more synergies in selling bus, train and flight tickets across the entire group to the next billion users from tier 2,3 and 4 towns.

PGA Labs in a report, Intercity travel mobility market in India, said the outstation bus travel market was pegged at $66 billion with 30.1 billion outstation commute passenger trips per annum in FY20.

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