Lockdown Economy Nepal in Travel and Tourism Industry with Shivangi Shah Singh
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Sujan Manandhar
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world. Lockdown Economy Nepal is done in collaboration with the Nepalese Young Entrepreneurs Forum — Kathmandu Chapter.
In this interview, we meet Shivangi Shah Singh, the Managing Director of Travel Design, a travel company in Nepal. They conduct outbound tours to exotic destinations around the world and offer budgeted packages to local Nepalese clients. We talked about the problems Travel Design faced during the lockdown. They were under complete lockdown in the first few months of the pandemic as travel was restricted. They lost more than 80% of their sales. Some of their clients were stranded abroad and they had to find a way to bring them back. They were in communication with their employees and their clients digitally. Ms Singh travelled to the authorities to find a solution. Travel design is working on chartered flights. Ms Singh projects that it could take till 2022 for her business to go back to what it was before the lockdown.
Could you introduce us to Travel Design?
Shivangi Shah Singh: Travel design was established in 26th November 2013. It is located in Naxal (Kathmandu City). Our mission is to make dreams come true. Our vision is to provide living paradise in nature. We focus on outbound tourism. We provide several exotic destinations. We categorize our itinerary into A, B and C. The most demanded destination in Nepal is Bangkok since it is economical. We can customize the itinerary according to the number of days (2 days/2 nights, 3 days/4 nights, 5 days or 7 days/ 6 nights). The itinerary includes tours and shows as well.
How was your business performing before the pandemic?
Shivangi Shah Singh: We were doing quite well before the pandemic. Our revenue was good. We did a few cruises. Bali was a sought-out destination and we did Europe tours as well. We had clients from corporate sectors. We dealt with both expatriates and repatriates. We were having fun as a team as well. Some of the staff members went to the tours. We had Tiger Scouts visiting Nepal from Korean teams. We did Poon hill (Hill station in Nepal) trek with them.
What kind of problems did you face during the lockdown?
Shivangi Shah Singh: The first few months were very difficult for us since we were completely in lockdown. We did start working from home because we had a few projects coming in. Our sales went down by 80%. We had to rescue our customers who were abroad. There was a situation where we had to rescue 1000 clients from Kuwait. I had to go to the authorities myself because we needed to have a one to one conversation about the situation. We had digital communication with our employees and our clients in Kuwait. The clients were having a very difficult time. I had to communicate their problems to the authorities and strategize a rescue any way possible. That is how I got the authority to rescue them and finally, they were here. I had to travel to work even during the odd/even rule (traffic rule where vehicles with odd license plate numbers could drive only on odd dates and even plates on even dates). We had a lack of contact with the clients so I had to be at the office.
What strategies did you put in place to stimulate your business? What worked and what didn’t?
Shivangi Shah Singh: We try to provide quality service to our clients because they are our biggest priority. We tried to provide them 24 hours service by connecting with them digitally or through telephones. This worked for us because they trusted us. We had to make them aware of the changes in the airline regulations and the Nepalese economy so that they know what is happening and what might happen next. We did try some new ideas but the services were completely blocked. We were unable to receive our clients and take them to their hotels (at their destination).
What kind of approach did your competitors take during the lockdown?
Shivangi Shah Singh: Few of the travel agencies did hike their price. We did not take that approach because we focused on safety first. We operated based on the situation of different locations.
Now the lockdown has been eased in Nepal, how is your business performing?
Shivangi Shah Singh: Now we are slowly taking pace. We have a few expatriates coming from abroad. I am hoping for my next project to be successful. But the situation is not like before. Maybe we will have to face similar situations till the end of 2021. We might have to wait till the beginning of 2022 for things to go back to what it was.
What is the outlook for Travel Design for the next three months?
Shivangi Shah Singh: Each and every month is uncertain for us. We cannot say what we will face until the airline industry is back to normal. We are working on chartered flights, but the prices are very high. Only a few people are travelling internationally and coming back to Nepal.
What are the three things in your business that you need help with?
Shivangi Shah Singh: We need the support of the government to run the business smoothly. They need to provide guidelines for health and safety to ease the current condition. And we need access to emergency services to serve our clients on time.
About the guest
Ms Shivangi Shah Singh is an entrepreneur in the tourism sector with over a decade of experience, the design has always been to place clients first before profits and to communicate and maintain truthful relationships with their customers, employees and authorities at all times.