THE tourism industry is trying to squirm in the midst of a new normal situation this year. With the projected pandemic easing in 2021, the sector is poised to explode.

There is a ticking time bomb stored during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ready to explode once the pandemic ends its journey on earth. This time bomb is an explosion in the number of tourists visiting various destinations in a number of places. The time bomb sparks have actually been seen recently. Even though it was hit by a pandemic, people could not hold back their desire to travel.

Therefore, tourism business actors, including online travel agents (OTA), are optimistic that they can rise from adversity in a short time after the COVID-19 epidemic. Of course, this revival still needs to be followed by innovation or adjustment from each OTA.’s Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer Gaery Undarsa saw signs of the revival of the country’s tourism industry since the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2020. This was reflected in the increase in hotel room bookings and airline tickets during that period.

The OTA belonging to the Djarum Group recorded an increase in hotel room bookings by 67% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter. The same applies to airline ticket booking transactions to a number of domestic tourist destinations that have experienced an increase 56%. There was also an increase in the number of users in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the third quarter of 2020 by 32%.

In fact, in November 2020, according to Gaery, requests for hotel bookings in various tourist destinations managed to break the record for the highest monthly transactions throughout 2020. The most popular hotels are located in favorite tourist cities, such as Jakarta, Bali, Bandung, Surabaya and Yogyakarta.

Then for transactions for attractions or recreational activities, recorded an increase of up to 172% in the same period. Based on the holiday period, 97% of customers buy travel tickets for early December 2020 and the rest are new year holidays until mid-January 2021.

Furthermore, Gaery said, the increase in booking transactions for hotel rooms, airplane tickets and tourist attraction tickets did not just happen. I have made several innovations to attract people back to travel, one of which is through a discount party program.

“We also help the community to meet the requested travel requirements, such as giving a discount or voucher rapid test and PCR [polymerase chain reaction] swab test in collaboration with airlines or health facilities. We also ensure the application of health protocols in hotels or tourist attractions, ”he said.

In addition, what is no less important is adjusting the product according to people’s preferences or demands. According to Gaery, currently people prefer to travel with family or in small groups and seek private accommodation.

Gaery firmly believes that the tourism industry will be excited again in 2021. This is because the Covid-19 pandemic which has been going on since March 2020 in Indonesia has made many people bored and need a variety of fun activities outside the home to refresh their minds.

“Even now, even though there is a requirement for a rapid antigen test, many are willing to pay extra. Indeed, there are those who cancel or refund, but the number is not too significant. This is a sign that people are already in a hurry to take a vacation,” he noted.

According to EVP Transaction Banking Business Development BCA I Ketut Alam said from a banking perspective, PT Bank Central Asia (BCA) Tbk. recorded transactions related to tourism activities in the fourth quarter of 2020 experiencing a significant increase compared to the previous quarter.

“The online and offline transactions with the travel category have increased by up to 15% in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter of 2020. This increase signifies a rebound or revival of the tourism industry after previously slumping at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, “he said.

He added that it was not so surprising because traveling had become a necessity for the community, including BCA customers. The Covid-19 pandemic is like a fasting tour that will have an end.

Therefore, Ketut is optimistic that in 2021 the travel category transactions will experience a significant increase. However, the overall transaction figures will not return to what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It could be back to normal [transaction figures], but not in the near future. Because in the meantime the capacity will be reduced to minimize the spread of the virus. But at least in the near future 60% of [transactions] are under normal conditions. “

On the other hand, the General Chairperson of the Indonesian e-Commerce Association (IdEA), Bima Laga, assessed that VHO (virtual hotel operators) and OTA basically still have the potential to grow in the midst of current conditions. In fact, both are predicted to grow rapidly, beating startups from other business sectors.

“This is because recreational activities will be sought after by many people shortly after the pandemic has subsided or has actually ended. People because they are bored at home. Based on the survey, the first is eating at home, the second is a staycation, [then] traveling to a place that is safe, “he said.

However, according to Bima, both VHO and OTA need to innovate and what cannot be ignored is to convince the public that what they offer is truly safe. The reason is that it cannot be denied that there are still concerns in the community to leave the house and have recreation during this pandemic.

“The innovation is important, how do they package their products. “For now, apart from convincing the [implementation of] health protocols, of course integrated services with [traveling] requirements such as a rapid test are needed,” he said.

Even so, Bima did not deny that the efforts that must be made by VHO and OTA to survive in the midst of a pandemic were so bloody. One of the VHOs, which also provides airline ticket reservation services, was even forced to roll out in May 2020 because it was unable to bear the operational burden without income.

“But that does not mean it is not prospective. “The proof is recently that OTA has succeeded in obtaining funding. In the midst of a pandemic, getting funding means that the prospects after this are good,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sequioa Capital India Managing Director Rajan Anandan said investors with long-term goals would be more stringent in their evaluation of industries that depend on physical presence or focus on travel including VHO and OTA.

“Even though offline retail and domestic travel are starting to show signs of recovery, it is far from being before the pandemic,” he concluded. [ special]