From the current network of about 175 branches, it plans to take up the number of outlets to around 225 by 2020, including franchisee-owned centres.
"We are looking at opening 50-60 new outlets over the next two years, which would entail total investment in the region of Rs 250-300 million," Thomas Cook senior vice-president (leisure travel) Romil Pant told Business Standard.
He further informed that Uttar Pradesh was likely to get six-eight new outlets to add to its current tally of 10 company-owned and franchisee centres across seven major cities. Thomas Cook India’s internal data had highlighted the Lucknow region as a high potential source market for holiday business.
Pant said the central government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS), or UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) scheme, to provide direct air connectivity to smaller centres was also fueling the growth of domestic and international travel in India.
“Since RCS has connected smaller towns with the metro cities, the people have started to explore more domestic and foreign tourism hotspots due to ease of travel and connectivity,” he said, adding that 20-25 per cent of the incremental growth in the sector was the result of such initiatives.
RCS has been launched to make air travel more affordable. The idea is to connect the underserved airports to key airports through flights that will cost Rs 2,500 for per hour flight. It also envisages subsidy to airlines to offer lower fares. In fact, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has planned to invest nearly Rs 175 billion in upgrading the domestic airport infrastructure till 2019-20.
Pant said the domestic tourism market was big and there were several places still unexplored by tourists, such as the Bundelkhand region in UP.
Meanwhile, Thomas Cook has also identified the North India market as a prime growth driver, since it has continued to deliver a strong growth of 32 per cent year-on-year for its leisure travel business.
According to Pant, UP is poised for more business travel, following the state government's focus on attracting investment through infrastructure development and investor summits. "The 'bleisure' (mix of business and leisure tourism) segment is likely to grow fast in the state, particularly Lucknow, which has over the past few years witnessed the entry of big hotel chains and the upgrading of its airport," he said.
The temple city of Varanasi has also seen a sudden spurt in tourist inflow after it became Modi’s parliamentary constituency. Another tourist hotspot in UP is Agra due to the Taj Mahal.
In recent years, Thomas Cook has been quite bullish on the domestic market and made a series of acquisitions in the travel space to further consolidate its position.