The 2020 pandemic threw the whole world off balance and into a frenzy of uncertainty. No industry has been left untouched by Covid-19. Perhaps the sector that suffered the most during the pandemic, has been the tourism industry. Global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020 with international arrivals dropping by 74%.
The blow was even harder for the tourism sector of Bangladesh because of its lack of infrastructure. Hotels were forced to lay employees off at an alarming rate. Small vendors and agents mostly shifted from tourism to other more profitable businesses. When most other merchants were giving up, Go Zayaan was a company that fought to find a solution.
The lockdown following the spread of Covid-19 was unlike anything else people had ever experienced before. The busy world people had known for so long came to a standstill. Streets, offices, airports- everything was empty. People stopped going out unless it was an absolute necessity. As the physical world was at a deadlock, online industries boomed. Food delivery services, ride sharing apps, digital payment etc saw an exponential rise in consumers. Due to the lockdown, tourism didn't have any scope to thrive in this situation. Go Zayaan, being a relatively new player in Bangladesh's online market for tourism, surprisingly survived during these troubling times. Their secret- focusing on domestic tourism.
Go Zayaan started its journey with international flights and made online booking with local currency possible for the very first time in Bangladesh. As the pandemic hit, international travel was completely shut down. Instead of losing hope, the company patiently planned out its next moves. Research soon showed that even though international travel was off limits, people were slowly starting to travel to nearby resorts for a little break from the monotony of lockdown life. The company acquired more local hotels and focused further on domestic travel. They increased their nationwide hotel inventory to 150 hotels. Domestic travel in Bangladesh also widely requires the use of buses. Going to a counter to book the tickets was a risky task during the days of pandemic. So the company introduced an end to end fully automated online bus ticket booking service to ensure the ultimate comfort for consumers.
The online travel aggregator didn't just stop at transport and hotels. It is still striving to be the one stop solution for nationwide travelers. The company launched travel insurance for ensuring safety, GoSafe program as a travel advisory, integrated covid tests with international flight ticket purchases etc. Hygiene is no more a nice-to-have feature; it is perhaps the most important factor to consider when organizing and booking a vacation. Even after the pandemic has passed, this will continue to be a key issue for travelers. With this in mind Go Zayaan launched its GoSafe program, providing a detailed directory of travel guidelines for different countries. The company collaborated with different government approved labs to integrate covid test add-on into their international flight ticket bookings so the traveler wouldn't have to address the added headache of scheduling a perfectly timed covid test right before their tour.
Go Zayaan's focus on domestic tourism didn't only save the company itself, but many small vendors and businesses as well. Hotels and merchants being forced to shut down saw the light of day as the company helped promote them in the digital space. The website allows hoteliers to update real time inventory and hotel information ensuring the best deals for travelers. A key problem with hotel bookings through websites before was the mandatory use of credit cards. Go Zayaan integrated mobile financial services into their payment procedure as well so people could confirm bookings even without credit or debit cards. Go Zayaan is trying to create an ecosystem of domestic tourism by integrating every small part of the country's tourism sector into their services. The company has even gone to grassroots levels by finding tour vendors and operators who were only known through word of mouth. These people now have the control over their travel plans and visibility to compare prices - that they severely lacked in previous times.
With the serene tea estates of Sylhet, world's longest sea beach in Cox's Bazar, lush green hills of Bandarban and Rangamati- Bangladesh has the potential to be a gold mine of tourism. But the lack of online presence severely hampers the tourism industry's growth. Only 5% of the entirety of the tourism sector in Bangladesh has visibility in the electronic world of today. The result is visible in a research conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) stating that 97% of tourists in Bangladesh are local. While neighboring countries like India and Nepal have become hot spots for foreign tourism through OTAs such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra etc, Bangladesh is still far behind in this scene. As a consequence, foreign tourism is yet to boom in the country. Go Zayaan's vision doesn't end at convenience for the local traveler, it expands to the foreign market as well. The company aims to unlock the country's tourism sector's full potential both nationally and internationally because inbound tourism is far more impactful in the industry's rise than local tourism.
The company has seen a whopping 5 times growth in the last year and it's only just getting started. Its hotel inventory has doubled over the past few months with presently over 300 hotels nationwide under its registry. The company has even secured a 2.6 million dollar investment in the seed round and intends to use it to further improve and automate the entire traveling experience in Bangladesh.
Digitalization of tourism has been a long overdue process that was only sped up by the pandemic in recent times. A great improvement in the local travel landscape is the digitization of travel planning to effectively offer people power over their travel agenda. Go Zayaan entering the industry will be a game changer in terms of both flexibility and comfort for the traveler.