Mapping the Indian travel trend

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Mapping the Indian travel trend

Sunday, 21 November 2021 | Rajeev Kale

Mapping the Indian travel trend

The new normal has drastically impacted traveller behaviour; people have started appreciating the importance of spending quality time with loved ones, writes Rajeev Kale, as he maps the travel trends in the coming year

The pandemic has changed the way we travel and changed our perception of priorities. Throughout the lockdown, people have travelled the world virtually and built on their bucket lists. Lockdown fatigue had resulted in strong pent-up demand which is fuelling unique trends in travel. Upon easing of restrictions, travellers have started to rekindle their travel plans through weekend getaways, staycations and drivecations, and similar convenient getaways from the challenging life of work-from-home schedules.

The extended lockdown urged travellers to move out of the confines of their homes and pursue workations from scenic destinations — right from hills to beaches — which enabled them to strike a healthy work-life balance. The new normal has drastically impacted traveller behaviour; people have started appreciating the importance of spending quality time with loved ones.


Rise of Domestic Travel

With the easing restrictions on domestic travel and highly limited option for international trips, domestic has come under the spotlight like never before.

Festive travel is of great importance in India especially during Diwali and Christmas, clubbing weekends and extended weekend phenomenon are driving domestic travel. Travellers book domestic trips for various reasons like family bonding, celebrate special occasions and milestones/weddings in India. Millennials as well as elders enjoy these vacations and look forward to these drivable breaks and air-inclusive travel plans.

Besides the all-time favourite — Goa, the pandemic has inspired Indians to explore their country which has created strong demand for destinations like Leh-Ladakh, Kashmir and the North East. People want to explore India in depth and visit the unique destinations our country has to offer.


Health and safety will continue to be a top priority

According to the survey primordial Hygiene & Safety, 77% of Indians need the reassurance of travelling/staying with brands that provide clear cut health and safety policies. Hotels, airports, airlines are investing in comprehensive safety protocols as travellers are putting health and safety first. Some of the first movers in the space were top brands like SG Clean, Vistara Clean, Marriott Cleanliness Council etc.


Experience-based travel

Travel is now all about special and unique experiences — based on each travellers interests/passions or to help them to reconnect with their loved ones. Travel experiences which offer true discovery/exploration of local cultures, heritage and communities and create memories that money cannot buy.

Indians are hungry for hidden gems such as the living root bridges or canoeing on the Dawki Lake — a clear lake in Meghalaya. They are also interested in outdoor adventure — such as biking trips, hiking, camping, jungle safaris and extra-ordinary experiences like picnic lunch in the middle of an apple orchard, swimming with the sharks, living in a glass igloo, stay in tree house in the middle of a jungle, experience as well as curate different kinds of cuisines with the help of local chefs. People want to dare to dream and tick off options from their bucket list such as bungee jumping and other adrenaline rushing experiences. These experiences are for a lifetime and cannot be bought with money.


Slow travel

People want to live in the moment and enjoy an unhurried life which is why they wish to explore slow and immersive travel options. Mono-destinations are in demand as people want to exclusively experience a particular place and learn of its culture, heritage and people. Travellers are attracted towards fuller and richer experiences that allow them to connect, explore and unwind through self-driven and planned trips. They prefer travel at a languid pace affording them the time to explore more without rushing into covering places within a limited span of time. They want to travel to the interiors and places which is closer to nature to refresh themselves from a prolonged indoor lifestyle during the lockdown.


Luxurious Vacations

Travellers are ready to tick off their travel bucket list instead of spending on materialistic commodities. They are opting for higher category hotels, premium home stays, independent villas and properties which promise the comfort of a vacation while meeting additional requirements of hygiene and safety. They prefer staying in unique accommodations when they travel and explore extra-ordinary options such as heritage homes, havelis and villas. Heritage homes include colonial stays in places like Goa, Bengal and Rajasthan with the provision of timelessness that allows people to have a relaxing stay with anytime dining options. Travellers now prefer villas over hotels and restaurants with more spaces including private villas with personal chef and concierge services, villas with a backyard, pool with a deck and more for relaxation.

Resorts and Vacation Rentals have witnessed a strong demand as travellers emerged from the pandemic with the intension to explore options for staycations or a change of scenery in a safe and sanitised manner, seeking larger spaces that are better equipped for longer leisure stays and social isolation, suburban destinations, resorts and vacation rentals have continued to witness strong demand, outpacing hotels on the pandemic recovery front.

Safety and hygiene are also important factors which are driving people for luxury travel as travellers are looking for more safety precautions during their journeys.

The number of people opting for premium stays has been increasing as safety and hygiene have emerged as the new comfort in travel. The traditional checklist has now made way for adequate social distancing, demand for a private kitchen, additional room for help or support staff, etc. Travellers are now looking at meaningful experiences to foster meaningful connections with the local people along with their own families and friends and may prioritise this over mass tourism formats focused on cities.


Sustainable Travel

The new generation travellers are environment conscious and seem to be interested in environment friendly tourism which in turn promoted sustainable travel options in 2021. Sustainable travel choices are mostly closer to remote villages and they not only provide a boost to these communities, but are accessible and affordable and are a transformative choice contributing to unique and individual travel experiences. They also help in raising funds for conserving nature in these areas. This trend has definitely accelerated over the past year and it is expected to grow further in 2022.


Digital revolution and Contactless travel

During the pandemic, the travel and hospitality industry has made significant efforts to boost confidence among travellers by making services contactless for their convenience as far as possible. These include contactless check-ins at airports and hotels to order food and beverages, concierge services at hotels online. Basically, contactless offerings are becoming the much needed norm for this current situation more than an exception. Travellers are warming up and getting comfortable with the idea of using contactless services and building appreciation for tech-rich experiences that promise travel safety, upfront.

Digital experience has definitely emerged as a key game-changer for the travel and hospitality segment. Before the pandemic, travellers or guests interacted with a hotel brand primarily through the physical experience and the service experience but in the present situation, there is the digital experience and hotels have equipped themselves in this short span of time to capitalise on the digital experience which ensures that all guest needs are met virtually — before, during as well as after their stay. Across the country’s travel and hospitality segment, the digital shift has been completely transformational and a boom for leisure and business travellers and the industry as a whole.


What lies ahead for the industry

Even though Covid numbers have declined in the past few months in the country, but the travel and hospitality industry needs to take responsibility to follow Covid-related protocols till the time the situation completely gets back to normalcy as our safety is in our hands.

These new travel trends will spark a new beginning in 2022. With these new offerings, travellers can prioritise and opt for what suits them best while adhering to the safety protocols and social distancing norms. The travel and hospitality industry has come a long way since being harshly impacted by the pandemic. The industry has developed and evolved for a better tomorrow and will hopefully cover up the losses sooner than expected.

The writer is President & Country Head — Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook

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