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India Travel post-COVID – Some Thoughts

Friends & Colleagues

Its been a tough year for us travel professional and fellow travelers alike. The suddenness of this pandemic has shaken the world and honestly, none of us were ready. We just couldn’t do anything about it and it has brought a lot of realizations, a lot of self-discovered passions (other than travel) among ourselves. Most of us have become great cooks.

One has also started to value a lot more the kind of ease we had for travel. Get a visa, book a ticket & accommodation and just fly. The mere idea of the borders of most countries being closed, flights not operating & having restriction even within the country, were completely alien to us.  However, after bearing with all this as much as we have, I would like to believe we are now going towards the direction where borders are re-opening, we have ease in restrictions, cases are in control, the recovery rate is much higher than the rate of new infections around the Globe. 

Situation in India

Given the population and the huge immigrant issue India faced in the initial days of lockdown due to pandemic, India still has been able to control the cases, the recent wave in the infections is surely in control. The testing rate has increased and more importantly, the recovery rate is getting higher each day compared to new cases. Hence, I would say we have just started to walk towards the light at the end of the tunnel and we would be looking at a new sunrise very soon.

Operation of metro rail, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places shall continue to remain prohibited. Schools and colleges too shall remain closed till August 31. Social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions and other large congregations shall also not be allowed. 

Government & the people of the country are hoping this situation will get better and withing some weeks we should be opening our borders & life will come back on track. 

Armchair Travel

Something that people used to do and called it ‘research’ for upcoming trips has now become the usual norm. Among the numerous zoom & google calls, attending (mostly repetitive) webinars & #thowback pictures on Instagram, we also have made a make-shift arrangement of sorts for travel from our couch. Looking at our screens and hoping could have been there one day. Even nostalgia of previous trips have come back to us. 

I have not stopped myself from doing so and for many of the India lovers I know around the globe, I have started a small initiative of ‘Travel with Sanu’. On my just 02 videos old youtube channel I have really good response from my friends and partners around the world. If you like check out my videos here & follow for more. Every week we would come up with a new video. 

Travel in India post-COVID

One cannot deny that travel styles and preferences would change post the pandemic is over. Some new travel-styles will be there for long and some might be fads which would disappear within some months. One thing is for sure the conciseness of guests and their concerns have to be given utmost importance for the sake of their safety and also of our operations team. 

  • Accommodation preferences
    What we are already witnessing now there would be a downfall in the preference to stay in block properties with huge inventory. A lot more interest in being seen in booking either luxury & premium properties where assurance of safety & sanitization is a lot more & towards boutique properties with small inventory where attention to detail is high. Also, for a destination which is not big city there has been a preference for resorts where contact with other guests is not often. Lucky for India, it can offer all such options in almost all destinations. There can also be a good mix of luxury & boutique, Taj hotels for example have a new segment Ama Stays & Trails which specializes in living the simple life in heritage bungalows at pristine locations to discovering untouched forest trails and local cuisine
  • A transition towards niche segments
    Though the transition was evident much before the pandemic but pandemic has fast-tracked the same and now we can see travelers requesting tours based on niche segments such as countryside travel, agro tours, wine tours & wellness holidays. 
  • Wellness & Wildlife Holidays
    In the current scenario, we expect to have lot more requests and travel to wellness retreats, wildlife & nature-based holidays. A lot more trust is being placed in wildlife lodges, resorts offering wellness programs, basically where the human contact is minimal. Again, India has been a world-leader in such tours for a long time and has a lot of options available. 
  • Choice of destination
    Even within the filters we discussed above, the choice of destination will change from the popular tourist spots to often less visited places offering the same of more authentic encounters. Some examples for the same are guests might prefer Gokarna instead of Goa, Sakleshpur instead of Coorg. In some places for example in a very touristic place like Agra, some guests might prefer to stay in an hour away destination like Bharatpur in heritage resorts near to the bird sanctuary. 

All of this goes without saying that some of the guests preferences will come back to usual in time but we always need to have such offers and ideas ready with us to offer our guests. 

Optimism not just a want but – necessity

Among us colleagues optimism toward the future of travel is not just our wish or want, it must be a necessity. The human race can never be still and ‘not travel’. The same is seen in Europe when Greece recently opened its borders and saw overwhelming bookings and influx of guests. The same goes for the Maldives, we have seen high requests compared to our expectation as soon as Qatar & Turkish restarted the flight to the island nation.  

Sanitisation will be equal to Security

Guests will be expected to stay in hotels that follow best sanitization policies. Hence the leaning towards luxury & boutique properties. Guests would want to ensure how you are keeping them safe, the mere use of sanitizer and face mask might not cut it. Hence especially in owner-run properties & premium properties we see a lot of importance being given to multi-layer sanitization and safety protocols be followed. A faction of stakeholders believes this might also add hindrance in decision making by guests. But I have a totally different viewpoint. Remember how before 9/11 we used to walk into hotels in India without any scanners and security but now its part of the system. The sooner we accept and follow the new normal we will be on the right path.  

We at Truly India Tours, are constantly in touch with our hotel partners and ensuring they following more than the minimum sanitization standards & also have trained our operations staff. Each of our transport partner is vetted for the training they have provided to their drivers and the kind of protocol to be followed during the journey in the coming times. 

Bounce back of road-trips & mid-way destinations

I also assume and hope there will be a bounce-back of the classic ‘Grand Road Trips’ we used to do. Might not be true for all sectors but surely the sense of satisfaction a guest would feel in their private cars cannot be matched with any other transport. Take the case of Classical India, we already have some request where the Agra – Khajuraho – Varanasi route has now turned into Agra – Gwalior – Khajuraho – Allahabad (Prayagraj) – Varanasi. In this, we add the destinations to the program to avoid the train and flight but not only does it give a safer environment but also gives a lot more to show to our guests. Sure these programs might add some nights to the program. But what is a better way to see a country than on a road trip?

This will not only give more security to the guest but will surely enhance the program and even the smaller destinations. Something which is very interesting in India is that we have so many options to stay mid-way between two popular spots. Take another example of Banglore to Hampi, many of our guests used to opt for flights earlier. But now we have growing interest for Coffee Plantation stays on the way in destinations such as Chikmagalur. 

Having said all this, I cannot emphasize enough that India’s culture & the country’s amazing landscape has many options for you to travel and for you to promote. With easy accommodation options such in big cities like Delhi & Mumbai and countless destination with boutique & luxury and even luxury boutique properties. India is the destination for 2021. Right now is the correct time to curate tours and design a special tour for your guests and groups that you would want to promote for 2021. 

 

Reach out to me at saransh@trulyindiatours.com for your requests and we curate a specially designed tour for your guests and group departure. 

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