The world as we know it, is finally learning to cope with COVID-19 and things are starting to get back to the so-called new ‘normal’. The monotony caused by nearly a year of staying in-doors and working remotely is making people want to get away from their homes and cities and travel to places both near and far. As travel and tourism opens up across the country and outside, the urge to travel freely is stronger than the fear of the pandemic. The need to take a break from a COVID-19 protected monotonous life is running high.
Against this backdrop, one can see many an emerging trend in the travel industry today. Travellers are a lot more aware and conscious of their surroundings and well-being than ever before. The focus is now entirely on one’s personal safety and security.
Let us look at some of these emerging trends:
With social distancing being the new norm, travellers are opting for destinations that are at a drivable distance from their respective cities. Places that are nearby, yet secluded and located in the lap of nature are the highest preferred amongst travellers. A few examples of weekend getaway that are considered safe to travel to during the pandemic include:
Mumbai to Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Alibaug and Amby Valley
Delhi to Jaipur, Agra, Rishikesh, Nainital, Mussoorie and Jim Corbett
Bangalore to Mysore, Ootty, Kodaikanal, Chikmagalur, Wayanad
Chennai to Fisherman's Cove, Pondicherry, Yercaud, Coorg
Thiruvananthapuram to Kovalam, Allepey, Munnar
Cochin to Kumarakom, Thekaddy, Varkala
Be it hill stations, beaches or backwaters, the peaceful and serene atmosphere of these destinations makes them the ideal destination for travellers to escape from the daily routine of life.
One can book themselves in one of the many hotels and resorts that are nestled amidst nature. Most resorts offer guests several in-house activities to choose from, so that the need to step out of the premise does not arise, thereby keeping everyone safe.
With flights resuming operations and the world gradually opening up, many foreign countries have started to allow overseas travellers to visit their countries. Travelling to select destinations is the new trend now, not just under the ‘Air Bubble’ pact but for pure tourism.
One of these destinations that has been a favourite amongst Indians is Maldives. The Indian traveller’s market has been the third largest for Maldives ever since it has opened up to the world. Reasons why Indians prefer a getaway to the exotic islands of Maldives include the short flight duration, cheap flight tickets, ease of obtaining visas and above all, no quarantine! However, all travellers coming into the country are required to carry a COVID-19 negative test, which should not be older than 72 hours prior to their departure and they also need to fill up a self-declaration form at the Male airport.
Another reason why Maldives is the current favourite amongst travellers is because of the unique feature of the country wherein each island has only one resort! These resorts maintain their exclusiveness by accepting only a limited number of guests and are self-sustaining within themselves. Moreover, since the need to step out of the resort premises doesn’t arise, travellers feel safe and secure whilst enjoying their holidays.
Another frequented overseas destination nowadays is Nepal. The Nepal Government too has opened up its borders with India to revive their tourism industry. Travellers are required to carry a COVID-19 negative test, which should not be older than 72 hours, and submit a self-declaration on arrival into Nepal.
One of the highest visited destinations currently in Nepal during these pandemic times is Pokhara – the city of Lakes. Travellers are also indulging themselves in some of the top adventure tourism activities like trekking, paragliding, boating and kayaking. The Nepal Government is taking utmost care to make sure that COVID-safe measures and precautions are incorporated by hotels and locals, every step of the way.
Dubai continues to be a highly attractive destination for international travellers. The Dubai Government is looking to attract more tourists to the country by pitching themselves as the ultimate summer destination of 2021. With the country having opened its borders to the world recently, the COVID-19 rules of travelling to Dubai are a tad bit stricter but doable. Due to the stringent safety and hygiene protocols followed, Dubai has been recognised by the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) as a safe destination for travellers. Visitors to Dubai are required to take two COVID-19 PCR tests – one 96 hours prior to departure and the other test upon arrival in Dubai.
Travellers, whether travelling for business or leisure, solo, or with family, are preferring to book alternative accommodations such as homestays, villas and apartments. These alternative accommodations are considered to be ‘safer’ than staying in traditional hotels as alternative accommodations tend to have fewer rooms to offer on their premises. The fear or chance of contracting or cross-infecting someone with the dreaded Covid-19 virus, therefore is less.
As per Mr Glenn D Fogel, President and CEO of Booking Holdings, “About 40% of the bookings that we have received are for alternative accommodations which is a small house or private home or even a bungalow by the beach wherein the consumer does not need to share the place with anyone”.
Moreover, alternative accommodations such as villas and homestays are pocket-friendly and offer flexible cancellation terms and policies. This gives travellers a multitude of choices, from staying in heritage bungalows, to native homestays, luxurious villas and even fully serviced-apartments, thereby enjoying the place and its surroundings without any worries of COVID-19.
Spa and Wellness Retreats
With safety being the top most priority on travellers’ lists, the need for holistic wellness comes a close second. Travellers these days are looking for places where they can relax, rejuvenate and heal themselves and come back stronger, more energised to their daily lives and routine. Travellers hence are opting to book wellness retreats that offer them the right mix of luxury, privacy, solace and of course, wellness. In this context, wellness is not just about meditation, but about a holistic approach towards a renewed way of living. Alternative accommodations options like homestays and villas, are also offering spa and wellness services that are becoming immensely popular amongst travellers.
Whether travelling in the current scenario or post-pandemic, the travel industry has finally come up with long overdue innovative strategies that we believe are here to stay. Long gone are the days of ‘masstige’ hotel chains and brands. Smaller boutique-type establishments are the ‘new giants’ of today!