Rider and influencer Mohit Kharbanda has covered nearly 2 lakh kilometres across India and several other countries in his motorcycle since he started riding 18 years back.
With so many years of experience with different kinds of tourists and places, Kharbanda says the pandemic will "turn tourists into travellers". Adding, "More people will develop an adventure streak with self-sustaining trips as a result of the pandemic."
Kharbanda talks about the changes the tourism industry is going to see, tips and tricks for riders to travel amid a pandemic and more. Excerpts:
How have you seen the tourism industry evolve given the situation?
Places, communities and hospitality players have a new target audience - the cautious traveller. And what will set them apart is the level of hygiene, sanitation and the assurance of safety. Also, places that offer customised options - individual cottages, self-drive vehicles, private swimming pools - will be preferred by the apprehensive traveller. A tilt towards lesser-known destinations and ones that aren't flocked by crowds is seen already, as travel is opening up. Far-off country sites will carry the label of safety more than a bustling city. Nature and adventure have always had their patrons and would continue to do so. Shorter distances, campings and road trips would be the most popular trips.
I have been travelling in my custom-built pick-up truck; carrying my own tent and other essentials. What I did as a passion for exploring the off-beat, will be the new norm. The situation will surely turn tourists into travellers.
How do you foresee the industry evolve for influencers such as yourself?
The OTT consumption is at an all-time high. Given that people are still apprehensive about venturing out too much, there is a scope for varied content such as educational and informative videos - DIY Videos are a huge hit! Regional language content has found more takers, which has given influencers the opportunity to create content in their local language for their regions. This has opened floodgates for anyone and anyone with a talent to land a message with innovation.
How do you think the travellers will restart their adventurous journeys after the pandemic?
Travellers will surely be wary of large groups and public means of transport. The road will have more companions than rail or airways. Caravans, pick-up trucks will be the new trendsetters. More people will develop an adventure streak - with self-sustaining trips, pitching their own tents and cooking their own food. Lesser known, far-flung places will have more visitors than before.
Any tips and tricks for riders to plan their next adventure?
With the lockdown restrictions being lifted, we are beginning to believe that things are getting back to normal and we are taking a casual approach to travel as well. However, safety and hygiene should be of paramount importance to anyone wanting to embark on an adventure. The trick is to be smart, responsible and cognizant of the locals in the places that you will be visiting. While a lot of places are solely dependent on tourism, we must not compromise on the safety of the local communities, especially in areas where healthcare infrastructure isn't optimal.
When did motorcycling become more than a hobby for you?
My love for motorcycles is a legacy that has been passed on to me by my father who was the first amongst his siblings to own a bike. As the pursuit of exploration grew to be my passion and my motorcycle became the ideal companion, I realised how it was more than just a hobby for me. I have been riding for the last 18 years and would have clocked close to 2 lakh kilometres across India and abroad.
Why do you choose motorcycle excursion over other modes of exploring?
Every shred of your body feels closer to nature from the seat of a saddle. The oneness with your surroundings that you feel while riding a motorcycle is unmatched. You merge with the terrain effortlessly and the sense of adventure is elevated to another level.
Why do you think motorcycling as a genre has strong synergy with travelling and touring?
A motorcyclist is always independent and at his own free will to explore and experience what he puts his heart at. Over the years, my motorcycle journeys have taken me around the world, to places few tread to, experiencing stories few have listened to. These journeys have evolved many riders and travellers like me.
When did the love affair with Royal Enfield start?
It was at 18 years of age when I first tried my hands on my father's cast iron Bullet; it was love at first sight - as cliche as it may sound! The rawness, the rugged looks, that trademark thump made me a fan for life. I have tried expressing myself through this machine when it was passed on to me. I customised it as per my taste and riding style - that's the beauty of Royal Enfield motorcycles. They are simple machines - you can strip them down to the last nut and bolt and they will never disappoint you.
With this domestic boom in tourism, what is that one place in India that attracts you the most and why?
Kashmir Valley has my heart! Even after visiting the place on almost all modes of transportation, I still get excited like a first-timer whenever I get a chance to visit. The snow-clad mountains, the painfully breathtaking view of the Dal, the floating Shikaras, the ever-smiling shepherds with their flock, the beautiful Chinar leaves strewn across paths as they shed from their trees in autumn, the old-men in Pherans and a Kangri welcoming you in their discussions, the Roganjosh and the Tabakmaaz - they keep calling me back.