God's Own Twenty20: Backpacks fill with masks, gloves, sanitisers as Malayali sets forth on travel post-COVID

God's Own Twenty20: Backpacks fill with masks, gloves, sanitisers as Malayali sets forth on travel post-COVID

The omnipresent Malayali, who had to slow down travel due to the pandemic, seems to be getting back to the circuit yet again. There are slight changes, though:  the humble mask has replaced the passport as the thing one should not forget to take. After remaining indoors for an unexpectedly long period, people are preferring short and safe trips. This time, the changes are palpable and some are here to stay. Onmanorama looks at the trends:

Drive, thyself (self-driving) 

Not just motorheads, most travellers are opting to use their own vehicles for trips. Public transport is not the option at the moment, especially for family trips. Using one’s own vehicle also helps avoid the hassles of hiring autos or taxis to various destinations. Some even go the extra mile and pack a little home food. 

Welcome... (Read: here are the quarantine norms)

Earlier, hoteliers just told guests of the amenities. Now, they also state the quarantine norms that exist in the place. “In Kerala, we have a 7-day norm, which means no quarantine for a week’s stay. However, if they decide to extend the stay, existing norms have to be informed in detail. This often scares customers. They would opt for states like Goa, where there are no restrictions,” says a resort manager in Munnar.

Backpack (Masks, sanitiser, gloves…)

The front ring of the backpack is now for masks, sanitizers, gloves and other COVID-defence equipment. COVID safety gear is an integral part of all travel packing. Even the daredevil youngsters, who take up adventure trips, won’t take that risk. One could carry a sleeping bag/blanket too.  

Pitch your tent (Away from COVID)

Conventionally, night stays in a secure hotel room is deemed safer than a night in the tent. But the definition of safety has changed. Now, more and more tourists, especially youngsters, prefer staying in tents at beautiful locations. The demand to visit lesser-known hilltops in high-range areas is on the rise, operators say. After all, who doesn’t like to show off on Instagram, sipping morning cuppa in the backdrop of a misty mountain? 

Get the best guide (Look nowhere, it is you) 

As local travel is the new fad, middlemen – especially tour operators and guides – are turning jobless. “With Google Map in hand, more people are taking the ‘best route’ alone. Operators who used to arrange package services too are turning less significant after COVID,” says Vinod CS, president of the Association of Tourism Trade Organisation, India.

‘Hard-pressed’ (Ayurveda, yes) 

Ayurveda centres and massage parlours, which were much sought after by international tourists and north Indian travellers, have remained closed since March. However, industry experts feel that Ayurveda will soon get a 'Kayakalpa treatment' and revive itself as it could position itself as a ‘cure’ for COVID blues. Anish Kumar P. K., managing director of Ayurvilla Ayurveda resort at Kovalam, said they were hopeful of increased demand soon. "Similarly, the mental health of people has been affected due to the continuous lockdown in several European countries. So, there are chances that people would seek rejuvenation services, yoga, and meditation,” he said.   

Team outing: An ancient memory

Office-sponsored weekend trips were a common way for techies to relax amid their hectic schedules. However, as IT firms are giving more importance to employee safety and giving the work-from-home option, the team outings faded. Engagement committees in IT firms are now busy finding virtual solutions of entertainment for the employees.

Get a hut (In restaurants) 

Once, the most happening places at restaurants were the rooftops. The buffets on rooftops have completely stopped after COVID-19. Restaurants with family dine areas or huts are in demand as it ensures social distancing. Most premium restaurants now get events like weddings alone where they charge around Rs. 30,000. “With facilities like centralized ACs, our monthly power bill alone is Rs.10 lakh,” says the manager of a premium hotel in Thiruvananthapuram.

Responsible tourism 

The Responsible Tourism Mission under the state Tourism Department had conceived a series of innovative packages like familiarising tourists with ethnic processes like coir making, handloom weaving, and pottery. The package could be revived as there is increased booking by the year-end. Some programmes like ‘ethnic cuisine,’ where tourists would be taken to designated houses to get a first-hand feel of how the dish is made, might take a backseat due to safety concerns.

It is welcome, all 

Premium resorts, which mainly targeted international customers, have started wooing local clients too. Most of them have made 50-60% cut in their average rates to attract customers. Resorts are forced to give rooms on competitive rates but the COVID situation has brought on them extra expenditure like the purchase of fogging machines, sanitation equipment for staff and guests, additional staff for housekeeping etc. The resorts have to ensure a 24-hour window before allotting room to the next customer. “Our expenses increased, revenue nosedived, but the customer is bargaining,” said a resort owner.

They say, COVID made nature go through some self-healing. With fewer vehicles and crowds, several tourist places are reporting reduced pollution levels. Stakeholders say this could work to their advantage in the long run as it is a sort of nature preservation in itself. 

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