With the new variant Omicron spreading much faster than ever, industries around the world struggle to cope. The travel industry more than others, are more prepared this time, for any setbacks, halts and changes expected this year.
Luxury travel experts Shanti Kohli— Managing Director of Amber Tours, Amit Kalsi— Founder of Experiential Travel Journeys, and Kabeerr Naayar— Founder of Kimaayraa Travel & Hospitality speak to LuxeBook about the changing landscape of the travel industry.
The new normal
The outbreak of the Omicron variant came as a sudden surprise for many. Despite the ruckus, the travel industry was prepared this time, having faced an unpredictable market since 2020.
“We did not get enough time to brace ourselves for the Omicron impact, but we decided to go with the flow, and manage circumstances as we faced them, like we have been doing for the past two years,” says Amit Kalsi.
“Accepting that Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon is the only thing we can do right now,” says Shanti. “We have to learn to live with it, take our precautions, get vaccinated and just accept that this is how it is, and move on.”
While the rest of the world continues with the new normal, India takes a more precautious step back. “People still do look forward to travelling, for them, it is their freedom. And so they aren’t scared but they don’t want to risk it either, because there is nothing worse than getting stuck in another country with Covid,” adds Shanti.
And so domestic travel becomes the most anticipated trend of 2022, mostly because people feel much safer travelling in their own country. It is a continuing trend from last year.
People aren’t swapping international travel for domestic destinations merely because of the pandemic, but also because of the changing times. People want to explore their own country now more than ever. Visit lesser-known locations with not so popular spots that aren’t on the map.
Travel is more than a vacation for many. It is a means to explore and have new experiences, which according to Kabeerr Naayar include wildlife travels, glamping experiences, and a rise in adventure-filled trips.
Moving on from towering hotels, boutique stays are another budding trend among travellers. One of the things that separate boutique hotels from chain hotels is their authenticity. Wherever they may be based, boutique hotels recreate that space within the hotel. An example of this would be the Palais De Mahe in Pondicherry, which features colonial French architecture to represent the French Quarter.
The Postcard Hotel Velha in Goa is also a fitting example of the aesthetic of Goa. Big white bungalow, run-around veranda, set in the midst of swaying trees in a secluded location, a perfect representation of Old Goa.
Apart from the local flavour, boutique hotels are increasingly providing customised experiences, created for each guest, right from their stay to their meals. Such hotels often focus on the local flavours of the region they’re based in that travellers are interested in sampling in their search for novel experiences.
In these times, social distancing comes as a boon in such places due to their limited occupancy. A limited number of rooms means you won’t be surrounded by a lot of people. With maximum distance and safety, these are perfect for a more private travel experience, especially during the pandemic.
Getaways over vacations
With travel becoming seemingly difficult, people are beginning to opt for getaways instead of long, planned holidays.
“Clients do prefer a quick getaway with their families and friends. A getaway for 2 to 3 nights within drivable distance is ideal, and now even more popular than before,” says Kabeerr.
One of the main reasons people pick a quick getaway is because they need a short break, in a quiet space away from chaos. Which is why they opt for hill stations like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand from Delhi, or even the more common places like Lonavla and Alibaug from Mumbai.
Apart from these, relaxation getaways in spa resorts are becoming increasingly popular. They are a perfect break from work, and can really help people feel more alive, refreshed and rejuvenated, which is exactly what people look to get out of a getaway.
At the end of the day, people’s biggest travel concern is safety. Safety and risk protocols are conducted before the planning process even begins. Travel companies now offer services wherein they conduct in-depth research about the destination and the protocols of that destination, after which the client is made aware of all the safety procedures related to that destination: its restrictions, vaccination status, caseload, entry and exit regulations, and preparedness of the destination to welcome tourists, vaccination and testing requirements.
Risk portfolio on the other hand covers topics like insurance, isolation facilities and costs, medical infrastructure, testing facilities, access and costs, etc.
Apart from these, the basic safety protocols of course include negative Covid test, with RT-PCR tests. On some occasions, the states do not usually ask for an RT-PCR test, but the accommodation does end up asking for the same, in which case, travel companies are prepared with them beforehand.