MAGAZINE Voices Anirban Ganguly Anand Neelakantan Sheila Kumar Amar Bhushan Shinie Antony Mata Amritanandamayi Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI november 8 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Unlock, Travel 2021 is going to be the year of the new normal with solo travel picking up, customised self-driven options taking the front seat and small groups holidaying for long at homestays run by local communities. Less is more is the travel mantra the next season. By Manju Latha Kalanidhi I mmersive, not superficial-touristy travel is the buzzword now. Overcoming a nine-month locked-in period-of-sorts, travel enthusiasts are getting back to what they do best. Of course, destinations have completely changed and the world is a far cry from the one that woke up to 2020. Sealed borders. Empty city squares. Grounded flights and docked cruise ships with nowhere to go. Amid all this, there is a renewed lust for travel. Though it’s more Chail and Gokarna now, than New York and Paris. What has added to this sudden push to the travel sector is also the fact that most companies have extended their workfrom-home (WFH) periods. For example, Microsoft and Twitter have switched to this new mode till March 31, 2021. Needless to say, it is giving young professionals—who have been home for long stretches— more than enough reasons to travel. “Bored with the lockdown, unlock, social distancing and all the Covid-19 jargons, youngsters in Hyderabad have already booked four-week-long stays with us. We work closely with cottages, hostels, homestays and rural communities and they are ready to host their guests, with all the Covid-19 protocols in place. An excellent WiFi is, of course, part of the deal,” says Vandana Vijay founder of , Hyderabad-based travel company Offbeattracks. In these times of social-distancing, Nature is set to triumph. It is the hills, sea resorts, wildlife reserves and isolated locations that will win over the traveller. With easy accessibility to hygiene and a more tailored approach to individual travel demands, glamping and homestays may just become the norm. Just as online travel agency Booking. com predicted in October 2019, it is all slow-mo and not FOMO (fear of missing out). Before the pandemic upset the apple cart, India was poised as one of the leaders in the tourism industry The . country attracted a massive 10.5 million foreign visitors last year, says a Ministry of Tourism report. Five million NRIs travelled back home to visit family and 1.8 billion Indians travelled within the country for leisure, while 26 million Indians travelled overseas. Not just that. The tourism sector alone provided 87.5 million jobs, of which 12.75 percent jobs were created in 2019, says a report by Grant Thornton (one of the world’s leading organisations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms) and FICCI. March 2020 put a grinding stop to all that. But things are looking upbeat now. The stress on digital interaction has resulted in limitless possibilities for the service sector. From online bookings and payment, real time updates, reduced physical touch points, better crowd management systems, to sensors for social distancing, wearable technologies, camera surveillance, and more, it’s suddenly a whole different approach to travel. NEAR IS THE NEW NORTHERN LIGHTS Many travellers may intend to work remotely in a room with a view in 2021. American vacation rental online marketplace company Airbnb has documented stays by entrepreneurs looking for a hub to inspire creativity , digital nomads who aspire to work from anywhere for longer periods of time, and creators discovering their newest masterpiece. Authors, musicians, artists, and athletes alike are increasingly looking for stays with private spaces and retreating to suburban or rural areas from big cities. With India’s much-loved festival season around the corner, guests are either looking at travelling to their hometowns or spending time together as family . In a survey commissioned by Airbnb and published in June 2020, nearly half of the US respondents said they will prefer to stay within a day’s drive for their first trip once lockdown restrictions lift. Tapping into the demand for nearby trips, the travel company said it updated its app and homepage to help guests rediscover the magic in their own backyards. It also launched a social media campaign—Go Near—to promote both nearby getaways and Airbnb’s recently launched Online Experiences. The company’s data suggests that over 20 percent of all searches on its platform within the last three-month period in India have been for long-term stays (more than 28 nights) at a property This . shows that with access to technology and remote working infrastructure, people are willing to work-from-hills for months at a time. For example, designer-actor Masaba Gupta spent months in Goa at an Airbnb, working on her new collection. Nature Trails Homestays (23%), boutique properties (21%), and premium hotel chains (44%) are getting the vote among travellers The Maldives as the top favourite among couples Back home, the Northeast is an alluring choice, besides the everpopular Kerala and Goa 52% of modern Indian travellers are hopeful about taking their first post-Covid holiday before December Turn to page 2 Destinations that are highly searched Panchgani Maharashtra Manali IPL 2020 has boosted India-Dubai travel Himachal Pradesh Mangalore Direct flights and self-drive cars will be the preference (Data: Pickyourtrail, a travel-tech company that studies trends that will shape 2020 and 2021. Respondents in the age groups of 20-34 and 35-44 years.) Karnataka Mukteshwar Uttarakhand (Airbnb data)
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