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‘Revenge travel’ a boost for India’s bleeding hospitality sector

New Delhi: After being cooped up inside for months with the ongoing Covid-19 raged outside, well-heeled Indians have decided that home isn’t where their hearts are and have taken to the road – and the skies – to end their boring indoor existence.

It even has a name, ‘revenge travel’. So when states started opening up after the second Covid-19 wave, people headed to beachside hotels, hill homestays, or even just a nearby resort. Anything but home and maybe not quite what the doctor ordered

In revenge for the stressful months of working at home, attending classes online, and unable to meet relatives, they masked up, got their shots, and headed outside as soon as possible.

‘Advance bookings as measured by the share of bookings with travel dates more than four weeks away are over 10 percent this year compared to around 5 percent last year,’ said Rajiv Subramanian, vice president of global online travel company Cleartrip.

‘We expect the increased momentum of the vaccination drive and reduced caseloads to catalyze domestic travel recovery in the next two quarters,’ he added.

On the ground, people are thronging destinations like Manali and cars are waiting in serpentine lines to get into popular hill destinations like Shimla.

Let it be workcation, staycation, or drivecation, people were certainly eager to travel and celebrate as India’s covid-19 cases dipped and decided to make up for the leisure days they missed out due to various shutdowns, signaling the return of normalcy for the corona-hit travel and hospitality sector.

Avinash Giri, an IT professional from Noida, chose the quiet town of Naggar in Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh for his workcation. ‘This is the first time that we have traveled since the onset of the pandemic. Things were pathetic in the past two months. My wife and children wanted to be out and I decided to pick this secluded Naggar district,’ he said.

‘The view, the weather, everything is amazing here. The property I am staying at is new and economical, food and other chores are well taken care of by the host. I will stay at least for a month at different places in Himachal Pradesh, and our next possible destination is Manali,’ the 37-year-old added.

Giri and his wife are both partially vaccinated. For the bleeding hospitality industry, his ‘revenge’ is sweet news.

Budget hostel chain GoStops, the multi-hotel chain OYO, and the online lodging marketplace Airbnb recorded a spike in bookings and inquiries during June.

According to GoStops founder and CEO Pallavi Agarwal, the company has recorded a ‘1,000 percent’ spike in its daily reservations; while Airbnb India has also witnessed a ‘strong pent-up demand’ for destinations that are a drive away from metro cities.

As per the study by the travel tech startup RateGain, New Delhi (2,943), Pune (2,113), Hyderabad (1,969), Bangalore (1,516), and Chennai (1,516) are the best five destinations with the most rooms booked from June 7-20.

‘Leisure cities are taking slightly longer to bounce back. However, they are showing significant potential for the coming weeks. Leisure hotspots like Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, and Agra are already seeing positive signs of travel coming back. We’re noticing increasing interest for hill stations within driving distance from mainstream cities… (stations) like Manali, Lonavala, Nainital, Shimla, Mysore,’ said OYO Vice President and Chief Growth Officer Yatish Jain. Hotel chains and resorts are also reaping the rewards of revenge travel.

WelcomeHeritage Hotels, for instance, reports nearly ’70-80 percent’ occupancy in most of their hill properties, including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir. Their ‘Head for Hills’ package is proving popular among tourists traveling from nearby cities as they offer an array of innovative packages, such as “Work from Home” and ‘Drivable Holidays’.

Resorts near big cities are also benefiting from the trend.

With their staycation offerings, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi, and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, nearby Gurgaon, are both reporting ’25-30 percent growth’ in leisure guests week-on-week.

‘There is pent-up demand, and people do want to get away from the humdrum and monotony of being at home, and are looking for safe ways to return to some semblance of normal life. In fact, the whole of May when the resort was non-operational, we were getting queries asking when we will reopen the resort,’ explained Rahul Puri, multi-property general manager for The Westin Hotel and Resort.

Both The Westin Gurgaon and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa offer packages for two at a cost of ?6,000 and ?12,000 plus taxes, respectively.

The car rental company Avis India also reported an upsurge in bookings from commuters traveling either alone, with their partners, or with their families. ‘They are planning weekend getaways to nearby mountains or cities such as from Delhi to Himachal or Jaipur. Or from Bangalore to Ooty. Some are also relocating to work from hills such as Manali or Shimla which is leading to an increase in long-term rentals. We are seeing a rise in the booking of Amaze, Honda City in the sedan category while Innova Crysta has been the preferred choice by our customers in the SUV category,’ said Sunil Gupta, MD and CEO of Avis India.

Doctors warn caution and urge people to be vigilant as the Covid case numbers fall in India – 43,071 new cases and a positivity rate of 2.34 percent – for the 27th consecutive day.

‘Yes, it has been a tough time. However, we cannot let our guard down. We should not be mingling with groups. It is not advisable at all. We need to stay cautious for the next two to three months,’ said Dr. Vikas Maurya, director and head of pulmonology at Fortis Shalimar Bagh.


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