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Big Shift for Indian Travellers in For Year 2021

The travel sector, especially domestic travel, appears to be heading for a comeback. Indian travellers are looking for quick getaways through road trips, weekend breaks and staycations. Data from a recent Airbnb and YouGov survey on anticipated trends for 2021 shows Indian travellers are looking for more local experiences and nature travel as a way of fostering personal connections.

The pandemic has impacted the way people approach travel-related decisions, aspects of which are likely to last for some time. Enhanced transparency around health and safety top the list. A survey by Booking.com on the future of travel shows that 77 per cent of Indians mentioned they would only book accommodations if it was clear what health and hygiene policies a destination had in place, with 71 per cent saying they would avoid certain destinations altogether due to safety concerns.

Though it’s too early to predict trends for international travel—the resumption of which will be subject to various conditions like air bubbles in place between India and destination countries, vaccination efforts, and long-term policies on international travel—there are certain predictions on trends for domestic travel.

Local travel, authentic stays

Indian travellers are increasingly looking for experiences that will enable them to reconnect with friends and family. According to Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb’s general manager for India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, “People are keen to explore short getaways that are a drive away from their homes, and there is an increasing interest in travel experiences that are off-the-beaten-track and offer affordability and adventure while benefitting local communities.”

The one thing that the pandemic has taught people is to slow down and appreciate an unhurried life, which is why there will be rise of slow, immersive travel options. “Be it a workcation, staycation or a weekend getaway, travellers are gravitating towards fuller and richer immersive experiences that allow them to connect, explore and unwind. More and more people therefore, will prefer travel that balances their itinerary with a languid pace affording them the time to explore more while eliminating the stress of rushing around many places to tick the boxes,” says Vipul Prakash, Chief Operating Officer, MakeMyTrip. Even weekend getaways are set to become the new weekend goals.

Solo solace

The solo travel trend is likely to gather even greater momentum; travel was stymied by the pandemic, which will likely nudge travellers to take the plunge on their own in 2021. Ritu Mehrotra, regional manager for South Asia at Booking.com, says, “Our data pre-pandemic saw only 18 per cent of Indian travellers planning a trip on their own while 54 per cent of travellers now say that they will be planning a solo trip in the future.” With 49 per cent of travellers saying that they would want to travel more to make up for the time lost in 2020, this sentiment is encouraging travellers to plan solo trip of a lifetime to get back out in the world.

Illustration by Siddhant Jumde

More takers for premium stays

Safety and hygiene have emerged as the new comfort and luxury in travel. The traditional checklist has now made way for questions such as ‘Does the location ensure adequate social distancing?’, ‘Is there a private kitchen?’, ‘Can I have an extra room for help or support staff?’ and so on. Explains Prakash, “Post-Covid, travellers are looking for more control over their journeys. This is leading many to opt for higher category hotels, premium home stays, independent villas and non-hotels that promise the comfort of a vacation while meeting additional requirements.”

Travellers are now looking at meaningful experiences and fostering meaningful connections and may prioritise this over mass tourism formats focused on cities. Adds Bajaj, “They would like to stay in unique accommodations when they travel and explore formats such as heritage homes, havelis and villas. With the line between living and travel blurring, people want to experience longer stays in some of these accommodation formats.”

Contactless travel

Post the pandemic, the travel and hospitality industry has made significant efforts to boost confidence among travellers by making services contactless as far as possible. From contactless check-in at airports and hotels to ordering food and beverages and concierge services at hotels online, contactless offerings are becoming the norm more than an exception. “In parallel, travellers are also warming up to the idea of using contactless services and building appreciation for tech-rich experiences that promise travel safety, upfront,” says Prakash.

It’s all about sustainability

Travellers are increasingly conscious of enabling sustainable travel and aim to make environment-friendly choices when they travel. About 94 per cent respondents who took the Airbnb and YouGov survey said that they would look at sustainable travel when they do leave their homes in 2021. According to Bajaj, “Sustainable travel choices that are closer to remote communities and nature not only provide a boost to these communities, but are accessible and affordable and are a transformative choice contributing to unique and individual travel experiences.”

The research by Booking.com indicates that this trend has accelerated over the past year and they expect to see a more sustainable approach to travel in 2021.

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(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)