This Diwali, Here's Where Indians are Travelling Tired of lockdowns and work for home, people are opting for road trips during this long Diwali weekend

By Debarghya Sil

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Pexels/Avinash Patel

Traveling, vacation, holidays were terms sorely missed during the first half of the year, when the entire world was facing the wrath of an invisible enemy, COVID-19. While work from home thrilled employees at the beginning, long work hours, tiring Zoom meetings, impossible deadlines, has taken a toll, and people want a break.

Staying indoors for months made us grateful for the time when we went out without wearing masks. However, as India lifted lockdown and allowed inter-state travel following the flattening of the COVID-19 curve, people are stepping out with utmost cautions. The long weekend ahead due to Diwali is being considered to be a perfect getaway time, thus throwing a breather for the hospitality sector which is arguably the most affected due to the pandemic.

To peep into the ongoing trend, Entrepreneur India interacted with some operators in this space to know where India is travelling.

Road Trips Most Preferred

As the inter-state restrictions are lifted, people are taking out their cars/bikes from garages—which were mostly used for running errands in the last 7 months—or even renting one to hit the countryside road, away from the bustling noise of the city and overcrowded roads to find tranquility. "After staying homebound for months, the destinations located at a drivable distance are top traveler preferences, thus making a comeback of leisure travel," said Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Zostel. He further continued that such destinations are seeing a surge 60 per cent in booking requests.

Another reason behind people opting for road trips and being hesitant about opting public transport is health safety. Resonating this, Ankita Sheth, co-founder of Vista Rooms, said the startup witnessed a rise in customers coming for road-trips to their properties.

Oyo in its latest press release claimed this Diwali Indians are preferring inter-state road trips and beach destinations. Harshit Vyas, senior vice-president and chief operating officer-franchise business, OYO India & South Asia, said road trips are here to stay and thus leading to increase in inter-state travel during Diwali and upcoming holiday season this year.

"We expect leisure destinations to continue gaining momentum in the coming months with rising consumer optimism for travel," he added.

Top Destinations

Picking a travel destination is another strenuous task. Sometimes two people settle on the same location instantaneously, while most of the time it ends up taking days to choose a location.

Zostel, which was established in 2013 for travellers and has more than 50 properties across the country, observed that both mountains and beaches were equally in demand among people. It saw a high demand in bookings from locations such as Bir, McLeodGanj, Manali, Mussoorie, Mukteshwar, Gokarna, Panchgani and Kodaikanal.

Vista Rooms, which offers over 500 luxury villas and private holiday homes to choose from, has seen a surge in bookings in Lonavala, Karjat, Alibaug, Khopoli, Mahabaleshwar, Lavasa, Pune, and Goa from the west side of the country. In the north, it saw demand in Kasauli, Manali, Kullu, Chandigarh, Bhimtal, Ranikhet, Nainital, Maneswar, Tirthan and Gurgaon. In the southern part of the country, there was a spike in demand from Coonoor, Wayanad, Coorg, Alupuzza, Alleppey, Vagamon and Kochi.

Sheth of Vista Rooms said there was high demand in properties which were pet/wheelchair -friendly, mid to large size properties and had a kitchen accessibility.

Manav Singh, founder of Auramah Valley, which rents out luxury properties and villas in and around Shimla, said people from Delhi want to spend some quality time with their families away from the city smog and are therefore coming to their properties.

According to OYO's Diwali booking trends, Jaipur, Kerala, Goa, Visakhapatnam and Varanasi top the charts as the most popular leisure destinations among travellers. Of these, Jaipur was favourites among north Indians; Kochi was top pick for travellers in Chennai and Bangalore, and Goa was absolute favourite among beach lovers, with bookings coming from across the country.

Time To Revive?

As mentioned earlier, the hospitality sector was down to its knees, as people stayed indoors. With almost zero revenue during the lockdowns, some even pulled down their shutters unable to bear losses. According to a recent report by property consultant JLL India, hotel industry's revenue per room fell 53 per cent year-on-year during January-September because of the pandemic.

However, with the unlock phases and flattening of the curve, people have embraced the "new normal' and gathered courage to travel again. Festive season is a period which the hospitality sector eyes for to acquire as many customers they can.

This year too, hoteliers are upbeat about the trend and hope to recover the incurred losses soon. Zostel is expecting to reach last Diwali's booking figures as it observes almost 100 per cent customer willingness for bookings.

This year, Vista Rooms is witnessing an unprecedented rate at which rooms are being filled due to the festive season. Compared with last year, this year booking pace has gone up by 200 per cent. Currently, Vista Rooms are offering rooms at a surge price of 20-30 per cent as they face 100 per cent occupancy.

"It won't be an overstatement if we say, it's definitely a V-shaped recovery for domestic tourism, and we firmly believe this momentum will continue till early next year," Sheth added.

Auramah Valley is witnessing a rise by 60-70 per cent daily enquiries for their properties in and around Diwali. With almost 70-75 per cent occupancy in villas, Auramah Valley is expecting for a full sold out Diwali.

As per Diwali booking trend, Ritesh Agarwal-led OYO is witnessing the intent to book at almost 100 per cent levels compared with pre-COVID for consumers visiting on the OYO platform and the traffic is at over 50 per cent.

Debarghya Sil

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Correspondent

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