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India’s Hospitality Sector Gets Sweet Revenge With Domestic Tourism

NEW DELHI – Now that most curbs — imposed to halt the Covid-19 spread — have been lifted, a new trend is taking shape in India: revenge travel.

Those in the industry say many people are spending more, with vengeance, as there is a sudden release of the pent-up desire to go places.

New Delhi-based Aniruddha Banerjee, a 31-year-old account manager at Uber for Business, a travel fanatic, plans to make up for lost time this year.

“Can’t wait to travel with a vengeance,” said Banerjee.

“I think being cooped up at home was hard, and now that things have gradually started to normalize like before, I have trips planned every few months in 2021,” he said.

Another would-be traveler, Preeta Ganguli, a New-Delhi mental health professional, said, “We’ve never spent so much time at one place, and with Covid-19, even our perspective towards travel has changed.”

The beleaguered hospitality industry, which was among the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, is beginning to see a surge in bookings now that lockdowns are gradually being eased.

Hospitality chain OYO Hotels & Homes, a chain of hotels, homes, and spaces, reports a 72 percent surge in bookings for leisure destinations from the holiday weekend of Oct. 2-4, 2020, with some 200,000 guests registered.

“Beaches, holy or heritage cities, and hill stations were the most preferred leisure hotspots,” said Yatish Jain, head of online revenue and marketing for OYO South Asia.

“An exciting milestone for us in 2020 was that over 8.5 million new user bookings were made on the OYO app and website. This, as we know it, is ‘revenge tourism’ stemming from the pent-up demand throughout 2020,” he said.

“After spending months under lockdown, consumer sentiments began strengthening across India, specifically, starting with the festive season in October and November 2020. This was combined with the fact that India also began unlocking gradually, with tourist hotspots such as Himachal Pradesh, Goa, and Jaipur opening up their borders to welcome tourists safely, once again,”

“In the third quarter ending September 2020, OYO’s gross margin increased to 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Now, the hospitality brand is adding 35,000-40,000 rooms a month,” Jain said.

India’s leading online travel agency MakeMyTrip reports an increasing number of guests seeking premium stays and non-hotels.

“Safety and hygiene have emerged as the new comfort and luxury in travel,” said a spokesperson for MakeMyTrip.

“Post-Covid, travelers are looking for more control over their stay, leading many to opt for higher category hotels, premium homestays, independent villas, and non-hotels that promise comfort of a vacation while meeting additional requirements,” the spokesperson said.

“At Taj Palace, a luxury hotel in New Delhi, there has been a significant increase in staycations,” said general manager Nayan Seth.

“We’ve seen an incredible response to our staycation offerings at Taj Palace, New Delhi, such as Urban Getaways, and Revive Reinvent Reenergize,” Seth said.

“This trend, we believe, is likely to stay at least for the next couple of months and it surely has helped in giving that much-needed boost to the industry,” Seth said.

Online travel agency Ixigo reported in November 2020 that bookings for Goa were up by 74 percent from a month ago, and bookings grew by 31 percent year-over-year.

Image of a beach in Goa. (Alexey Turenkov/Unsplash)

“There’s this feeling of making up for the time that’s lost,” said Shilpa Sharma, founder of boutique travel agency Breakaway.

“Even amid travel restrictions and uncertainty, there is an inherent desire to travel. Moreover, with work from home being the norm in the Covid era, people can work from anywhere now, all you need is a good internet connection. This has changed the way people travel now,” she said.

“Booking.com reports increased interest in travel within the country as well,” said Ritu Mehrotra, the firm’s country manager for India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

“The fact that Indians are still optimistic about travel possibilities is reassuring and makes us optimistic about an industry-wide recovery,” Mehrotra said.

Booking.com’s research found that 63 percent of Indian travelers showed excitement about traveling again, and 63 percent indicated they will not take travel for granted in the future. Nearly 49 percent of the respondents indicated that they want to travel more to make up for all the lost time in 2020.

Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. opened several hotels between October and December, and a new SeleQtions hotel opened in November. The WelcomHotel brand is planning a property in Chail, in Himachal Pradesh, after launching its first in Himachal Pradesh in Shimla. Others are planned for Ahmedabad and Port Blair by 2021.

Online travel agencies and hospitality chains are bullish about the revenge travel trend.

“Every year, usually, we see a gradual dip in demand post the holiday season. However, this January was different,” said Jain, of OYO South Asia.

“We are, in fact, seeing growth this year and expect this momentum to continue throughout the year. I believe that India is well positioned for faster recovery given the strong green shoots for travel across the nation,” Jain said.

(Edited by Namrata Acharya and Judith Isacoff. Map by Urvashi Makwana.)



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