Travel safely this festive season! Revenge travel is back, so is the upcoming festive season for which many Indians are gearing up for! Clearly, travel-loving Indians are flooding the hills in disturbing numbers, according to recent images that created a stir on social media.

A whopping footfall of 25,425 tourists in Nainital and another 32,000 heading to Mussoorie over the weekend has caused considerable concern about the complete disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols. This trend shows how revenge travel is turning hazardous and irresponsible, speeding up the possibility of a third wave that may hit sooner and harder than we can imagine.

For those of you already planning your next vacation, the important aspect to consider as top priority is your own safety while traveling. Remember, stepping out from home itself becomes a painfully stressful exercise, not to mention the anxiety levels that soar along with the activity of stepping out.

Deciding how to plan a vacation or a road trip is not an easy one right now.

We recognized this and spoke to key stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry, and they shared some insightful pointers.

Festive season set to draw more travellers

Festive season is around the corner. Most people plan their vacations accordingly. The pandemic has not changed this trend. Perhaps it has even accelerated the travel and hotel bookings early this year. Those planning their family gatherings, weddings and so on may need to speed up in wrapping up their schedules soon as hotel bookings are witnessing a surge in demand.

That the uptick in travel demand and hotel bookings has soared is evident from the new collaborations that are now being launched.

Collaborations for hosting meetings, engaging experiences

Clearly, hotel bookings are now digital and it becomes more critical for the hospitality industry to reopen and reskil their professionals to further prepare for future-proof events.

Marriott International and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) have recently announced their decision to team up to offer event and meeting officials to be certified through their access to PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification course.

For Indian travellers, what does this collaboration signal about the new and evolving trends in terms of the hospitality industry?

Karen Bolinger, Managing Director APCA at PCMA rightly sums up the current scenario when she says that relationships and business models are ever-changing.

How you earlier booked a reservation and checked into a hotel is a totally different experience from what it is fast evolving into now. With contactless digitised experiences, hotels are bringing new methodologies to step up the confidence quotient of guests.

Simply put, the new surge in travel and hotel bookings across India despite the growing concerns about the third wave indicate that new skills are required for industry professionals to plan, produce and deliver digital as well as hybrid events based on this trend.

For the same reason, hospitality partnerships such as the one that Marriott International has recently announced shows the hospitality industry’s commitment to providing enhandanced hygiene protocols and hybrid meeting solutions or learning opportunities to meet the growing and evolving requirements of its guests.

For professionals, travellers and senior executives who want safe and secure environments to stay in to navigate the current pandemic and to successfully host meetings and events, such collaborations can help create engaging experiences on the work front.

Healthy hotel bookings, women prefer holidays at nearby destinations

Vikram Lalwani, Chief of Revenue, Sales and Destinations, Sterling Holiday Resorts Ltd, observes a healthy booking pattern starting from July 2021 with a shorter lead time of 2 days, which will continue to be trend in August as well.

“The festive season will see a similar pattern with more females preferring to holiday at nearby destinations which allow them to drive down in their personal vehicles and thereby reducing the contacts. In the coming months, we are expecting even weekday bookings to gain momentum,” Vikram Lalwani informs Financial Express Online.

So, what are your ‘safe’ options?

The safest option, as we all know, is to stay at home. If you want to head out, don’t forget to keep 2-3 masks extra for your own use and pack some essential medicines to be extra cautious.

Next, here’s a checklist to start with:

Map your route to safe destinations

You know best where your location is, how to navigate to another safe location by road. This is the first part of your homework if you intend to travel during this time or in the coming months.

For instance, if you are based in Delhi-NCR, you have several travel options such as Rishikesh, Agra, Ranikhet, Nainital, among others.

Before you decide which place to visit, check the COVID-29 numbers and then make a decision in terms of which is the safest location. You also need to decide your period of stay – short, brief, long, etc.

Chhavi Chadha, Founder of Bespoke Tailor Made Experiences, feels that the pandemic has affected the travel graph in a way that has now resulted in a keen desire for people to get away and explore new destinations but several factors such as travel restrictions, ambiguity and the fear of falling sick while travelling are a deterrent.

In Chhavi Chadha’s view, “However, people are willing to get on an adventure ride to get away. Since there are quarantine restrictions – holidays are getting longer.”

Not packing food? Figure out where to stop for takeouts

Safety comes first. It takes minimal effort to make a sandwich and toss in a cool-as-cucumber salad. Or just pack a bun, a salad and dunk it down with a juice that you keep ready from home. For the trip, keep some biscuits, wafers, potato chips or traditional snacks in case you want to munch on something. You can also opt to make overnight oats and that is filling to have on a trip. Super safe too!

Given how closely mood and food share an intrinsic relationship, Marriott International rolled out a ‘Good Food = Good Mood’ campaign consisting of easy-to-relate films that capture moods from daily life and blend it with good food from Marriott on Wheels. Notably, the campaign has been rendered in Hindi, English, Bengali and Kannada, thereby placing emphasis on leveraging and amplifying its vernacular reach.

Through this innovative campaign, Marriott on Wheels showcased the power of food to lift one’s mood and highlighted its premium food delivery service that promises an authentic culinary experience for foodies who are on the lookout for high value-for-money dining options.

Not keen on packing your own food? Then, find out which restaurants on the way provide takeaway options.

Avoid eating out at places enroute and minimize chances of exposure.

Knowing where to stop for a quick takeaway option can be the safest option on a road trip.

Book your accommodation in advance

Don’t wait for the last minute to make your accommodation bookings. The moment you decide where you are heading to, make sure you make bookings for your stay. Factor in your hotel budget, food expenses, the number of days you want to stay.

Given that the festive season may also see a surge in the number of low-key wedding celebrations, travellers can decide their accommodation in advance.

“At Araiya Palampur, while we saw a dip in the bookings in the month of May and early June due to the restrictions and extensions, we are already seeing traction for the rest of the month. The bright sparks we saw with leisure drive-to destinations last year are expected to return with domestic travel picking up as soon as restrictions are lifted.The resumption of group business such as small weddings and events even with limited numbers will be largely driven by regulation,” Amruda Nair, founder & Director, Araiya Hotels and Resorts, tells Financial Express Online.

Negotiate through the hotel for additional perks, make sure you check about Wifi connectivity and other essential requirements. And when you finally set out on your trip, don’t forget to carry your verified ID and some extra cash.

Enjoy Nature, sparsely populated scenic destinations

Without risking too much exposure, there are lots of fun things you can do. Make sure you stay away from crowded tourist places. Keep minimal contact. Take Nature walks on your own. Spend time in scenic spots that are sparsely populated.

Dhiman Shah, co-founder and COO, Lohono, informs Financial Express Online, “It has been over 15 months since people have been confined in their homes with multiple travel restrictions. In general, home stays are emerging as a far more interesting option for families/groups.We have already started receiving bookings for longer stays. At Lohono, our villas are fully serviced, where guests get turn down services, F&B options, 24 hour concierge and curated experiences. This makes life easier for the guests. The common spaces and private pools that groups can enjoy, at their own leisure, at any given time are an added benefit.”

He further adds, “With workations emerging as a huge trend, we have ensured that all our villas have all functional requirements. We have also introduced longer-stay packages for our guests who want to stay with us for a period of 7, 14 or 30 days. To ensure the highest level of safety of our guests and staff, we have implemented WHO standard safety guidelines and are working on getting all our staff vaccinated.”

So yes, just relax, unwind and avoid crowded leisure destinations

Do things that you never had the time to do earlier.

Photograph the sunset.

Write a poem on sunrise.

Just sit back and enjoy the fact that you have taken a road less travelled and that too, safely!

The pandemic is not over yet. Travel safely and responsibly.