A year of stay-at-home lockdowns and some still on, travelling responsibly, albeit for reflection, fun, or just because you want to, has led to a rising trend of revenge tourism
After staying in for almost a year, people are craving for the adrenaline rush of travelling, and something as basic as a staycation in the same city is sufficing for some. We always wondered in our history classes how people dealt with major historic events and here we are, part of a pandemic, figuring out how to navigate it.
Many are making up for lost time by splurging on leisure travel, calling it a sort of ‘revenge travel’ to celebrate the easing down of the pandemic, and completing it with picturesque views in fancy locations. Not only are people back to booking international flights and carving out time for long-overdue getaways, but they’re opting for luxurious vacations. Think booking flights six months in advance, country hopping, exotic islands, and splurging on stays.
With the staggered unlock last year, travel was back with a vengeance. Popularly termed as revenge travel, people were yearning to head out. And so, week-long and even month-long stays ruled the roost. However, post the second wave, it has been more about the need to take a break. Devendra Parulekar, founder, SaffronStays, says “Revenge travel is more for tourist spots — the choice of accommodation doesn’t matter. It’s not the same for our homes. Discerning travellers, who want to have a good time without a mask at a safe and sanitised place, choose private villas like our homes. The frequency of breaks amongst our guests has increased, but it is not revenge travel. Right now, any place that you can travel to in your car is perfect. If you live in Mumbai, Pune, or Gujarat, Palghar, Mulshi, Kamshet, Igatpuri, Khopoli, and Mahabaleshwar are a few options. Popular tourist destinations like Lonavala, Alibaug, Karjat, and Nashik continue to remain so.”
Hotel and rental chains are also taking initiative to make up for the last year with exclusive offers and innovative launches. “As many of us think of travelling again, stepping out will be about creating new memories in unique destinations nearby, or in nature. Airbnb recently launched more than 100 upgrades that include new ways for customers to discover unique nearby destinations, and easier ways to sign up to be a host,” says Amanpreet Bajaj, general manager at Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, about vacation trends in the survey conducted by Airbnb and YouGov.
Speaking of change in travel habits and demand, Abhishek Sharma, general manager of Raffles Udaipur says, “We have received a very encouraging and overwhelming response in the first month of our opening. People prefer travelling to secluded domestic destinations where they can experience a slice of exclusivity. With our location in the midst of the Udai Sagar lake, on a private island, we have seen a preference from the nearby cities. We have also seen some local demand for staycations from the residents of Udaipur. People now prefer to experience a thoughtfully curated stay. We have experienced a healthy occupancy and upward trajectory in terms of bookings and occupancy rate. People are now able to travel to their desired domestic destinations, and we are optimistic that the response will continue to improve, with the festive season being around the corner.”
Staycations in cities like Mumbai have been a respite, as relaxing at a hotel was all that one could do. “Staycations within the city have become a prominent travel segment, with a shift from business travellers to families, friends, and couples. To keep up with this trend, we, at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, are crafting stay experiences such as Staycay With Marriott, Suite Surprise, and our newly launched room offer ‘you stay we pay’, allowing guests to unwind in our safe and comfortable accommodations. This new stay offer provides guests with limitless experiences across the hotel. The guest receives hotel credit worth 100 per cent of his booking amount allowing him to experience our global dining options, Spa By JW and much more,” adds Kunal Chauhan, General Manager of JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.
In March-May 2020 when the first wave of the pandemic was at its peak globally, the numbers had dropped by over 95 per cent, compared to 2019. Overall, 2020 saw up to 75 per cent less international tourism activity compared to 2019. Domestic tourism was also hit equally hard during the two lockdowns. However, things have now changed significantly, and even if 2021 might not match 2019 numbers, the revival of travel has been strong enough for us to feel buoyant about. Domestically, it is likely that the tourist numbers would be almost at par with the pre-pandemic stats within a year or so,” explains Arun Bagaria, cofounder of TravClan.
At present, people want to make the most of their stays. and therefore, they are looking at much more than just a luxurious stay in a hotel. Fairmont Jaipur has well-curated and personalised leisure itineraries where one can enjoy traditional folk dance and puppet show during high tea, unwind, and rejuvenate at the spa, and enjoy experiences such as sunset at Nahargarh Fort, or visit the nearby Hathi Gaon. “Earlier, guests would venture out more to the city centre and to markets around town. However, they are now keen to have a well-curated itinerary that keeps them engaged at the hotel or includes visits to more secluded places,” explains Rajiv Kapoor, general manager of Fairmont Jaipur.
After being cooped up at home, travel enthusiasts are opting for longer and restful getaway experiences to recuperate and rejuvenate. Siddharth Yadav, Vice President, MRS Group of Hotels explains, “With the lifting of travel restrictions, we observed a significant increase in the number of queries and bookings that we received across all our hotels, Suryagarh Jaisalmer, Narendra Bhawan Bikaner and Mary Budden Estate. In order to escape from the mayhem, people are seeking staycations at locations with expansive landscapes and scarce populations. To them, a sanctuary in the deserts of Jaisalmer, an art-deco property in Bikaner or a secluded luxe estate in the forests of Binsar offers tranquillity. We reopened in July 2021 with limited inventory, keeping the guest safety and well-being in mind. We’ve been receiving a tremendous response from our guests and repeat visits from our loyal patrons too.”
Another aspect for the boost in revenge travel trend is the influence of social media. According to a survey by 360 Market Research, they found online influencers are also shaping the consumer’s desire to travel, as well as their choices and plans. Of the survey respondents who plan to splurge on a post-pandemic vacation, 80 per cent say social media is influencing their travel plans. A similar percentage of respondents said that it’s very or extremely important to them to document their experience on social media, led by those 18-34, who say they’ll post about their vacation on an average of three different social media channels.
Talking about the most popular vacation destinations, Bagaria says, “Within India, Goa, Himachal, Uttarakhand, continue to remain popular. Several offbeat or weekend destinations have become very popular as people are preferring to take self-drive vacations. Maldives is the most popular international tourist destination for Indians at the moment, but within the next quarter, we expect several other countries to start accepting Indian tourists.”
Among many such travellers is Bhumika Mathkar, who took a trip during the pandemic. “I went on a trip to Jammu and Kashmir with my family. We usually take a trip as a family every year. This was one of our annual vacations. It was especially needed as the whole year was so exhausting. A few of my friends also took trips to Goa and Rajasthan. I don’t think of it as revenge travelling as this was our annual vacation, but it was also something that we needed to get our mental health in order. Staying in for months as we did, is not usual. Because of work from home, life was getting very mundane, we needed to feel and do different things. So, you could probably term it as revenge tourism. I think as long as you follow the norms, vaccinate, choose offbeat locations, it should be okay.”
Wherever you choose to go, be it the Maldives or a staycay in the city, indulge yourself, and take lots of pictures, albeit with all precautions in place. Travelling responsibly will ensure that we all get to travel more.