The pandemic, with its interminable waves, changed the way we travel. Forget fancy hotels and room service, it’s time for caravan tourism. The caravan business, already established in the West, is taking off in India too, and these companies tell you how.
Social distancing? Check. Proper sanitation? Check. Breath-taking views from the comfort of a social bubble? Check. This checklist has become the most crucial thing for any travel lover in 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we travel and enjoy that much-needed break, and travellers are looking for safer options to head out to unexplored locations. This need to travel with precautions has given a boost to caravan tourism. A concept born in the West, caravan businesses have now found their routes in our country.
Harsh Sharma, the founder of Camping Co., finished building his first car with his partner in 2017, and started going on longer expeditions. The growing demand for their caravan amongst his friends and colleagues made him register it on Airbnb, and then turn it into a full-fledged business. If you go on a trip anywhere in the eight states of Northeast India with Sharma’s company, you will be charged Rs 3,000-4,000 per day for a selfdrive rental car, which is the general price range for a caravan trip. Harshita Khanna, who is one of Camping Co.’s clients says, “The best thing is that it’s super convenient and the best way to explore India.” Keshav Kanoi says, “I have taken the caravan to Bhutan. The budget becomes favourable, so it becomes economical.”
Caravan tourism offers you an offbeat experience, but it also doesn’t mean camping in tents and venturing into the wild sans the extravagance of a hotel. These caravans offer you all the amenities you will need. A luxury rooftop tent, mattresses, charging points, air-conditioning, a customised camp to cook, elaborate kitchen, toilet, showers, generator set, hammock, barbeque grill, light games, music system, etc. come with the caravan.
Captain Suresh Sharma has been caravanning since 2000. He started Green Dot Expeditions so that he could take people into the wild, and help them explore what the wilderness has to offer. While he loved to go on adventures, Sharma says that the maintenance of the caravans is quite expensive. Sharma takes the vehicle to places like Jaisalmer, Bhuj, Leh, Srinagar, and Sonmarg for the price of Rs 4,500–10,000 per person. A hitch of sorts that many businesses face.
Purunedu Singh, who travelled with Green Dot, had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He says, “The experience is different. You are not a slave of hotel bookings, itineraries etc. You can stop wherever you want. It is like being in a moving home.”
Another travel enthusiast that I happened to talk to was Vathsala C Rangegowda. She, along with her partner, Sanjna Hangal, experienced caravanning in Europe, and wanted to bring the same experience back to India. They started Trippy Wheels (based out of Bengaluru) together, and channelled their wanderlust spirit into the business. She says, “The freedom one gets while travelling in a caravan cannot be found elsewhere. How awesome is it to be able to just park by a river, make a cup of hot tea and watch the sunset, not having to think about what’s next?”
While most business owners take the effort to curate a itinerary for their customers, Rangegowda says that planned itineraries take the fun out of road trips. “Road trips bring out the adventurous side in you, and you get to do things you normally wouldn’t do, hence we don’t like to plan the trips and let the customer explore themselves,” she add, promoting the idea that you can take a caravan anywhere you want.
Santosh Bagali, who used Trippy Wheels’ services, said, “The van was clean and spacious. Highly recommended and will certainly use Trippy Wheels again for our next road trip adventure.”
Many business owners buy the vehicles, but Sanjay Saini and Bina Saini from Motorhome Adventure ventured into building their own caravans. Saini says, “We customise everything in-house, we’ve been manufacturing caravans and other assets for at least two decades now.”
Reviewing their caravans, Jayesh Chauhan, a happy Motorhome Adventures customer, said, “The vehicle is very good and services are good too. They are very cooperative and helpful. Overall services are appreciated.”
However, the question still remains if travelling by a caravan is safe. Sharma explains it’s totally safe, and a self-sufficient form of travel to remote locations. “It means you’ll have the least amount of physical proximity as you stay within your personal ‘quarantine mobile’”, he adds. Rahul Soman of Wacation on Wheels, explains that the business is also growing because of the very reason that it is safe. “We are already seeing a huge jump in the number of enquiries this year. All of this growth is organic, so people are looking for caravans in the aftermath of the pandemic,” he added. Saini of Motorhome Adventures adds, “We have seen the change in the mentality of people towards caravan culture and adventure travel post-pandemic.”
But just like the two sides of the coin, the pandemic also affected the caravan business in a bad way. Captain Sharma says, “We were reduced to nothing, we lost the whole business. But now people have realised the benefits of a caravan. It helped us explore new things and innovate our business.”
Chandrakanth Ramoji started Camper Trails in 2018 after returning from a caravan trip from Europe. He, unfortunately, had to shut down the business due to the adverse effects of the pandemic. “When the pandemic struck in March 2020, our business came to a grinding halt. We were stranded for almost six months.” They, however, are planning to return with a single-vehicle caravan. “We have relocated to Goa and will be starting single-unit and self-drive caravans,” he added, giving you another reason to pack your bags and head out for a vacation with them.
Sisir Kumar, a Camper Trail client, says, “Travelling in a caravan is a new experience, and I would definitely recommend the same. For people looking for an offbeat experience, this is definitely an option to try,” and we agree.
So pack your bags, and set out. You know you want to.