India’s domestic tourism boom sparks opportunity for sustainable growth – article by Prateek Hira for TTJ

TTJ Article by Prateek HiraNo doubt that these are the toughest times that the industry is seeing but then there are two ways to see it, one, that we are doomed and we can only sulk; two, we are on learning and re-engineering sabbatical and we have to refresh and revive with the newly acquired knowledge and skills during this business break. At my companies we did just that. We have been studying, gaining knowledge, fine-tuning products and reenergising the team to perform much better and with full zeal once things open up. ‘Renewed Preparedness’ is what we called this strategy. The ultimate aim is to revive much sooner than one could think. The day we were allowed to open offices, we opened up ours, knowingly that there would be no business but the idea was to come out of the boredom, get into a routine and plan well for the times ahead. Our revival strategy primarily focuses on extension of our business, exploring new opportunities and creating more revenue heads. The idea is to place the eggs in many baskets, multiply revenue heads, include new avenues and extend the market, so that the business revives faster and losses incurred in the financial year 2020-21 and possibly the extended losses till the first half of 2021-22 are recovered sooner.

Domestic travel is one domain that is being seen as a savior for now and people have started exploring new destinations, adapted to slow travel and are looking for immersive experiences as was the case earlier with the inbound markets. This shows that domestic markets have matured and has a great potential to drive the growth of tourism in the country.

We as a company have realised the potential of domestic travel and have forayed into tailor made domestic programmes including some immersive experiences for which we are known for. Our new venture River Rhapsody which operates day boats, sets up river-side camps, organises water-sports and river events is primarily focusing on domestic market. Under this company we will have a parallel market penetration, catering to both, domestic as well as inbound.

In my opinion it’s time we don’t classify ourselves in brackets of domestic and inbound separately but be open to cater to both the markets with equal zeal as that will not only support business now but will also generate a better revenue in future and bring us out of the doom faster.

States of Himachal and Uttrakhand are doing really well and have had good captive tourists on weekends and holidays. The trend of travelling on weekends has really caught up after the hotels were allowed to open. Destinations close to metros and urban business cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai etc are doing really well on weekends when people in large numbers are moving out to holiday in nearby destinations, large self contained resorts outside these have become quite popular with city dwellers. One of the reasons is good road connectivity, large well-spread resorts and accommodation options in all categories at these places.

Demand for Kashmir has gone up suddenly and it is doing quite well in spite of all the negative publicity that surrounded it for quite a long time. People are looking for well spread natural environs where they can unwind. Demand for concrete heritage is not so much visible as it was in the past. Hills, beaches, farms, wildlife, water bodies have become attractive proposition for domestic travellers. ‘Nature’ is the key word of tourism for now and it promises umpteen business opportunities.

Ayodhya is one of the newest destinations which has created just the right buzz and the world is looking forward to it. Government is investing quite aggressively to transform this almost forgotten but an essential pilgrim city in India. Ayodhya is a city that has lived Hinduism beyond the brackets of religion, as a way of life and very unpretentiously. What better place than Ayodhya, if one has to learn and understand the beauty of this eternal religion, Hinduism and appreciate the unpretentious lifestyle which probably is the reason that this oldest religion has survived and that too so meaningfully in modern times.

The much awaited development of Ayodhya is now becoming a reality and people of Ayodhya can look forward to economic well being, employment opportunities and social inclusiveness in times to come.

Uttar Pradesh government plans to surpass Mecca’s and Vatican’s annual footfall of more than 20 million visitors and to cater to this traffic, Ayodhya is being re-planned and restructured.

New international airport, modern railway station, bus terminus, parking bays, four and six laning of highways all are being done in a time-bound manner. From world class five star hotels to budget accommodations that will serve a cross section of visitors will be a major fillip to the tourism in Ayodhya. Then, there are upcoming resorts and boutique properties that are yet other opportunities waiting in Ayodhya. Many countries are even establishing their temples, memorials and religious-embassies in Ayodhya and this apart from Indian states that will have their own government guest houses to cater to their residents.

In my opinion to get the most from it as a tourist destination, government should involve tourism and hospitality experts to work in coordination with town planners and architects. Ayodhya has all the potential of becoming a world class tourist destination in the coming years and there is so much buzz already around that people are waiting in the wings to reach and experience Ayodhya in its newest form.

Domestic Tourism is being seen as a new saviour of the industry and one that will be an essential service offer for all operators, which can keep the cash flows of the company going even during the toughest days such as the ones we are experiencing now. Also, domestic travel will help operators to evenly spread their businesses throughout the year and not only be dependent of seasonal character of inbound tourism. The road travel trend has caught up quite well. Earlier we were contemplating five hours of travel time to be comfortable for travelers but the real trend is quite different and people are comfortable travelling by their own cars for even ten hours at a stretch. This shows the desperation of travel when travel is restricted. Indian summers will see an upswing during summer vacations after the examinations, which this year are slated for the month of May and apart from cooler and natural environs, even cities in the north and south will do well. Religious tourism too is on the rise and the air traffic is picking up slowly and steadily, this means travel by air to distant destinations too will be back. It will not be a surprise to even see Goa and Rajasthan being sold-out again in summer quite unlikely character of the two destinations otherwise. Hill states of Himachal, Uttrakhand, Kashmir and North East will be the favourite destinations for the domestic travellers and the improvement in the infrastructure of these states will only pave the way for tourist boom in these in the near future.

Tourism is coming back and as an industry, we need to be “Tourism Ready”. Having little or no-business is absolutely no excuse to be lethargic, it is rather an opportunity to better equip ourselves with knowledge, plan businesses, reestablish, refocus and expand business horizons to enhance revenue when tourism returns.


 

Prateek Hira (President & CEO – Tornos)  writes for Travel Trade Journal : PDF Magazine link: https://www.traveltradejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/TTJ-March-2021.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3vfIt5wQ_PIWsiKHh9WX6t4p9qyOPKJ_k6C6WF9QxJGWY1zSANyzV_3ik



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