Local Indian Travel Is On The Rise Thanks To The Pandemic, And That’s A Good Thing

By Mahima Negi:

We could be spontaneous and escape the city life, wander in the hills or celebrate festivals on a beach or visit a different state. We wanted to explore the world and dreamt of walking the streets of New York, imagined ourselves wearing vintage clothes in the boulevards of Paris, and shared the ultimate fantasy of backpacking across Europe.

But now, even the idea of travelling makes us anxious.

Who knew that in 2020, the only one travelling the world would be a dangerous and potentially lethal virus that spreads through human contact, consequently sabotaging all our dreams and confining us to our homes.

When the world was struck with COVID-19, the preliminary reaction of all the countries and states was to close their borders and impose a lockdown to curb the movement of people, hence preventing the virus from spreading.

Consequently, the tourism sector was the first one to come to a halt.

A Local’s Dilemma

Within India, domestic tourism contributes considerably to the GDP and sustains millions of livelihoods, especially in the countryside, which manifestly attracts people towards its landscapes, culture, and lifestyle.

Due to the pandemic, the whole country had to observe great suffering and losses — physically, socially, and financially.

The travel and tourism sector got a bad blow financially as the nation underwent a lockdown for six months — transportation was restricted, borders were sealed and physical distancing became the new normal.

The countryside, especially the northern hilly areas were completely deserted, which was in a one-dimensional perspective, a great thing.

The locals were safe, coronavirus cases were bare minimum, and nature restored and replenished.

But if we consider the lives of local inhabitants of these areas, their lives turned upside down. Even though they were safe from this novel virus, their livelihood was disrupted, they lost their jobs and were out of resources to sustain themselves.

It came down to economic survival v/s literal survival.

Only recently, with the Unlock 5.0, the state borders are relaxing. Travelling is possible again but with the anonymity of this disease in the air, it will be hard for the tourism sector to make a strong comeback.

#TravelForIndia To Revive The Tourism Sector

On World Tourism Day, South Asia’s biggest hospitality firm — The Indian Hotels Company launched a #TravelForIndia campaign to promote safe travelling in India.

The campaign complies with the Prime Minister’s Vocal for Local vision that aims at localization of trade and tourism.

It prompts responsible behaviour in people by appealing to them as social beings who do not live in a vacuum but are a part of society wherein they share a bilateral relationship with nature and natural beings.

With the Indian economy trying to revive itself and people coping and adapting to this new lifestyle, this campaign presents us with a great vision and approach towards travelling.

Even travel portals like makemytrip.com are providing special packages and insurance schemes to promote travelling during COVID-19.

Post-Lockdown Trends And Popular Places

Online searches and bookings through websites like Goibibo, Yatra.com and MakeMyTrip reveal the latest trends in tourism and preferred destinations.

Ever since the borders are getting relaxed, travel portals have seen a 40% increase in bookings during long weekends, according to a report in Hindustan Times.

“In the Unlock [easing of restrictions] phase, more travelers are looking for short-haul destinations having proper safety and sanitization,” said Yatra.com co-founder Sabina Chopra.

Travellers are now preferring 2–3 days getaway in secluded places nearby, ‘clean and sanitized’ has become the new ‘sea-facing’ room.

Due to lockdown, people are also seeking homestays for longer durations, in quiet and secluded spaces for creativity and exhilaration.

Goa continues to be the most searched destination for homestays, followed by Lonavala, Shimla, and places in Uttarakhand, according to Airbnb, India.

A report by Livemint lists that “Goa, Shimla, Mussoorie, Nainital, Manali, Coorg and Rishikesh continue to be top destinations for drivable getaways.” Mcleodganj and Manali are still famous among travellers.

Here are some other places that are the top destinations post lockdown and are in huge demand.

1. Almora

Uttarakhand has launched a coupon system for tourists. Now people who want to visit the state will have to register themselves on the Dehradun Smart City portal. Places like Almora and Nainital provide a great getaway from the busy city life.

2. Chopta

Another destination in Uttarakhand, Chopta is incredibly beautiful and is usually visited by people to trek till Tungnath temple.

3. Chail

63 kilometres from Shimla, Chail is a hill station in Himachal Pradesh. It is not crowded and is famous for its green meadows and breathtaking architecture.

4. Darjeeling

Placed in the Himalayan foothills resides the place famous for its tea plantations, excellent view, and colonial heritage, Darjeeling.

5. Dalhousie

Dalhousie is a town that is five hills wide, known for its old churches, famous hills, mall road, and temples.

6. Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh, also called the paradise of the botanists, is a state in Northeast India that is full of hidden gems. Roing, Namdapha Park, Tezu, Nampong are all great attractions for travellers.

7. Pondicherry

A French colonial settlement in the past and now a union territory, Pondicherry or Puducherry is known for its beaches, scenery, cuisines, and tree-lined streets.

Safety And Solidarity

As the virus mania begins to die down, a further increase in domestic travel is likely to take place.

With post lockdown hangover, people are restless to be up and about but it is important to remember that the virus still exists, the cases are still on the rise and there is still no guaranteed cure for it.

Recklessness can lead to crises in places that are safe right now.

We cannot forget or ignore the virus itself, we are not going back to normal, we have to create a new normal. Being cautious and responsible is the only way to live now.

Make your travel plans according to the government stated guidelines (varies across states) and CDC recommended measures. Take precautions before, while, and after travelling.

With joint efforts of the state government, hospitality sector, and cooperation of travellers, safe travelling to ‘rebuild the tourism and hospitality industry’ with greater precautions and responsibility can truly help the indigenous inhabitants who work in the tourism sector.

Originally published at https://edtimes.in on October 8, 2020.