A 10-minute-long discussion on a WhatsApp video call, and, two days later, Mumbai-based college student Siddharth Shetty and four of his friends steered their Maruti Suzuki Swift towards Goa.
Passing through the lush green forests and overflowing rivers of the Western Ghats, the fivesome checked into two standard double rooms of Double Tree by Hilton in Goa’s capital Panaji at the end of the 12-hour drive.
“Being at home, we could not take it anymore. This holiday break meant to us more than all our holidays put together, and we are having the best time of 2020,” Shetty said on a phone call.
Nineteen-year-old Shetty is one among several thousand Indian travellers who have not let go of the chance to head out for an unplanned holiday as soon as the ‘unlocking’ phase started, allowing interstate and intercity leisure travel.
Demand picks up for resort properties
SP Jain, Founder and Chairman, Pride Hotels, said: “There is a huge demand for resort properties, where, during weekends, room occupancy hits as high as 80 percent. We started advertising and marketing our properties after seeing this surge. With (room) rates being 20-25 percent less than the pre-COVID-19 levels, the food and beverage sales have also shot up. What we saw in China about ‘revenge travel’, we are seeing in India now”.
Revenge travel is a term which gained popularity in China, and refers to compulsively travel by people to beat boredom brought about by the lockdown. Similar sentiments among travellers were noted by Indian hoteliers.
The long weekend, starting October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti), saw start-up Oyo Hotels and Homes, registering a 72 percent surge in bookings for leisure destinations, with nearly 1.8-2 lakh guests spending their long weekend at Oyo properties.
Jaipur, Goa, and Kochi topped as India’s most popular leisure destinations among travellers during the long weekend.
“We also observed that Delhiites took interstate road trips to tourist hotspots, with Jaipur and Agra topping the chart. A majority of travellers from Pune, Bengaluru and Mumbai preferred to go to the relaxing beaches of Goa.
“Down South, Kochi was the most popular leisure destination, with most people coming into the city from Bengaluru, Kozhikode, and Thiruvananthapuram,” Oyo posted on its official blog page.
Demand for budget and mid-scale hotels (priced under Rs 7,000 a night), such as Lemon Tree, Double Tree by Hilton, Country Inn and Suites, and Holiday Inn are getting stronger than luxury properties such as JW Marriott and Taj, say market watchers.
Safety, car access priorities
“Safety remains the top priority with guests, and, probably, that is why almost everyone opted for private road trips. Air travel has taken a backseat for now. The appetite for travel within India, especially in the light of international travel restrictions, is huge and it’s heartening to see it come back so robustly,” said a senior executive of a Delhi-based hotel chain.
STR, a market intelligence company tracking the hotel sector, reported that many leisure destinations began seeing weekend occupancy spikes since August itself.
“Leisure destination markets with easy car access, such as Rajasthan, Punjab and Karnataka, were the first to attract domestic leisure guests. Goa, where occupancy was in a state of limbo and in single digits until August, has seen considerable upward movement with weekend leisure demand growing robustly,” STR said.
Rise in corporate travel
Corporate travel, which was not expected to see an upside before December, has started to witness strong week-on-week improvement.
For instance, Delhi-based businessman Puneet Tayal, who was travelling outside his city for the first time in seven months on a work visit, struggled to get a hotel room.
His destination was the industrial town of Baddi, Himachal Pradesh. “All decent hotels in Baddi are full; had to find a place in Panchkula. Lemon Tree has a property in Baddi which was full,” Tayal tweeted.
“City hotel occupancy is also increasing, which means corporate travel has restarted. Their occupancy has risen to around 20 percent, pushing the total occupancy to 30-35 percent in city hotels,” added Jain.
The extended lockdown and the ensuing slowdown may have eroded 57 percent or Rs 90,000 crore in revenues for the hotels and hospitality industry, forcing real-estate developers to go slow on new properties, as per a report by real-estate consultants HVS Anarock.
After a strict lockdown hotels and restaurants were allowed to reopen from June 8 by the Ministry of Home Affairs under Unlock 1.0. However, hotels in Maharashtra were allowed to run on full capacity only from September 2.