The travel industry in India had come to a standstill after the national lockdown was announced in March 2020. Before it could revive, the second wave worsen the situation even more making the industry shut down again. However, the current reality speaks a lot about the potential revival in the future. Here's a glimpse of the present-day situation of the industry.
Even though the tourism sector was not the major contributor for revenue generation in Gujarat, Nirav Panchal, a Gujarat-based tourist guide was easily making his ends meet by helping travellers witness the hidden gems of the state for the past 18 years. His life saw a drastic change when the Coronavirus pandemic struck the country in 2020, forcing him to leave the industry. One of the major reasons for the change was the travel restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of the virus, ultimately, taking a toll on the travel industry in India.
Having no expectations for the international travel to start in the country again, Mr. Panchal switched to fashion designing after surviving a phase of depression. "I had to make a come back to sustain even if not in the travel industry," he says. As the rules started to relax in the later months of 2020, a lot of tourist destinations were opened and subsequently got closed again with the inception of the second wave in March, which turned out to be more deadly than the first wave.
The industry seemed to be struggling for three months during the lockdown, followed by the second wave with the focus of people shifting from leisure to sustenance at the minimum while not leaving a slight scope for the revival of tourism. Now that the states have again relaxed the travelling norms for domestic travellers, various places have started observing the guests, but travel experiences have no longer remained the same.
Shreshtha Singhvi, who travelled to Nasik after the second wave, says that the airports, hotels, and tourist destinations feel "abandoned". "Travelling for me was always about exploring the culture, cuisine, and socialising with the local population which is a forgotten dream now," she says. Ms. Singhvi is a regular traveller who has visited nearly 14 countries and 115 cities as of now. However, all her vacations have now turned into staycations, as she likes to stay into the limits of a resort facility.
Right after the unlocking process in India, people were also seen at various tourist locations of Himachal Pradesh, making the locals fear the spread of the virus. However, a travel blogger from Mumbai, Simrranjit Ghuraa, who recently visited the state, highlights a different reality. "As one goes to the remote locations of Himachal Pradesh, it's easy to find the locals who do not adhere to COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask since the virus never spread over there. Likewise, one can see half of the tourists wearing a mask while another half not. Not even the officials are much concerned about this fact in such parts," he says.
The pandemic, however, has also hit hard on Mr. Ghuraa as his sponsored trips have decreased than ever before. "Out of the many things that have changed after the two waves are the preference in eateries. Previously, I used to eat wherever I wanted to but now I take utmost care of where I am eating and ensure the hygiene beforehand," he adds.
Post-second wave travel has started witnessing a large number of people who were never frequent travellers. Aditi Roy, who owns a hostel named Bon Voyage with her boyfriend Kamal Tanwar in North Goa, has been observing office-goers after the second wave who take the hostel rooms for months and work from there. "My hostel is full with people who are not regular travellers but have come to Goa just to relax their minds," says Aditi, who has been working in the industry for over seven years.
While the guests maintain the COVID-19 protocols, Aditi speaks, they are less afraid while travelling after the second wave as compared to the first since most of them are vaccinated. Among others, most of the people living in Bon Voyage after the second wave is from belonging from Rajasthan, U.P, Hyderabad, and Gujarat. "Families are still hesitant in travelling whereas the streets of Goa are filled with groups of friends and solo travellers," Aditi says.
As surprising as it may get, in the scenario of the travel industry in India, the average number of trips conducted by travel agencies has also increased after the second wave with some of them getting bookings in advance. The Trippers, one such agency in Delhi, has been managing 4-5 trips in a week, as compared to 2-3 trips before the pandemic. In addition, Ladakh has become the preferred location of people in the current time, as per the owner of the agency, Pulkit Chauhan. "Tourism is booming in Ladakh, especially after the second wave. In the past 4-5 years, we have never taken so many bookings for that place (Ladakh)," he says.
The agency reduced the number of people in a group to 12-24, unlike before, which was 30-35. According to Mr. Chauhan, people are leaving no stone unturned in fulfilling their travelling dreams.
In another observation by Mr. Chauhan, preferences of people for the travel destinations are being determined by the majestic scenes showcased through reels and videos of various locations on social media platforms, like Instagram. It turns out, it is certainly working in the favour of the agencies that made no sales during both the Coronavirus waves.