COVER STORY: We explore the various ways in which travel will change in the ‘new normal’ era 

Even as the global pandemic continues, a few countries are slowly opening up their doors for tourists. So, when can we finally get to that luxurious hideaway? Only time will tell

author_img Rupali Dean Published :  04th July 2020 01:04 PM   |   Published :   |  04th July 2020 01:04 PM
Mandira Bedi chilling in Maldives

Mandira Bedi chilling in Maldives

Post this gap of quarantine and confinement, the pleasures of travel and of spending valuable time with our friends and family will never be taken for granted again. From contact-less check-in systems, disinfecting vehicles of guests or hotels offering their own pick-and-drop service and access to personal protective equipment, to social distancing and service of food, all have been thought through and training is in place. The staff is trained to keep guests, luggage, material and themselves safe. Rooms are allocated after 48 hours of being occupied by a previous guest. Countries like the Maldives, where the Ministry of Tourism has broadcasted plans to formally reopen on July 15, and Turkey too, are opening borders to foreign visitors who are arriving on commercial airlines. Sustainable, COVID-safe destinations….yes that’s how the ‘new normal’ for holidays is going to be when we start travelling again.

TRAVEL TRENDS 

Domestic tourism will be the initial aspect of leisure travel that will recover. Competent safe places such as controlled hotels will become prevalent. “We foresee staycation and weekend travel gaining more takers. We can also see ‘workcation’ – as people continue to work remotely – they might see to a full-service valley-view hotel. Gradually, we will see travellers opting for destinations which are accessible through shorter flight times. Thus, we will see domestic tourism flourishing and people experiencing Incredible India,” says Kerrie Hannaford, VP Commercial – Accor India & South Asia.

Everyone is exhausted cooking and working from home and people would initially prefer some city breaks or quick getaways, two to four-hour drive away. When leisure travel will be practically possible, “I would focus more on road trips in India, preferably to offbeat places (devoid of crowds) and accommodations where social distancing is practically possible. I have always advocated travel in India and this is perhaps a great opportunity for those who haven’t travelled within the country. There are some absolute gems where one can travel to by just going a little off the usual tourist radar”, shares Divyakshi, who runs a blog called quirky wanderer.

Dia Mira in The Himalayas

There will be less of “travel for the gram” and more or “travel for the soul”. People will want to connect with places in deeper ways. They will crave to find the meanings of life and how they can come back with positive changes. Each bit of travel will be less impulsive and more properly processed in their minds”, adds Lovleen Multani Arun, Founder Director at Panache World, Bangalore.

something that will emerge as a trend. Large families or groups of close friends will book an entire hotel (which has limited inventory) for a vacation. “We are starting to see demand for complete hotel buyouts for our Goa hotels. While gym and pool usage would be minimized, people would take to nature walks and yoga/meditation as a means to take a break from their routines”, says Jayant Singh, Founder and Managing Director Treehouse Hotels & Resorts.

The crisis is resulting in the restructuring of network and fleet as well as services across airlines. “The way people travel has already started changing and we will all have to readily embrace new technologies with a sharper focus on automation and contact-less processes. For example, Vistara’s web / mobile check-in penetration has increased to over 90 per cent now. Sanitisation and hygiene will remain top priorities for travellers and these factors would also influence their choices. Airlines will introduce many initiatives and make special efforts in building passenger confidence in flying in the times ahead,” shares Vinod Kannan, Chief Commercial Officer, Vistara.

There will be a 180-degree behavioural shift in the way people look at wellness and treat wellness as an important life catalyst. “If there’s one place I would really like to go to right now, it would be to the Himalayas”, says actor Dia Mirza.

HOTELS GEAR UP 

The demand for domestic and leisure travel will gradually upsurge in the next few months so hotels need to know who participates and how to organise for this segment. After 9/11, we saw sterner security measures being applied athwart the industry; similarly, in the post-virus era all the usual acceptable protocols advised by the competent authorities will be adhered to. In addition to that, the hospitality industry is going all out to reduce proximity and guests connect in a manner that enthuses a greater degree of confidence amongst all customers. “Niraamaya has fully prepared for the new normal with a set of rigorous safety and sanitation procedures for guests. Apart from the routine sanitation of everything and PPE and social distancing etc., guests will undergo a mandatory thermal temperature screening. Post this they will be given a short and quick health talk by our resident doctor. It is important to note that all guests will undergo a temperature and health check once a day. The linen will be disinfected with high-grade fabric-friendly chemicals”, shares Manu Rishi Guptha, CEO, Niraamaya Wellness Retreats.

Soneva Jani - Cinema Paradiso

HOTELS GEAR UP 

The demand for domestic and leisure travel will gradually upsurge in the next few months so hotels need to know who participates and how to organise for this segment. After 9/11, we saw sterner security measures being applied athwart the industry; similarly, in the post-virus era all the usual acceptable protocols advised by the competent authorities will be adhered to. In addition to that, the hospitality industry is going all out to reduce proximity and guests connect in a manner that enthuses a greater degree of confidence amongst all customers. “Niraamaya has fully prepared for the new normal with a set of rigorous safety and sanitation procedures for guests. Apart from the routine sanitation of everything and PPE and social distancing etc., guests will undergo a mandatory thermal temperature screening. Post this they will be given a short and quick health talk by our resident doctor. It is important to note that all guests will undergo a temperature and health check once a day. The linen will be disinfected with high-grade fabric-friendly chemicals”, shares Manu Rishi Guptha, CEO, Niraamaya Wellness Retreats.

The Leela Palace Udaipur has introduced “Drivcation”, which is a complete package for three nights and 4 days stay including pick up and drop from your home in their luxurious BMW car.

Tijara Fort Palace in Alwar employs people from surrounding villages and works closely with the local communities by providing important supplies to the most vulnerable members of society. When you stay at a Neemrana non-hotel Hotel, you join India’s fight to prevent rural migration to urban slums! Neemrana goes an extra mile by offering guests the option of bio-degradable crockery, cutlery, and glassware.

Our marketing teams are in the process of rolling out various stay, work and FnB offers and incentives for our guests. For our loyalty members ALL and Accor Plus, we will be announcing enticing offers and prepaid vouchers. We recently announced our offer to provide our discount offer for healthcare professionals across our hotels in India and Sri Lanka. All first responders and medical health workers can take a well-deserved break with a 30 per cent discount on the best available rate for bookings made between now until 31st December 2020”, shares Kerrie Hannaford.

INTERNATIONAL GOALS 

Borders are reopening, businesses are emerging stronger and hopefully, we will have stamps on our passports soon. Turkey officially communicated its readiness to re-start scheduled flights between India & Turkey as of 10 July. Consent of the Government of India is being awaited. Upon arrival in Turkey, the body temperature of passengers will be checked at airports. Passengers with a fever or any other symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested free of charge. If the test result is positive, the passenger will be referred to the hospital. The same procedure will be applied to all transit passengers as well. If the test result is negative, the passenger can continue with his/her itinerary. No Indian passenger will be deported or be kept in quarantine due to the test result.

If an Indian tourist arriving in Turkey proves to be Covid-19 positive, he/she needs to be treated at a hospital. Treatment costs will be covered by his/ her own health insurance, which is also valid in Turkey. It is advisable for Indian travellers to buy medical insurance covering COVID 19 treatment as well before arriving in Turkey. 

“People would want to travel to Turkey to enjoy Istanbul and its all-inclusive resorts in Antalya. SriLankan Airlines has plans to offer combination packages with Sri Lankan holidays. Travelling to the southern beaches of Sri Lanka is a good idea”, says Komal Seth, director LinkIn Reps PVT Ltd. 

Champagne Breakfast by Lake Pichola at The Leela Palace

Mandira Bedi is really excited about Maldives opening up for travel, “I can’t wait to go back to the Maldives, it’s my favourite destination in the world and being a one island one resort kind of a place, I know I can actually enjoy some tranquillity out there”, she says. At Soneva in the Maldives, Guests will be accompanied to their villa and would relax there until the COVID test (taken on arrival) results are out and are negative, which takes between 6 hours to a day. To make up for this inconvenience, they offer all guests a credit voucher that can be exchanged against F&B or experiences. Once the guest is confirmed Negative, the host comes to the villa to welcome and one can be stress-free in the exclusive safety practices followed at the resort. And just in case the guest is positive, Soneva will ask the COVID positive guest’s, travel mates to detach in their villa and will instantly waive the daily room rate of the villa for the next 14 days and the only charges will be meals and other incidentals, and all guests under quarantine can make full use of the facilities within their villa, the adjacent private gardens and beach. 

“To safeguard guests’ relaxation, the full In-Villa Dining service, as well as general housekeeping services, will remain to be accessible in line with their strict delivery and service operating procedures”, says Sonu Shivdasani, CEO Soneva. 

SAFETY MEASURES

It’s best to travel to less crowded places armed with your mask, sanitizer and the Aarogya Setu app on. Be compassionate and Travel only if you are fit enough to. “Once travel resumes, it is only natural to expect the industry and travellers to embrace slow and sustainable travel, not just for the environment and local people, but also for their own well-being. I foresee travel in the new normal to inspire new ways to tread lightly, experience authenticity and care for the environment and communities,” says Riaz Munshi, MD, N Chirag Trips and President Outbound Tourist Operators Association of India. Contactless travel will be the most visible change from the airport to the hotel check-in. 

“Remember to pack hand sanitisers, face masks, and face shields only short of spacesuits. Travel Insurance will become a non-negotiable”, says Ankur Khanna, Owner Tristar Holidays. After the preliminary muddle and the chaos of SOPs etc., people and businesses will acclimatise to an advanced hygiene standard in general. What will change will be that people will be a bit more aware of why and where they are travelling. The motives to travel will become a bit more profound and more meaningful. And that is a hugely positive sign.

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