As locals captured the mad rush especially towards hilly destinations through photos and videos which went viral online, the union health ministry on Tuesday termed the heavy footfall of people in tourist destinations “frightening”. The ministry has written to Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments to prevent people from flouting covid protocols and maintain social distancing, respiratory hygiene and wearing of masks.
However, for hospitality firms the tourist influx has come as a respite having lost two consecutive peak summer seasons to covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021. Ease of state level restrictions including removing the RT-PCR test requirement and ongoing vaccination drive has further improved traveller confidence.
Online travel agent Yatra.com that it has witnessed a healthy surge in bookings post the second wave, wherein almost all North Indian hill stations such as Mussoorie, Shimla, Leh- Ladakh have seen a spike.
“Additionally, destinations like Kasauli, Uttarakhand, Lonavala, Shimla, Agra, Manali, Saputara have seen a rise in queries. We have also seen an uptick in booking enquiries of 50-60% with the business city luxury hotels also seeing a steady increase in city breaks,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder and COO, Corporate Travel & Head Industry Relations, Yatra.com.
ITC Hotels, which has recently launched two new properties in Himachal Pradesh (Chail and Shimla), is witnessing brisk business too. The hotel chain said that they are witnessing full occupancies at ITC Grand Goa, ITC Grand Bharat, ITC Rajputana and ITC Mughal, Welcomhotel The Savoy in Mussoorie, Welcomhotel Coimbatore, Welcomhotel Shimla, Welcomhotel Chail and Welcomhotel Pine ‘n Peak.
“There is definitely a resurgence of motorable getaways especially at Welcomhotels. The hills and beaches are normally the quickest to recover, and this time again we are seeing a lot of interest being generated for these properties,” said Anil Chadha, chief operating officer, ITC Hotels.
Kerrie Hannaford, vice president – commercial, Accor India & South Asia said that the lead time continues to be extremely short for its properties. “…last minute bookings are driving demand for our hotels, we anticipate last week of July and first week of August to see an even further uplift in occupancy,” he added.
Yatish Jain, VP and chief growth officer, OYO INSEA said that for leisure destinations, demand is steadily growing for Jaipur, Visakhapatnam and Agra apart from an increasing interest in hill stations close to main cities like Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie, Lonavala, and Mysore.
“As restrictions continue to ease, domestic tourism will continue to bring relief to business with demand mainly stemming from road trips to local destinations, staycations and workcations,” he added.
Club Mahindra said that travellers have a clear preference for spacious rooms and open areas as they book for leisure holidays. “We have reopened some of our resorts across the country as well. While there is a visible demand for our newly launched resort in Netrang – Gujarat and Alibaug-Maharashtra, our resorts in Himachal and Uttarakhand remain popular in the North,” said Pratik Mazumder, chief marketing officer, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd.
Sterling Holiday Resorts Ltd, which currently operates 35 resorts catering to leisure vacations in the jungle, on the beach, rivers and mountains as well as heritage and pilgrimage destinations, said that the booking patterns for July are healthy across destinations.
“The lead time has shortened (meaning people are not booking much in advance). To that extent, July is seeing a faster pace of pick up. August shall pick up soon given the shortened lead times,” said Vikram Lalvani, chief of revenue, sales and destinations, Sterling Holiday Resorts Ltd.
Demand patterns, Lalvani said, vary between weekdays and weekends. “There are a lot of guests choosing to stay over weekdays this time looking for a “quieter” holiday,” he added.
Meanwhile, luxury holiday home rental and private stay chains have also managed to clock good business. Luxury holiday home rental chain Saffronstays said most of their holiday homes in Maharashtra are fully booked for the weekends.
“Each Wednesday, when we look at our booking calendars at the end of the day, we barely have availability — maybe 4-5 homes that again get booked by Friday. It’s mostly people who are planning a celebration who book in advance (say maybe a month or so). The others are mostly two to three weeks prior to their stay,” said Devendra Parulekar, founder, SaffronStays.
Vista Rooms, a hospitality brand managing a network of curated holiday home rentals, said that July is more or less sold out in Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. From May onwards, there are hardly any cancellation.
“In fact, due to the lockdown in Goa and some parts in south India our guests are shifting their bookings to other places. Goa bookings are now being shifted to properties in Pune, Maharashtra and even in newer destinations like Wada, Khapoli. Towards the North, exceptionally high demand has been for destinations such as Bhimtal, Manali, Kullu , Mussorie, Nainital Dharamsala where most of our properties are booked till mid-August. We have seen guests staying for over a month representing over 25% of our demand, which was more or less non-existent prior to the pandemic,” said Ankita Sheth, co-founder of Vista Rooms.
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