After the second COVID-19 wave which forced people to stay at home again since April 2021, Indian travellers are ready to travel during the upcoming festive season.
Bleisure travel is soaring across the country. A key question remains: How safe is it to travel now? With many Indians fully vaccinated or having taken at least a single dose and awaiting their second vaccine dose, the travel bug seems to have caught them. After the second COVID-19 wave which forced people to stay at home again since April 2021, Indian travellers are ready to travel during the upcoming festive season. Be it small breaks or long stays, luxury and premium hotels are anticipating every need of the Indian traveller with utmost customised and contactless services.
New hotel launches & tempting offers in 2021
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According to Manish Tolani, Commercial Director and Vice President, Hilton India, “Great Small Breaks campaign is a one-of-a-kind staycation offer. It is tailor made for families and young guests. With short distance leisure travel becoming a preference, this offer will enable consumers to reconnect with family and friends. Under this initiative, there will be enhanced experience for families, with complimentary stays, personalised surprises, fun activities and lots more. It also offers complimentary stays and meals for children under 12 years, among other experiences.”
Strengthening its domestic presence in key cities, IHCL too has announced the signing of a Vivanta hotel in Ahmedabad, which is Gujarat’s thriving economic hub. With this launch, IHCL currently has three of its brands – Taj, Vivanta and Ginger present in Ahmedabad. The move is viewed as a notable step towards redefining the new age of hospitality in the city of Ahmedabad.
For those who want to experience Nature-centric getaways, Raffles Udaipur, India’s first Raffles hotel which opens on August 2, 2021, is set across a 21 acre private island located in the middle of the Udai Sagar lake.
With more than a hundred luxury guest rooms that have private gardens and balconies, the hotel blends in the best visual elements of Rajasthan’s royal heritage along with Mughal architecture.
At Raffles Udaipur, guests can enjoy a boat ride and watch migratory birds as they enjoy the panoramic hill views across the tranquil lake and a four hundred year old temple.
Longer stay, growing preference for luxury villas
However, the pandemic has forced many travellers to reassess their stay choices. There is an increased preference for longer stays at luxury villas in popular leisure destinations such as Goa.
Dhimaan Shah, Co-founder & COO, Lohono Stays by Isprava, feels that longer stays, domestic destinations, workations and tailor made experiences are key travel trends in the emerging post-pandemic scenario.
“Guests prefer longer stays. Most of our guests prefer spending the whole week and many are booking a month’s stay at our villas. We believe guests will continue to travel extensively within India. Goa continues to be the destination with the highest demand. Workations are definitely a new trend and guests are increasingly requesting tailor made experiences for them and their families. We are also seeing a huge uptick in curated experiences.”
Dhimaan Shah further observes, “Travelers now definitely prefer booking a private villa with no shared amenities. We are confident our guests will continue to enjoy our expansive private lawns and spaces where they can enjoy themselves and feel protected.”
How safe is it to travel?
A pertinent question arises: How safe is it to travel amidst concerns about the third wave?
As we all know, driving to nearby getaways is safe when using one’s own vehicle. Hotels as well as villas are ensuring safety protocols through their latest contactless offerings to chatbot customised services as part of the new normal for travel. For instance, the QR code is here to stay as it ushers in a sense of safety for guests who pore through contactless menus once they check in.
We know now that our hotels are currently more tech-driven than before. Customised contactless hospitality services, with the highest safety protocols are now shaping the industry’s recovery. Everything from booking reservations to check-ins are driven in a safe and contactless manner.
This also supports the new Indian traveler’s growing preference for revenge travel as much as ‘bleisure,’ the latest travel fad that combines business and leisure.
Bleisure travel: How hotels are prioritizing contactless services for check in and check out
Gone are the days when a traveller spent at least fifteen minute at the front desk of a hotel to get the check-in processes activated. In the post pandemic scenario, it will be rarer to see actual room keys handed over to a guest.
Global chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton are known to have stepped up digital initiatives such as pushing the use of digital keys, which enables guests to use their phone as their room key rather than approach the hotel’s front desk for check-in assistance.
This is in addition to temperature checks at entry points and the use of thermal imaging cameras that accurately read the guest’s body temperature.
“Hilton India is the oldest hospitality company in the world with our invaluable experience of more than 102 years, we again took a leadership position to understand the needs of our guests when things came or were coming back to the new normal. We also introduced best-in-class Cleanliness and Hygiene programs across all Hilton properties. Using Digital Key technology, guests can check-in, choose their room, access it using their digital room key and they can also check out through the Hilton Honors mobile app, ” Manish Tolani informs Financial Express Online.
Contactless room control is the future
In today’s world, contactless room control seems to point to the future for a flourishing hospitality industry to thrive further.
Hotels across the globe have now begun to offer smart mirrors in hotel bathrooms and smart guest rooms where in-room choices can be made using the guest’s phone itself. This includes voice-activated, contactless room control systems that are similar to Alexa.
Evolving lobbies and dining etiquette
Hotel lobbies are no longer viewed as social spaces. Guests prefer to head to their rooms as soon as they check in.
Dining preferences too are witnessing a sea change. The much awaited leisurely breakfast buffet has given way to in-room breakfast across most hotel properties. Grab-and-go breakfast meals from vending machines are now popular abroad.
Dining offerings and amenities are changing, too. Many hotels are now offering curated experiences to guests.
Raffles Udaipur positions itself as a culinary paradise for guests. Long lost recipes of royal households are served at its Indian specialty restaurant Sawai Kitchen. Harvest, which is set to open in October, serves an interactive farm-to-table dining experience whereby the fresh farm produce grabs the spotlight and culinary enthusiasts can opt for a co-cooking experience at the hotel’s cooking school, Rasoi.
For those with a sweet tooth, Raffles Patisserie offers a spread of pastries and French desserts.
For those who want to read and have a quiet corner to plonk themselves in, The Writers Bar indulges in bespoke artisanal as well as classic cocktails, champagne and a caviar menu. The Long Bar, however, comes with a European touch and offers fine Indian spirits as well as Rajasthan’s local brews. These mindfully curated dining experiences draw its inspiration from the five elements, namely, earth, fire, space, water, and air.
Referring to the opening, Puneet Dhawan, Senior Vice President, Operations – India & South Asia, Accor stated, “This is an exciting time as we present the iconic Raffles brand to ‘Venice of the East.’ The cultural heritage and grand architecture that gives Udaipur city its splendour contribute to the Raffle Udaipur experience. Travellers will be able to experience the immersive hospitality that is quintessentially Raffles.”
With the rise of global hotel launches, new smart tech initiatives at hotels, Indian travellers can access the best and safest services with just a ping on their phones.