'The pandemic fatigue is at an all time high. Simultaneously, the impressive rate of vaccine administration in the country has instilled confidence in people to step out during the weekends. '
As the second wave of the pandemic begins to ease and people are looking for options to satiate their pent up travel need, what options lie in front of travelers and how best can they travel safely and securely. In a tete-a-tete with The Financial Express Online, Gaurav Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, Savaari Car Rentals shares his insights on the trends that are emerging and how the travel industry will shape up. Excerpts:
What makes road trips the preferred mode of travel post-pandemic?
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After more than a year spent indoors, people are now inclined towards leisure travel for their pent-up travel desire and long-pending retreats. Whether it is therapeutic travel to cure the pandemic fatigue or the government’s steady attempts to revive the country’s tourism, several factors have resonated to the tune of domestic travel, translating into a road-tripping boom in India.
- With safety taking the front seat, the travel pattern is currently determined by the distance of the destination from home as well as the various safety offerings during commute and stay. Which is why nearby, offbeat destinations that are accessible by short road trips are taking precedence over popular, crowded tourist destinations which are probably located in the other corner of the country.
- Road trips in India are a great way to make travel more experiential. Even travelers who usually fly out, are now preferring to take the road than regular modes of transport – on road trips, people are more in control of their environment and can completely avoid contact with strangers. Whether they self drive or rent a car, people now feel safer on the road.
- International leisure travel remains largely inaccessible even in 2021. Consequently, more and more travellers are turning towards domestic travel to satiate their wanderlust.
In the wake of this, pre-booked car rentals have emerged as the safest option for commuting during vacations. The provision of dedicated spaces for commuters alleviates safety concerns that arise due to the concurrently shared modes of transportation such as trains, buses, and airlines. Moreover, with door-to-door service, car rentals circumvents any need for commuters to be exposed to public spaces which pose the highest risk of infection spread.
How do you see the future of road trips emerging in the post-pandemic phase?
Road travel is a fairly nascent travel category in India, in terms of its mass appeal. Formerly a niche of the ‘serious’ travelers like bikers and backpackers, road travel has now found a wider patronage, especially in the backdrop of Covid.
Confined to the four walls, working from home, month after month, people are more appreciative of little things in life which were previously taken for granted. The thrill of hitting the roads, rolling down the windows, enjoying wind in the hair, breathing in the fresh air – a day out with family on the roads or short road trips are a few things that got people’s attention only during the lockdown months.
Even though the restrictions will reduce over time, but covid has surely changed the way people travel, for good. People are wary of their travel choices now more than ever with safety and sanitization being the key decision makers. With domestic travel being the first preference in the upcoming years, road trips will power through in the post pandemic world. And this trend is here to stay!
With curbs and restrictions easing out, how are the weekend getaways progressing?
– The culmination of the second wave coincided with the onset of monsoon travel in India. After a rather difficult second wave, people stepped out of their homes for a respite by traveling to popular, nearby monsoon destinations.
– Savaari has recorded a surge in demand for car rentals for some of the most interesting monsoon weekend getaway itineraries such as Mumbai-Lonavala, Mumbai-Mahabaleshwar, Pune-Igatpuri, Mumbai-Alibag, Bangalore-Shivanasamudra, Bangalore-Coorg, Bangalore-Chikmagalur, Chennai-Pondicherry, Delhi-Nainital, Delhi-Jim Corbett National Park, Delhi-Mussoorie and more.
– The demand for leisure travel started picking towards June end. As of August, the demand for round trips is already touching January 2021 numbers – the best travel month post the first wave.
Which are the locations that people prefer to go over the weekends? Is it hill stations or a resort or any other place?
The pandemic fatigue is at an all time high. Simultaneously, the impressive rate of vaccine administration in the country has instilled confidence in people to step out during the weekends. However, since safety is still the decision maker, the current travel patterns during weekends are being determined by the distance from the resident cities of people. The itineraries gaining popularity are the weekend getaways close to the metro cities – irrespective of hill stations or beaches.
Another interesting trend which has gained popularity after the pandemic are staycations. We found families with children booking cabs to get to a picturesque staycation resort over the weekend for a quick short break. Staycations allow you to unwind and relax, away from the humdrum of city life – something people could use at the moment. Getting on a short road trip to a nearby staycation for a day or two and coming back in a safe sanitized vehicle is a trend we are observing particularly among families and young couples, who claim they have been stressed out from prolonged confinement to their homes. Savaari received an overwhelming response for staycations across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Kolkata.
7 best road trips for your weekend (Please indicate geography-wise (Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru)?
Mumbai-Pune Expressway: The fastest and longest intrastate highway in Maharashtra that connects Mumbai to Pune and then leads to Goa. The route goes via some of the best towns and nature spots on the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. Stop by places like Lonavala, Khandala, Amby Valley, Rajmachi Fort, for their scenic views, a short trek, or visit centuries-old forts.
West Coast Road: A road trip across the western coast of South India takes you through the most gorgeous shores and some of the hidden offbeat beaches on the western coast. Relax on the white sands of Gokarna, Malpe and Matheran before you witness the expansive tea estates of Wayanad followed by the Alleppey backwaters and the picturesque beaches of Kovalam.
East Coast Road: Running along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, this highway connects Chennai to Kanyakumari. Regarded as the most scenic highway on the eastern coast of India, this road goes through old resort towns, colonial structures, temples, and historical monuments of Tamilnadu on one side and the breathtaking views of the bay on the other. Mahabalipuram, Tranquebar, Pondicherry, and Karaikal are the best stops enroute.
Bangalore-Ooty via Mysore Road: This 7-hour road trip is for nature and art lovers as it passes through the scenic locales Ramanagara, also home to some beautiful temples and the Ramadevarabetta Vulture Sanctuary. Indulge in the charm of the City of Palace before you make your way through the soul-refreshing lush forests of Bandipur. Other stops along the way are Channapatna, Nanjagud (Varanasi of the South) and Gundlupete.
Bangalore-Munnar via NH7: This 500-km road trip will take you through a series of waterfalls and windmills. The highway is dotted with stunning palm trees on either side of the roads. The best sightseeing spots en route are KRP Dam in Krishnagiri, the Blossom Hydel Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Delhi-Manali-Leh Highway: One of the best and longest driving routes in Northern India, this road is as thrilling as it can get. Though a tough and long drive, the scenic beauty of the lower Himalayas makes every minute of it worthwhile. Make your way through Panipat, Ambala, Chandigarh and Kullu. Take a detour to the charming hill station of Shimla and enjoy the snow at Kufri. You could also head to the Great Himalayan National Park for a drive through the mountain flora and fauna.
Delhi to Agra via Yamuna Expressway: If you are a road travel enthusiast, you ought to take the Delhi-Agra road trip via Yamuna Expressway, the best highway in the country, for the sheer experience of it! The highway is dotted with some of the best dhabas of north India. An unmissable stop along the way would be the Buddh International Circuit, India’s venue for F1 races.
As the travel and tourism industry was limping back to normalcy, the second wave of the pandemic wreaked further havoc. How in your opinion can the domestic tourism industry be rebuilt post the pandemic?
The travel and tourism industry was amongst the first-hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will probably be amongst the last to realise full recovery. Having suffered losses estimated to Rs 125 lakh crores (as per CARE Ratings), a concrete roadmap is required to revive the beleaguered industry and help it emerge stronger in the post Covid world.
With the onset of the monsoons, leisure travel has gradually started gaining momentum in India. 50% of the Indian population is already administered at least one dose of vaccination. As the number goes higher, it is further expected to bolster tourism. With relaxations in travel restrictions, we already see a strong recovery in religious, business as well as leisure travel segments. The pent-up travel desire and the declining number of Covid cases combined with the government’s impetus to the travel and tourism industry will ascertain an exponential recovery in the near future.
Moreover, the international travel picture still remains restricted, particularly the US and EU nations which have been severely hit by covid with high case count. Consequently, international leisure travel is expected to remain largely inaccessible in the near future. However, due to the pent-up travel desire, people are now inclined towards leisure travel, with more and more international travellers now turning towards domestic travel for their long-pending retreats and ‘revenge travel’ plans. The timing is just about right for the domestic travel boom that the country has been waiting for!
With the festive season here and the year-end fast approaching, what trends do you foresee where (locations) and how people will travel?
– With the festive season beginning its onset, people are looking forward to taking vacations with family, albeit with high caution. Religious travel has also slowly resumed across the country. A majority of the weekend itineraries from Delhi, for instance, are centred around spiritual destinations such as Haridwar and Mathura as Shravan and Janmashtami happen to be the high season for pilgrimage.
– Moreover, with the onset of the festive season with Ganesh Chaturthi in the month of September, followed by Navratri and Diwali, we expect a further rise in demand for leisure travel.
– December, constituting Christmas and the New Year holidays along with the conducive weather in most parts of the country, is the high season for travel in India. This upcoming winter, we foresee a huge surge in leisure travel to the nearby tourist destinations. The most popular itineraries during this time are Delhi-Manali, Delhi-Jaipur, Mumbai-Goa, Mumbai-Malvan, Bangalore-Goa, Bangalore-Gokarna, Hyderabad-Hampi, and Chennai-Pondicherry.
Car rentals are expected to remain the most preferred way to travel – a dedicated and non-shared vehicle for a safe and secured ride. We, at Savaari, are looking to expand our already comprehensive 15 lakh one-way cab routes to 40 lakh routes over the next few months and scale our fleet and vendor partners by another 150% to facilitate safe and hassle-free commutes for people.