Sustainable tourism is the need of the hour, says Samarth Kholkar of BLive; Partnership with The Postcard Hotel announced

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Updated: September 27, 2021 8:04 PM

World Tourism Day 2021; Tourists no longer have to rely on conventional vehicles to explore the nooks and corners but can instead utilise e bikes and other electric vehicles which are better alternatives throughout.

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World Tourism Day: The pandemic has brought focus not just on safe tourism but also on sustainable tourism. Tourism activities that leave less carbon footprint are becoming trendy. Sustainable tourism is not just a trend but also a demand of the times we live in. Major tourist destinations are promoting sustainable ways of sightseeing and travel like E-Bike tours which reduce the carbon footprint and also makes the travel activity more enjoyable. Travelling in Electric Vehicles in the future and it has arrived with companies like BLive offering E-Bike tour packages in India’s top travel destinations like Goa, Puducherry, Rajasthan, etc. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Samarth Kholkar, Co-Founder & CEO of BLive talked about the future of tourism, EV tourism, their partnership with The Postcard Hotel and more. Excerpts:

How important a part will sustainability play in the future of tourism?

Tourism is an ever growing industry in India, one that is constantly evolving according to the larger needs of the society. Ironically enough it is also one amongst the top contributors to pollution. In 2019 alone, tourism contributed close to 11% of the total greenhouse emission. Moreover, experts estimate that global tourism will increase carbon emissions to 6.5T by 2025. Hence, sustainable tourism is the need of the hour. We must consciously adopt a sustainable approach to tourism by reducing our carbon footprint and adopting methods like reducing waste and using eco-friendly travel modes. With this vision in mind our motto is to create sustainable tourism. To achieve this we have done over 16,000 tours saving over 15 tons of CO2 emission. As India grows into a top global tourism destination, we need to develop and promote sustainability by promoting initiatives like EBike tours and culture walks. When we look at Sustainability, local art and culture are equally important. We have ensured that it becomes an integral part of our offering showcasing local crafts, food or music, in our curated and customized EV tours.

What are some of the travel trends that you perceive post-Covid?

We expect a surge in tourism in the drive to destinations close to larger cities. Travelers will prefer to use their own transportation instead of public means of transport. Outdoor tourism will boom, where travelers can experience fresh air in non-crowded places. Safety and Hygiene will be the key differentiators for the various tourism providers. Travellers will be much more conscious in their travel and look for eco-friendly travel options.

How has BLive been working to promote EVs as part of experiential tourism in India?

BLive tours are specially designed to let people “see the unseen.” Most of our guests have said that they’ve been to a place several times but have never had such a unique, immersive and fun experience of exploring the hidden gems. As a part of promoting experiential tourism in India, BLive has partnered with Goa Tourism and Development Corporation (GTDC) and is the official face of EV tourism there. Tourists no longer have to rely on conventional vehicles to explore the nooks and corners but can instead utilise e bikes and other electric vehicles which are better alternatives throughout. Along with being an eco- friendly mode of transport, our E-bikes and the local guides that come along with them can take tourists to places they might not have even heard of or seen before.  Not just Goa, we have strategic partnership with several like-minded players in the hospitality industry who share the vision of green tourism with us. For instance, we have a national tie-up with Club Mahindra. We have also partnered with the Leela, Radisson Blu, Hyatt, Marriott among others locally. Further, we recently tied up with SeleQtions, a brand of The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) to provide e-bike tours at all its property locations.

What are your future plans?

We are focused on the expansion of our E-Bike tours to 50+ locations having a fleet of 1000+ E-Bikes. We are also looking for long-term strategic partnerships with like minded top Hospitality brands in the country. We launched our online EV store a few months back and have already sold to customers in over 50 Indian cities.  Next month we will launch our offline store. We will grow the same to  20 more locations  by March 2022 where customers can choose from multiple brands of EVs under one roof.

Samarth Kholkar and Sandeep Mukherjee, BLive Co-founders

Why did you choose to partner with The Postcard Hotel? How does it benefit you?

The Postcard Hotel is a collection of intimate luxury hotels whose goals of sustainability resonates with ours. We joined hands with them to offer eco-friendly premium e-bike tours at all its properties across India. The Postcard Hotel builds on our motive of offering tourists an immersive & authentic experience without besmirching the surroundings. Both BLive and Postcard aim to preserve the local culture and heritage of the society and take pride in promoting sustainable tourism. Together, we want our guests to live the travel experience and embrace the rich heritage, culture and environment of the place.

What is the nature, duration, and aim of this association?

The strategic partnership brings about inclusive growth of eco-tourism in the industry, especially significant on World Tourism Day. We plan to design special personalised tours for all the guests at The Postcard Hotel. These tours will look at highlighting the natural beauty, cultural diversity, sumptuous delicacies and heritage of the place. We want guests at The Postcard Hotel to explore the greener and cleaner side of India by letting them explore what they’ve never seen before.

The Postcard Hotel is planning to open in a lot of different locations including Tirupati, Ranthambore, Mashobra, the Shivaliks. Can we expect BLive’s presence there as well?

Yes. Through this partnership, we will be able to offer the BLive experience to the customers of The Postcard Hotel in all locations it is going to open in the future. We will curate an experience which highlights the local flavours of history, culture and food. Every experience will be distinct and we are sure The Postcard Hotel guests will love it.

How is The Postcard Hotel planning to help you in your mission to promote sustainable tourism?

Kapil Chopra, the founder of The Postcard Hotel, has been our mentor and guide, since we ventured into the eco-tourism space and has supported us throughout our successful journey. We are quite inspired by his take on luxury hospitality and how he’s changing the definition of luxury hospitality by including sustainable, private and more personalised living experiences. The Postcard Hotel values experiential tourism like we do and we believe The Postcard Hotel’s immersive hospitality and rich living experience, set the brand apart, and makes it a perfect partner for us. BLive’s partnership with The Postcard Hotel will help us deliver premium e-bike experiential tours to a new and differentiated customer base.

You have partnerships with other players in the hospitality industry. Can you share something about that? How have those fared?

We are closely working with several hospitality players and state governments in India. BLive has its hub and E-Bikes in their properties where the guests can sign up for a tour and enjoy discovering the local culture and heritage on effortless E-Bikes. There is a growing awareness of sustainable travel, especially in the Post Covid world, which is helping us drive the demand through these strategic partnerships. We’ve witnessed tremendous growth in the last six months. BLive has successfully completed 15000+ tours across 15+ locations, thanks to our strategic alliances. We continue to scale our operations and grow our presence across the country.

How have these hospitality partnerships benefited you?

The Covid-19 has drastically changed the preferences of travelers worldwide. Today, travelers are most conscious and aware about the impact of tourism on the environment, local economy and society. They are desperately looking for authentic experiences that can help them connect with the local culture without hampering the ecological balance of the destination. They are looking for ways to enjoy their free time, without having to contribute to the pollution in the environment. The hospitality partnerships help us reach out to such tourists. They become our target audience as they are seeking ways to explore hidden gems at the local tourist destinations and through a unique eclectic vehicle experience.

Which location are you planning to offer your services next? Why?

Our plan is to offer BLive services at all top tourist destinations across India including Tier 1 and Metropolitan cities. The idea is to ensure that sustainable tourism practices reach every nook and corner of the country and together, we can build a different and cleaner way of enjoying our vacations and knowing more of the place we stay. In the next few months you will find BLive at Delhi, Mumbai, Chikmanglur, Agra to name a few.

What is the kind of feedback that you have been getting from guests and the brands?

BLive ranks among the top experiences in every city that it operates in. As per TripAdvisor we are ranked #1 in most places and have over 90% 5-star ratings. BLive has also received the Travelers Choice award in 2020 making it one of the top 10% of activities worldwide.  Last year, we introduced a host of safety guidelines to ensure the safety of our customers on every tour in line with the government’s social distancing norms. Our Vibrant yellow cycles follow default social distancing norms as each electric vehicle maintains a safe distance from each other and is mindful of individual space, also giving the option of travelling with close-knit groups for additional safety. All our guests are provided with a B:Safe Kit containing gloves, masks and a sanitiser. We sanitise the bikes and helmets before every ride, along with temperature checks for every BLive staff, customer and Captain.  All these guidelines in place have not just made the entire experience of our guests and brands safe but has also garnered us a lot of positive feedback and appreciation.

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