By Nishant Kashikar,
The need for travel and the urge to explore have long served as key motivators for travelers prior to the onset of the pandemic but have since gained a renewed purpose as the world reverts to normalcy. On the occasion of World Tourism Day, we are reminded of the importance and value tourism can bring to an individual, a community and an economy at large. As we continue to navigate how we travel in a post-pandemic world, travelers and their interests are rapidly evolving, and the building blocks of the tourism industry can be largely contributed to the preferences and sentiments that form the traveller’s choices. This can be observed through the emergence and sustenance of the following travel trends:
Pent-up demand and stalled travel itineraries are guiding traveler ambitions
As the world continues to gradually reopen, a newfound sense of traveler optimism has also been ushered in. With the pandemic keeping people isolated for the better part of the last two years, with limited opportunities to travel, most international travel plans were forced to be shelved. This led many to defer weddings, honeymoons, family reunions, higher education plans, leisure trips and other travel plans. The resumption of regular international flight operations, border reopenings and lifting of lockdowns have also marked a significant contribution towards the renewed excitement and willingness to travel once again. This has resulted in a surging pent-up demand for travel as consumers are keen to expand their budgets and discretionary spending to compensate for the time and halted trips. Travelers are now eager to embark on long-awaited vacations and experiences without putting a cap on budgets. This includes traveling for sporting events, music festivals or culturally immersive experiences.
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An increased desire to travel sustainably and support indigenous communities
Today’s traveler has developed a stronger appeal and preference for sustainable and eco-conscious travel that also enables them to contribute to local communities, having been made aware of the extent of their individual impact amid the pandemic and lockdowns. As such, travelers have developed a growing tendency to gravitate towards experiences that leverage sustainable business practices that allow them to indulge in purposeful travel, in the vast expanses of nature.
Travel operators, online aggregators, agencies, tourism boards and other service providers are taking greater cognizance of the Indian traveler’s search and interest for sustainable travel choices. This is to represent the sentiments of a growing population who are now factoring the implications of climate change and their carbon footprints as part of their holiday and trip planning processes. Another pertinent trend that has gained a renewed interest and prominence amid the lockdowns is indigenous and culture-focused travel. Exploring local cultures and living life like a local rather than a tourist, right from homestays to indigenous experiences and farm-to-plate restaurants, provides travelers with a unique and new perspective to travel. Travelers want a flavor of the destination from the lens of a local resident rather than curated itineraries.
Digitilization to ease travel going forward
Travel has seen digitalization take over as travelers are gravitating towards online interfaces due to the convenience that they bring with them. A majority of the platforms and apps in the market today offer a multitude of options to plan a trip from start to end, allowing travelers to have complete control over their flight bookings, hotel or homestay reservations and even local experiences. Online booking platforms also provide travelers with customizable travel itineraries and packages for a variety of durations, interests and budgets, thus allowing them to have a greater overview of their trip without the hassles involved when planning for the same. Given the time in lockdown, digital travel content piqued the interest of travelers who created bucket lists for when they could travel again. This content continues to hold travelers’ interest who increasingly seek inspiration from influencers and content creators.
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Personal safety will continue to govern traveler choices
Safety was a top-of-mind concern for travelers at the onset of the pandemic and continues to be a priority for travelers when planning their trips. Destinations which pay closer attention to the importance and safety of travelers, in view of the uncertainty raised during the course of the pandemic, are likely to secure consumer consideration. This can be achieved through robust COVID-19 and emergency back-up plans, introducing digitized visas, flight and hospitality services which empower travelers to travel safely. Additionally, streamlining the travel process within the airport and flight to the arrivals and immigration process can also ease traveler anxiety and hesitancy.
As we enter the new normal, travel will continue to evolve through trends that will shape traveler preferences. This continuous cycle of changing travel trends and evolving traveler sentiments offer the travel industry and tourism boards the invaluable opportunity to augment how we cater to today’s traveler, by ‘Rethinking Tourism’ this World Tourism Day.
(The author is Country Manager- India & Gulf, Tourism Australia. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)