Flexibility, slow travel, pet-friendly measures: Tourism trends set to dominate in the new year
In the months after the pandemic-induced lockdowns were lifted, ‘revenge travel‘ became a massive trend. It continued for a while, led by desperation from people who were cooped up inside their houses looking for a change of scene. It also led to some sub-trends, mostly destination-driven. For instance, international travel was halted for the longest time leaving people with no option but to explore lesser-known domestic places. Post revenge, travelling assumed a ‘slower’ form with a lot of interest and focus on sustainability, especially after it came to the fore that all this eagerness to travel somewhere, anywhere, without being mindful is potentially burdening the environment and local communities.
More recently, ‘sleep tourism’ was an industry focus with sleep-deprived souls looking for ways to sleep-a-wink. Industry experts told indianexpress.com that hotels have been going the extra mile using sleep-enhancing amenities to create an environment to help customers get better sleep during their stay.
Now, with a new year rolling in, can we expect some new trends? While the pandemic is still very much a part of our life, what can tourists expect to do in 2023? We attempted to break it down for you by reaching out to experts and understanding various aspects of travelling this year.
To begin with, digital travel company Booking.com revealed seven predictions for 2023, stating in a press release, “Nothing will be off-limits and everything is on the menu as everyone seeks to find the right balance in a world of contradictions.” According to its 2023 predictions, the needs of travellers “are moving in a lot of different directions to adapt to changing times”.
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It stated that going off-grid will be a sought-after trend in 2023, with 64 per cent of Indian travellers wanting their travel experiences to have a more back-to-basics feel to escape reality, switching off and experiencing life with only the bare necessities. In addition to that, 71 per cent of Indian travellers want to experience “complete culture shock” in 2023, like travelling somewhere with a completely different language.
Among other trends, meditation and mindfulness getaways will be popular; while 75 per cent of Indians want their trips to be strictly work-free in 2023, 64 per cent are not interested in working while away. As such, travelling for business will make a comeback in 2023.
While this is a broad overview, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd’s managing director and CEO Kavinder Singh mentioned that the year 2022 began with the Omicron wave causing a downtick in travel. “But, since then, the sector has seen steady recovery. Hospitality sector saw renewed growth after months of low occupancy. We expect in 2023 daycations, vacations within drivable distances, and staycations will continue to be popular. Travellers are combining work and leisure, hence longer stays are expected; they are willing to pay more for leisure travel. Family vacations are becoming increasingly important,” he told this outlet.
Singh added that people are travelling within India and abroad. “They are going to Goa, Manali, Dubai, Singapore, Coorg, Gir, Shimla, and many other places. We are seeing high occupancy in western and southern regions. Our resorts in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala are also witnessing good momentum. Sustainable and responsible tourism will continue to play a critical role; regenerative tourism is where travellers leave a place better [than they found it].”
Concurring with Singh, a spokesperson for OYO told indianexpress.com that 2023 will be a year of “exploration and discovery”, with travellers looking for shorter trips and weekend getaways to experience new cultures. Solo travel and pilgrimage travel will be popular. In addition to that, weekends away or short city breaks will also take place this year, they said.
Travel aggregator Yatra.com believes there will be a growth of around 20-30 per cent in domestic and international sectors. “We have also observed advance bookings for the months of February and March 2023. Solo and couple travel trends are expected to gain more interest, and payment facilities like no-cost EMI and book-now-pay-later will see greater traction among travellers,” said Aditya Gupta, senior vice president, hotels and holidays at Yatra.com.
He added that post the pandemic, the importance and demand of health insurance travel plans continue to grow. International travel segment will also continue to witness demand, especially for Southeast Asian destinations like Bali and Singapore, along with European countries. Domestic destinations like Kashmir, Goa, Kerala, and Shimla will emerge as top locations in 2023.
Adding to this, Vipul Prakash, the COO of MakeMyTrip — another travel aggregator — said that this year, travellers will be seen “adding more days to their standard itineraries”. “They will also increasingly plan a ‘household travel budget’ and open up to the idea of taking short-term loan options like travel-now-pay later (TNPL). This trend will remain at the fore in 2023 as travellers look at travel as a necessity, much like the proverbial ‘roti, kapda, aur makaan‘.”
Going back to the point made by Gupta about health insurance travel plans, a recent ICICI Lombard research paper found that the sale of travel-insurance policies went up by 76 per cent post-pandemic, highlighting the need for travel insurance.
“The pandemic had severely affected the travel industry worldwide; demand for travel insurance suffered a major setback. With aggressive vaccination, receding Covid, removal of travel-related restrictions and bans, and advancement in medical science, there has been a resurgence in the travel industry. People had experienced a lot of uncertainties during Covid times, which resulted in an increased awareness around the emotional and physical wellbeing, financial security and various other risks involved in travelling, and thus, there was increased realisation about the importance of having travel insurance in foreign land,” Sanjay Datta, chief – underwriting, claims and reinsurance – ICICI Lombard, told this outlet.
As mentioned earlier, just like the previous year, travelling may be untethered in 2023, too, with international borders continuing to stay open to boost tourism and also confidence in travellers. Travelling may now “evolve to become more immersive and meaningful”, said Nishant Kashikar, country manager – India and Gulf, Tourism Australia. “Going forward, travellers will actively seek more bespoke and unique experiences. Slow travel is here to stay, as travellers want to invest in extended vacations where they can experience every moment of their trip. They have also become more conscious not only of their health, but also of the impact they have while travelling. Driven by an eco-conscious mindset, they will not only keep health and safety as top priority, but also seek out sustainable and indigenous experiences,” he said.
According to Kashikar, online travel aggregators (OTAs) and travel operators will customise their offerings to suit the desires of the new-age traveller, with flexibility in booking and extending trips. “For Australia, India has been one of the fastest-growing inbound markets. Through our efforts to increase connectivity and travel to Australia and catalyse the tourist visa process, we expect our visitation numbers to reach pre-covid levels of 4,00,000 by June 2023, if not prior,” he remarked.
Making travelling easy and hassle-free
With all this travelling, how can journeys be made seamless for an average tourist? Many a time, people feel flustered with all the paperwork and airport protocols, about which Harsha Vardhan, the CEO and founder of CarterX — an airport luggage transfer service startup that provides luggage transfer from your doorstep to the airport — told indianexpress.com: “We launched our airport luggage transfer services in 2017. Since then, our customers are experiencing a lifestyle of hassle-free travel as part of their routine. Our services like door-to-door airport luggage transfer provide hassle-free travel for flyers for that extra touch of smooth and convenient travel. During the pandemic, we witnessed a spike in our numbers with more and more people realising the need to travel without worrying about their luggage. Even though this is not a pandemic-led trend, we sure did notice a spike in our services because of it.”
According to him, in 2023, Covid norms — along with ongoing delayed visa interviews — may hamper international travel. “Still, when it comes to domestic travel, we will witness a surge in the same pattern that we saw in 2022, or it may even climb at a higher percentage. We can also expect an increase in leisure travelling in 2023.” Harsha Vardhan added that while many trends such as wellness travel, sustainable travel, cultural temple tours and homestay travel will see an upward trajectory in 2023, the one trend that may fizzle out is ‘travel without purpose’.
And what about travelling with pets?
We saw how in the last few months, especially all of 2022, many pet parents were able to take their babies with them on vacations. Will that continue to happen in 2023? “Pet relocation and pet travel along with pet-friendly hotels and cafes have seen a gradual uptick and are expected to grow in the year 2023, too,” stated Aamir Islam, the co-founder of Carry My Pet.
He told this outlet that previously, pet travel or relocation was an ‘unorganised sector’, and for almost every pet parent, the safety and comfort of their furry friends was a primary concern. “Pet relocation services that offer transparent, affordable, and trustworthy national as well as international transportation are increasing in the market. People who love to travel to nearby or exotic places, as well as those who have jobs that require them to be on-the-move, can now easily take their pets along. In the near future, demand for pet travel and relocation services will further increase,” Islam said.
He added that Carry My Pet expects 15-20 per cent growth in pet travel in 2023. “Before planning the trip, always consult the vet to ensure your pet has a smooth journey,” he advised.