Design To Drive The Return Of Tourism

This article Return of Tourism by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on May 11, 2020.

Every time I traveled to a remote place with small shabby hotels only, I carried my own cotton sheets and towels. This was my way of ensuring my cleanliness bubble. I did the same on overnight train travels. Now, I will extend this to all the travels in the foreseeable future. Theplas and Khakhras accompanied me to all the places that are not too vegetarian friendly. Now, they may accompany me for all travels. The same goes for water – to minimize touchpoints with strangers. Sanitizer would be the new shoes; you can’t step out without it. Where possible, I would stay with family and friends, as homes seem safer than hotels.

Like me, as and when holidaymakers do come back, some of their habits would have changed forever and the businesses would have to respond innovatively and creatively to cater to them. The corporate world has more or less adapted to digital meetings. Business Travels would be restricted to a large extent to take care of their own balance sheets. Post lockdown, 3-6 months would see only emergency travel taking place followed by absolutely necessary ones.

Tourism/Hospitality Industry during Pandemic

The tourism and hospitality industry is not only the worst impacted by the ongoing pandemic but would probably be the last one to get back on feet. Capacity utilization would go down for airlines, hotels& restaurants, pushing the prices up, which in turn would act as a deterrent for leisure travelers, creating a kind of negative spiral. New hygiene and touchpoint protocols will add to costs.

People, stuck at home for months now, would need to work for some time to earn their next holiday. Fear of getting stuck in a distant land would keep them in the vicinity of their homes. Couple it with lack of public transport, travel would be limited to distances as far as their own vehicles can take them. Large events of any kind, personal, or professional remain out of question.

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Nature and wellness holidays are predicted to pick up first. I see a surge in learning holidays, where people travel to a destination in a small group, stay in one place to learn a skill. These could be yoga camps, spiritual retreats, writing retreats, bird watching sojourns, family gatherings, or anything where you stay in one place. This also means overall less travel but longer stays in one place.

A positive note for the Tourism Industry

On a positive note, we should see the onset of a much-needed balance. Between over-tourism at a handful of destinations and untapped potential at less explored destinations. This is the best time for tourism boards to revamp their destination maps. And promote geographically spread out destinations in their regions. Pro-active reach-out can place these destinations in the wish list of future clients. Especially for domestic clients. This can not only contain losses. But also create new revenue streams and expand the customer base.

International borders being closed is a great opportunity for the domestic tourism industry. To offer alternatives within the country to these 25 million-plus base of tourists who travel abroad. Destinations like Sicily are leading with incentivization plans for tourists who plan to visit them soon after the lockdown. By way of free entry to attractions or heavy discounts on flights and hotels. Every destination would need an ‘Ab Initio’ approach to re-establishing their destination branding.

Startups

Startups can look at designing products that expand the industry footprint beyond just selling rooms and flights. This includes curating and creating engagement opportunities for the visitors that encourages them to stay longer in the destination. India has a range of under-explored experiences. Right from culinary to cultural, from nature to adventure, to cities to tribal, from wellness to spiritual, sports to entertainment. Robust collaborations between tourism and handicrafts & handloom industry to design new-age souvenirs soaked in Indian ethos is need of the hour. Post the pause, these products would come handy when tourists would look for destinations that offer something to do for a longer duration.

Insurance Industry

The insurance industry needs to design new products around communicable diseases. Covid-19 free certification may become a requirement for crossing borders. However, one would still need to insure for any infections picked up during travel, to contain the financial and social risks it comes with. Governments would not do free evacuations forever. And the medical costs would be prohibitive with long cycles of recovery and isolation. Touchless interactions would have to be enabled using technology-led interventions.

‘Design’ would be the keyword. Public spaces would demand re-design. Public interactions would need new process designs. And it is an opportunity to design new local products.

It is heartening to see innovative brand management by a few jungle lodges. They are sending sights and sounds of jungle life to their regular and potential clients. It gives me hope that the industry has not lost hope. Let’s hope that the hospitality brands that lent helping hand by becoming quarantine facilities or running the food kitchens for those struck away from home will be amply rewarded by the travelers in the future.

Design To Drive The Return Of Tourism article in New Indian Express

Original article published in New Indian Express on May 11, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Anuradha Goyal

Anuradha is an Author, Traveler, Bibliophile, Art History Student, Innovation Consultant and an Avid Blogger.

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