The need for privacy, secluded destinations and demand for unique experiences are trends set to shape post-pandemic travel in the months to come. Luxury boutique hospitality brand Postcard Hotels, however, has been ahead of the curve with their well-considered properties that prize authenticity, memorable locations, and a love for deliciously languid vacations.
As India reopened after the nationwide lockdown over the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, domestic travel received a much needed boost. While there was a pent up demand after being forced indoors for months, vacationers sought either well-established hotels for staycations or headed to private homestays at secluded locations where sanitization and social distancing were top priority.
Kapil Chopra, Founder & CEO, Postcard Hotels, was ahead of the trend when he founded luxury boutique hospitality brand Postcard Hotels in 2018. Each property is tucked away in quiet, picturesque locations and allows guests not just privacy but an opportunity to experience their destinations intimately. “People had started to drift away from larger crowded spaces and were on the lookout for hotels that offer individual and authentic experiences. Authenticity and sustainability are increasingly becoming key to one’s choices, not just in travel but also in food, fashion and overall consumption. Covid has just accelerated the trend, it is definitely here to stay. More than ever now,” says Akanksha Lamba, Vice President – Operations, Postcard Hotels.
Chopra’s foresight paid off, especially post-pandemic, where guests have been booking entire Postcard properties for extended stays of up to 12 nights over the past year. While they first noticed this trend at their hotels in Goa in August 2020, Lamba says they’ve recently received similar enquiries for the soon-to-open Postcard Gir Wildlife Sanctuary as well.
Rediscovering the slow life
While it has caused immense disruption, the pandemic has also forced many to re-evaluate their lifestyles, their priorities and their relationships, both with their surroundings and the people in their lives. When conditions permitted travel, consumers began looking for gentle getaways to unwind from the stresses the last year has wrought. “We also observed that most guests did not come with the intention of stepping out, but rather to spend meaningful time connecting with themselves and their loved ones. They’ve enjoyed early evening swims, indulged in fresh authentic food and spent their days reading and playing board games. Basically taking life slow and cherishing time a bit more, while feeling comfortable to do so at The Postcard,” explains Lamba. It’s not just families that have been reserving Postcard properties for themselves, she adds, saying they’ve hosted everyone from groups of friends to top celebrities and even business heads on a workation. Guests also no longer seem to need a special occasion to buy out an entire hotel, either, she tells us.
Privacy, outdoor spaces and unique experiences are pandemic trends that will continue to shape travel and hospitality in the near future, and Postcard Hotels just happen to be the sweet spot. “Even for individual travellers, our expansive properties with limited inventory bring a sense of safety and solitude. You can easily reserve your own private dining space anywhere in the hotel as there are sufficient open spaces. Our hotels are designed to blend in with the destination and give a sense of what’s around—whether that’s through our culinary offerings, through experiences or even through architecture and design. For that reason, a holiday with us can feel complete even without having to step out,” says Lamba. However, she’s quick to add that this isn’t a case of jumping on the bandwagon. Rather, it’s an extension of a vision that has been there from the brand’s inception. “The psychographic of our audience consists of evolved travellers who are looking for exclusivity and personalisation.”
Postcard’s USP has been to marry the intimacy and authenticity of a homestay with the amenities of a luxury hotel. Each of its properties—three in Goa, one each in Sri Lanka and Bhutan, and several more on their way—encourages guests to experience the slow life, aka, “the old way to holiday”. The hotels themselves are intrinsically linked to their surroundings. The Postcard Cuelim, for example, is an expansive space with décor and architectural details reminiscent of an old Portuguese home, complemented by a 350-year-old chapel housed inside the premises. Its six rooms overlook 3,500 acres of lush paddy fields. If you care to wander, the beach is a 15-minute walk away. The staff is also happy to help you explore Goa “the old-fashioned way” with guided heritage walks across ancestral homes, fuelled by chorizo and poee; a boat ride down mangrove forests with expert birders; and surf lessons in the Arabian sea. The upcoming hotel in Karnataka is a 13-key property on a secluded beach, and will be India’s first luxury hotel zero metres from the high tide line. The 15-room The Postcard Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is in the middle of the protected forest that’s home to India’s only Asiatic lions.
“There’s a certain distinctiveness in the experience that most boutique hotels offer. At The Postcard we intend to bring experiential, transformative destinations to our guests. We don’t intend to be in cities, we don’t intend to target business travellers and we’re not competing with the larger brands that do. We always believed that the world of luxury travel was becoming more personal and smaller hotels were the way forward,” Lamba tells us.
The future of hospitality
While Postcard Hotels, in many ways, was prepared for the demands of post-pandemic travel, the brand has instituted heightened safety and hygiene protocol at its properties. It also recognises that its philosophy does not extend only to its guests, but also its own staff. “Our team came first. Securing their accommodation, monitoring their health and immunity, constantly updating them on how to work around the current situation and ensuring that they understand and actively engage in self care has been extremely important to us. Self care and emotional intelligence goes far beyond now, and involves internalising and being mindful of all that’s around you. Being compassionate, aware and empathetic are strong reasons why our employees are so well-recognised and appreciated by our guests,” asserts Lamba.
Acknowledging that the pandemic has been devastating for the hospitality industry, Lamba says it has also been a much needed wake-up call. “One of the key lessons to take away from this situation is the importance of building hotel brands with a strong financial perspective. When something unanticipated like the current pandemic occurs, financial stability provides the necessary cushion to avoid drastic steps with properties and people. Many well established brands reviewed manpower at unprecedented levels because there was practically no revenue for months. Emphasis on cash flow management and de-risking businesses would directly benefit the employees and the economy,” she opines.
“Going forward, it is important to stay positive and use this pandemic as an opportunity to revisit strategies with a longer term perspective. For operations such as ours which are built on a platform of innovation, this time has allowed us to focus on strategic questions such as how to conduct our business, how our cost structures are organised, and also what kind of role our business and industry has to play in the future. It is a time to reflect, for all of us, on what should and should not change in the future. Emerging strong and compassionate from this crisis is what will differentiate good companies from great companies.”