‘So near, yet so far’ has a welcome connotation in this case, with travel-hungry people choosing a change of scene that doesn’t involve road trips and tests.
It’s no longer all gloom and doom for the city-centric hospitality industry. Lockdown fatigue coupled with a gradual re-opening are fuelling a ‘staycation’ boom for high-end hotels and resorts. Consequently, hotels, witnessing lower occupancy – on account of reduced business traveller check-ins – are being compensated by a significant spike in leisure travel, especially over the weekends.
Expansive outdoor spaces, luxurious rooms, attractive dining options, pools, fitness centres, and spas (in states where these are allowed to function) are attracting families in droves. Couples are opting to enjoy a getaway with a relaxed brunch at high-end restaurants owned by five-star hotels. Understandably, hotels are communicating their COVID-safety protocols and vaccination drives to reassure customers.
It is hard to predict if the welcome spike in staycations is a lasting phenomenon. Many people in north India are heading to hill-stations in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh to beat the gruelling heat. Whereas in Maharashtra, there’s been a spurt of monsoon travel to the ever-popular Khandala and Lonavala, but also to lesser-known destinations such as Bhimashankar and Malshej Ghat, and Matheran, which has just opened up to tourists. Down South, Bengaluru residents are choosing visits to homestays in coffee plantations or tea estates when they get a chance.
But all the images of over-crowded points and traffic jams along popular routes all over the country doing the rounds may just motivate more people to stay put in their cities and enjoy some rest and recuperation with a staycation in urban five stars.