Vacationers head to the hills to de-stress as states start unlock process

Owing to the high demand, hotels’ average daily rates (ADRs) have crossed the 2019 levels. Besides hills and beaches, staycation in city hotels too is back in favour
Hills, wildlife sanctuaries and beaches have once again become the go-to places for vacationers as states unlock after a stringent lockdown. With that, hotels in leisure destinations, particularly hills, are back in demand.   

The latest trend of revenge travel coincides with many states including Maharashtra and Delhi easing the Covid-19 norms. Some states such as Himachal Pradesh have also relaxed the RT-PCR test requirement for travel.

Over the past fortnight, five-star hotel chains including ITC Hotels, Indian Hotels, and premium boutique brand like The Postcard Hotel have seen occupancy touching the optimum level across many properties. Some have even been able to sell out completely.

Owing to the high demand, hotels’ average daily rates (ADRs) have crossed the 2019 levels. Besides hills and beaches, staycation in city hotels too is back in favour.

“The luxury segment will be the first to recover,” said Kapil Chopra, founder and CEO, The Postcard Hotel. For instance, Post Card’s newly opened property in Gir (Gujarat), commanding Rs 20,000 to 22,000 per night, has been fully booked since it opened on June 1.  Most weekends are sold out, according to Chopra. The current booking trend is making Chopra hopeful that  July will be a bumper month for the Goa property. “The forward booking trend is very strong. It is unprecedented,” he said.  

Weekend occupancy in leisure destinations like Karjat and Alibaug are beginning to show recovery compared to last month, pointed out Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice-President Operations at Radisson Hotel Group, South Asia.

“We are also seeing enquiries for weddings and corporate bookings in destinations like Alibaug and Ahmedabad.”  However, changing government norms have made guests cautious while confirming bookings. These are still early trends and a more definitive picture will emerge over the next few weeks, according to Saxena.

Others are witnessing similar trends. “Our properties including ITC Grand Bharat in Gurgaon, WelcomHotel Shimla and the just launched WelcomHotel Tavleen Chail are all sold out,” said the spokesperson at ITC Hotel.  It reflects a positive sentiment around travel, the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson at Indian Hotels said the company's hotels and resorts in destinations such as Rajasthan, Rishikesh, Theog, Corbett, Nashik have witnessed a “substantial increase” in occupancy. Popularity for homestays has also picked up. IHCL’s ama Stays & Trails bungalows in Madh Island, Lonavala and Khadakvalsa and also South Goa have seen consecutive bookings, the spokesperson said.

Manav Thadani, founder, Hotelivate, pointed out that the work from anywhere trend has really helped the homestay segment and people are checking into these properties for long stays. The duration of the stay has doubled and rates have gone up.

Learning from last year’s lockdown, resorts in key leisure locations are fully prepared and are already running on high occupancy over weekends, said Nandivardhan Jain, CEO, Noesis Capital & Advisors. “This has attracted interest from the investor community looking for value acquisition opportunities,” said Jain.

Even lesser known regional brands like Dehradun-based Leisure Hotels are witnessing demand. “Our properties in Kasauli and Dharmshala have touched 65 per cent occupancy level from zero. No one is negotiating. People just want to get away,” said Vibhas Prasad, director at the firm that manages and owns resorts and hotels in Uttarakhand, Himachal and Goa. It charges a room night ranging from Rs 12,000 to Rs 40,000.  

Online travel booking firms are on the same page. Vipul Prakash, Chief Operating Officer, MakeMyTrip, said the booking patterns suggested that confidence was building back in travel with cancellations being limited to only 10 per cent of overall bookings for June. This is equivalent to the number of cancellations made in February.

Nishant Pitti, co-founder and CEO at EaseMyTrip, said the platform experienced a 40 per cent growth in  travel bookings in the past one week for hill stations and nearby tourist spots. “Majority of the bookings are still happening at the last minute instead of advance bookings that happened earlier,” said Pitti.  Going by the current trend, the company expects the market to grow multi-folds by next month as restrictions ease further.  

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