#ReviveRebuild | Today’s Traveller initiative “Revive and Rebuild the Hospitality and Travel Industry” invites Rishi Verma, Head of India Subcontinent – RCI to share insights on new challenges in the wake of the second Covid wave and mapping a strategic way forward …
Today’s Traveller: How do you assess the current situation?
Rishi Verma: The year 2020 was a difficult year for all of us and especially so for the travel and tourism sector which bore the brunt of Covid-19. However, the beginning of 2021 looked promising – safety and hygiene continued to remain the topmost focus for travellers, but with the outbreak of the second wave of COVID 19, the environment once again has become ambiguous. We are hoping that with the vaccine now being rolled out to 18 years and above, the situation will hopefully get back to near normal.
As per our outlook, we believe that 2021 may again prove to be the year of road trips and travel bubble destinations Based on our recent booking trends, the destinations which are very high in demand are Goa, Coorg, Ooty, Munnar, Shimla, Manali in domestic circuit, whereas Srilanka and Dubai are preferred options for International or bubble destinations.
Remote working, luxury staycations, pod travel to the concept of ‘bleisure’ combining business and leisure travel will remain to be key trends in 2021 in addition to other key trends.
Domestic travel with a preference for staycations is on the rise. For travellers, domestic travel will be key as safety and cleanliness will continue to be top priorities due to the rising cases.
As per our latest travel trends, the preference for nearby places with private spaces has increased. Top trends among RCI members include offbeat places, like destinations that offer trekking, water sports, adventure activities and are in sync with nature. We feel pet-friendly properties in India are also popular.
Road trips are favoured and travellers are choosing road trips over flights as they choose a safer-perceived way to vacation. We can say that this trend will only continue to see an upward trajectory in the coming months.
Work from Anywhere is a recent phenomena and remote working from anywhere will continue to blur the lines between working and travelling in 2021.
The work from home notion has created a huge demand in the market for dedicated workstations to simplify the work process without any hindrance from internal factors. We anticipate that as the offices remain shut for a long time, work from the resort will be the next emerging trend.
Micro Trips is on the way up.Let’s face it, not everyone in the world has the time, money, or know-how to plan an extended vacation. That’s why 2021 is the year to embrace Micro Trips, short yet experience-dense mini-vacations.
Micro Trips are more work/vacation time-friendly, more budget-friendly, and more schedule-friendly, yet they provide the same cultural and mental benefits as longer vacations do. Though you may only be gone for 3 – 4 nights, short trips that provide stress relief, creative boosts, and cultural expansion will have people leaving their comfort zones regardless of where they are going.
Today’s Traveller: Were you prepared for a second COVID wave scenario and the likelihood of a further setback?
Rishi Verma: In 2021, our parent company’s name changed from Wyndham Destinations to Travel + Leisure Co to bring forth many and new innovative growth possibilities. We continue to seek ways to further enhance the products, solutions, and service to our member base.
This alliance reflects the resilience of our business and our spirit of reinvention. Even as we faced unprecedented circumstances in the past year, we chose to build upon the strength of our core vacation ownership and exchange business to expand our presence in the broader leisure travel market.
Ahead of time, we also introduced RCI in its new avatar “The New Shape of Travel” which enables our members and affiliates to have access to the new RCI Travel service – allows subscribing members to book all their door-to-door travel needs in one place and benefit from exclusive pricing on hotels, flights, car rentals, cruises, destination activities.
For our affiliate members, we adopted a very focused approach wherein we offer them the most competitive digital technology provided by ARN along with a new suite of services that enable custom travel and club solutions. Our affiliate partners and resorts have now migrated to making contactless check-in, pre-booking meals, providing additional sanitization, exclusive and family only entertainment solutions.
We have also introduced RCI Livestream that allows our affiliate partners to engage with their members and prospects, LIVE, from the safety of their home. It is a very interactive and informative tool. Since this is working well for us, we plan to explore virtual tours through RCI TV so members can be assured about their safety before travelling.
Today’s Traveller: What new challenges are likely to take shape?
Rishi Verma: We believe that the New Normal has brought a major shift and change in behaviour in travellers, safety plays a vital role in the choices they make.
There will be a growing need for flexible travel options. The key is to monitor and analyse changing mindsets and emerging habits and adapt rapidly. Today, it is more important than ever, to be empathetic. Even though we are facing challenges, we are encouraged by the news on vaccines and believe that people will be able to travel soon.
Today’s Traveller: The way forward with strategies to rebuild the travel and hospitality industry
Rishi Verma: Trust is everything! Travellers will remain cautious and choose to holiday with brands they trust will keep their safety as the top-most priority. Brands that have proven themselves by going that extra mile for their members, will be preferred.
Every member of RCI global family has been impacted by the challenges and yet, in the midst of it all, together we have found ways to stay connected, support one another, reinvent and keep the business operating.
Some of the product innovations which assist our members enhance exchange protection, products wherein members can book a holiday on exchange and get a refund in event of cancellation due to unforeseen reason.
Our solutions like Radius search allows travellers and members to check RCI’s affiliated resorts within a radius of 600 Km from their location. A perfect solution for domestic and short weekend travel.
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