There is an increase in demand across all hospitality sectors as tourists flock to popular areas.
In less than a month, Himachal Pradesh has seen 600,000-700,000 tourists, prompting the state’s chief minister to issue a directive that hotels follow covid-19 protocols.
The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday referred to the heavy footfall of tourists in tourist destinations as “frightening” after being captured on viral photos and videos.
Authorities in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were asked to ensure people respect covid protocols and use respiratory protection and social distancing norms.
Hotel firms, however, have welcomed the tourist influx after having lost two consecutive summer peak seasons in 2020 and 2021 due to covid restrictions. Having RT-PCR tests removed from state-level requirements has boosted traveller confidence, already high thanks to the immunization campaign.
Online travel agent Yatra.com said North Indian hill stations like Mussoorie and Shimla have seen a healthy surge in bookings post the second wave.
In addition, destinations such as Kasauli, Uttarakhand, Lonavala, Shimla, Agra, Manali and Saputara are seeing an increase in queries. The luxury hotels in big cities have also seen a steady increase in city breaks,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder and chief operating officer, corporate travel and head of industry relations, Yatra.
The hospitality company ITC Hotels, which launched two new properties in Himachal Pradesh recently (Chail and Shimla) saw brisk business as well.
The hotel chain said that it has no rooms available any longer at ITC Grand Goa, ITC Grand Bharat, ITC Rajputana and ITC Mughal, Welcomhotel The Savoy in Mussoorie, Welcomhotel Coimbatore, Welcomhotel Shimla, Welcomhotel Chail and Welcomhotel Pine ’n Peak.
“There is definitely a resurgence of motorable getaways, especially at Welcomhotels. The hills and beaches are normally the quickest to recover, and this time again, we are seeing a lot of interest being generated for these properties,” said Anil Chadha, chief operating officer, ITC Hotels.
Kerrie Hannaford, vice-president-commercial, Accor India and South Asia, said, “Last-minute bookings are driving demand for our hotels. We anticipate the last week of July and the first week of August to see an even further uplift in occupancy.”
In addition, hill stations near metros-such as Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie, Lonavala and Mysore-are gradually growing in demand, according to Yatish Jain, chief growth officer, OYO INSEA.
“As restrictions continue to ease, domestic tourism will continue to bring relief to business, with demand mainly stemming from road trips to local destinations, staycations and workcations,” he added.
Travellers are choosing spacious rooms and open areas when booking leisure holidays, according to Club Mahindra.
“We have reopened some of our resorts across the country as well. While there is a visible demand for our newly launched resort in Netrang (Gujarat) and Alibaug (Maharashtra), our resorts in Himachal and Uttarakhand remain popular in the North,” said Pratik Mazumder, chief marketing officer, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Ltd.
Sterling Holiday Resorts Ltd says reservations for July are healthy, having 35 beach resorts, river resorts, mountain resorts, heritage resorts, and pilgrimage resorts.
“The lead time has shortened (people are not booking much in advance). To that extent, July is seeing a faster pace of pick-up. August shall pick up soon, given the shortened lead times,” said Vikram Lalvani, chief of revenue, sales and destinations, Sterling Holiday Resorts Ltd.
Demand patterns, Lalvani said, vary between weekdays and weekends.
“There are a lot of guests choosing to stay over weekdays this time looking for a quieter holiday,” he added.
Meanwhile, luxury holiday home rental chains and private stay chains have also done well.
In Maharashtra, most of Saffronstays’ luxury holiday homes are already full over the weekend.
“Each Wednesday, when we look at our booking calendars at the end of the day, we barely have availability—maybe 4-5 homes that again get booked by Friday. It’s mostly people who are planning a celebration who book in advance, say maybe a month or so. The others are mostly booking two to three weeks prior to their stay,” said Devendra Parulekar, the founder of SaffronStays.