Travel in a post pandemic world is likely to be characterised by a closer focus on domestic travelling. Most international borders are still only partially open and certain countries have opted for what is termed a ‘travel bubble’. What this means is that residents of two nations can travel between either country but not beyond this bubble.
Exploring the vicinity
In emerging economies particularly, the tourism sector accounts for a large share of revenue and employment generation. With the travel restrictions that were announced at the pandemic’s onset, most tourism industry stakeholders were left in a lurch. They were faced with an indefinite future, and none had any forewarning of when normalcy, or a hint of it, may return.
In the months since, governments worldwide have stepped up the call for their residents to explore their own ‘backyards’ — meaning an encouragement to residents to actually go and visit places in their immediate vicinity. From personal experience, I have noted that it is a general tendency to overlook the quiet or picturesque locales that are close to one’s home. Rather, most are taken by some distant glitzy destination that has been well packaged by suave travel marketers. To put it more precisely, a large share of Agra residents will never have actually visited the Taj Mahal although many will likely be familiar with more distant places of interest.
Forgo the usual homogeneity
A tourism sphere that is increasingly finding mention is rural tourism. It allows people to follow the now familiar pandemic protocols. At the same time, it allows for a departure from homogeneity. Allow me to elaborate on the latter concept.
Homogeneity really is a feeling of similarity, of one place or object or even an experience feeling very similar to another. In most of the developed world, for instance, the same hotel chains dot the urban landscape, identical burger joints hog the limelight whether you are in New York or London and even the ‘coveted’ amusement park rides are really quite the same. They offer an ‘experience’ no doubt but beyond the fancy surroundings and the neon lights, there really isn’t something out of the box to take away.
Rural tourism, meanwhile, offers one the opportunity of a more laid back and earthy experience. Each homestay, in particular, is distinct from the other and this uniqueness can be attributed to several facets. A visitor is able to leave his or her urban life and associated stressors aside and simply immerse themselves amid a slower pace, with little by way of noise. In addition, there is also the ability to interact with people whom they would otherwise never have considered meeting.
AirBnB’s comeback with added fury
It is perhaps this reason that AirBnB once again finds itself in the spotlight. At the pandemic’s peak in 2020, most were sceptical of this revolutionary technology firm’s ability to make it to the other side of COVID-19. The naysayers had already predicted its demise and obituaries were being written of how a great organisation was about to meet an untimely end.
Long story short, AirBnB went public with an IPO in end-2020. The company listed its shares based on a valuation of an estimated USD60 billion. However, the naysayers were adequately silenced when the company saw it valuation exceed USD100 billion.
What this clearly illustrates is the fact that ordinary people like you and I are definitely considering more unique experiences rather than the same old drill of showing up to a reception, receiving a key card and plonking on Egyptian cotton sheets. Adding to the homogeneity are the same LED lights overhead and–only goodness knows why–a washroom with a fully transparent glass wall that makes most families quite uncomfortable. And then the archetypal buffet breakfast.
Options are aplenty
If you haven’t already considered it, look up a homestay in the hills. They are the raging trend now, right from the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to even North Bengal and Sikkim. Many of these places have also been built in unique styles using materials that are locally available with little use of brick and mortar. Besides, the food they serve is not the usual oily and spicy affair and the bulk of their produce is actually grown in their own kitchen gardens.
A homestay visit is all the more imperative for children of the current generation. Most apartment dwelling children of today have rarely been extended the opportunity to connect with the more basic elements — of nature and its abundance. We implore you to try an off-beat locale not too far from home. Try it only for a night if you are sceptical. If anything, it will make for a treasure trove of memories to share at a later time. Even more, your children who may otherwise be glued to their devices, may just look up and take note that there is indeed more than just electronic experiences.