Hotels expand into untapped destinations as travellers look for offbeat locations

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As a growing number of Indian travellers are looking to explore offbeat, non-tourist and non-crowded destinations for leisure trips, leading hotels brands are expanding their footprint in unexplored and drive-to destinations to cater to this growing demand.

For instance, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, which manages over 90 hotels in 55 destinations across India and overseas, recently added Sarovar Portico at Sasan Gir in Gujarat, which is at a driveable distance from Ahmedabad. This year, the Sarovar group also opened new hotels in Bodhgaya (Bihar), Panipat (Haryana), Somnath (Gujarat) — all within driveable distances from nearby cities.

“While hotels in metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata are not seeing much traction, smaller destinations such as Vrindavan (despite being a religious destination) and leisure destinations like Bhimtal (Uttarakhand), Palampur and Mashobra (Himachal Pradesh), which are drivable destinations from Delhi are doing extremely well,” said Nipun Vig, V-P, Operations, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts.

The fear of Covid-19 risk in tourist hotspots and curiosity to explore new destinations are driving Indians to take the roads less traveled.

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Unexplored places

“This is a growing trend and we anticipate leisure travel, especially to motorable destinations, to show a steady increase going forward,” Mandeep Lamba, President (South Asia), HVS Anarock said, adding: “With safety, cleanliness and privacy being their top priorities, a growing number of travellers are seeking vacations at previously unexplored leisure destinations.”

“Outbound Indian luxury travellers are also fueling this demand, as they seek exclusive vacations within the country due to uncertainties related to international travel,” Lamba added.

Sterling Holidays Resorts, one of India’s leading experiential holiday brand, also said that its hotels in Pallaveli in West Godavari (Andhra Pradesh), Anaikatti and Rajakkad (in Kerala) with access to thrilling adventures and wildlife are seeing a huge traction from leisure travellers over the last few months.

“People are also looking at jungle lodges. For instance, places like Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) and Sariska (Rajasthan), which are relatively less known jungle lodges, are doing exceptionally well for us,” said Vikram Lalvani, Chief of Sales, Revenue and Destinations at Sterling Holiday Resorts.

Lalvani further added that Sterling Nature Trails (adventure resorts) located at Durshet, Sajan, Dabhosa and Kundalika areas of Maharashtra are some of the drivable destinations close to Mumbai and Gujarat are picking up traveller attraction ever since it was reopened after the lockdown.

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Fewer additions

Although a growing number of hotel and resort players are signing up new hotels in undiscovered destinations, the overall new hotel additions are starkly less as compared to the previous year.

According to HVS Anarock’s Lamba, hotel companies and owners have been deferring or postponing their hotel signings and openings due to the current uncertainty.

“For instance, over 8,500 branded keys were signed across the country from January-October 2020 as compared to over 14,700 branded keys signed during the same period in 2019,” Lamba said, adding: “Hotel openings have also been significantly lower compared to the previous year, with approximately 3,000 keys being added to the supply during January-October 2020 compared to over 6,500 keys during the same period in 2019.”

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