Look beyond the horizon

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Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, travel has grounded to a complete halt. Critical client meetings have been moved to Zoom, frequent-flier cards have gathered dust and we communicate with colleagues, friends and family around the world without jumping on a plane.

Uncertain is a buzzword making its way into most conversations at the moment, on travel specifically or when speaking about the future in general.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2019, travel and tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact accounts for 10.3 percent of the global GDP and 330 million jobs around the world (that is 1 in 10 jobs).

The damage done by the pandemic is yet to be completely accounted for and not only in terms of revenue lost, but also from the loss of jobs and more importantly livelihood, for the multitude of people working in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. The crisis has left the industry at rock bottom. With many airlines going under, it seems likely that many of those jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon — if ever.

Prior to the pandemic, with the economy on solid ground, investment in the travel industry boomed. Now, this massive engine of growth has been thrown into reverse as Covid-19 continues to ping-pong around the globe.

But alas that was the economy we once knew.

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We’re all struggling to understand how quickly travel will recover in terms of the magnitude of the impact the pandemic has caused. Recovery from past events like 9/11 or the global financial crisis generally took two to three years, but even then these events did not entail the months-long shutdown of virtually all of global travel.

And health concerns also were not an issue in either of the events. And that makes it even harder to predict how soon fliers may feel comfortable exposing themselves to strangers once again, or fellow passengers not wearing masks and a general discomfort around flying. The scars inflicted on travel and tourism look to be permanent as most tourism related companies shift away from massive travel budgets and experiential living becomes a memory.

The former strength of the travel and leisure sector was a convergence of demographic and economic factors such as lifestyle changes among the middle class who had been bitten by the ‘flying bug’ and were eager to see the world beyond the local tourism segments, availability of resources to spend freely on leisure and business travel, and millennial and solo travellers who lived to taste the bigger chunk of travel related experiences.

This massive pullback in both business and leisure travel is apt to inflict the deepest economic pain on both the airline as well as the hospitality sectors. According to IATA the industry is unlikely to come back on its feet as it were to pre-covid days, until the 2024 or even later, provided the vaccine is available soon.

All over the globe with countries most dependant on tourism such as Mexico, Spain, Italy, China and Australia, are struggling to find an answer to the crises as cases show a resurgence of a second wave.

And that is the case of just the developed world, many emerging markets that are highly dependent on travel and tourism will be devastated if the pandemic continues to spread over time.

Travel is a massive services export for many countries. As the recession caused by the pandemic becomes apparent, the task to rebuild and renew the travel and hospitality industry once again will be a long and ongoing process for years to come.

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So how does the future of travel look like? 

Well travelling will make a come-back again, that’s for sure. But it will be a privilege with people making considered choices about not only how and where they travel but also why they want to travel.

After being cooped up for so long, travellers will more responsible and conscientious as they seek out serene holiday spots, which will give them peace, simplicity and a desire to reconnect with nature.

People are likely to take fewer holidays, with the journey and experience being just as important as the destination.

The travel corridors which have recently been created by many countries are a great first step in rebooting the travel industry. In the immediate future, both staycations and trips which offer greater connection with local communities, and supporting travel brands that prioritize and implement environmentally sustainable tourism will lead the way.

Of course the truly deciding factor will be safety – moving forward travellers will want clear and transparent communication from the tourism councils, government, destinations, tour operators and other travel providers reassuring them that it is safe to travel.

The situation that we are currently experiencing is universal. And although is a time none of us ever wanted to see in our lifetime, what makes me hopeful is that this situation has somehow generated the opportunity for people to feel united again. This challenging period made people more sensitive and connected to each other, more concerned about their health and well-being, keener to find their real selves, and also to look for balance and meaning in their lives.

It was also a chance for nature to take a break and breathe, as well as to remind us of the importance of living in simplicity and purity.

As Ancient Greeks used to say, “All in good measure.”

-Madhavi

 

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OS- Bloomberg Opinion;BBC News;Forbes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The charm of Home stays can never go away!

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Over the past decade, a booming demand of tourists had AirBnb connect fly-by-night tourists and short-term renters to “cozy” lofts and five-star “experiences” at homes in exotic locations.

But today if you could freely walk the world’s most famous city streets, you would see humanity stopped in its tracks. National lockdowns and global travel bans have emptied bustling hotspots like Sydney’s Opera House, Bangkok’s night markets, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Colosseum in Rome. Global tourism is slammed shut, and the ecosystem that sprang up around them has fallen flat.

Along with air travel, the hotel and AirBnb segment too witnessed a massive drop in numbers. Apartments -read AirBnb- once reserved for well-heeled tourists have seen bookings slump anywhere from 41% to 96%. Some of them are either on long-term rentals or recently offered to health workers in solidarity.

However as lockdown restrictions are eased in several countries, many in the travel industry are hoping that the businesses can resume in the coming months.

Although it is too soon in the day to have the same number of holiday makers as pre -COVID, the entire travel industry is pretty gung ho about the fact that by the end of the year, people would once again have the confidence to travel just as before December 2019

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Of course the onus to maintain sanitation and safety falls on all the stake-holders here, and with higher cleaning standards, hygiene and physical (and not ‘social’) distancing, business will once again continue in a new form, and of course as a new normal.

Throughout Europe where customer confidence is returning post the lifting of lockdown, domestic AirBnb reservations are seeing a glimmer of hope for the Hospitality industry that’s been the hardest hit.

Hotel data confirms that most properties almost everywhere in the world are operating at just 10-15 per cent occupancy. COVID-19 is having a more devastating and sudden impact on the travel business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.

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And to say that restoring customer trust in this global crisis is of utmost importance for returning customers, both in the air and on ground.

AirBnb had announced that a new cleaning protocol with expert-backed cleaning materials for hosts will include a learning and certification programme.

It is up to the host to maintain strict cleanliness and preventive measures. The protocol will also help to space out reservations to have 24 hours between people entering a room. . Alternatively, hosts can monitor physical distancing by instituting a 72-hour booking buffer in between stays.

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Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies and protocols. Most hotels are using “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls. The famous ‘breakfast buffets’ are a thing of the past. Most of them are making sure that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and are also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

The major concern here is around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust. The tidal wave of cancellations that came along with COVID-19 suddenly made travelers aware of the wide range of terms in bookings — from no-penalty, last-minute cancellations to full liability even months in advance of a trip. Of course this trend will still continue.

Travel in this new world will look different, and feel different. Although it will be a long time before things go back to being anywhere near normal, I am sure along with other things, AirBnb will also evolve accordingly.

As travelers are more likely to skip big cities, staycations in domestic markets and home rentals in smaller townships will see a boom, which will also contribute to positive growth in other micro businesses such as local eateries and local crafts.

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People will want options that are closer to home, a lot safer, and more affordable. But people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them—human connect.  And they also want to go back -back to their roots, back to the basics, and back to what is truly special —everyday people who host in their homes and offer memorable experiences!

-Madhavi

OS: Theprint; Euronews; CNtraveller
PC:Skift;Tripoto;Airbnb;NBC15

 

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

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A long time since you packed your bags and set off on that much needed holiday.

A long time, since you were excited to see that landmark and click pictures near it.

A long time since you planned and wanted to take that road trip with your friends.

A long time, since you met your family and friends living across the shores.

A long time since you exchanged hugs and kisses and had some amazing meals with them.

A long time, since those early morning wake up calls, to watch the sunrise or have a swim with the dolphins.

A long time since you walked the unfamiliar streets of a new destination and caught the eye of a stranger.

A long time, since you had a stroll in the green spaces of a different city.

A long time, since you were stopped in your tracks  by an entertainer in the middle of a piazza.

A long time, since you skipped lunch to gorge on a variety of ice creams and frozen gelatos

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Days, weeks and months flew by. Hasn’t it?

Oh how I am craving to do all this real soon.

My heart is longing to travel the world again.

I am so eager to stand in the queue of the immigration again.

To wait in line for boarding a flight.

For sleeping through a long haul flight.

For smelling the clean pristine air of a different country.

To eat at new places , to sightsee , to shop, so much more to do yet …….

The good life is calling out to me.

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And I am very sure that we all will be able to soon fly out of our nests to roam the world like free birds.

SOON !!

Keeping a very very positive mindset here !!!!!

-Madhavi

 

 

 

When planes resume flying, this is what you should be prepared for.

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We may have to wait for some more time, before we pack our bags and look forward to flying again, but in the meanwhile let’s have a look at how different it will be flying in a post pandemic world.

There are going to be massive changes that will need to be put in motion by multiple stake holders, airlines, and governments around the world to get air travel up and running.

The MOCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation, India ) is considering drafting of a new standard operating procedure to be followed by the airlines and airports across the country.

A multi level course of action will be emphasised by everyone concerned.

Aviation post covid

 

Some of the points are as follows

Leaving for the airport:-

Most flyers will have to install the Aarogya App on their smart phones as a requirement to travel.

No cabin baggage will be permitted as yet.

Reach airport at least 3 hours before flight time.

Web check in or self check in only will be permitted in the initial days.

Protective gears like masks, gloves, will be mandatory for all passengers.

 At the terminal:-

Passengers who show signs of fever or any symptoms on their Aarogya app will not be allowed to enter the terminal.

Thermal screening of all passengers will be mandatory at the embarkation and disembarkation points.

All passengers will do a self check in and have a contactless check in.

All payments for tickets will have to be made digitally.

No cabin baggage will be allowed, except for laptop / ladies purse.

Limit weight and no of pieces of checked baggage.

Passenger will self check in and drop baggage as per the airlines guidelines.

 Security gates:-

Social distancing will have to be followed as per govt guidelines.

Pat down checks will have to be minimised.

Trays will be sanitised after each check.

Sanitizers will have to be kept for use of passengers before and after security.

Bio-metrics will have to be enhanced at each airport.

 Boarding:-

Self scanning of e boarding passes at gates.

Boarding to commence an hour before departure.

Gates to close 20 mins before the departure time.

Boarding to be done in batches of 10 passengers.

No cabin baggage will be allowed.

In-flight:-

Thermal screening of all embarking passengers by crew is mandatory.

Sanitised aircrafts, including tray tables, seat arm rests, mandatory after each flight.

Passengers to wear mask at all times within the aircraft.

Crew to avoid any non essential contact with passenger.

Avoid or minimise use of Lavatory.

No meal/ water service allowed.

Suspension of all on-board sales.

Last three rows kept vacant for isolation –just in case.

Arrival :-

Stagger passenger movement while disembarking.

Allow passengers to disembark from front according to rows.

Thermal screening of all passengers at disembarkation.

Baggage:-

Disinfection of all baggage at before placing at the carousel.

Staggered placement of baggage on the carousel.

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With such unprecedented times, not only the airline and airport crew, but also each passenger will have to take the initiative to make sure all safety protocol is followed to stop the spreading of the virus, and embrace the new normal.

Let’s make our land as well our skies safe to fly again.

-Madhavi

Go local

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According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the travel and tourism sector accounts for approximately 10 percent of total jobs and almost 10% GDP globally. That’s an estimated 8.8 trillion U.S. dollars annually.

On April 3, WTTC said in a release that 75 million travel tourism jobs are at risk globally due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The common takeaway within the Indian travel fraternity right now is to focus single-mindedly on promoting domestic tourism immediately. It is imperative that governments and tourism bodies put their focus exclusively on regenerating Domestic Tourism and Aviation, as it is one of the first levers of recovery for the local economy: restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc, they all depend on local travel until foreign travelers return.

After months of isolation and self-induced coma, as cities end their lock downs, people will be allowed to start roaming the streets again.

They will become more interested than ever in discovering their own city as well as the local/ domestic area.

And as when planes start flying again, most travellers will essentially be looking for travelling within the country and taking short ‘ feel good ’ trips rather than going on long haul international trips.

Most travellers would be vary of taking and exploring cities with walking tours, with a group of strangers in a foreign country, due to some restrictions that might still be in place. For instance, traveling abroad might be limited due to safety issues.

As such, local/domestic travel will remain the only viable option for travel, with most travelers interested in quick getaway trips, with a focus on wellness and sustainable tourism.

When travel starts to recover, it will begin with flights and accommodation at the forefront, so naturally the expectation of the people will be to become more interested in budget tours, price-sensitive activities and better value for money and budget-friendly activities post-crisis.

The focal point will be specifically on short vacations, boutique or quieter hotels with fewer rooms and smaller groups or individual solo trips.

India’s strength has been its diversity of tourism potential with mountains, hills, beaches, backwaters, jungles, forests, flora, heritage, spirituality, pilgrimage, wellness, sheer relaxation, arts and crafts, cuisines, and cultures.

However, what we need to understand is that the old world order no longer exists. It’s kaput.

We need to have a new vision board for the future. Minimalistic design with a deep rooted but conscious approach keeping hygiene as the top priority will be the new bespoke for hotels, restaurants and airlines.

Curated, custom and tailor made vacation with mindful travelling along with an affordable cost will be the new norm.

-Madhavi

 

 

 

The COMEBACK PLAN

How the INDIAN TOURISM & HOSPITALITY Industry will open its doors post Covid-19

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The pandemic has crushed the global economy and shut down the tourism industry. Everything is falling like a ton of bricks. It’s like a torpedo has just hit the ship. It may take months or maybe even seasons to come back and stand on its feet if data is anything to go by.

While the entire tourism industry which includes Airlines, Hotels, Airports and all its partners are sending out their prayers and thoughts to the millions of people across the globe who have unfortunately suffered the wrath of the Virus, they are also gearing up and committing to making a difference in whatever way they can. Whether it is evacuating people from wherever they are stranded, to chartering flights in providing essential supplies and being an important link in the supply chain or even opening their doors to the community at large by providing food and shelter anywhere required.

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HOTELS are working hard in preparation of reopening their doors post the lockdown, ensuring that the facilities are safe, clean and ready, making sure that patrons feel secure in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors they know the hotels commitment to their health and safety is of paramount importance and a priority.

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Deep cleaning and sanitization procedures will be carried out according to the new stricter norms. Rooms may have minimalistic approach and amenities could include sanitizers and wipes.

Most hotels have already started virtual trainings for the teams on the new standards, be it the airport assistance, front of the house, in-room delivery, laundry or the kitchen and have come up with new seating plans for the meeting spaces, restaurants and staff cafeteria.

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AIRBNB distinguished itself with an inventory of mostly short-term rentals. It offered the hosts a steady income to cover up their mortgage payments etc and offered would-be travelers who couldn’t afford fancy hotels, a chance to rent a room or a home in a cool glitzy neighborhood for maybe half of the cost of a hotel stay.

What would have been a roaring public listing announcement this year has now flown out of the window so to speak. And even if things start limping back to ‘normalcy’ by the end of the year let’s not forget the underlying issue here: how will AIRBNB find customers willing to stay in other people’s homes after all this?

Unfortunately, no one knows how long the crisis will last or how it will change consumers’ behavior. As the world puts on surgical masks and latex gloves, the corporate sterility of a Sheraton or a Hyatt suddenly seems a lot more appealing than somebody else’s bed. So has the AIRBNB’s moment ended? Only time will tell.

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With unprecedented consequences, many AIRLINES have grounded all, or almost all of the planes in their fleet. Several airlines are now flying passenger aircraft as freighters. Unless the government provides a stimulus to the cash strapped airlines, the year 2020 will see a lot more airlines staying grounded rather than up there at 35000 feet flirting with the skies.

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An action-oriented, and digitally supported “flight plan” is imperative for airlines to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. One of countless air-travel challenges will be on getting passengers off their plane and through passport control, baggage reclaim and arrivals without putting them in close proximity to each other.

Airlines will have to accelerate consumer confidence about the safety in flying again, making sure to enhancing the need for sanitization of the aircraft after each route.

Assigning the necessary space for people on flights won’t be any easier. Armrests, tray tables and seat-belt buckles will have to be disinfected after every journey; and in-flight magazines and all other reading material have been removed.

Of course the ground turnaround time will have to be re planned for all LCCs – for whom timing was of paramount importance in pre Covid-19 days.

Airlines will have to begin imposing specific limitations for passengers, including requirements before boarding and have stringent security measures put in place at  boarding , such as mandatory health screenings or certificates, carrying personal water bottles, wearing masks and gloves at all times during the duration of the flight, and limit or refrain from carrying cabin baggage .

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Post COVID-19 AIRPORTS will have the gigantic task of maintaining social distancing through-out the terminal buildings inside as well as at the approach. What they will also need to work on is managing a contactless passenger process to avoid the risk of infection. E boarding cards, self -Check-in kiosk and Bag Tag printing, Self Service Bag Drop facility, Biometrics, will have to be implemented at airports across the country.

Each airport will be responsible to sanitize, maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of the passenger processing equipment units used at the airport, including boarding pass printing kiosks, bag tag printers, digital payment modes, card machines and scanners, security zones, trays to scan cabin bags, laptops etc.

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Sanitizers will have to be placed at all the locations that involve touching of the equipment before and after the process zone.

In the days and weeks following September 11 of 2001, the world changed. We all just felt it in our bones that nothing would ever be the same again. There was a pre-9/11 world and we are now looking at a post COVID-19 world.

Staff of food delivery companies sit on social distancing chairs due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as they wait for their costumers' orders at a department store in Bangkok

While the 2008 financial crisis changed the economy, 9/11 changed us; it bought out our worst fears into the open. It created a shift in thinking and our sense of self. It changed how we viewed the world. There was a “lost innocence.” And as the Coronavirus has rapidly unfolded in the past few months, we feel that way again, on a massive global scale.

From how we work, travel, and conduct our day-to-day lives, everything is going to be different. We can see that a change is coming.

Let’s hope this change is a positive one. And this change of a ‘new normal ‘offers us a clean slate to decide on and create a better and brighter future for each one of us and for all of humanity.

 

-Madhavi

 

How COVID-19 will change the way you travel

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COVID -19 is like the monster that engulfed the entire world in its pandemic circle too fast. Most countries did not have time to even prepare for the basics, leave aside eventualities.

Besides targeting people’s health this pandemic has also devastated businesses around the globe leading to unprecedented job losses, closures of establishments and doom as far as economy goes – worst since the Great Depression of 1930s.

Every component of the Travel and Tourism industry, including air, rail,  ground transport  and hotels & restaurants are the most severely hit sectors globally, as the outbreak continues to take its toll.

What is now important is to try to plan ahead of the curve , to re-imagine and re-shape the new reality of travel.

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Social distancing – the new norm?

After this contagion has been contained, international travel may not be a top priority for the majority of the global population, partly out of fear (until a vaccine is found), and partly due to the collapse of the economy.

Airlines and airports will have to work together in tandem to bring back customer confidence, and to support a new way of travelling defined by social distancing and increased sanitization.

Although compulsory, this could be particularly challenging for smaller airports which tend to have large crowds of people due to relatively small spaces.

Managing large queues in typically congested areas such as check-in halls and security/immigration checkpoints poses an additional challenge.

Queue management will have to be enforced strictly which could ‘up your time taken door to door’ with longer pre check in times and longer wait at security and immigration.

Of course technology will have to take a leap forward and enable airports and airlines overcome the hurdles of this new reality; besides a lot of self discipline amongst travellers.

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Automation will become paramount

All elements of the industry will have to make swift progress to re-imagine, re-shape and re-invent travel.

A range of contactless, self-service technologies to screen the vital signs of passengers, and baggage drops will have to be implemented by majority of airports. And for this the demand for automation, robotics and biometrics, will only become stronger.

The implementation of biometric E-gates may somewhat cut queuing times in the future but getting a number of airports e-enabled could be a mammoth task as of now.

With a lot of people unlikely to be wanting to touch surfaces and interact with agents as little as possible, automating as many passenger processes as possible will be crucial.

Maybe scanners on the lines of CCTV and surveillance platforms could be adapted to spot passengers who are indicating potential illness symptoms.

And of course carrying a certificate of immunity along with other travel documents will become mandatory.

To take things really out of hand, so to speak, passengers may turn to using their own devices at every touch point – right from checking in and navigating through the terminal, to controlling In flight entertainment  creating a real opportunity for airlines to promote relevant ancillary services though their mobile apps.

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Reconsider flight schedules

Most airlines especially those who have quick turnarounds between flights will have to look at rescheduling their time table to ensure thorough sanitizing of the aircraft while on the ground/in transit.

Cabin decontamination will have to be given centre stage to reassure passengers and crew that the cabins are sanitized and healthy.

However, reduced turnaround time has always been a weapon for airlines to cut costs, and also to keep airports profitable, so this would certainly pose a big challenge to the industry.

Also in the immediate future airlines will also have to consider using “social distancing” within the aircraft. The “seat separating” approach in which every second seat in the aircraft would have to be left unoccupied.

This would present another financial blow to airlines. But looking at a different point of view here, giving passengers a vacant space could also provide a sort of “a new premium travel experience” since passengers are guaranteed of having an empty seat next to them.

Although this could have a positive passenger experience so to speak, will the airlines charge more in such case? …. and more importantly will the passengers be willing to pay more.

If industry veterans are to be believed it will take a year to 18 months to reach anywhere near pre-crisis traffic levels, and the industry may not record pre-COVID-19 traffic volumes again before the end of 2021.

But at the same time, it is important to remember that while this crisis has put immediate growth ambitions on hold; all stakeholders should use the real opportunity for meaningful innovation and transformation to be accelerated.

Ultimately, airports and airlines must take action now to help secure consumer confidence and ensure they are well placed when the demand for air travel inevitably returns; and also be future-ready!

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-Madhavi

 

 

OS:FTE
OP: AirlineTrends;TravelDaily; GoogleNews

Travel Plans gone bust?Take a virtual tour of these top UK tourist attractions.

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A worldwide lockdown doesn’t have to bring back the fear of missing out on your dream  holiday you had planned months back.

Why not make the most of your stay -at- home time and enjoying your day as best as possible?

From Buckingham Palace to the Lake District National Park: Take a virtual tour to these top UK tourist attractions from the comfort of your own home – thanks to amazing interactive virtual tours and webcams.

Featured below are UK’s top online tours for royal residences, museums and galleries, national parks and more thanks to the incredible webcams and virtual tours on their websites.

 

The National Gallery

The National Gallery, in collaboration with Google Street View, has an online tour of its fascinating paintings across seven of its rooms and its central hall.

According to the gallery, those logging on can look at ‘Renaissance masterpieces from Northern Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany, including works by Titian, Veronese, and Holbein’.

To take an online tour, visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours.

 

The Beatles Abbey Road 360

An incredible interactive panoramic image by britishtours.com allows you to explore the instantly recognisable graffitied sign and zebra crossing outside London’s Abbey Road Studios – made famous by The Beatles.

By zooming around, you can see the leafy streets of North London and a family trying to recreate the famous Abbey Road album cover.

To check out the image, visit www.britishtours.com/360/beatles-abbey-road.

 

Victoria & Albert Museum

London’s V&A Museum doesn’t offer an interactive virtual tour, but you can browse static images of some of the stunning artefacts that it has showcased via its website.

The museum says: ‘From ancient Chinese ceramics to Alexander McQueen evening dresses, take an incredible journey through 5,000 years of human creativity with our online collections.’

To peruse the V&A collections, visit https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections?type=featured.

 

The Royal Academy of Arts’ online drawing class

If you want to brush up on your art skills, The Royal Academy of Arts’ website has an online life drawing tutorial.

The anatomy class was originally broadcast in February 2019 and features a male model as well as a miniature horse.

To have a go at the class, visit www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/watch-life-drawing-live-anatomy-class. And have some paper and a pencil to hand.

 

Tate Britain

The works on display at the Tate Britain can be explored thanks to the gallery’s collaboration with Google Street View.

There are also more than 270 items in its collection that can be viewed on the site.

To meander past the Tate Britain’s works, visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/tate-britain.

 

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo might be off-limits for now, but you can still keep an eye on the antics of some of the animals there thanks to a series of live webcams.

The cams have been placed in the enclosures of the pandas, penguins, tigers and koalas. Don’t worry if you can’t see the animals at first – they may just be lurking out of shot.

To keep up to date with the creatures, log on to www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams.

 

British Museum

The British Museum’s collection spans over two million years of human history – and it can be explored online.

Thanks to Google Street View, history buffs can view artefacts including the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies.

To step inside a digital version of the museum visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-museum.

 

Hidcote Manor Gardens

Located in the Gloucestershire village of Hidcote Bartrim, Hidcote Manor Gardens is a series of outdoor spaces brimming with colourful plants and flowers.

And thanks to a bloomin’ marvellous 360-degree interactive feature on the National Trust website, you can wander amongst them from the comfort of your own lockdown HQ. Turn on the sound effects to hear birds chirping.

To gaze upon the wonders of nature visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote/features/hidcote-virtual-tours.

 

Lake District National Park

The stunning Lake District National Park has a series of webcams placed at its most beautiful sights.

By logging on, you can see live scenes from Windermere, Conniston Water, Derwentwater, Ullswater, Keswick and Skiddaw.

To check them out, visit www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/webcams-videos-and-photos/webcams.

 

Sissinghurst Castle

Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent, has a stunning array of gardens and is best known for its blooms of white roses in the summer.

And on the National Trust website, keen gardeners can explore both the rose garden and courtyard as well as the library in the castle’s stable.

To see more, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden/features/sissinghurst-castle-virtual-tours.

 

Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working mill in Cambridgeshire.

Online, you can take a tour of the original dining room, formal garden and tapestry hall.

To start exploring, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey-gardens-and-lode-mill/features/anglesey-abbey-virtual-tours.

 

Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens

Two of London’s most famous parks, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens, can be explored via Google Street View.

You can tour Hyde Park’s education centre as well as meander around its footpaths and see Kensington Palace, the official home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

To get exploring, visit www.royalparks.org.uk/learn/learn-in-hyde-park-and-kensington-gardens/planning-your-visit/our-facilities/virtual-tour.

 

A la Ronde

A La Ronde is an 18th-century, 16-sided house located in Lympstone, Devon, that is owned by the National Trust.

Online there is a virtual tour of its ornate shell gallery and cosy drawing room as well as a panoramic view across the River Exe from its gantry.

To take a peek, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/a-la-ronde/features/a-la-ronde-virtual-tours.

 

Giant’s Causeway

The rugged landscape of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a sight to behold – in real life and online.

On the National Trust website you can take a virtual tour of the landmark from four different angles – the Grand Causeway, Aird Snout, Giant’s Port and Port Noffer.

To check it out, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/features/take-a-virtual-tour-of-the-giants-causeway and remember it comes complete with the sounds of crashing waves and birds.

 

Buckingham Palace

Royal fans can venture inside Buckingham Palace and explore three of the rooms – from their own home.

They can discover the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room and the Grand Staircase. Users can click on the icons to learn more about the rooms and the objects in them.

To catch a sneak peek, visit www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace.

 

Palace of Holyroodhouse

It’s not just the Queen’s official residence you can tour virtually.

You can also discover three of the rooms at her official Scottish home, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The rooms you can explore are the Grand Stair, the Morning Drawing Room and the Royal Dining Room.

To see the rooms, visit www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-palace-holyroodhouse.

 

Houses of Parliament

No area of the Houses of Parliament is off-limits in this 360-degree virtual tour.

Online you can discover parts of the grand, historic building, including the Central Lobby, the Peers’ Corridor, the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

To step inside, visit www.parliament.uk/visiting/virtualtour/.

 

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Brighton’s Royal Pavilion has a virtual tour of four of its rooms, with each providing a 360-degree angle.

Not only will those logging on get to see inside the banqueting room, great kitchen, music room and the usually off-limits red drawing room, you can also listen to an audio guide.

To find out more, visit brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion/whattosee/virtual-tour/.

 

Canterbury Cathedral

There are several areas of Canterbury Cathedral that the public can enjoy online.

These are the crypt, the quire, the nave and Trinity Chapel.

To start a tour, visit www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit/information/tour/.

 

RAF Museum

The RAF Museum in London has virtual tours of several of its collections and exhibitions.

These include the Grahame White Watch Office, the historic hangars and Bomber Hall.

To fly in, log on to www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/things-to-see-and-do/virtual-tours.aspx.

 

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum has a collaboration with Google Street View so naturalists can explore the venue from home.

Large parts of the museum can be discovered, although some of the exhibits in the pictures may have changed since the tour was generated.

To virtually visit the museum, visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/natural-history-museum.

 

Stonehenge

Bring the mysteries of Stonehenge in Wiltshire onto your computer screen thanks to the English Heritage website 360-degree tour.

It puts you inside the monument – with clickable white circles revealing more about the unfathomable structure.

To explore, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/history-and-stories/stonehenge360/.

 

 

Stay home-stay Safe. This too shall pass.

-Madhavi

 

 

 

OS-DailyMail.co.uk

 

 

Ecotourism-the need of the hour

kaala-pathar-beach

Ecotourism also called sustainable tourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

Ecotourism is a part of environmental conservation, and a form of sustainable travel that supports the local environment instead of putting more pressure on it and exploiting its resources.

Things are rarely simple, however, and ecotourism is a complex concept. Its importance is growing more and more each year, as more and more people travel farther and farther away.

houseboat-kerala

The most important thing here is how aware are you as a tourist. Not only should you be aware of your impact both on the local environment and on the local community, but you should try, within reasonable limits, to reduce this impact. Common themes in this context are recycling, responsible water consumption, local craftsmanship, and cycling or walking as opposed to driving. A great emphasis is placed on protecting local species, especially the threatened species.

It’s also important not to be fooled by pleasant words — a vacation isn’t “ecotourism” just because it says so on the brochure, without any actual justification.

Ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, and tour operators will try to lure clients using eco-advertising.

self-drive-nz

Looking at things from a wider perspective, it’s also about the size of the groups. You can’t do mass-ecotourism, it’s an oxymoron — ecotourism has to be done in small or medium groups.

If the industry sources are to be believed, the world’s airlines are estimated to be carrying close to 5.9 billion passengers by 2030. There’s no getting around it: as living standards increase globally, tourism is set to grow. Which means we will obviously be putting a huge burden on the already crumbling environments, as tourism places a substantial burden on ecosystems?

Tourism also necessitates additional infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodging. Oftentimes, local communities are not able to sustainably offer these conditions and the results are devastating. Especially in vulnerable areas, the increase in visitors can lead to significant environmental degradation. Wherever people go, they leave behind garbage – and even if it is left in bins, it can still create a dangerous imbalance.

Safaris and animal photographing can scare creatures. Feeding wildlife can teach them bad habits and leave them depending on humans. Even just walking can lead to soil erosion and destruction of animal paths. It can be hard to accept, but everything we do has an impact on wildlife – we should be conscious of this.

The world absolutely needs more ecotourism. It teaches travelers to be more attuned to the pristine areas of the world, it helps educate people, and it provides funds for conservation as well as for local communities

Agreed that the terms ‘ecotourism’ and ‘sustainable tourism’ are an oxymoron on the whole, and that you can’t travel in a way that helps the environment, since you will be leaving your carbon footprint as you fly.

But there is still so much you can do to reduce your impact and at least in some aspects, even make a positive difference. There is always room for improvement. Here’s how.

  • Minimize impact. If you must, travel by plane. If you can avoid it, try a train instead. Walk or bike instead of driving or at the very least, use public transportation. Respect local resources and don’t waste.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. If it’s real ecotourism, much of the money you’re paying will go to conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. Buy local, authentic products – they’re higher quality, genuine, and they support the locals. This way, they get much more financial benefits than from mass tourism – even if the number of tourists is much lower.
  • An important fact of eco-friendly travels is avoiding “green” traps. Some people mistake any form of nature travel with ecotourism. Just because you’re in nature doesn’t mean you’re doing something right – on the contrary, it often means that your impact is high and negative. Things like jungle travelor adventure travel are not eco-friendly and shouldn’t be confused as such even though many touristic operators use buzz words like “green” or “eco-friendly” – this is a clear case of green washing.

Safareya local

That’s the bottom line; ecotourism should concern three main things:

  1. the wellbeing of the local environment
  2. the wellbeing of the locals
  3. The high-quality experience of the tourist.

 

It’s a way to make a massive difference and it’s something which I hope more and more people will start doing.

alberta-attraction-banff-417074

-M

 

 

Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

vranasi

Varanasi also known as Benaras or Kashi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is regarded as the holiest place in the world in Hinduism.

According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.  In Hindu cosmology, the city is considered the, “center of Earth”, and most religious activity here occurs around stair structures called ‘Ghats’.

Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where Gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. The city is known for its belief that any one leaving his / her mortal body here, goes to heaven in their afterlife. Its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage.

There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find some festival to plan your trip around. There is never a dull moment in the city.

The city known as the spiritual capital of India, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the country and hence it’s quite natural that Maha Shivaratri (the wedding of Shiva & Parvati) is celebrated here in a grand manner. Mahashivratri, “The Great Night of Shiva” is considered the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar.

kashi

The festival sees more than a million Hindus from all over India, converge at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

kashivishwanath-87_5

The city is thrown into frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. The preparation starts early in the morning with a parade that starts from and ends at the Tilbhandeshwar temple. The procession lasts roughly about 5 hours and it is celebrated with loud music in the background and people consuming Bhaang (a form of marijuana legal and common in Varanasi) and dancing in the procession. As marijuana is considered as the blessing of Lord Shiva, a lot of people do it here for religious reasons. After the procession, everyone returns back to the temple, offers their prayers and perform rituals.

Out of the 88 Ghats in Varanasi the most popular one is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. It attracts a large gathering every evening, when a group of priests performs a synced ritual known as Ganga aarti -to praise and pray to Goddess Ganges with lights, Conch sounds and bell ringing along with Vedic chants.

dashwameda

The aarti is always carried out facing the river Ganga. It starts by lightning up the multi-tiered brass lamps, along with a well synchronised chanting of mantras and blowing the conch shells. The shells are known to sanctify the atmosphere. The other remaining priests light the incense sticks and offer it to the goddess in a clockwise circle.

Ganga-Aarti-at-Dashashwamedh-Ghat-on-the-banks-of-The-Ganga-Shutterstock.com_

Witnessing the Ganga aarti is no less than a spectacle. The energy around this daily ritual fills your core with peace and tranquillity.

ganga_aarti_as_seen_from_the_boatride_on_the_ganges

 

Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

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