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!

ny9

 

 

-Madhavi

 

 

OS:FTE
OP: AirlineTrends;TravelDaily; GoogleNews

Use Technology to your advantage…Take a virtual tour

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The last few days have been excruciatingly difficult for each one of us. With the entire world in a state of lock down and restricted movements, with governments telling us to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons , and maintain social distancing, the one thing we shouldn’t neglect to do is look after our mental health .

Since many of our regular social activities are no longer available to us, let us look at things from a broader perspective.

Let’s follow a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual.

Let’s be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone.

Create new daily routines that prioritise looking after yourself.  Read, watch movies, try new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet.

With all travel ceasing, a good way to indulge in your wanderlust is to make full use of technology and take a virtual trip to anywhere you like, without spending a dime and leaving your room.

If you’re seeking a bit of adventure, check out Google Maps’ virtual treks.

You can hop from climbing El Capitan in Yosemite to journeying around Petra in Jordan to braving the icy terrain and looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba in just a matter of minutes.

So go ahead and enjoy this virtual vacation.

The only remaining question: Will you watch from your bed or your couch?

 

Stay safe.

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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-M

 

 

Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

PC: AirPano.com;VaranasiTourism; Youtube;Indiatimes;

 

Family friendly holidays

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Summer is just a few months away. It’s about time to plan that vacay with the family. Travelling with your wee ones need not just be mainly resorted to theme parks. Some ccities make great getaways—short or long—for families. They are hubs for direct flights, ample accommodations, top-notch restaurants and iconic, innovative attractions as well as some of them provide a touch of history, making them both educational and fun and appealing to all ages.

So let’s dust off your passport and pack up your kids for adventures in these family-friendly world cities.

Orlando

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Why it’s great for kids: Orlando’s an absolute paradise for kids of all ages, with home to not one but four action-packed Disney theme parks.

Put it on your itinerary: The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve explored Disney World, as the Kennedy Space Center is just a short drive from Orlando. The kid-friendly museum displays America’s space rockets and even lets you touch a piece of moon rock! The museum’s located on Florida’s Space Coast, which boasts tons of gorgeous beaches. However, when it comes to nature, it’s not just sandy shores that impress children and parents alike. Florida’s famous for its marshlands, and the whole family can glide through the swamps on an air boat. Be sure to keep an eye out for gators!

London

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Why it’s great for kids: With a host of historical attractions and many contemporary exhibits, the British capital city just screams ‘kid-friendly’.  There’s no language barrier, the food is kid-friendly (those chips!), and there’s lots to do around one of the major characters of modern childhood—Harry Potter.

Put it on your itinerary: Many of London’s main attractions, like the Tower of London and the British Museum, are geared to be family-friendly, so they’re incredibly interesting for both you and your little ones. Your kids will love spotting red telephone boxes, exploring Tower Bridge and following the River Thames as it meanders across the capital. If any of you are Harry Potter fans, you’ll all be in your element at the Warner Bros Studio Tour; and just outside of the city are theme parks like Lego land and Chessington World of Adventures which are easily accessible by public transport. There are also plenty of whimsically themed high tea experiences (try the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson) and endless free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Cancun

cancun

Why it’s great for kids: You’ll get the best of both worlds — a bustling city culture and a beach vacation.

Put it on your itinerary: Parque de Palapas, the city’s central park, offers food carts, performances, and the kiddo essential, playgrounds. Mercado 28 is a bustling marketplace where you and the kids can bargain for local treasures to bring home. Isla de Mujeres lets you get away from the city’s hustle and bustle with a trip out to this laid-back island just off the coast — the Garrafon Reef Park there lets you swim with dolphins or stingrays or take a ride on a zip line. When you’re not busy lazing on the beach, make sure you head out to tour Chichén Itzá, the Mayan Ruins nearby.

Copenhagen

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Why it’s great for kids: Denmark’s capital is literally a fairy-tale city — it’s where Hans Christian Andersen wove his classics, like The Little Mermaid. And if your kids are even mildly Lego-obsessed, they’ll probably be thrilled at a chance to visit the country where the blocks were first created.

Put it on your itinerary: Copenhagen is home to the Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s amusement parks. With gorgeous gardens and architecture and one of the world’s oldest still-in-use wooden roller coasters the Tivoli gardens, with rides and games, is an awesome place to take kids of all ages, and adults that want to indulge the kid in them! There are roller coasters for older children and kiddie rides for wee ones. And if your children don’t like rides, there are musical performances and pantomimes to enjoy. When it’s lit up at night, the park is a joy to stroll through.

Other than Tivoli Gardens, children will enjoy viewing the statue of the Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and posing for a photo with her. Watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace is wonderful. And if you and your family are looking for a green space to enjoy, the King’s Garden is the ideal place to go. You can picnic on the grounds and enjoy some chill time here. Copenhagen is a fun destination and very family-friendly.

Dubai

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Why it’s great for kids: Full of architectural superlatives, the Emirate with the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), vastest sand desert, and largest mall, is great for adventure, relaxation, and even good old-fashion theme park fun.

Put it on your itinerary: The city isn’t all fancy cars and glittering skyscrapers (although there are plenty of both). It’s also home to adventures your kids (and you!) will love, from feeding a three-foot-wide turtle at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project to catching a free show at Dubai’s massive musical fountains. Once you venture outside the city limits, there are camel rides, sand skiing (think of it as hot-weather sledding!), and dune-bashing (where your Jeep guns it over sand hills, so you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster) through the Arabian Desert. Check in at Atlantis The Palm for loads more family-friendly activities: There’s the Middle East’s largest water park, an aquarium holding more than 65,000 creatures, and evening programming for kids age 3-12  You can also explore the souks of Old Dubai where you can shop for textiles, spices, and even gold on the streets alongside the Dubai Creek.

Sydney

Sydney

Why it’s great for kids: Sydney is one of the most family friendly cities in Australia. The city has plenty of things to do for all the ages. For the smaller kids, there are extraordinary zoos, great aquariums, wildlife parks, plenty of playgrounds and there is even a Luna Park as well.

Put it on your itinerary: Admit it: You’ve always wanted to visit Australia. If your kids are old enough to make it through the long plane ride out there, now’s the time: There’s plenty to make you feel like a giddy little kid, from being blown away by the Scienceworks Museum to checking out the march of the penguins at Phillip Island to seeing the forest and fern gullies from the century-old Puffing Billy Steam Railway. There is a ferry trip on the Sydney Harbour, iconic Sydney Opera House to explore, Darling Harbour, tonnes of museums, Blue Mountains, beautiful beaches and even a Haunted Sydney walking tour to check out. Sydney Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 marine animals, including dugongs (sea cows). And there are a ton of ways to see Sydney’s sights, whether you and your family venture up to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or Skywalk on a glass-floored platform above the city.

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The fact is that kids — even young ones — love traveling for the same reasons we do: They get to have a new routine, spend time with the people they love, and eat fun snacks. Plus the parents get to experience places that can make them feel like a child again, which is gratifying.

 

-M

 

 

PC:Pinterest;WaltDisney;VisitLondon;LonelyPlanet

 

“Adults Only” – Grown up Getaways

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Komandoo Maldives Island Resort

At first it seems like the sort of thing you would associate with the category of a movie rating, and not the hospitality industry.

Adult only holidays is definitely a thing. Popular worldwide, the concept, though a novelty in India, is becoming quite the rage.

The segment is not associated with licensed yet racy ‘good times’ for grown-ups unhampered by children in the background. Usually “Adults only” resorts and hotels might have different characteristics, but they all agree on one thing and that is kids below the age of 18 are not allowed.

Canny industry operators have showcased its appeal to the wealthier traveller on the lookout for some quality downtime, and to sub-sets of aspiring tourists, like women’s-only groups, sports fans or alternative therapy seekers.

The facilities, as well as all the small details and comforts, are designed considering the needs of this audience in depth. Some adults only hotels are livelier while others are more tranquil, relaxing and romantic. They offer an upscale and sophisticated vacation experience and take care of every last detail, guaranteeing that guests enjoy a blissfully relaxing holiday.

If you are looking for the answer to your quest of finding a child free environment some of these hotels/resorts may appeal to you

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Komandoo Maldives
  • Komandoo Maldives Island Resort, Maldives.
  • Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay, Jamaica.
  • Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa, Grenada.
  • Excellence Playa Mujeres, Cancun.
  • Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji.
  • Excellence Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
  • Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua.
  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, Playa Del Carmen.
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Hotel Senses Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Closer home The Park Hotel Goa Baga River which caters exclusively to couples and the honeymooners is a boutique hotel, with its ‘adults only’ tag.

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Although hoteliers are of the opinion that considering the fact that Indian families hardly travel without kids and such restrictions are generally looked down upon, The Park has taken a ‘bold move’. But nonetheless with having almost 60% occupancy, the hotel has been a trendsetter of sorts.

According to TripAdvisor, there is only one other hotel in the country with entry restrictions Ananda – In the Himalayas, in Rishikesh. But Ananda is not an ‘adults-only’ place, it simply doesn’t allow children below 14 in order to maintain its tranquility.

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Ananda in the Himalayas

Globally, however, the line between family and adults-only hotels is getting sharper. While package tours catering to family groups with a long checklist of things to do and see on vacations continue to be popular, the hospitality industry is discovering the benefits of nurturing a child-free, or more accurately, ‘adult-only’ clientele.

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Secret Wild Orchid Montego Bay 

But having said all of this do you think the “adult-only” tag will be considered discriminatory? I would like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

-M

 

 

 

 

PC:Hotels own website