INDIA. New Delhi: COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on people twice in the last year as they were confined at home dealing with both office and family pressures. And when the lockdowns were lifted, people started travelling in large numbers with a vengeance to destinations close to their homes. The process of travel based on a revenge attitude has been coined a new name, ‘Revenge Tourism’ and it has hit Indians really hard. AIIMS, New Delhi Director, Dr Randeep Guleria has termed this as a product similar to ‘lockdown fatigue’, coined last year.
Pictures from popular hill stations like Manali, Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie in north India, Ooty, Kodai Kanal in south India, and other parts have been flooding on social media platforms as everyone tried to escape the brutal Indian summer heatwave.
The most popular state for the people of Delhi is Himachal Pradesh, and Amit Kashyap, director of Himachal Pradesh’s tourism department, said that between 600,000 and 700,000 tourists have rushed since June to HP alone after the border restrictions were relaxed.
Booking.com conducted a study and found that 72 per cent of people feel that travelling this year is more important to them than it was before the pandemic. It also found that of the people who couldn’t travel in 2020, 68 per cent are yearning for the opportunity to travel this year. Travel website MakeMyTrip has also noticed an almost 200 per cent jump in hotel bookings ever since restrictions began to ease.
This feeling of revenge is sweet news for the bleeding hospitality industry, and industry professionals confirm this trend. Hotels and resorts are benefitting from the revenge travel trend too. There has been a surge in bookings in all segments, from luxury to basic, and occupancy at some places has gone as high as 80 per cent during weekends and holidays.
Innovative packages, such as Work from Home, Drivable Holidays, Head for Hills packages, and homestays are also proving to be a hit among tourists travelling from the nearby cities.
This trend is benefiting hotels and resorts near big cities too. The majority of luxury hotels in all big cities are noticing week-on-week 25-30 per cent growth in leisure guests through their staycation offers.
Car rental companies have also reported a surge in bookings as more and more people are opting for destinations involving 3-5 hours of driving only to the adjoining states.
Health ministry’s concerns:
India’s health ministry has used the phrase, Revenge Tourism to express concerns over the crowding of tourist destinations after the subsiding of the devastating second wave. Ministry of Health, Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, “The pandemic isn’t over once restrictions are relaxed. Such a casual approach towards COVID-appropriate behaviour is dangerous; people need to understand this is a continuous fight. The virus is not exhausted, it is still there. As a result of this revenge travel, a third wave may be on the way as highly virulent variants like the Delta plus can end up in catastrophic consequences.”
And at such a time, viral news and photos of large groups of tourists without masks and packed shoulder-to-shoulder on streets in hill stations in north India have left many in shock, as the memories of chilling visuals of people scrambling for oxygen cylinders, beds and medicines flooding social media in mid-May are still fresh. It was the period when a single-day surge of more than 400,000 cases was reported and crematoriums in several cities across India ran out of space.
More than 400,000 people have lost their lives during the second wave of COVID in the country, and India is still reporting an average of around 40,000 cases daily, more than Indonesia where the infection is said to be surging on the basis of 31,189 new cases a day, and Bangladesh with 11,525.
Doctors and experts have also lashed out at people enjoying vacations, even as many are still reeling from the impact of the second wave that began in April.
Dr Balram Bhargava, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) called the pictures “frightening.”
“Yes, it has been a tough time. However, we cannot let our guard down. We should not be mingling with groups. It is not advisable at all. We need to stay cautious for the next two to three months,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, director and HOD, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi.
Tourism industry expert Subhash Goyal also said the scenes from the Himalayan states showed, “we are definitely moving towards the third wave,” even though he supports reopening the economy and the badly hit tourism sector. “There is pent-up demand for travel and I am in favour of opening tourism and also opening of international borders, but at the same time the government, as well as people, have to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 rules,” said Mr Goyal, who is the president of the Confederation of Tourism Professionals of India. “There should be severe penalties for people flouting COVID-19-appropriate behaviour for endangering the lives of thousands of people,” he added.
Read Also: Tourism In The Post-Pandemic World