Join the crowd

Saturday, 29 March 2014 - 8:51am IST | Agency: dna
From breaking traditions to introducing tech options, the travel and tourism industry is in another league altogether

Think New Year resolutions, and if you had to state a recurrence, what would it be? We suspect, "This year, I'll travel more". One would not be wrong to state that this yearly-declaration would be prescriptive and typical to 'n' people. Be it a long haul or just a weekend getaway, travel caters to de-stressing and unwinding irrespective of whether you are at a halt, both physically and mentally. This isn't rocket science—the travel sector continues to evolve and uses the popularity of social networking sites and the upscale of smart phones/tablets as leverage. According to a recent article in an accredited UK-based marketing magazine, one of the key focusses of facebook this year would be to woo the travel industry with a series of events and research. Another report from BI Intelligence states, "Players in the travel industry are emphasising mobile as a core component of their business strategies, and working to make their products and services mobile-friendly." So, jump on the bandwagon; take touring to the next level by advancing as a traveller too.

The Indian traveller has changed over time. Gone are the days when it was all about booking tickets, packing up gloves and sweaters to make a trip to a hill station where romance brews (as shown in B-grade Bollywood films). Undeterred by age or philosophies (read: YOLO), tourists now wants to experience the best they can without burning a hole in their pocket. This has also helped the industry restructure, and customise according to traveller-needs. Here's sketch-mapping how you can join the crowd.

Gear up: Trends like sightwalking, sightrunning and bicycle trips are popular among urbanites. In India, there is an existence of bicycle, bike and walking tours. Organisations like Raconteur Walks, Delhi Heritage Walks and India City Walks, among others, help you explore a city as you take a stroll. Other clubs like Experience Plus and Art of Bicycle Trips organise bicycle tours. Viraat Kasliwal, Founder and CEO of Raconteur Walks, Mumbai, says, "India is a treasure chest of tourism, and a major revenue for the nation can be generated through this sector provided it's tracked correctly. When I started walking tours in 2010 in Mumbai, it was a concept popular in Europe, and we wanted to provide travellers freedom and flexibity along with VFM. Walking trips allow people to get a hands-on experience of the city." While sightrunning is not yet well-known to the domestic-traveller, it is a fad globally. Running tours are trips where people (fitness enthusiasts or not) join a group of like-minded travellers to take a sprint around a tourist destination to know about its culture, history and heritage. It is widely conducted in the US, Australia, Denmark, South Africa and other countries.

Pack your bags, ladies: Gender-specific travel has brought a hike in this industry. Women-only travel is the talk of the town—targeted at women who wish to travel and explore places with other women travellers. A list of options for such travellers in India are WOW Club (www.wowsumitra.com), Girls on the Go Club (www.girlsonthegoclub.com), special ladies-only trip packages by travel agencies like Veena World and Indus Travels, among others. Sumitra Senapaty, Founder of WOW club says, "Earlier, women would call me up to know about the travel packages we provide, and respond saying, 'I'll get back to you post a discussion with my family.' Now, they confirm their trips by themselves. The travellers are not just from the metros, but also from places like Coorg, Coimbatore, Lucknow and other smaller cities. Women are now convinced that they need their 'me' time, away from family. Apart from just multitasking and attending to their family, they are in need of at least two breaks a year."

Live an adventure: Indians are now favouring extreme adventure sports; soft adventure is passé. Vipul Johari, businessman, who has been to destinations in India and abroad, says, "Adventure sports make any trip memorable and exciting. It also helps one overcome obstacles and mental blocks. Standing 200ft above water and wondering whether to jump or not... well, you just do it and then, it feels amazing." If you have not garnered the courage to cage-dive with white sharks in South Africa, bungee jump from 111m at the Victoria Falls in Zambia or skydive in Byron Bay, Australia, among other things, maybe your adventurous soul needs some pep-talk.
Mix business and leisure: Companies have started taking their employees for conferences and even annual office meets, around the world. Travel companies initiate devicing special packages for individual businessmen and companies, in ways that they can club their work and leisure. They also organise programs like MICE (meetings/incentives/conferences and exhibitions). So, while you are on a work-related trip to Bolivia, go watch the exhibitions and trade shows happening there.

Find like-minded people
Review-based sites help solve the travel-mystery for many. Eversince its inception, there has been an affluent number of such platforms where one can gain dope on the 'what/where/hows' of a particular destination. Tripadvisor, HolidayIQ, Virtual tourist, Lonelyplanet and Zoover, the list for online travel information portals is multitudinous. Such sites provide accuracy to a great extent considering it is word-of-mouth reviews from one traveller to another. Since mobile usage for travel-research has become the fad, such portals have started using mobile innovations and launched tech options to renew their outlook according to the modern-traveller. According to stats, 82 million people have downloaded the various TripAdvisor (a travel website) apps, up nearly 150 per cent year-over-year. Such sites also integrate with one's social networking profile, thus attempting to laminate travel-space with social interactions.

Travel information portals
- HolidayIQ
1. Journey reviews: Transport experiences of travellers, details such as mode of transport, duration, pit stops, road conditions, amenities, etc. Advice on how soon to book tickets if applicable.
2. Click to call: A feature where travellers have access to direct phone numbers of 32,000+ hotels in India.
- Trip Advisor
1. City Guides: This smart phone app offers access to detailed destination information including tourist reviews and opinions of hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
2. Point Me There: Once a traveller has selected a hotel, restaurant, or attraction in their destination, this app will guide them using the phone's GPS and compass.
3. Trip Journal: A fun and convenient way to document your trips to the 82 popular destinations covered by City Guides.

OTA indulgence
Apart from tracking travel reviews, cost-effective travel packages are a saving grace for tourists. High-end flight and hotel charges can get you sulking throughout your vacation. This is where Online Travel Agencies (OTA) come to play. OTAs facilitate bookings and give you the best plans that fit your bill along with a multitude of tech options, to help simplify your travel experience. We handpick the best special features/apps provided by OTAs.
Make My Trip
1) Routeplanner: An easier way to plan trips between any two destinations in India.
2) Tripalong: The world's first multi-airline social-seating app that allows users to plan 'intersections' (meetings) with their friends at airport-lounges, the city of travel and (if they are booked on the same flight) get seats together while checking-in.
Cleartrip
1) Quickeys: Exclusive hotel deals for last minute bookings.
2) Waytogo: Journey Planner featuring air, rail, coach, ferry and drive options for travellers who like to plan everything from itinerary to route
Ixigo
1) Street view of monuments: A feature that integrates the Google street view feature to offer 360-degree views of historical monuments.
2) Mobile app: A road trip feature.
Expedia
1) Mobile App: Their app uses GPS to find hotels closest to you, shows their prices, and allows you book a room with just three clicks.
2) Book On The Go: This feature helps you book flights and hotels from anywhere in 30 seconds with real time search, rich hotel visuals and instant confirmation.
Yatra.com
1) Adventure Travel Package: A special section dedicated to adventure travel has great deals and packages.
2) City events: They also have daily/weekly events listed for a particular place and destination.

 




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