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The scenario of experiential and exploratory travel in India: Damian G.H Niesel , COO - Resorts , Sterling Holidays

An increasing number of the new-age travellers have a host of demands and expectations with regard to acquiring diverse experiences at new and emerging destinations, to suit their individual taste and preferences writes Nielsel, COO- Resorts, Sterling Holidays.

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Experiential travel has become the next big thing of the travel and tourism sector in the country. With the rise in the number of millennials, high-net-worth individuals desiring instant gratification over materialistic gains, and several other factors, the concept of experiential and exploratory travel has garnered swift popularity, with travellers opting for the road less travelled.

In today’s day and age, an increasing number of these new-age travellers have a host of demands and expectations with regard to acquiring diverse experiences at new and emerging destinations, to suit their individual taste and preferences. Be it millennials, families, couples, solo travellers, or even corporates (MICE), personalized and customized experiences constitute the travel landscape of the country.

These travel segments are further being divided into groups as per their psychographics, consumption patterns, and preferences including – adventure enthusiasts/backpackers, spiritual lovers, budgeted travellers, leisure/laidback travellers, sports enthusiasts, tech-savvy travellers, avid photographers and several others. However, irrespective of the segmentation, the demand for experiential and exploratory travel is ever-increasing.

There is also a staggering growth in these travellers across India, especially working millennials wanting to explore destinations like a local, to get the authentic feel of the place. With an increasing appetite to avail cultural experiences of that destination, the ‘home away from home’ feeling has become an important trend amongst these experiential and exploratory travellers.

Experiential and exploratory travel encompasses travellers immersing themselves into local experiences by interacting with locals, gorging on local delicacies as well as street food, and partaking in known local activities, thereby creating personal memoirs. Many hospitality properties have delved into this segment of marrying local culture with travel experiences for a unique stay. From adopting the local delicacies into their menus to introduce the taste buds of a traveller to local flavours to setting out on cultural trails to know more about the local traditions and cultures, the experiential offerings are now getting diverse. The unique experiential’s can range from cultural and discovery trails where you can learn about the inner workings at a mine at places like Lambi Dehar in Mussoorie to interacting with the tribal’s to enjoy the bucolic surroundings at places like Ooty, Heritage walk of Goa, Weavers village trail in Konaseema in Andhra Pradesh. Jambur, Nagaland etc.

The main idea behind these activities is to explore the unexplored. These experiential offerings tend to then become the USP of a certain hotel or resort for example certain dishes gain such prominence that they become synonymous to the place offering it like the famous Bamboo Biryani from Wayanad. The aspect of marrying local flavours with modern culinary dishes is

now gaining popularity and is being incorporated into hotel menus each rendering a different touch to the dish while also popularising the local cuisine.

Moreover, with the increasing penetration of digital media, there has been a rise in the number of these travellers opting for experiential and exploratory travel by acquiring unique experiences, which they can boast about on their social media handles like Facebook and Instagram. The main agenda of such travel experiences is to not do the regular and opt for the path less travelled by now only to generate fresher and new content for the digital medium. This plethora of diverse experiences includes adventure activities, sports, nature trails, culinary trails, beer or wine tasting, cultural and historic tours and several others.

Flexibility is an important element of this form of travel, and is being enthusiastically embraced by ‘wanderlust’ seekers across the country. Their main objective is to have bespoke experiences as part of their holiday to make memories of a lifetime, be it in domestic or international destinations.

Experiential and exploratory travel is primarily being observed in the rising number of Free Individual Travellers (FITs) in different parts of the country, who seek authentic and unconventional experiences by going beyond the usual bucket list of ‘must-visit’ destinations, and ‘must-try’ attractions. The Indian consumer of today has become well-read savvy, which has made this form of travel, an inevitable part of their lives.

The corporate segment has also been instrumental in the growth of experiential travel. These professionals have also become discerning with respect to their travel preferences and habits. They fancy different cuisines and crafts, and want to avail experiences and partake in activities breaking conventional barriers, as part of their corporate (MICE) tours.

There has also been a staggering increase observed in the number of senior citizens opting for experiential and exploratory travel across India. They are moving away from traditional forms of travel, and are now open to innovation, which can be observed in their comfort in altering itineraries, thereby enhancing their overall travel experiences.

Mono-destinations have further become an integral part of experiential and exploratory travel. Under this, travellers opt for experiencing a single destination at leisure and immersing themselves completely into all of its activities, rather than clubbing multiple places. With this, travellers can satiate their exploratory appetite at a gradual pace, making the most of that particular destination.

With the increasing spending power of the middle-class, low-cost airlines offering enticing prices on domestic and international destinations, easy financing options like travel loans that are being increasingly availed by millennials, and the availability of budgeted and customised tours to emerging destinations being offered by industry leaders, demand for outbound travel

is being fuelled, thereby paving the way for experiential and exploratory concepts to rule the travel roost.



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