Tourism has changed significantly in the past decade. With the advent and popularity of social media, access to information has grown, and people are constantly aspiring for an Instagram-worthy travel experience. This has led many to chase new thrills and adventures, whether it be camping in the forest or a wellness retreat in some remote ashram by the sea.
Experiential tourism encompasses this segment of tourism that packages and sells experiences and adventures instead of a particular destination. There is an increasing trend among tourists to seek out meaningful and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and people are no longer satisfied with just a quick hill station getaway. While this segment of tourism was growing exponentially, it came to a standstill like the rest of the world when Covid hit India in 2020.
2020 and the Covid-19 Pandemic – a Year of Staying in Place
When the pandemic struck, one of the worst affected sectors was travel and tourism. Flights stopped operating and strict lockdowns were imposed in places around the world, crippling the tourism industry.
In India, the international flight ban resulted in international travel becoming virtually impossible, except for a few select destinations that had their borders open to Indian travelers. Domestic travel, in particular, was quite challenging to undertake, if not completely impossible. This was mainly due to quarantine guidelines for inter-state travel, safety concerns, various hospitality services being shut down, etc.
If we talk about the experiential tourism sector, it witnessed a major slump from March to September 2020. However, things began looking up from October onwards, as most believed that the first wave in India was finally receding. As things began opening up, there was a rush to travel since people had been cooped up in their houses for too long. Travel patterns showed that most wanted to reconnect with nature and booked short adventure getaways to get over the pandemic slump.
Current Trends In Experiential Tourism
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) released a report titled ‘To Recovery & Beyond: The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19’ in September 2020.
One of the interesting insights from the report is the popularity of domestic travel and outdoor destinations that are adventurous and relaxing. This is the time for cultural entrepreneurs to shine as the demand for experiential tourism rises.
People are looking forward to visiting heritage sites as the fear around Covid seems to be declining, with popular tourist destinations being packed with people already. From luxurious stays in palaces of Jaipur, riverside camping in Alibaug, to hiking trips at the foot of the Himalayas, travelers are looking for new experiences.
The experiential tourism packages are expected to include assurance of safety and health standards, with proper social distancing and sanitization measures. Although the second wave was devastating in India and once again shut down the travel industry that was slowly beginning to revive, people are hopeful that travel will pick up in the near future.
What Does the Future of Experiential Tourism Hold?
Safety and health concerns are expected to guide short-term and long-term trends. Hill stations and beaches have always been popular tourist spots, and they continue to remain popular. However, travelers are increasingly looking for a non-touristy experience at popular tourist destinations, something that is possible with specialized experiential trips.
Cultural entrepreneurs that are interested in providing local experiences to travelers will witness a boom in business as people opt for more immersive travel experiences closer to home. The cultural diversity and heritage of India make it an ideal location for travelers seeking experiential tourism experiences. CEO of NITI Aayog, Mr. Amitabh Kant, reaffirmed this belief and stated that tourism would flourish majorly post Covid in India.
The future for experiential tourism looks bright, with more people seeking shorter trips that provide unique experiences. Cultural entrepreneurs should leverage the rich diversity of India and focus on marketing immersive, authentic, and culturally unique experiences to travelers.
Given that experiential tourism is emerging as the next big thing in travel, at NICE Org, we are encouraging and fostering a strong ecosystem of cultural entrepreneurs. India’s rich cultural diversity has attracted tourists from all across the globe for years now, and we predict that experiential tourism would continue to elevate Brand India on the world stage.