The traveller is changing from just being someone who goes to a destination for sightseeing and check a list of monuments to someone who wants to experience a place like a local and interesting stories to take back home. And to cater to this evolving mind set, more and more travel aggregators and companies are expanding from simply handling the logistics of a trip, to giving talking points and stories for when they get back home.
There’s an ongoing shift in the travel space – from destination-driven travel to experience-driven travel, and that’s where the the industry bigwigs are concentrating now. “The biggest change that will come is in the curated experiences and discoveries that people will ask for. It could be on anything… on food, on spas, various things,” says Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, Sterling Holiday Resorts (India) Ltd, on the sidelines of an event unveiling the company’s new logo and vision.
Much like others in the industry, such as AirBnB, Cleartrip and now even TripAdvisor, Sterling Holiday is getting into the business of identifying and curating experiences for its clients, over and above organising the logistics and accommodation during a trip. “We are trying to identify experiences. We’re creating experiences. We are directly doing it in our resorts and record it. Everyone loves Ooty, but how can be do it differently. For instance, I was in Wayanad (Kerala), I found a parasitic tree that grows from top to bottom covering the other tree. Such extra information is interesting, that gives you that extra (information) than just looking at a forest area,” explains Ramanathan, who is currently on his second stint with company, and is responsible for the new tagline “Holiday Differently.”
Identifying the factors mainly responsible for the change in travel behaviour, the Economics graduate from Madras University says, “Low-cost airlines, highways and roads becoming better and lifestyle changes driven by IT guys going out and social media” have been the driving causes. With around four decades in the vacation ownership industry, Ramanathan is happy when he sees traffic jams, “because that means stress levels are going up all around and people will want to go for a holiday.”
Expounding on how these discoveries will help the bottom line, he expects happy clients to go back and share their experiences – both in the resorts and outside – with others, which he hopes will encourage others to “come and stay and eat at the resort…and keep the customer’s interest and keep the conversations flowing.” These discoveries are currently offerered at a handful of Sterling’s 33 resorts. One such is a tour to an 1900 colonial style bungalow owned by Charles Dickens’ family in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu, which is close to one of their resorts.
As for where to go next, he demarcated Wayanad (Kerala), Mount Abu and Udaipur/Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Panchgani (Maharashtra), Gangtok (Sikkim) and Coorg (Karnataka) as the places for a lot of tourist action.