Mundane bulk touring is now a passé. The quintessential traveller today, wants to explore off-beat destinations, and experience life, food and culture of unknown people in India`s hinterland. Sagarika Sen gives us the lowdown on some of the new-age travel start-ups in India that offer unique travel experiences.
There are two ways to gain knowledge. One is to read – relatively boring, and the other – travel, a lot preferred. And, although India continues to reel under an economic slowdown, travel and tourism industry statistics could surely mislead. The market is set to become a whopping $9 billion industry by 2025. And providing the perfect boost is the surge in new-age travel start-ups and challenging trends driven by the millennials.
Suddenly, the demographics of the quintessential traveller have changed. He is mostly in his 20s or early 30s and prefers personalised, carefully curated processes and chooses his destination and modes to the mundane ‘bulk touring’ of the past.
“I’ve travelled extensively all over India and would hate to do it with a travel and tour company simply because they’d take you to places with everyone together and do the ‘checklist’ and you simply do not have the time or space to explore finer nuances or aspects of a place or its people,” feels amateur photographer Yashasvi Menon. “It’s only of late that there are a host of sites and online options where you can join in a tour hosted by a travel start-up that holds the promise of a good holiday – one that leaves you with fond, niche memories,” she adds.
Also, the ways in which one travels have changed. Moving away from the regular reviews are apps like Ithaka where a potential traveller connects to a matching traveller over a chat conversation. The influencer helps the traveller discover the country; identify places to visit, suggest things they could do and other finer aspects.
Off-beat destinations, niche experiences
Deviating from the uber luxury promised and provided by the usual suspects are a string of travel start-ups offering offbeat accommodation, out-of-the-box trips and interesting treks. Look at The Unhotel Co launched by Manish Sinha and Shilpi Singh in 2016 which includes finer local nuances to their getaways. Focusing on authenticity of the zone, its people, places, culture and food, this start-up provides a vast array of offbeat adventures.
“I had made myriad trips to Gujarat in the past, with friends and family but the one I did with a social justice tour start-up I found on the EventsHigh portal simply blew my mind,” says businessman Rajesh Gada. It was a week-long trip to Ahmedabad and from there to Lothal, Balasinor, Dwarka and Alang that left Rajesh speechless. “I had simply no idea that there was so much in Gujarat that was of global interest (dinosaur eggs in Balasinor) in general and of national interest (the discovery of the underwater city in Dwarka) so close by yet undiscovered,” felt Rajesh who “learned everything anew,” with his equally-ecstatic teen daughter Vaishnavi seeing it all, for the first time too.
India’s travel industry has indeed arrived and with new entrants set on carving their own niches, the billion-dollar industry has an enviable future.
Among start-ups here, in the travel and tourism industry is TraWork. For the present-day entrepreneur and executive, disconnecting from work is an impossibility. It’s now that work tends to treacherously sneak into one’s personal space, in living rooms and within the confines of your bedroom. No longer are jobs nine to five and they tend to convert into a huge price for the pleasure of comfort and money.
“The best way to travel remains, by foot and with locals,” offers Mumbai-based law student Ayushi Zoman whose recent month-long trip to Goa with a local start-up tourism entity taught her “invaluable lessons in travel.”
“I stayed on an island with monkeys, swam with dolphins by my side, had Feni at a local bar, even helped local bakers make podi at a bakery,” says Ayushi. And all, thanks to the local start-up that had been initiated by a Goan NRI who wanted to “pay back” to Goa, India’s smallest state and his ‘home’.
So now, Ayushi plans to start regular trips to Goa with her friends on Facebook after receiving overwhelming response to a suggestion post she placed on Social media. “I have become an Ambassador for the Rodriguez family that initiated the start-up and on the basis of my personal experience. I feel that there’s so much that Goa has to offer to the rest of India and the world beyond the regular beaches and churches,” says Ayushi.
Launched in May 2018, Pune-based travel start-up TraWork aims to provide just the perfect blend of work and travel. TraWork has conducted two international trips for its customers and has several other international and domestic trips in the pipeline, for this year. The punchline here is simple yet powerful: Travel as you work, work while you travel.
Gone are the days of bulk travel and tours with most urban tourist/travellers who are keen on availing more personalised experiences. Mumbai-based Taxidio (‘travel’ in Greek) attempts to offer just the perfect recipe to the discerned traveller. An online DIY (Do-it-Yourself) trip planner offers users the opportunity to enter a few details about their travel style and preferences and, in return, Taxidio generates a list of destinations that matches their preferences.
The start-up provides users with 19 interest parameters, based on which it offers choices, recommendations and a suggested list of activities and To-Dos to indulge in during the trip. For stay, Taxido has an affiliated partnership with Booking.com and GetYourGuide.com.
Just about every market segment has been undergoing a radical transformation particularly impacted by technological disruptions. With healthcare, education, trade directly hit, travel and tourism sector, plagued by budgeting issues and time constraints, problems simply couldn’t be left behind. Bengaluru-based MeTripping uses artificial intelligence (AI) search engine, to provide recommendations for each individual user’s needs. It has a team comprising technologists and data scientists, who help potential travellers make the perfect decisions by scanning mass data.