As the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has predicted, international tourist arrivals could reach 80 per cent to 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
Thanks to the changed facade of travel post-pandemic, the “experiences” has taken over “things”. The new-age traveller is looking at creating strong bonds with locals, finding new skills to learn and creating lasting memories and not just visiting traditional tourist hotspots for clicking selfies. For them, it’s now about leaving their comfort zone and stepping into a zone of new experiences, things that excite and ignite their wanderlust in the true sense.
Proving this fact, the Mastercard report reveals that the tourism spending on “experiences” is roughly 34 per cent above 2019 levels and has outpaced spending on “things” since July 2021. Discretionary tourism spending is shifting from goods to services as travellers prioritise experiences while on vacation, the report explained further.
Taking a cue from that, Mukul Sukhani, Senior Vice President- Business Development of Mastercard said that the focus of travel in 2023 is going to be on creating experiences and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
“The travel proposition has changed drastically in the last two years. From self-exploration to sustainable travel, many interesting trends have emerged. The rise of domestic travel, heritage tourism, staycations and workations are all a part of it,” he added.
Coming out of the pandemic, about 69 per cent have become more thoughtful about their choice of activities and 61 percent prioritise experiences over material possessions, the report added.
In response to this rising demand, Mastercard is running a programme called ‘Priceless’ which aims to provide unique experiences to its cardholders, while travelling.
“Mastercard has partnered with the world’s top travel researchers, historians, art curators, and others to bring the choicest benefits to people who want to experience much more, be it untold stories, history, food, culture, and beyond,” Sukhani added while giving the presentation.
The programme is divided into two phases to rekindle Indian consumers’ desire for unique travel and entertainment experiences. While phase one features 16 short films on various destinations in India, phase two gives Mastercard cardholders a chance to partake in these experiences in real time through curated packages that can be purchased online.
The increased desire to be one with nature is another factor driving up demand for hill stations in India as 61 per cent of Indians now favour domestic travel over international travel, stated the report.
Besides, 60 per cent of Indian millennials want to travel domestically to better understand the heritage and culture of the country. To cater to this demand, the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) and Thomas Cook have also launched special packages for religious and spiritual travel.
Sukhani added that in 2022, more rural destinations like Mashobra, Karjat, and others drew more local tourists since there was a stronger desire to get away from the noise and bustle of cities.
The staycation and workation phenomenon has also blossomed into a legitimate travel theme with Generation Z more likely to investigate possibilities that combine work and travel, the Mastercard report mentioned, adding that major hotel chains are increasingly launching staycation deals.
Reiterating further that people are travelling more thoughtfully, more creatively, and more intentionally, “sustainability”, said Sukhani, is another aspect that is gaining importance in travel.
Through the Mastercard Tracker, Sukhani gave examples of Soneva Fushi and The Machan. While one is the luxurious Maldivian hotel thriving on being a sustainable property that supports the development of projects having a positive environmental, social and economic impact, the other is India’s first carbon-neutral resort thoughtfully built to provide its residents with breathtaking views and opulent comfort while minimising any negative effects on the environment.
People crave and will continue to ask for similar sustainable experiences, said Sukhani, citing eco-friendly resorts and hotels, community-based tourism, and alternative less invasive travel plans, as the key drivers of sustainable tourism.
Adding to this, the report presented by Sukhani also mentioned other trends expected to spring out in the future including Pop culture travel, where the travel experiences are influenced by the TV shows and movies; travelling with your baby or your pet not being an issue (Akasa Air in India are some of the few airlines that now allow pets on board); the rising need of a wellness retreat, among the other few.
“While travel in 2022 was mired in cautiousness as Covid was still prevalent, in 2023, people are taking to leisure travel much more, and the mood is that of ‘overwhelming optimism’. There is a lot of enthusiasm in the air with regard to the various options at their disposal,” Sukhani concluded on a positive note.
He was speaking during his presentation at the 1st edition of the Economic Times Travel and Tourism Conclave and Awards, held on March 16 at Grand Hyatt Gurgaon.
The day-long event was attended by over 500 delegates including the Minister of State for Defence and Tourism, Ajay Bhatt and Goa Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte as Guest of Honour.
The event, apart from the five insightful panels addressing the prevailing industry issues and deliberating the way ahead, also brought out special industry presentations by Yatra.com, Airbnb followed by key partner presentations from Cordelia Cruises, MP Tourism, UP Tourism, Utah Tourism, among others.