2020 The Year Indian travelers discovered India.
Come summertime or year-end breaks and folks across the country begin to think about planning for the holidays. Locales from movies, tv shows, Instagram, and travel-centric influencers, are debated, assessed, and analyzed. This event occurs annually, for about 121 million households in India who belong to the middle-income bracket. No wonder, Indians constitute one of the largest sets of overseas travelers in the world. Indians could be found in each European castle or snorkeling near the great barrier reef or chilling at the Rio De Janeiro carnival.
How it all changed in 2020...
Thanks to COVID-19, limited international travel, health concerns, and the general tightening of Indian purse strings, local travel, stay vacations, short trips have begun to flourish. Unexplored destinations within India started to show up on everyone’s feed, people were waiting to get to places in the mountains, green plains, forest reserves, and on houseboats, as long as these places could offer WIFI.
2020 is arguably the year that boutique properties come into their own. With small, private, and intimate settings, they offer individual experiences, while ensuring health & safety. Over the last few months, I have traveled to a whole bunch of destinations, which may have never cropped up on my itinerary. I drove my car up to Rohtang pass - something which I never thought I would do... but I did.
Since the mid of March this year, India arguably became home to the largest set of people in history to couch one emotion which grew with each day - #justcantwait
Some of the amazing places across the country are best explored by cars and bikes. This has indeed been great for the automobile industry, which has gone through a tumultuous few years. While the first 6 months of the pandemic saw an almost absolute drop for hotels and restaurants, things seem to be picking up steam with greater gusto than initially expected. Hence, while many bold proclamations were made regarding the demise of these two great sectors, it is now becoming increasingly clear that the auto sector and the hospitality companies may benefit from this Black Swan.
Now the question is - How can brands change, approach, and latch on to this sentiment such that they may refurbish, reinforce and reapproach customers, whose needs, mindsets, and wants may have changed over the last 6 months.
2020 is filled with examples and great stories from brands to build and innovate on, even with limited resources and budgets. It is important to note that creativity often, is a response to changing circumstances and not blank cheques. This time, marketers have had to realign their campaigns and strategies to ensure the delivery of objective business results. One of these objectives was quite simple - Survive!
However, with an economy slowly coming back, travel opening up, and the vaccine just around the corner, it may be time to dust off the idea books and start planning for the upswing. In all probability, the real losers of the next market movement maybe those who are not prepared for things to look up.
So what has changed so far?
We started with managing Doom & Gloom, we are now firmly in Gloom and we will soon find ourselves in "&". What does that mean? It means that with bad times gone, people will now be looking for the next big, better, nicer, and more positive/exciting thing. We have history to teach us about this. After each traumatic, earth-shattering event, we people, usually respond by focusing on the happy, positive, and amazing. We crave escapism and the sweetness of unreality. For this, marketers need to look no further, than to the Mad Men days of post-world war 2 USA. A brief study of the advertisements and marketing of that time, which quickly underline the positive and exciting vibes of the copy and the content - in sharp contrast to a world, which recently lost millions of lives to war.
What about travel?
People traveling with family are opting for a minimum of four-night holiday preferring to stay at homestays, cottages, and luxury hotels. About 74% of individuals are opting for 4- and 5-star hotels at a drivable distance. The set of well-heeled travelers are also looking at private vacation homes, with luxury villa chain SaffronStays receiving twice the number of bookings they had last year during the festive season.
Gen Z and millennials are showing a strong inclination to explore adventure and nature-based holidays with their families. Fun outdoor activities such as nature camps, national parks, and hiking trails are popular among Indians traveling with friends and families.
And what about cars?
India is witnessing a renaissance of sorts in terms of the romance of cars - thanks to the amount of time one may spend in it, going forward. While this is nothing like the whirlwind romance of the Americans or the Italians, it does represent a slow-burning love for the mechanical - something which most Indians never felt.
Why? Because most of us never got to own or drive a car in our teens or early twenties. That may now be changing.
To my mind, the theme for 2021 will be to reimagine. We are fortunate, as marketers, to be presented with a blank canvas. Let us make the best use of it.
What is your theme for 2021? Have you given it a thought?
December is an amazing month for plum cakes, Christmas trees, and reflection.