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Urban Indians thirsting for the great outdoors after months cooped up at home are heading for weekend destinations just a drive away, side-stepping flights and travel curbs. Room tariffs at these locations have risen by 20-50% from a year ago, data compiled from top vacation rental service providers showed, with villas and homestays gaining the most.

“Staying indoors for many months has created a strong pent-up demand for travel and people are eager to connect and travel again, whether to explore new destinations or reconnect with people," said Amanpreet Bajaj, who heads the Indian operations of Airbnb, a vacation rental marketplace. Top destinations on Airbnb currently include Panchgani, Igatpuri and Alibaug in Maharashtra; Haridwar in Uttarakhand; Gokarna in Karnataka; and Kasol in Himachal Pradesh, Bajaj said.

Vipul Prakash, chief operating officer at MakeMyTrip, said, “Travel is making a steady recovery as people are stepping out for work as well as leisure travel. We have seen significant week-on-week growth for staycations and weekend getaways since Unlock 4.0, and we are confident we will continue to see an upward trajectory."

“Many travellers are looking for vacation lodging that does not have the hustle and bustle of hotels and are picking alternative accommodations, including private villas and independent homestays," said Prakash, adding that these properties are seeing high demand and are recovering faster than other segments.

Occupancies at hotels and resorts have recovered only 50-70% as compared to previous years, shows data shared by five top travel booking sites with Mint, while villas and private apartments personally managed by individual owners are seeing heavy demand as they are perceived to be more hygienic.

“Private villas and homestays that used to be available for 5,000-20,000 per night over the past 3-4 years are selling at 8,000-25,000. And most of them may be shown as sold-out if your booking date falls within 2-3 weeks," the country head of a top travel company said on condition of anonymity.

Data from online travel platform Ixigo shows that the average rates in two- and three-star villas and hotels are up 33-86% for the last week of December, compared with the last week of November, in Shimla, Manali, Haridwar and Rishikesh. In west India, average prices of two- and three-star hotels and villas in Mahabaleshwar, Alibaug, Lonavala and Goa are 5-43% higher for the last week of December as compared to now, shows Ixigo data. The month-on-month increase this time is higher than the typical year-end spike witnessed every December, at least three top executives at travel booking firms said on the condition of anonymity.

The demand for hygiene and social distancing is why travellers are avoiding flights and public transport, and choose villas and homestays at drivable distances within 300km, said top executives of travel firms Mint spoke to. Meanwhile, traditionally popular year-end destinations, which need air, train or bus travel, are struggling.

Booking.com termed 2021 “the year of the road trip" in a study. “With a shift in destination preferences, transportation preferences have also changed. 68% of Indians are likely to give public transportation a miss to avoid travelling with a large number of people due to the fear of contracting covid-19" said Booking.com.


Anirudh Laskar

Anirudh Laskar is a senior editor at Mint, with 17 years of experience. He has reported on significant corporate matters including large mergers and acquisitions, India's emerging e-commerce sector and regulatory issues in the financial services industry. Based out of Mint’s Mumbai bureau, Anirudh has worked with Business Standard and The Telegraph before joining Mint in 2009.
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