The pandemic has dealt a body blow to the travel industry with most people still fearing to venture out, even though many Indian states are gradually opening their doors to tourists. The thought of traveling by flights or trains has become synonymous to the fear of catching the virus.

However, sitting at home has also led to boredom and frustration. Sabre, a travel technology company, conducted a Travel Sentiment Survey in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in July 2020. It revealed 45 percent of the respondents are open to travel in the next six months, whereas 49 percent of the millennials will travel in the next six months.

As travel restrictions ease up in India, people are looking for alternative, safer ways of travel that ensure minimal contact with crowds or large groups. And caravan vacations have emerged as an answer to these concerns.

“There has been an increase in the demand for caravans during the pandemic,” said Sanjana (who goes by her first name), co-founder, Trippy Wheels, a Bengaluru-based caravan rental company. “Caravans reduce your touch points during the journey. It’s more convenient and safe. So, caravan tourism and caravan travel are the two hot new buzzwords in the travel space.”

As the pandemic continues, people are finding it difficult to stay indoors, But, at the same time, they are hesitant to attempt international or distant travels.

“While the travelers across the APAC region remain cautious about traveling, of the 44 percent who indicated they will travel within the next six months, 41 percent said they would opt for short-haul travel (below eight hours travel time), and 33 percent said they would choose domestic travel,” said Sabre’s survey.

The interiors of a Trippy caravan. (Courtesy of Trippy)

Trippy Wheels has managed to complete 38 trips during the pandemic, ever since the government lifted movement restrictions. To maintain hygiene, the company sanitizes each caravan before and after each trip. A partition is also installed between the driver and customers so that some social-distancing norms can be maintained during the trip. Sanitizers, masks and disinfectant sprays are available in the caravan.

“People have started traveling even though it’s just for a day or two,” said Sanjana. “Ideally, for caravan tourism, we like people to travel for at least a week or 10 days to get the essence of traveling in a caravan. I think we will get there soon.”

The enthusiasm to travel is visible among people. The only concern being the Covid-19 safety precautions. Among Indians, 81 percent feel satisfied if they are able to check what sanitization measures a restaurant or a hosting place is taking while planning for their travel, stated The Indian Luxury Travel Survey for 2020.

“This is an important factor in their decision; followed by Covid-19 tests for the staff, and contactless menu and payment systems and temperature checks for all guests at the entrance,” it said.

“We are in demand, and people don’t mind going anywhere now,” said Suresh Sharma, founder, Green dot expeditions – a luxury RV service provider. They just want to go out. When people come to us looking for freedom and social distancing, we provide them with a recreational vehicle (RV).”

Green dot
Green Dot Expedition guests enjoy a camel ride in the desert. (Courtesy of Green Dot Expeditions)

Green dot expeditions stopped their services during the lockdown, but the rise in demand for their luxury RVs has pushed them to re-open. “We will clean up the vehicle after the trips and give breaks between the bookings.”

The caravan trips are becoming popular because most companies plan their trips in the less-populated areas or in the wilderness. The hills, outskirts of cities and off-the-beaten-track destinations remain the top demand among travelers. This minimises the risk of coming in contact with crowds. Since once you take the caravan or the RV, you are out there only with your friends and family. The thrill of exploring new places is maintained.

“We take people on trips only in the wilderness. We will now operate in Rajasthan and the Kutch area (in western India) during the winters. In summers, we operate in Ladakh and partly in Himachal Pradesh (north India),” Sharma said.

The concept of taking everything that you would need on a journey and exploring places set far from the chaos of cities is proving to be a major attraction.

“All our caravans have everything that one has in one’s home,” said Vidushi from Motorhome Adventures, a Delhi-based caravan rental service. “The caravans have a kitchenette, bathroom and sleeping/seating accommodation, irrespective of their size.”

“Because the caravan is the most isolated and comfortable way of traveling, without worrying about following brittle itineraries, people are loving the concept. We have seen an increase in demand – not just for leisure travel but also for to-and-fro travels.”

Motorhome Adventures has been functional during the pandemic. They have seen an increase in not only vacation-related trips, but in people using the caravans during the lockdown to reach their hometowns or to bring back their families.

(Edited by Uttaran Das Gupta and Gaurab Dasgupta)

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