From experiential to transformational travel


All this is paying off, Data shows Kerala is on the bucket list of over 45% of national travelers, 32% European, and 24% long-haul inter-regional travelers…reports Soniya Kirpalani

Interviewing 250 global luxury and leisure travelers, we are seeing a striking new trend, wherein travel is catalyst for travelers in their choices, reflecting in their ecological footprints, social purpose, lifestyle choices, contemplative practice subtly offering personal growth and self-actualization for travelers.

For the last three seasons, Kerala’s travel and tourism sector stood still. One of its largest contributors to the growth of the state, travel and tourism, was decimated. It is estimated that the industry lost Rs 35,000 crore revenue during the pandemic. However,Kerala’s travel sector is one of the first few to set a roadmap towards recovery, whilst finding silver lining to their dark clouds. This is thanks to the collaboration between Kerala’s boutique hotels, tour operators and Kerala’s leadership, who consciously spurred a swift comeback. During the lockdown they promoted the workcation culture. Upskilling their teams, creating new safety standards, networking and strategizing they worked diligently to revive travel to God’s Own Country.

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures says “I still believe travel can be the biggest distributor of wealth the world has ever seen. This pause gives us the gift of time to consider how we can travel more consciously.” His prophecy seems to be playing out in Kerala. Working with the tourism ecosystems in Kerala, the Unknown Planet India’s cofounders were pleasantly surprised to see the foresight of the 30 boutique hospitality properties and 21 Experience Curators they were working with. Team leader Ravi NK says “It was amazing to see them conceptualize and consciously design transformational routes and products, with a clear focus on inter-regional travel development, whist adopting digitizing at exponential speed.”  

“Unlike other states, Kerela’s ecosystems remained proactive, working with renewed commitment exploring this new concept of Transformational Tourism, which does beyond experiential travel. For example, Kerala’s boutique hospitality providers realized the ‘new normal travel’ will need to reflect a traveler’s ‘new normal lifestyle. Redesigning their inhouse and local journeys focusing on traveler’s personal growth and development, they also subtly support local- creative, culinary and cultural providers- planning recovery in amutually beneficial manner.”

Neelambari Resorts, a premium boutique resort in Thrissur which caters to discerning travelers, offering leisure experience, offers a perfect case study. Founder Sreeni T.S explains “I am a technologist with a hospitable heart. I returned to my roots, to reimagine hospitality and travel experiences.” During lockdown Sreeni evangelized existing partnerships, tAyurvedic roots gives us an advantage. Thissur, where Neelambari Resorts is located, was once the cultural, creative capital of Kerela. I wanted to revive this ethos, so as to offer authentic personal development opportunities for travelers.

Designing experiences that entertain and empower his guests Sreeni tapped into Kerala’s inherent strength -Wildlife, Nature Learning, Creative Economy -Kalaripayatu (Martial Arts), Tholppavakkoothu (Puppetry, Song, Dance) Koppu Designers, Koodiyattam (Sanskrit Performers Dancers) and Award Winning Melaamkaar (percussion payers)- offering new skills and personal development. Windermere Retreats, KNDP’s hospitality, CGH Earth, Tyndis Heritage, Blue Yonder, leading stalwarts involved experts to enhance their existing social, cultural. Renjith Hadlee, a Naturalists, Wildlife Architect, designs informative and interactive experience in an intuitive manner where guests Herping, Walking with Elephants, Permaculture Walks learn about ecological footprints whilst experiencing a hereto unknown Kerala.

All this is paying off, Data shows Kerala is on the bucket list of over 45% of national travelers, 32% European, and 24% long-haul inter-regional travelers.

But meaningful travel is just about to start; this will be Kerala’s litmus test. Kerala’s is setting up the pillars of travel, vaccination has been made mandatory (for locals and travelers alike), Covid incidents are almost negligible, regular testing and social safety measure in place as this state opens its borders. Proactively setting high new safety and hospitality standards, consciously creating safe and sustainable routes they are amplifying these new practices through high value marketing, industry meets and events.

Kerala Travel Mart 2022, May 6th to 8th, sets a precursor by hosting1500 regional delegates and 300 international delegates, curating over 55000 Back To Business meetings. Taking charge during tumultuous time, Minister of Kerela Tourism Mr. P.A. Mohamed Riyas analyzes “The two consecutive floods in 2018 and 2019, and now the Covid-19 pandemic has flattened the tourism sector. Yet after the 2018 megafloods, the state reported the highest growth rate in domestic and foreign tourist arrivals in the last 24 years, around 8.5% growth in international travelers 17.8% domestic tourist in 2019”. Yet he cautions that it will take some time for global tourists to return.  

Witnessing the buoyancy at Kerala Travel Market 2022, abuzz with excitement, Sandeep Dayal of Journeymart, a boutique Leisure & Luxury Experience Company says “It is an excellent kick start, revealing KTM’s courage, persistence and resilience by hosting this event. Kerala’s Travel & Tour Fraternity is also revealing their commitment by showcasing sustainable exciting new experiences which holds immense value in a new world order. My own assessment that they have shown the road to resurrecting the industry, generating local employment and accelerate the multiplier economic effect, as they embrace and engage with domestic / regional tourism with greater strategic focus.”

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