A Future to Look Forward to…Leisure Destinations are an increasingly important part of India's Hospitality Sector

Walt Disney had some bright ideas in his time, and we’re not just talking about drawing a mouse in shorts and gloves here, making him sing and steer steamboats: although, to be fair, Walt charged a dime a time for that and packed them in, making a fortune in the process. But no…he had brighter ideas, such as building leisure parks with men (and women) dressed up in mouse costumes, cheerful rides in improbably large teacups and lots (and lots) of shops. And, have you noticed, he never built those parks close enough so you could get there and back in a day: they’re miles away from anywhere, deep in the Florida countryside, way outside Paris and up back in the middle of beyond. Because there was method in Walt’s madness: he built hotels in his parks, and they’ve been filling up ever since at a lot more than a dime a time.

Welcome to the Leisure Destination … and the lesson of Disney’s success certainly hasn’t been lost on India’s Hospitality sector.


The Statue of Unity


Take, for example, the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, Gujerat: a 597-foot statue of independence hero Vallabhbai Patel, which is the tallest in the world (nearly 200 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty), standing on an island at the heart of a seven mile artificial lake. Eager tourists can climb to the great man’s shins (shops and exhibition areas), before taking a breather and ascending by lift to the viewing gallery on a level with his shoulders. Within ten days of opening in 2018, the site had attracted 128,000 visitors and, before the Pandemic struck, it was bringing in 15,000 people a day: spending $1,114,184 each year in admission charges alone.

You just kind of know Walt would have been pleased …especially with the $1,114,184.

He would certainly have been pleased with the logistics: the Statue of Unity site is a full sixty two miles away from Vadodara, and ninety three miles from Surat, so it's hard to get there and back in a day. Which means, according to the influential Noesis report (www.noesis.co.in), that hotel developers are now looking at the site as a development hotspot. With their finger firmly on the economy’s pulse, the Report’s authors point out that: “We are witnessing a recovery in the hospitality segment led by a surge of demand for leisure destinations”.

You can say that again…and it's not just Kevadia.

The same trend is apparent in other leisure destinations across the subcontinent, such as Lonavala, Coorg and Goa. All currently benefitting from the COVID 19 restrictions that brought international travel to a virtual standstill last year. Suddenly these destinations are looking a lot more attractive, no mater how “unlocal” they might feel: because all of them offer leisure based hotel accommodation on the Disney model.

This has contributed significantly to a nascent boom in Indian hospitality, faring remarkably well across the board during the final quarter of last year: average occupancy rates rose to 39% in what was on any basis a challenging year, and average room rates were $50, driven by robust levels of domestic demand anchored firmly to all those leisure destinations that now mean so much for the future of the sector. The increasing availability of vaccines in the future and (who knows) vaccine passports as well, is only likely to accelerate the trend.


A Leisure Destination in Itself


Don’t forget though that even leaving aside vibrant destinations like the Statute of Unity, and across the vast expanse of the subcontinent, India is a leisure destination in itself. From the foothills of the Himalayas, to tigers roaming free in the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and across to the white sands of Calangute, India’s natural resources are simply spectacular. So with eco friendly hotels such as EcoHotels (www.redribbon.co) serving more and more of these locations, becoming an increasingly established part of the environment, who can doubt that Indian hospitality has a future worth looking forward to.

And not a single mouse in sight…with gloves, shorts or otherwise.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHospitalityWorld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHospitalityWorld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.

Article also published in the Economic Times.