I returned back home on 17th Oct. 2020 after a two week business trip across Karnataka. With this, I have completed 9,400 kms of travel by road since 10 Aug. 2020 when I stepped out of home for the first time after a 150-day self-imposed exile, thanks to multiple lockdowns due to the Covid-19 Virus outbreak. The rubber I have burned is mostly self-driven and partially chauffer driven. But for a short trip to visit some of my favourite temples in September, all other trips have been on work. I have met already 80% of my 140-member sales team at Levista Coffee across TN & KA these last two months and as I write this, my Samsonite is gleefully smiling at me for yet another trip that begins Tuesday and thereafter.
Revenge Travel, as the term has claimed obnoxity in the recent past is here to stay, I guess. If trends are to be believed (and seen personally!), I guess it is so. To begin with, some hard numbers issued by the Oil Industry in India indicate the same. A 1.65% & 1.5% increase in Diesel and Petrol consumption compared to last year, same period. A very small single percentage number of growth but the digits make it look more attractive. For the record, India consumes 3x Diesel to Petrol, noticeably because most of the goods movement in India is by trucks and they are almost 100% Diesel-driven. Due to the surge in work related travel to scores of us and a lack of public transportation, even taxis (mostly diesel consuming ones) are back in demand while a small portion of personal vehicles (like mine) use diesel as well.
Sale of Petrol grew to 982,000 tons in the first half of October, up from 967,000 tons in the same period in 2019 and 968,000 tons in the first fortnight of Sep. 2020 while Diesel sales rose to 2.65 million tons in the first fortnight of October from 2.43 million tons a year back and 2.13 million tons in the first half of Sep. 2020. With the Navarathri / Dassera / Pujo festivities lined up in the second fortnight of October and a subdued yet enthusiastic Deepavali in the anvil, it seems that fuel consumption is going to continue to rise.
Another noticeable point is the upward trend in Fastag usages, from Rs. 1,800 Cr. in Feb. 2020 to approx. Rs. 1,700 Cr in Aug. 2020. And this, even as I see fewer vehicles in the dedicated Fastag lanes compared to the “cash lanes” across several Toll Plazas where I have travelled the last two and half months. One obvious negative trend is the dwindling numbers at highway restaurants, cafés and pit-stops. From the nondescript coffee kiosks dotted along the highways to the more organised eating joints, there is a significant drop in numbers, save for a select few which are in high demand due to scarcity of outlets in the vicinity.
Interestingly, I saw a number of vehicles parked aside the Highways and people eating off plates, perhaps with home-cooked food – a trend which was the “only” way before the driving-down trends began around a decade back. The otherwise famous cafés which witness a huge surge in visitors riding their prized motorcycles or cavalcades of cars with bunches of friends and families is sorely missed, quip restaurant managers and owners.
Hotels that provide lodging are also seeing a growth in occupancy levels albeit still less than 50% of pre-Covid levels which used to hover around 65% on an average but for weekends where select properties were lucky with a full house. I still wonder if the entire room is fully sanitized, linens washed off after every guest departs – not just an expensive affair but also laborious, one reason why I have been cautious about where I retire for the night during my travels. And the F&B areas of these hotels are no different with social distancing of tables and limited numbers of Chairs per table to avoid crowding. Most restaurants avoid Buffet – which has been proven to be one of the fastest ways to spread the dreaded virus, especially with a number of people sharing crockery and cutlery.
As clichéd as it sounds, “Revenge Travel” is here to stay. Only difference is that most of the Tourism business will be Domestic and the Indian Hospitality Industry cannot ask for more.