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New age tourism: Tree-houses, cave-dwellings, mud-huts are the favourites

Virendra Pandit Ahmedabad | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 24, 2017

Conventional tourism, offered in packages with minor discounts, is now being increasingly replaced by ‘experiential travel’ amongst back-packing youngsters and others, full of wanderlust, who love to stay at exotic places, in caves or mud-huts, even in tree-houses, instead of starred hotels packed with artificial comforts.

“The difference between the tourist and the traveller is while the former merely sees, the latter experiences,” Narayan Menon, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Wandertrails, told BusinessLine.

In the last 12 months, the mainly B2C Wandertrails platform offering aggregated and curated services, which refrains from offering discounts, has registered a 21 per cent CAGR month-on-month, he said.

No wonder, its USP made Wandertrails India’s only experiential travel brand with the largest network of experiential stays and immersive activities. And, within seven months of commencing operations in July 2016, it attracted seed funding of $1 million (Rs 6.5 crore) in February 2017 from Earlsfield Capital, a UK-based venture capital firm of entrepreneurs-turned-investors, of course, after the latter interacted with customers.

"Our focus is on value creation, not valuation. If the former happens, the latter will follow suit," Menon said.

With this funding, Wandertrails plans to expand its network from the existing 70 destinations across 14 states to 100 destinations across 22 states in the next six months.

“We don’t normally offer standard hotels or conventional tourist facilities. Our clients are mostly those who love to do things differently, seek adventure and are ready to face challenges.”

Wandertrails enables its clients to discover and book online their favourite cave-accommodation, tree-houses, mud huts, home-stays, boutique resorts, beach shacks and heritage homes to suit their budgets. They can also couple their stay with adventure sports, wildlife safaris, water sports and even wine tasting.

The platform was co-founded by five youths, including three IIM-Calcutta graduates and two industry veterans. The idea to found Wandertrails germinated when Sruti Ramesh Chander, co-founder and COO, found it difficult to manage a request from her NRI relatives visiting Kerala for a marriage that they wanted to have the ‘real’ and not the ‘touristy’ Kerala experience.

Recent studies on the viability of experiential travel has revealed that the travel landscape in India is dramatically shifting from the financial towards the experiential. While, earlier, people were more concerned about discounts or opportunities for affordable hotel recommendations, they now want to experience the nuances of a destination -- from the jungles of Corbett, to the backwaters of Kerala, and the virgin mountain passes near Manali, for a comprehensive local experience of the destinations they visit.

Among the increasingly popular trends with new-age travellers are staying in a jungle lodge, walking in a jungle safari, staying in a tribal settlement, going honey-gathering with a tribal chieftain, desert camping, or staying in an apple orchard in the foothills of the Himalayas.

With over 50,000 monthly active users, 7.8 lakh-plus followers on Facebook and more than 5,500 units of sale, a majority of Wandertrails users fall into the millennial group. A good number of bookings are driven by referrals and repeats. “We have 6,200-plus activities and stays listed with a supplier network of over 4,200. Currently, the foreign in-bound and NRIs account for 10 per cent of our business.”

In 2015-16, Indian domestic tourism increased by 15.5 per cent and the number of foreign in-bound tourists increased by 10.7 per cent . Online travel increased by 61 per cent on e-commerce platforms, according to an IAMAI-IMRB study. Fifty per cent people make travel decisions based on the activities on offer rather than the destination itself, and 57 per cent prefer to book these activities online and in advance.

Fifty-five per cent of travellers to a city want to check out city-specific and cultural activities, 47 per cent wish to discover unexplored trails, and 31 per cent want to explore the city with locals. Over 30 per cent are interested in exploring adventure sports, and 48 per cent wish to explore sea/ river cruises.





Published on July 24, 2017
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