The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill and travel restrictions imposed to curb the outbreak of the highly infectious disease dealt a crippling blow to the hospitality, travel, and tourism sector. While the majority of luxury hotel operators believe that it would take them around one year to return to revenue per available room levels of the pre-pandemic period, eco-resorts are as busy as a beaver trying to accommodate guests at their property.
The extended periods of lockdowns where most of us were imprisoned in our concrete towers have allowed travellers to truly appreciate freedom – freedom to decide where they want to go, with whom, and when. In such a paradigm, the focus appears to be spending time away from crowds. This is where nature-centric breaks seem to come out on top.
“We noticed that starting October there was a noticeable surge in bookings, not only for October but for the entire holiday season through to December and into January 2021 as well,” Varun Hooja – Director, The Machan – told Financial Express Online.
Eco resorts are rapidly gaining in popularity as people look to unwind after the coronavirus induced lockdown forced them to stay at homes for long. Moreover, staying at eco-resorts is unlike any other travel experience as travelers get to know more about surrounding environments and may learn to live in more eco-friendly ways.
Experts say the reason behind this popularity is that people are now giving preference to smaller boutique properties, over big chain of hotels, to avoid huge crowds. They are preferring outdoor activities like horse riding, nature trails, cycling that these resorts have to offer over indoor games and activities.
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“One new trend we are seeing in the bookings is that people are opting for longer stays. Earlier, people would go for a 2 night-3 day stay, but now they are going for almost a weeklong stay, since most people are working from home and can carry their workstation wherever they go,” Tejas Chavan – Managing Director, Green Spaces – said.
“For dining and social gatherings, people now prefer outdoor open spaces, where proper social distancing can be implemented and followed, over indoor AC banquet halls. Lots of people are opting for an in-room dining option, to avoid the crowds as well. As per the government guidelines on the restricted number of wedding guests, most of the big weddings got cancelled. However, since we are a boutique property, people are preferring our resort for intimate wedding festivities. There has been an almost 20 per cent increase in the enquiries for small intimate wedding venues at our resort. Since there is a growing demand for farm stays and small boutique resorts, we have seen an almost 15 per cent increase in our business in November-December vis -a vis same time last year. We are also being able to charge an almost 10-12 per cent premium on the room rates, since the demand is more than the supply,” the managing director of Green Spaces added.
What Are Eco Resorts
Eco resorts or eco friendly properties are those where nature is the main focus and construct things that are eco friendly and non-obstructing to nature. For eg water conservation, rainwater harvesting, using natural construction materials that do not have a negative impact on the environment, using natural resources of energy, reusing of material.
Some of them even try to source maximum material required for the kitchen and the housekeeping department from nearby sources, thereby reducing transportation carbon footprint and helping the local community.
They focus on outdoor activities like nature trails, trekking, horse riding training courses, cycling, fishing, bird watching, kayaking, boating, etc.
According to Chavan, they even have a nature interpretation center, where they educate the guests about the trees and plants, soil water conservation etc.
“We have put various informative educational boards across the property, about the process involved in creating Grape county and conserving nature. Even in the rooms, we have information booklets stating all the eco-friendly practices that we have implemented.”
What Worked In Their Favour
Experts feel that COVID-19 did have a huge impact on the hotel industry and the biggest challenge it faced was being short-staffed, because all their employees had left for their hometowns during lockdown and had no modes of transport available to come back.
But most of these eco properties train and hire local people as much as possible. This worked in their favour during the lockdown as they didn’t face any staff problem.
“We utilized our hotel staff in our agro products business, eco farms, during the lockdown,” Chavan said.