New Delhi: It’s indeed time for GOAJALA ( Goa-Jaipur-Kerala) to make its way. The inspired combo of Ayodhya and Lakshadweep promises to fulfil the potential of travel in this country.
A fresh study by McKinsey and Booking.com suggests that India’s total travel expenditure is set to touch $ 410 billion by 2030. By that time, 47% of the country’s population will be construed as ‘middle class’, earning between Rs 5 lakhs and Rs 30 lakhs annually ( 2020-21 prices). While the ‘affluent’ segment, earning above $10,000 annually will touch the magic figure of 100 million, as per a Goldman Sachs assessment.
The above must be viewed in the context of concurrent pieces of evidence. India today has around 150 functional airports, twice the number of a decade back. Till July 2023, 48 expressways with a combined length of 5,173 km (3,214.4 mi) were functional, with 8,772 km on the anvil. Contrast this to 2014, when we had only had approximately 1,021 km of expressways.
More than 12 high-speed railway lines have been proposed and the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector is underway. The Indian hotel market has significant growth opportunities and is poised to contribute $1,504 billion to the country’s overall GDP by 2047, from $65 billion in 2022, suggests a report by the Hotel Association of India.
From a customer perspective, more people are spending more time and money on holidays. Staycations and Workcations are becoming popular across strata, with urban families choosing short quarterly breaks as a key supplement for the annual blockbuster. Clearly, a marked departure from the classical mindset of LTC holidays, where it was possible, operationally and economically, to indulge just once.
Aiding this process is the Gig Economy and hybrid work cultures, with modern employees chained just to a laptop and not a location. While foreign travel is on a clear upswing, aided by easier visa drills and direct flights, domestic tourism, in volume terms, will continue to be a growth driver.
This is exactly why the new age AYLA model is set to replace the maturing GOAJALA way of thinking. GOAJALA was designed from a foreigner-first view, the elusive dollar revenue worthy of much gratitude. AYLA is curated from an Indian-first lens, goading the ever-evolving local tourist. GOAJALA was thus based on a global copycat model of development, with local ingredients like Ayurveda appearing as top-up characters. Which meant gated resorts, segregated beaches and a presentation of impeccable palaces from a colonial lens - a formula that was lapped up by early-generation Indian wealth. Leading to a deliberate detachment from the compelling mainstream narrative, physically and emotionally.
Ayodhya represents credible spirituality, for a large section of citizens. Lakshadweep stands for natural recreation, for most seekers of leisure. In tandem, the two conform to a scalable template for tourism, as proven globally and in India, especially for the growing middle classes. Nice sentiments like historical or architectural appeal cannot be made to escalate in this manner. What’s most fascinating is a depth-based growth model, based on the fundamentals of AYLA.
Most middle-class Indians, when sufficiently probed, will confirm that they have an accessible go-to list for the combination of recreation and spirituality. Puri works brilliantly for Bengalis as it is a combo, while usually, the venues are different. The recreation list, depending on origin, may include Lonavala, Alibaug, Ooty, Darjeeling and Shimla. While spirituality, depending on faith, can be achieved in Nashik, Shirdi, Ajmer, Panjim and thousands of micro-destinations. In fact, this aspect of micro-targeting is applicable to tourism as every city and state has its local hotspots. Exactly why AYLA, looking within, is set to succeed GOAJALA, the blockbuster approach.
But for this to happen, infrastructure and access must work as facilitators, as per the data points earlier in the piece. Ayodhya has invested in a jet-friendly airport and is thankfully located close to Lucknow and surely, hotel facilities will be augmented further. Lakshadweep falls short in this regard as Agatti is still a turboprop runway and rooms are few and dear. As this model is scaled in depth, across states and urban hubs, this pattern must persist. Netarhat, a charming hill station in Jharkhand, suffers due to an embargo on private hostelries while Murud-Janjira was, till recently, a tough place to reach. Courtesy of the Oyorooms and Airbnb culture, in cahoots with significant five-star growth and homestays, this problem can be happily sorted.
What also must happen, is a simplification of engagement and Ayodhya is fine evidence of that. How a combination of brand-sourced merchandising, gaming and entertaining storytelling has helped make the destination attractive to cohorts way beyond just the serious pilgrim. Set to join the fray must be gourmet dining, interactive engagements and common touristy trappings. Lakshadweep is a permit-based destination and many other ‘depth’ candidates restrict visitors due to ecological restraints and a positive equilibrium is necessary. AYLA is an inclusive model in every sense and this includes every possible touchpoint.
The AYLA task force, assigned with the mandate to add profitable depth to Indian tourism, is now a necessity. Every state and perhaps even more minute demography must declare its Micro-AYLA tally, offering a consistent experience set. At the top end, the foreign tourists will arrive while down the continuum, the locals will be refreshed both spiritually and mentally. Needless to say, the regional economies will thrive. The same folks going to Dubai and Bangkok will need places to visit for the rest of the year and variety is of the essence.
GOAJALA was designed by the foreigner for the foreigner, in spirit and soul. AYLA is by the Indian for the Indian. Yet another evidence of a successful nation, in more ways than ever thought possible.