Retreat, resort, reboot

Retreat, resort, reboot

Hotels and resorts in remote and scenic locations seem to be more adept at adapting to the new normal, write Gustasp & Jeroo Irani

Kotagiri, TN

The travel-hungry and travel-deprived wait, much like grounded aircraft at deserted airports around the world. In the wake of a pandemic, they wait for the planet to reboot itself after shutting down with the suddenness of a slammed fist. Covid-19 fatigue has set in. In response, small footprint resorts in India are cautiously throwing open their doors to welcome lockdown-weary wayfarers and help them navigate the alien geography of a new normal. And a Covid-19 test result is the new passport to the good life!

“Initially, travellers will be fearful,” says Sanjay Awatramani, partner, Nature Resorts, a clutch of sustainable and experiential homestays and resorts in south India. “We will be shamelessly paranoid,” he adds. When resorts open in the coming months, it will be with strict health and safety protocols in place, he believes. 

Even in the best of times, hospitality is a demanding business, vulnerable to the vagaries of fate and fortune. And no hotel or resort that aims to open up in the Covid-era can afford to take short-cuts or cut corners. However, smaller independent hotels in remote scenic locations will be more adept at adapting to the new normal in the Covid-19 scenario,” says Shoba Mohan, founder of Rare India, which markets boutique owner-led hotels.

Maharashtra Nivti Beach seen from the ruins of a clifftop fort
Maharashtra Nivti Beach seen from the ruins of a clifftop fort

Weekend breaks

Aly Rashid, director of Jehan Numa Wilderness which includes Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve and the Bori Safari Lodge in the Bori Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh expects to reopen, come October. Both lodges are located in green zones and he expects pent-up demand to express itself by way of weekend breaks and self-drive excursions from Bhopal rather than fly-in vacations from places further afield. His lodges are small enough for an extended family or group of friends to book, making it a Covid-ready option. Safari vehicles too will be disinfected and will carry only six members of a family or a group of friends.

All resort owners affirm that vigilance will be the key. Staff will be based at the property and, their temperatures taken daily. Rooms and cottages will be sanitised and given a rest after each check-out and before each check-in. Door handles, knobs, remote controls, switches and high touch areas will be sanitised constantly and in-room safety kits with masks, disinfectant and wipes will be available in every room.

A spartan look will be the way to go and decorative cushions, pillows, bed runners, notepads, etc., will be consigned to history. Tech will play a major role in making the entire holiday experience a great deal more contactless and faceless. Check-in and check out will be speedy as software for registration and check-in and check-out will be in place. Ahem! Welcoming smiles will be distant, beamed perhaps from behind Plexiglass. (And you might prefer to carry your bags!)

MP Satpura National Park Forest Trek -rolling hillocks carpeted in green
Satpura National Park forest in Madhya Pradesh offers treks through the lush rolling hillocks carpeted in green.

Tech to the rescue

In-room dining or dining at staggered hours in an outdoor location and served by gloved and masked wait-staff will become ubiquitous. Indeed, apps will make it possible to download menus on one’s phone. While resort owners aver that it might become necessary to dial down on small luxuries like lolling in the spa or the pool and ratchet up vigilance instead, outdoor excursions can stoke your appetite for beauty and adventure.

In such locales, you are more likely to revel in full-stop seclusion, stumble on a harmless tree-slung green vine snake glinting with dew, or cruise through dense mangroves, hike up lonely hills, do yoga amid a jungle or on the beach…

As our exile from the old normal seems to be coming to an end, we recall the words of Marcus Cotton, owner of Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal. “This is an opportunity to pause now, dream now and travel later.”