Shoba Mohan is the Founder Partner of RARE India, a company that has been promoting conservation and community-based tourism with sustainability as a keystone value for tourism and hospitality. She sits on board associations such as RTSOI, TTC, IAHRC, etc, and promotes the idea that sustainable travel is future-ready and luxury has to be redefined around parameters that believe in the protection and preservation of the planet.
RARE India is a collection of some of the finest boutique hotels, palace stays, wildlife life lodges, home-stays and retreats of the sub-continent. Here, they believe that ‘Meaning is the new luxury’ and their community is an inclusive list of experiential hotels and hospitality concepts with a quality and style quotient that appeal to the world traveller, belief in working with the community while being personal and high on service.
RARE India’s list comprises a unique collection of hotels spanning four countries – India, Nepal Sri Lanka & Bhutan, 17 states in India alone and over 50 hotel brands. “Our hotels are often set away from the repetitive and regular routes, aspire to tread softly on the land they are set in and preserve the innocence of the destination. In short, you have a ‘RARE’ collection of hotels and concepts that offer the perfect immersive experience to the evolved traveller,” shares Shoba.
Speaking about current booking trends, Shoba mentions, “With the domestic market encouraged by the slacking of COVID regulations of the states and borders, most definitely boutique hotels are in business, especially at easy driving distances. However, I am dismayed to see that the demand has not improved the value proposition of these hotels; instead, there is a huge rush for discounting and that is not a good strategy when the market is waking up to these offbeat owner-run hotels.”
Revenge tourism is something the industry is talking about. When asked if Revenge Tourism has the potential to boost the initial rise in travel and tourism post-COVID, Shoba states, “Much that I dislike aggressive words like revenge tourism, yes! there is pent-up demand and hence there are a lot of booking requests for off-beat hotels and known brands in the pandemic times; however, this only addresses one part of the tourism business. The inbound market is still and much of the outbound is in waiting for countries to open up. So, while hotels and services benefit, many travel companies are out of business and several thousand jobs are at stake.”
There have been several new evolving travel trends because of the pandemic and some will be there to stay even post COVID. On this, Shoba shares, “We have taken to technology in a big way and have created networks to help promote our community. We have also sharpened our narratives and are looking at building a portal that will focus on ‘conscious luxury travel’. There are several ideas – work from forests, work from the hills, small weddings, etc. The numbers do not add up enough to make it a trend. The biggest trend one is seeing is people and families looking for driving vacations up to 8-9 hours from feeder markets. And of course, the ‘deal’ and the health and safety protocol is what gets the hotels its numbers.”
The RARE community has been a pioneer in the sustainable tourism space. The community has been established on sustainable values of conservation, preservation, low carbon footprints, watershed management, local community engagement and against over-tourism. Some of the RARE sustainability initiatives are aimed at eliminating the use of plastics in all forms, especially single-use plastic, across hotels in the community and enabling them to adopt a no plastic policy in a phased and measured manner.
“I wouldn’t call sustainability a pre-occupation, neither is over-tourism. The industry was beginning to take notice of issues like over-tourism, plastic, garbage and pollution. The pause gave us time to ponder over it and I hope industry leaders will ‘explore’ solutions to mitigate global issues. This crisis should help us reach us to more people and resort to planet-friendly operations at all levels,” opines Shoba.
A key differentiator of every RARE hotel is its commitment to the community and its focus towards being conscious and aware of the impact of any tourism and hospitality activity. RARE India is a member of RTSOI (Responsible Tourism Society of India) and also India chapters of, PATA, TOFT, IATO, and TTC – an international association promoting experiential and transformational travel.