I have always maintained this opinion that whenever you are looking for a travel destination which has all amenities that your heart desire, be careful that you are actually running from one crowd to another. The more facility a place provides, chances are you will get more crowds there.
However, the latest craze in the tourism sector in India is visiting off-beat destinations rather than the popular one. There were always a few takers preferring unknown hamlets, but in recent times, the numbers have increased. What more interesting is apart from backpackers and couples, tourists with all family members are opting for such places. There was a time when information of lesser known travel destinations used to spread mainly through word of mouth. Families rarely opted to such destinations because they had no clear idea about the amenities available at these places. After all, word of mouth from one or two travelers could not paint a clear cut picture of these destinations.
In recent times, the same old school of the word of mouth is playing a big role in promoting offbeat destinations in India. Today word of mouth literally does not mean only “words” only. It means lots of other things. That is where social media is playing a big role.
Let us consider the steps involved in a holiday tour. Other than booking hotels, reserving train/flight tickets, packing and unpacking, there is one common thing that majority of the travelers, tourists and backpackers do mandatorily. They announce the details of their trip continuously in social media. So the “word of mouth” does remain mere ‘words’ anymore. All one has to do is to carry a Smartphone and the “word of mouth” transforms into Instagram photographs, Facebook posts, live tweets, WhatsApp messages, and various other channels of social media. Suddenly the unknown tourist destination becomes known to a huge chunk of mass in one instant, sometimes faster than the traditional mode of advertisement.
Among the latest travel destinations in India, there are many places with home stay accommodations facility. In fact, many destinations have been built around home stay accommodations. They are a better option than hotels to many travelers because of their informal atmosphere. At many places, one gets to taste local homemade cuisines. Many times the guests have their host’s kitchen at their disposal. Food is hygienic as many of these homestays indulge in organic farming to give the food its natural taste. Staying at such places one suddenly realizes that lazing in a serene atmosphere is also a major part of a holiday besides getting busy in sightseeing.
A breed of travelers is growing in numbers who love to visit such places where there are exactly no “tourist spots”, but where one can just unwind and relax. When it comes to promoting such place, having a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and in some cases even a LinkedIn account are some of the first things which come to the mind of these new entrants in the hospitality industry. Just building an online presence with the help of a website or listing in portals like Tripadvisor is not considered sufficient. In this scenario, a newspaper ad is considered to be a frivolity. A tourist would prefer to check out the Facebook page of a home stay to see whether it is happening enough besides checking Tripadvisor to check out its ratings. Once a visitor is satisfied with the stay, the “word of mouth” takes the route of social media and a thousand of travelers and tourists are informed in no time. In the age of social media, you can hardly keep a destination secret.
In Eastern India, North Bengal and Sikkim have come up with the maximum number of destinations built up around home stays. Leaving aside the popular destinations of Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong, Kalimpong or even LepchaJagat tourists from West Bengal are opting for places which nobody had heard even 10 years ago. Even five years ago how many tourists have visited places like Takdah, Ramdhura or Lamahatta? Similarly, in Sikkim popular tourist destinations like Gangtok and Pelling are considered to be overcrowded. Tourists are instead opting for homestays in East Sikkim “Silk Route” trail or Rinchenpong and Okhrey in West Sikkim.
Uttarakhand is the paradise for tourist lovers. While no love is lost for the ever popular Binsar, Kausani and Munsiyari, powered by social media coming up quickly on the tourism map are offbeat hamlets like Kuflon, Peora and Jhaltola. Most of such destinations are small villages with homestays run by family members in British style bungalows. In the world where social media prevails, nothing remains secret. The photographs and details are shared with numerous in a matter of time.
Similarly, little-known hamlets from Tirthan valley, Janjheli and Barot in Himachal Pradesh to truly virgin beaches of Konkan in Maharastra like Bhogve, Khavna or Nivati are getting known to sojourn seeking travelers over the years. Another important role played to promote such destinations is Youtube. The other day I was observing a hyper lapse and time-lapse video on a homestay at Tirthan Valley, which virtually put me at that place. I could literally feel walking on the grass, gazing at the wooden walls of the cottage as the mellow sun rays were caressing my skin. It felt like a virtual world.
Among the unending mediums of social media, another important aspect and perhaps one of the major aspects of social media to promote travel destinations is travel blogs. While you read travel blogs written by serious travel bloggers, you instantly become an expert in knowledge about a particular destination. This is why it is ultimately important to go into details while writing a blog about a particular destination, especially when describing offbeat destinations. Travelers many times check facts with travel bloggers before embarking on a journey to a travel destination. Travel agents many a time take a back seat when today’s smart Traveler check and double check their itinerary, armed with information gathered from ‘renowned’ travel bloggers.
Indian Tourism industry is also catching up with the importance of social media in promoting travel destinations. To promote a particular place young travel entrepreneurs along with the State Tourism has been arranging Familiarization (FAM) tours for the Travel bloggers. Promoting a travel destination through the blogs of popular travel bloggers is fast becoming some sort of mandatory promotional activity.
There is a common belief with some tourists that making a destination popular though social media has a negative aspect of overcrowding these destinations. However, I beg to differ here. Maybe the number of tourists looking for offbeat destination has increased, but they will always remain much smaller in comparison to the facility loving and variety avoiding tourist crowd.
In this decade, the role of Social Media as a promotional tool is more or less permanent. For promoting any uprising Travel destination, it is important that it has a social media presence. Otherwise, it is considered that particular travel destination simply does not exist.