Solo travel, staycations and workations are strongly resonating with Gen-Zs, millennials: Pankaj Parwanda, goSTOPS

‘Gen Z and millennials are the driving force behind the USD 2 Billion Dollars shared economy that India currently enjoys.’

The one industry pandemic has shaken the most is the travel and hospitality sector. However, the drop in number of new cases has made tourism pick the pace a bit. New trends have emerged and the formulas of the past are no longer working. Everything has changed, from consumer behaviour to their demands and the way travel used to take place – nothing is the same anymore. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online Pankaj Parwanda – Co-Founder, goSTOPS talked about the impact of Covid-19 on tourism. new travel trends and more. Excerpts:

Growing demand for youth hostels amongst Gen Z and millennials

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Gen Z and millennials are explorers at heart, and uninhibited in trying out novel experiences. They prefer backpacker hostels that offer exciting experiences complemented by budget friendly options. The opportunity to meet new people, share travel stories, learn about different cultures are all perks of opting for a backpacker hostel option.

In the past seven years, we have witnessed a steady 30X increase in demand from travellers aged 18-30yrs.

How work-ation trend become popular during the pandemic?

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While the concept of staycations and workations have been around for a while, the rate at which it has picked up steam in the past six months makes it nothing short of revenge travel.

Our audience which mainly comprises the youth have no attachments to cities; they are looking for interesting experiences while continuing with their responsibilities uninterrupted. Travel, for them, is a way to beat the monotony and make the most of the situation while adhering to all the safety precautions.

Since we launched our Work Away From Home package in 2020, we are seeing close to 1,000% increase in demand especially in destinations that are a drive away from metros and mini-metros and the locations where authorities have allowed hotels to operate.

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Travel and tourism, covid-19 pandemic, goSTOPS, Gen Z, millennials, backpacker, staycations, workationsPankaj Parwanda, Co-Founder, goSTOPS

Shared economy trends amongst millennials and GenZs in hospitality sector.

Gen Z and millennials are the driving force behind the USD 2 Billion Dollars shared economy that India currently enjoys. Hospitality sector has also witnessed a significant rise in demand amongst young travellers where they prefer to stay in shared spaces which is both economical as well as experiential. Their experiential behaviour and belief in the YOLO philosophy are the contributory factors for its soaring popularity. Apart from the obvious economic benefit, travellers also place a premium on the insights and knowledge they garner from different cultures, and travel stories.

Idea and insights behind the launch of goSTOPS.

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Solo travel, stay-cations and workations are the travel trends which strongly resonate with Gen-Zs and the millennials. We identified a huge opportunity in the hospitality industry that could help cater to their modernized needs of travel. This led to the formation of goSTOPS in 2014. Our aim is to provide quality stay experiences which are fun, social, out of the ordinary and most importantly – affordable. We began by transforming pre-existing properties into community and design-led backpacker hostels. This transformation enables us to harness the efficiencies of the shared economy and make high-quality youth-focused stays accessible to the Gen-Z. Our properties are designed to reflect the vibrancy and adventurous spirit that matches the aspirations and desires of our young travellers.

With the recent round of funding from Indian Angel network and Yuj Ventures, how would goSTOPS like to utilise these funds?

We recently raised USD 1 million in pre-Series A round led by Indian Angel Network and Yuj Ventures. We will use the funds to accelerate our growth and expand to 55 properties housing 3,000 beds by March 2022. The funds will be allocated to advancing our company’s supply over the next 12 months, marketing, acquiring state-of-the-art technology, and building the team.

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Share details on goSTOPS’ launch of experiences wing.

Given the consistent feedback and requests across locations for curated experiences, we recently launched a new wing, goEXPERIENCES, to provide an array of exciting experiences and adventures across 30 of India’s most popular destinations. The experiences are curated by goSTOPS’ trekking and travel experts. Equally hinged on safety as much as fun, goSTOPS’ new division will develop complete packages comprising accommodation, travel and local activities that give travelers a taste of the region – all of this thoughtfully designed by the goSTOPS team of experts.

In the first phase, goSTOPS has designed customised trekking and adventure sports including snowboarding, rappelling, boulder climbing and even sunrise cycling tours across Rohtang, Manali, Kasol, Manikaran and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

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Post-Covid Travel Trends.

This pandemic has changed and challenged lives and preferences, as we knew them. People were deprived of travel for a long time and now that things are opening up, they are eager to hit the road every chance they get! Post the second wave of Covid, the travel industry has witnessed a revival and upsurge in hotel bookings.

Safety and hygiene while travelling is non-negotiable. Travelers are looking for affordable accommodation that does not leave them worried about these aspects. They would rather stay in a dorm that is safe and regularly sanitized over unsafe, unhygienic private rooms.

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Solo travel has gained a lot of momentum in the past few months, with individuals seeking some me-time away from their family, while being able to socialise and create their own tribe.

Festive season (Ganesh chaturthi, Durga puja, Diwali) booking trends.

The pandemic affected all of us. Exploring new places just wasn’t possible anymore. Thankfully, things are getting better and the country is tip-toeing its way back to normalcy following the Covid protection playbook. With the ease in Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen a significant surge in enquiry and booking from both metros and mini metro cities. In the last few days, we have started receiving a lot of enquiries for the festival weeks around Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja and Diwali. There is a 50-60% spike in daily reservations. As people are claiming their lives back after the second wave, what we see is that most of the booking requests are for offbeat leisure destinations which may not be on every traveler’s itinerary, thus holding lesser dangers of over—crowding.

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Expansion plans.

With our recent fundraise, we want to grow our supply. Demand for real estate is depressed and lucrative deals are available to hospitality players who are keenly observing the space. Given this, we are not leaving any destination uncovered as we aggressively expand our presence to build an ecosystem for young backpack travelers across the country.

We are thrilled to have the confidence and support of our investors, who understand our vision to capture these opportunities, in our quest to make youth travel accessible, safe and fun. There is no better time for a backpacker hostel brand like us to expand.

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Add to that, we are also in the process of building our app that will help us connect with our audience and improve experiences before, during, and even after their stay with us. The app will be ready for launch in the coming weeks.

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