I’m travelling to Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad or Pune’ –chances are that if you mention this fact to any of your acquaintances, they will assume that you are headed to a business meeting, conference or seminar. But an increasing number of Indians are heading to the country’s metros for leisure travel. Specifically, they’re looking to holiday in Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai.
According to many travel experts, there’s a varied cultural life waiting to be explored right in the middle of the bustle of life that is called a metropolitan city. That’s what Bhawna Agarwal, founding vice president of Yatra.com, means when she observes that the number of people wanting to travel to other Indian cities has gone up over the last six months. "This was not the case earlier," explains Agarwal, adding, "We’re noticing that there are a large number of people interested in going to metros for short trips."
Agarwal adds that there are two kinds of travellers who wish to visit metros. The first kind is looking for a short / weekend getaway, while the other is probably visiting family or friends. "These are the two things that take most people to metros. But I think the trend is catching up even more, and we need to do a lot more to make sure our cities are noticed," she says.
Agarwal adds that at Yatra.com, they’ve realised that a lot of weekend trips are to other metros. "This is something we noticed during New Year’s eve," explains Agarwal, adding, "A lot of people came to Delhi to celebrate. Earlier, the obvious choice would have been Goa. A lot of people did this even during the Republic Day weekend."
City side Lights
Another expert, Thomas Thottathil, head of corporate communications at travel company, Cox and Kings, agrees that this trend is on the rise. According to him, there are various reasons why people choose to visit cities, including the desire to explore different cuisines. "For foreign tourists, there’s shopping and sightseeing. Mumbai’s sights and sounds, nightlife and food, Delhi’s historical buildings: these are some things that bring people to these destinations," he says.
Mumbai-based traveller Babul Bhatt is someone who frequently visits other metros for both work and pleasure. This executive at a telecom firm loves photography and visits different places to take pictures. "The cities I visit most frequently are Chennai and Delhi," says Bhatt, adding, "I really love the cultural life of Delhi: there’s so much history, and for me it is a place to see our country’s Mughal architecture."
Chennai, on the other hand, attracts Bhatt because of its many temples. "Every city has something to recommend it. With Jaipur, where I just recently went, it’s the palaces," explains Bhatt.
Swift upgrade needed
But is there enough to keep tourists coming back to metros? Infrastructure is an issue that needs to be urgently tackled, admit most experts – but what is equally important is affordable hotels. "Transportation is improving," says Agarwal. "There was a time when Delhi was an extremely difficult city in terms of public transport; but this is no longer the case today," she adds.
Sharat Dhall, managing director for Tripadvisor, India, says that good accommodation in a metro is something that should be a priority. "Not everyone can afford to stay at properties like the Taj and Oberoi," he says.
On the Town
Dhall also agrees that the number of tourists travelling to metros is increasing. "There are definitely a lot of gaps here. We’ve not taken enough interest in promoting our cities as we should have," he admits.
While cities like Paris, London and New York may have an active tourism industry backing them, the same cannot yet be said for Delhi and Mumbai. "But this too is changing," says Agarwal. "Delhi is positioning itself as a leisure spot: it has wide roads, greenery and spacious houses that make living here an experience."
Everyone agrees that the tourism industry needs to be more proactive about metros. "With the Commonwealth Games, the government is waking up too," adds Agarwal. "There’s an urgency to have more affordable hotels, more bed and breakfast places, as well as realistic hotel prices."
Love your Metro
Mumbai: Entertainment capital, has a a rocking nightlife. Good public transport system. Visit: Victoria Gardens, Gateway of India, Haji Ali dargah, Colaba Causeway, Chowpatty and Juhu beaches, Borivili National Park, Kala Ghoda, Flora Fountain, Nehru Science Centre.
Delhi: Our political and cultural Capital. There’s also an endless amount of heritage and history to be explored. Visit: Humayun’s Tomb, Akshardham, Raj Ghat, India Gate, Qutub Minar, Dilli Haat, Chandni Chowk, Jantar Mantar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid. http://www.delhitourism.nic.in
Chennai: A spiritual hub. The city has many temples you can visit if you’re spiritually inclined. Visit: Marina Beach, Government Museum, Ramakrishna Temple, Kalpeeshwar Temple, Crocodile Bank.
Bangalore: There’s more to this IT hub than meets the eye – after all, it is the ‘Garden City’. Visit: Lal Bagh Botanical Garden, Bannerghatta National Park, Lumbini Gardens, Innovative Film City, Bangalore Palace, Cubbon Park. http://www.karnatakatourism.org/
Calcutta: Known for its academic and intellectual culture and vibrant social life. Visit: Victoria Memorial, BBD Bagh, Fort William, Writers Building, Shahid Minar, Marble Palace, Botanical Gardens, Nicco Park, Science City, Howrah Bridge. http://www.westbengaltourism.gov.in/wb/
Pune: This ‘Oxford of the East’ is known for its cuisine, student and youth culture, and vibrant arts scene. Visit: Osho Ashram, Shaniwarwada, MG Road, Visapur Fort.
Hyderabad: Best known for the Charminar and other historical monuments. Visit: Charminar, Golconda Fort, Salar Jung Museum, NTR Gardens, Banjara Hills, Ramoji Film City.