Archana Ravichander is the editor at Ghumakkar.com, a popular travel site in India. She strongly believes the company's philosophy - "Traveling builds tolerance and tolerance builds peace."
We sat down with Archana to get her insights into the travel industry. Here's what she had to say:
To start, what are some of your earliest travel memories, and how do you think they impacted your feelings about traveling later in life?
Traveling has been in my family, and we have traveled extensively in and around Bengaluru (The IT hub in Southern India), the city where I was born. We would never pass up an opportunity to travel, especially during school vacations, when we traveled in a big group of about 15 people. These trips would be mostly to religious places, together with attractions for us kids. Those trips and the memories attached have been enriching for us because it bonded us well as a family and helped in making collective decisions. My dad would often discuss and take our suggestions before he booked a tour! Even to this day, we live by that rule - to sit together as a family, plan a tour that caters to all and the result is another treasured trip!
What inspired you to take the next step and become a travel blogger? How has being a travel blogger impacted not only the way that you vacation, but the way that you see where you live?
I used to scribble my mind's meanderings in a personal blog. I was always very narrative and expressive about my trips when I spoke to friends. So, a friend of mine suggested to write them down in a blog. I felt it was a great idea to put it all in one place and thus it began.
I then wrote for a few websites and also on Ghumakkar where I then became an editor.
Travel blogging opens the door to a whole new world of travel. It exposes us to a variety of destinations - some typically touristy and many other exotic and unconventional. It puts a huge spread on your plate to choose from. I love to try new things, so I make my choice such that it is something or some place that adds new flavor each time.
That explains why I look for variety in the places where I stay, too. Most times, it's a hotel or a resort but recently we have been looking for campsites or cottages. Only when you try it we will know whether we like it!
You've stayed in a wide range of places, from lavish resorts to modest homes. How would you compare the experience of staying in someone's home versus a resort experience, in terms of getting an authentic local experience?
Resorts, hotels, and bed and breakfasts are all good, comfortable options. But to get the local feel, it is wise to stay at someone's house in that locality. They know the place better than any travel guide and they will be the best ones to suggest some of the places that aren't documented in any travel forum!
I had this experience of staying at a homestay in Madikeri a while ago. The family who owned the home not only cooked the best local cuisine for us, but also guided us to some unique trekking-trail which we wouldn't have discovered otherwise. Given an option, such stays are the best for a keen traveler.
On that note, what are some ways that you go about researching where you're going to stay on your travels? What do you look for in a place to stay to have the best possible experience on your trip?
As we plan our trip, our criteria are to first list down the things we want to do. Then, we look for an accommodation that allows us to be self-sufficient and one that is close to the attractions on our list. I read extensively about information on travel blogs and forums. I go through the reviews and feedback that fellow travelers have written.
We finally decide on a place that has comfortable and convenient rooms, the one that has all the basic essentials within the premises or at least close by. We travel with our toddler now, so we look for some activities in and around the place that satisfies her too!
You cannot find a perfect place but you can always find something that matches most of your high-priority requirements. That will be a good place to stay during your vacation.
Being a traveler means seeing everything with fresh eyes. For people who are looking to make their rental properties appeal to travelers, how can this fresh sight come in handy when describing the property for potential guests?
Yes, a keen traveler looks for something different each time. Travelers are all not of one type. So, a rental property has a big challenge for itself to cater to the needs of such diversity. Most rentals have the basic amenities in them. It is important to stand out in the crowd for the renters. They need to add features to suit all types of people. For example, an option to customize the stay based on individual's requirement could be something eye-catching.
To explain further, consider a group of 5 novice rafters who have little knowledge about rafting or the location. If a renter can arrange for their stay, book for a guide and an instructor who can teach them lessons before they go rafting. Not only will more ambitious rafters want to come here again, but so will others who just want to see the wonderful location. I guess customization is the buzz in the market and each one should incorporate it into their business.
Can you recommend some exceptionally good travel writing books or resources, where a rental property owner can see great examples of travel writing to emulate?
There are a million options to choose from nowadays if we have to refer to for travel writing or writing in general. However, there are some really trusted forums where you can gather good and reliable information. Tripadvisor forum is a good place to start for analyzing what works better in a particular place. That apart, to get a one-on-one guidance for travel writing per say, we have Matador Network, the writing.com site and many others who lend help when you enroll for a course.
Increasing amounts of millennials are traveling each year, as they tend to value new experiences or physical belongings. What are some features a rental property owner might make their property appeal to millennials and, again, why should they not overlook that age group?
Millennials are a huge section in the market. Their needs and interests are far more diverse and dynamic than the baby boomers. The millennials have the energy and enthusiasm to go around the globe to quench their insatiable thirst for something new! They often want to do many things during a trip. Showcasing a wide spectrum of attractions nearby your property can help attract a millennial audience.
On the flip side, if you can go in-depth about one activity (say lessons on kayaking and a week long break for you to implement it) can also be something that grabs their attention. They are more spontaneous and eager to know more about the unknown. Rental owners looking to serve them must be very innovative and look for an audience on such forums to gather their customers' insight. Overlooking this diaspora will only make you less competent in the industry.
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