Home on the highway
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Though the development and popularity of India's nascent caravan market depends on factors like road surface improvement and the backing of state tourism boards, tourism domain experts are confident about its potential.
For those brought up on a pedigree of Hollywood flicks, the concept of a caravan or motorhome (or simply a recreational vehicle or RV) is not an alien one. Signifying the on-the-road modern nomadic travel experience, these vehicles are hugely popular in the West among travellers who usually hit the road for longer durations. But what we see on screen, we hardly spot on Indian roads. But make no mistake, a nascent caravan market now exists in India, and with new players entering this previously non-existent segment, it may very well find traction in times to come.
Three years ago, the ministry of tourism (MoT) came out with a caravan tourism policy that talked of popularising the concept and developing caravan parks on the PPP model, which would serve as parking bays, will have tourist amenities and will also provide electricity, water and sewerage disposal facilities to the caravans which are parked. However, there hasn't been much movement on the ground with regard to these plans. Notwithstanding, Madhya Pradesh Tourism started caravan tourism services soon after the MoT announced the policy.
Since the past two years, MP tourism has been renting out its fleet of three caravans fitted with modern state-of-the-art facilities to tourists. The officials say the response is good, but not overwhelming. However, the state tourism board plans to continue and even expand the fleet and services with the concept gaining popularity in India. "Railway and hotel reservations are a problem these days and the number of travellers looking for options that are a little offbeat is increasing. That's where we feel caravan tourism can become a sizeable segment in the tourism market. It's still at a nascent stage, the concept is yet to pick up. In spite of it being a niche segment, we are sure the response will improve in the near future and as and when that happens, we, too, will expand our fleet and services," says Vivek Mathur, general manager, Madhya Pradesh tourism. These caravans or motorhomes can carry seven people and apart from various tourist packages being offered by MP tourism, they can be hired for R24 per km, with a minimum of 250 km a day. Mathur says MP tourism is working on around 20 caravan bays that would include washrooms, washing machines, facilities to clean the caravans, etc. Some of these bays are almost ready and will soon be operational.