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More Indians may spend New Year holidays abroad

More Indians might be holidaying overseas this Christmas-New Year season than last year as relatively cheaper fares and packages, better connectivity, and easier entry requirements have made the proposition more compelling.

Tour and travel companies such as Thomas Cook, SOTC and EaseMyTrip have seen up to 30% uptick in demand for short-haul international routes compared to last year. Packages for many of these destinations are comparable with those for popular domestic destinations, as some countries are actively wooing Indian travellers with visa-free entry and by nudging airlines to offer easy connectivity at affordable rates.

Consider this. A Simply Thailand Thomas Cook package for six days costs Rs 56,508 per person while an Andamans with Neil air inclusive package for six days costs Rs 59,400. A Simply Dubai six-day package costs Rs 70,497 while a Kerala Delight Xmas and New Year air inclusive package for six days costs Rs 63,990 per person. Similarly, a seven-day ‘Crazy Deal Bali’ SOTC package with water sport activities costs Rs 67,752 per person while a seven-day SOTC Assam and Meghalaya package costs Rs 62,490 per person.

“International fares to some destinations are quite competitive and hotel room rates are very reasonable,” said Ajay Prakash, board member of industry body Federation of Associations for Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH). “The recent move by neighbours such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and now Malaysia making travel visa free for Indians make these places more desirable.”

In fact, according to him, international travel is looking more “robust” than domestic travel.

Rajesh Magow, cofounder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip, said the company is seeing a significant increase in travel to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Kazakhstan. “A common factor among these destinations is the introduction or resumption of direct flights, coupled with the removal of visa-related barriers except for Hong Kong,” he said.Thomas Cook said it is seeing a 30% higher demand for short-haul international routes compared to last year for November and December.Rajeev Kale, president and country head for holidays, MICE and visa at Thomas Cook India, said the announcement on visa-free entry for Indians to Thailand has seen strong interest, leading to an annual increase of 30%.

Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India, said destinations such as Almati (Kazakhstan), Egypt, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand are seeing a rise in bookings as flight connectivity for many international routes is better now. “Even destinations such as South Africa have seen an uptick,” she said.

Airlines gung-ho
Neliswa Nkani, hub head, Middle East, India and South-East Asia, at South African Tourism, said it recently launched a value-driven campaign in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines offering return fares from India starting at Rs 40,596.

Airlines said the visa-free approach that governments are taking for Indian tourists will make the country a larger source market for them.

“The 30-day visa-free entry for the citizens of India will surely provide a welcome boost for Malaysia’s tourism and its economy ahead of the upcoming peak travel season while boosting economic bonds between these great nations,” said Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, which operates AirAsia.

His airline will increase weekly flights between Malaysia and India to 69 in the first quarter of 2024, connecting Kuala Lumpur to nine cities in India — Bengaluru, Kolkata, Kochi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Tiruchirappalli, New Delhi, Amritsar and, from February 2024, Thiruvananthapuram.

IndiGo, India’s largest airline, and Thai Airways are looking to increase flights to Thailand, which has waived visa requirements for Indians till May 10.Thai Airways operates 68 weekly flights between the two countries while IndiGo operates 44.

On Thursday, Manta Air announced direct flights from Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport to Dhaalu Airport in the Maldives from January next year. Ahmed Maumoon, deputy CEO of Manta Air, said the move will help boost bookings for resorts in Dhaalu Atoll, particularly Kandima, RIU Hotel, and Niyama Private Islands, which are all located in close proximity to the airport. “By facilitating easier and more affordable travel access to the Maldives, we foresee a substantial increase in travel demand from Bengaluru and across India in 2024 and beyond,” he said.

GB Srithar, regional director for India, Middle East, South Asia & Africa at Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said Singapore is among the most popular destinations for Indian travellers who have made 2023 a big year for exploring the world.

“We expect to round off the full year with over one million Indian visitors,” Srithar said. “Flight capacity to Singapore has grown beyond pre-Covid levels, and with new flight additions by leading airline carriers in 2023, passengers flying from India to Singapore now have more travel options at their disposal.”

Rikant Pittie, co-founder of EaseMyTrip said a significant increase in preference for beach holidays and high domestic fares is pushing Indians to opt for affordable short-haul international trips. Liam Findlay, CEO, Miral Destinations said as of October this year, hotels in Yas Island witnessed a 58% increase in guests from India compared to the previous year.

Some in the travel industry fear the rising popularity of international tours could hurt domestic destinations.

Rajiv Mehra, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators, said domestic sectors such as Kerala are appearing muted and that he hoped demand will pick up in the coming weeks.

Magow of MakeMyTrip, though, said domestic destinations including Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Manali and Ooty are seeing good demand.


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