NEW DELHI – Buoyed by attractive airfares and affordable hotel room rates, more Indians have chosen to holiday abroad this season compared to last year.
Travellers have opted for places such as UAE , Thailand and Malaysia as domestic airfares have shot through the roof. International travel is registering growth of as high as 30% and few of the top destinations are Singapore , Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Hong Kong , Colombo and Kathmandu , according to travel industry executives.
Domestic airfares, which rose by 150-200% after the last festival season, is yet to come down despite the government’s intervention to check the abnormal rise.
“A shift of 10-15% of the holidaying population to international destinations from domestic ones happens almost every year. But this time, at least 20-25% of the holidayers are expected to go abroad, especially, UAE, Thailand and Malaysia,” according to Ankur Bhatia, MD, travel consultancy firm Bird Group .
Cheaper hotel rates have also contributed to the trend. “In addition to airfares, hotel rates are much cheaper in Bangkok or Colombo, compared to Goa or Trivandrum. South-East Asia is the emerging holiday spot this season,” said Sunny Sodhi vice-president (Air Product) online travel firm Yatra.com. While a 3-star hotel room costs something like Rs 8,000 a day in the peak season, one in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur will cost only Rs 4,000. Therefore, holidaying abroad becomes equal to travelling to a domestic destination.
Apart from the exotic east, travel experts say traditional destinations like Goa and Kerala have lesser interest this season as new domestic destinations have emerged. In addition to Rajasthan, Agra and Himachal Pradesh, Indian tourists are showing keen interest in the North-East and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
According to Sodhi, very young crowd like school or college students are opting for Goa, not the seasoned travellers. Moreover, the hotel capacity is also inadequate in Goa and more rooms need to be added to meet the rising demand.
Analysing these trends, leading travel company Thomas Cook believes that the Indian holiday-maker seems to have emerged, thanks to disposable incomes. “Flights are full and it is because of the high demand that airfares have gone up in the first place. But higher airfares is not good for us. However, people are holidaying this December, that too more than last year,” said Madhavan Menon, MD, Thomas Cook.
Air travel grows at a multiple of 1.5-1.8x of the GDP. Given high GDP growth, the demand will also increase next year and so will the airfares by 10-15%, said Bhatia. Travel companies also feel that a few segments of travellers have been hit by airfares. According to iXiGO.com, while high domestic airfares this holiday season have impacted independent low-budget travellers, Thomas Cook believes that lesser families fly because of high airfares.
High airfares have harmed air travel in the sense that travellers have shifted to other modes of transport. “Growth in air travel could have been about 35% this December compared to the last one. Railways have registered 15% increase in passengers compared to last year and the corelation seems to be clear,” said Ashwini Kakkar, executive vice-chairman Mercury Travels.