New Delhi: In an effort to shore up their businesses in a slowing economy, Indian travel agents and tour operators are offering packages that are specially designed to attract the budget-conscious traveler. Online travel portal Makemytrip.com, which has witnessed a decline in domestic travel of about 20% from both international and domestic tourists, now includes airfare in 90% of the packages its offers.
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Group tours, which are often seen as inconvenient and too tied to a schedule, are becoming more popular because they are less expensive compared with customized tours. Sumit Kaur of Leisure Tours says 80% of Indian tourists used to opt for customized tours. But this has changed over the last year and a half. About 40% of travel is now customized and group tours make up the rest.
Companies are also throwing in freebies to attract customers. Travel agency Thomas Cook’s packages include value adds such as children-travel-free, inclusion of new venues, and free sight seeing tours. “We are passing the benefits of recession to our customers because sentiments are low, and whatever our suppliers are passing on to us, we are passing on to customers”, says Bhimesh Issar, general manager at Thomas Cook adding: “The packages we offered last year have come down by 30%.”
Leisure Tours’ Kaur recommends discovering places like Leh in Ladakh and Srinagar within India, which offer a combination of natural beauty and adventure tourism. Outside India, he recommends the Scandanavian countries for their beauty and gorgeous boutique hotels. Other places he says that are nice and affordably priced are Indonesia and Sri Lanka, however, the threat of terrorism has kept tourists away more recently.