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BENGALURU : Indians have significantly cut back on travel this year, when compared to 2019, as a majority of them travelled within the country and stuck to short-distances rather than long routes, said industry experts.

After studying travel patterns in the last few months, Booking.com calculated that the average distance Indians travelled between June and August 2020 is down 56% compared with the same period last year, which is slightly lower than the global average of 63%. When looking back at the same time last year, Indian travellers journeyed on average 1,786 km per booking. In 2020, that distance has dropped to just 780 km per booking.

The survey also showed that the share of domestic travel has gone up significantly in 2020 when compared to last year. More than half (67%) of the total distance travelled by Indians between 1 June and 31 August 2020 was within the country, compared to only 34% during the same period of 2019. Destinations such as New Delhi, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Mumbai, and Hyderabad emerged as the most booked destinations in the same period this year.

Besides, the pandemic has had “seismic" shifts in travel behaviour and destination choices although many are now choosing to do their leisure travel domestically in remote locations, Booking.com said in its study.

When it comes to accommodation choices, Indian travellers were have mostly opted for motels in 2020 when compared to last year, followed by other options such as independent villas, hotels, lodges and homestays, according to the Booking.com study. At the end of 2019, before travellers and tourists' plans were affected by the covid outbreak, only 28% of Indians intended to stay in a villa, 16% in motels and 63% were anticipating to stay in traditional hotels.

While flight tickets across online booking platforms are gradually picking up, most of these are for domestic routes. Nishant Pitti, chief executive and co-founder of online travel ticketing platform Easemytrip said that it processed flight tickets worth 8.5 core on September 30th from around 19,500 passengers. This number has gone up from around 6.4 crore worth bookings from at least 12,750 passengers as of 1 September.

On 30 September 2019, Easemytrip processed around 11 crores worth of airline tickets, indicating that a full demand recovery for flights could be just months away. However, only 10-15% of the current volume of flight tickets point out to leisure travel, Pitti said in a phone interview. He added that even in leisure travel, only a maximum of 2 or 3 passengers booked a ticket to holiday destinations, with people avoiding traveling in large groups.

“We are seeing group travel demand for charter planes for up to 90 passengers, especially for marriage events, across routes like Delhi to Udaipur and back. These are not economically cheaper options, and customers shell out at least 100% more in tickets prices when compared to 90 tickets booked in a commercial airline," Pitti said.

Pitti also pointed out that the Delhi-Bombay flight route topped the most traveled list contributing to around 1.25% of all flight tickets bookings in September 2020. Kolkata to Bengaluru contributed 1.22%, Delhi to Srinagar contributed 1.21%, and Patna to Bengaluru route contributed 1.15% of overall bookings in September 2020. Other prominent routes include Bombay to Delhi, Delhi to Patna, and Bhuvneshwar to Bengaluru.

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