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In sharp contrast to 2020, a large number of people are set to travel during the festival season beginning August with the ongoing vaccination drive and lower number of covid 19 cases in most states boosting traveller confidence, said travel and tour firms and hospitality chains. 

While some people are looking to spend big festivals such as Ganpati, Durga Puja and Diwali at a tourist destination, others are planning to visit their home city, they said, driving up demand and 50-70% jump in bookings over the same period last year.   

Travel firm SOTC India said that the demand for the upcoming festive season (October and November) is higher by 500% over last year. “We expect the festive season’s recovery at about 70% of 2019 levels," said Daniel D’souza, president and country head, SOTC Travel.  

The bookings for the festive periods of Durga Puja and Diwali have witnessed a 5X growth in July over June. 

Rajeev Kale, president & country head - Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited also said their festival period bookings – for Durga Puja and Diwali – surged 600% in July “with a robust forward pipeline of queries across both India and international destinations. What is noteworthy is the increase in length of stay, averaging about 10-15 days for international trips and around 5-7 days for domestic," he said.
Online travel agent MakeMyTrip said its data shows a five-times increase in travel bookings made this August as compared to the same time last year. Vipul Prakash, chief operating officer, MakeMyTrip said bookings for family travel with more than two members has witnessed growth by over seven times. 
 
“Near-term leisure travel bookings are up by 20%, with bookings for travel during the festive dates already seeing a jump of 35%," Prakash said. As festive holiday season remains one of the most preferred period for families to take out time together, the company is anticipating a significant increase in group or family travel to leisure travel spots in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty, Digha, Pondicherry and Goa in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, enquiries at Yatra have jumped by 15-20% with travellers exploring secluded and less commercial options such as homestays, staycations, cottages, tents, heritage properties apart from conventional places, said Sabina Chopra, co-founder and COO, Corporate Travel & Head Industry Relations, Yatra.com. 
Clearly, hospitality chains are benefitting from this surge in travel across age groups and travel segments including mid-market, upmarket and luxury properties.  

Kerrie Hannaford, vice president – commercial, Accor India & South Asia   said that they have seen notable increase in the percentage of bookings because of the festive season. Accor currently operates brands such as Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure and ibis in India. "We continue to see preference for leisure destinations as people want to drive down to cities close by to take a break from work and spend some quality time with family and friends. Destinations such as Udaipur, Jaipur etc are doing well. We’ve been receiving many queries and bookings for the newly opened Raffles in Udaipur," he said. Other destinations such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Vishakapatnam are doing well with hotels such as Pullman New Delhi Aerocity and Sofitel Mumbai BKC seeing a good share of bookings, especially over the weekends, he added.  

Since its reopening in July 2021 after the second wave, MRS Hotels that manages boutique hotel Narendra Bhawan Bikaner, Suryagarh Jaisalmer and Mary Budden Estate in Binsar, Uttarakhand has seen a 40% increase in bookings for August-September over the same period in 2020. 

"Boutique hotels stand to benefit in a post-covid world as consumers are now aspirational about hosting experiential and instagrammable mini-celebrations at beautiful locations instead of a large celebrations," said Siddharth Yadav, vice president, at the company.

Anthony Bellm, owner, Kahani Paradise, a luxury villa in coastal town of Gokarna, Karnataka, said that the property is seeing a 70% surge in bookings for festive season over 2020. “People are currently looking to travel to private secluded properties within India that will ensure their safety and allow them to enjoy nature and privacy," he added.
 
Jaideep Dang, managing director, Hotels and Hospitality Group, South Asia, JLL, a real estate consultancy firm said that the average room rates (ARRs) of most leisure destinations are chartbusters at the moment. “They are much better than the same time last year. The base last year was too low that’s why there was 84% jump in revenue per room (RevPAR) for the top cities," he noted.  
 
Apart from hills and beaches being the most preferred destinations, Dang pointed out that families and elderly are preferring luxury boutique hotels or homestays. There’s short horizon and impulsive travel as well which is giving lot of business to places such as Jaipur and Chandigarh.  

“For instance, for the Janmashtami weekend (27 to 30 August) there is extremely low availability of rooms across five star and luxury resorts in and around Delhi and Chandigarh. I am informed that while there have been cancellations at short notice, but the rooms are filling up fast because apparently there are several last-minute booking requests," he said. 
 
Fairmont Jaipur, for instance, has already seen an approximately 20% increase in the bookings over last year.  “Fairmont Jaipur is a popular weekend getaway among our guests from Delhi-NCR. Every year, during this period, we also witness a steady demand from the nearby markets of Gujarat.  People like to treat themselves to a staycation for the festive season and this time they also want to make the most of their missed travel opportunities in the last year," said Rajiv Kapoor, general manager, Fairmont Jaipur.

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