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NEW DELHI : Short- and medium-haul destinations such as Dubai, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Singapore, Phuket, and Male are leading the recovery in international travel among Indian holidayers as declining covid-19 cases led to a sense of cautious optimism, said industry observers.

“Interest in international travel in the summer remains strong because of pent-up demand," said Aloke Bajpai, group chief executive and co-founder, ixigo.

According to the travel portal, international routes such as Mumbai-Dubai, New Delhi-Dubai, Mumbai-Bangkok, New Delhi-Kathmandu, Bengaluru-Male, and New Delhi-Singapore, witnessed the highest passenger occupancy in May.

Both online and offline travel operators are seeing a rise in demand for destinations in South East Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. Queries for the US, the UK, and Canada have also been picking up. According to Cleartrip, the top international destinations from India include Bangkok, Male, Phuket, Dubai, Singapore, Kathmandu, London, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait City, New York, and Istanbul.

International passenger traffic for Indian airlines rose to about 2.2 million in May, surpassing the 1.8 million outbound passengers in May 2019 by 24%, rating agency Icra Ltd said in a recent report. However, the rise in jet fuel prices by 89.7% in June from a year ago poses a threat to the airline industry’s earnings for FY23, it said. Airfares, especially for popular long-haul routes such as Mumbai-New York and Bengaluru-London have risen by 10-30% since the Russia-Ukraine war broke out. The one-way fare for Mumbai-New York was 65,000-70,000 in May, while the fare for Bengaluru-London was 43,000-44,000.

“International airfares have risen 45-50% on some popular routes this year compared to pre-covid times (May 2019) because of rising fuel prices," Bajpai said.

Rising airfares may not have impacted short- and medium-haul international travel, especially to destinations in South East Asia and the Middle East, because of pent-up travel demand, but the recovery on long-haul routes is taking longer.

“It seems that many Indians want to travel after being confined to their homes for a large part of the last two years. However, many, especially leisure travellers, are opting for budget travel and avoiding expensive destinations in North America and Europe," said a New Delhi-based travel operator, seeking anonymity. “We expect more bookings to Europe and North America to pick up in coming months (ahead of university admissions)," he said.

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