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Business News/ News / India/  Outbound travel searches, bookings witness big jump

NEW DELHI : Tour operators are reporting a significant spike in search queries and bookings for outbound holiday travel, with the pandemic receding, restrictions on international flights easing and countries starting to open up their borders.

Many did not put a number to the percentage jump as it is early days, but most admitted that pent-up demand is there for premium travel stays at destinations as varied as Dubai, the Maldives, France and Spain.

“Over the past few weeks, on MakeMyTrip, nearly 80% of the total searches were for bookings in the Maldives, Dubai and Europe," said Vipul Prakash, chief operating officer of the online travel firm. “As countries start to welcome back Indian travellers, there is a wave of optimism and confidence gradually building up around international travel," he said.

The company has seen a significant jump in international travel bookings for November. “As the year-end travel season returns, we hope to see the numbers rising significantly for December as well. As more countries reopen for Indian tourists, international travel will make a strong comeback," Prakash said.

Pent-up demand and the opportunity to vacation with family and friends are driving bookings from India, said Radhika Khanijo, managing director of luxury outbound travel company Welgrow Travels, which designs packages for high net-worth individuals. Her clients have been readying for a snowy holiday this winter, with many of them are booking destinations such as Switzerland, France, Spain, the UK and US for the upcoming holiday season, she said.

“The maximum queries right now are for France, the Maldives and Spain. Some have booked plush ski resorts in Switzerland and others, the French Alps," she said. These countries have resumed commercial flights with India. So have Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“The amount of interest in travel is unprecedented right now. Almost all flights are full and holiday travel partners have their hands completely full," she said.

“Having missed out on travel for more than 18 months, Indians are clearly pushing the envelope. Our data at Thomas Cook indicates a diversity of exceptional destinations and experiences emerging on our customer wish-lists from Sardinia’s clear blue waters, New Zealand’s stunning and secluded vistas, to Scandinavia’s sauna and aurora borealis experiences," said Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holidays, MICE, Visa, at Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

Bookings for private jets for destinations like the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia are on the rise, said JetSetGo, a private aviation service. It is now getting queries for the US as the country will open up for international travel from 8 November for fully vaccinated people.

The last two months have seen a rise in queries for Switzerland, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Vancouver and London, said travel firm ixigo. “Ixigo has seen a 74% increase in overall international travel bookings from 1 to 21 October as compared to 1 to 21 August," said Aloke Bajpai, group chief executive officer and co-founder, Ixigo. The company has seen a 15-20% increase in search queries for Dubai, the Maldives and Russia for leisure travel.

Southeast Asia seems to be on the bucket list of Indians eagerly waiting to travel to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, when restrictions ease in the near future, MakeMyTrip said.

The tourism boards of Indonesia and Mauritius said India is among the top countries they receive visitors from and are expecting tourists to be back as soon as airways open up. The Indian market is its sixth-largest, and more than 75,000 Indian tourists visited the country in 2019, said Arvind Bundhun, director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.

Indonesia, which received more than 650,000 Indian tourists in 2019, its fifth-largest market, before the pandemic, is working towards the connectivity of direct and indirect flights from India, said R. Sigit Witjaksono, director of tourism marketing for the east, south and central Asia region, of Indonesia.

Pent-up demand is also driving up costs because of expensive, limited flights operated under air-bubble pacts with countries. Flights to Dubai, which were at roughly 20,000 for a return trip in 2019, are priced at 55,000 for the economy class, said travel agency Thomas Cook India & SOTC. It said ticket prices to Zurich, Paris and Istanbul have jumped from 45,000 to more than 1 lakh

Varuni Khosla
Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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Updated: 22 Oct 2021, 12:24 AM IST
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