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holiday rush: The great holiday rush: This New Year season, Indians are travelling like never before, and the world opens up to them


New Delhi: Where are Indians headed this Christmas and year-end season? Pretty much everywhere!

Going by most accounts, the October to December quarter this year is likely to be a bumper quarter for the travel and hospitality sector with most companies claiming to have an even better momentum than in 2019.

“There is a lot of talk about high airfares but the important thing to note is that people are travelling,” said Rajesh Magow, cofounder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip.

“Typically, international travel bookings, even for short-haul travel, are made a couple of weeks or more in advance. However, with markets such as Thailand and others making the entry process a lot easier, we are seeing advance purchase windows for these destinations becoming shorter, in many cases, stretching to a couple of days,” he said.

As per MakeMyTrip data, the top destinations for the last week of December in the domestic sector include Goa, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Kerala, Rishikesh and Kashmir.

In terms of international flight bookings, popular destinations such as the UAE, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia continue to be favourites. There is also a “significant” increase for Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Kazakhstan, Magow said.

The Great Holiday Rush

Aloke Bajpai, group CEO and cofounder of Ixigo, said searches for travel in December to Malaysia and Thailand have seen more than 100% month-on-month increase, after visa policy changes that allow a 30-day visa-free stay for Indians.

As per data Ixigo shared with ET, the top domestic destinations booked for travel in the last week of December are Goa, Jaipur, Chennai, New Delhi, and Mumbai, while top international destinations during the same period are Dubai, Bangkok, Colombo, New York, and Bali.

“Domestic travel searches for December are up 38% year on year whereas international travel has seen a rise of 54% this year-end as compared to last year,” Bajpai said. “Our booking trends show Goa was the most booked non-metro destination in 2023 and it is a popular option for year-end travel as well.”

Nikhil Sharma, market managing director, Eurasia, at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said the chain’s booking data revealed varied preferences of Indian travellers ranging from Udaipur, Jaipur, and Kerala to Dubai, Phuket, Bangkok, and Hanoi. “Recent visa-free arrangements with Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia have led to a substantial surge in bookings for these markets compared to last year,” he added.

Rajeev Kale, president and country head for holidays, MICE, and visa at Thomas Cook (India) said the 30% growth in bookings that the company is seeing is not just because of favourites such as Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Shillong, Coorg, and Munnar, but there is also a growing interest among consumers for spiritual destinations such as Varanasi, Amritsar, Prayagraj and Puri.

“Indians are displaying a growing interest in exceptional experiences, and this winter we have included experiences such as husky safaris and staying in a glass igloo in Finland’s Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort with views of the northern lights, and sailing on a pontoon barge while exploring the upper reaches of Knysna in South Africa,” he said.

Vinutaa S, vice president and sector head for corporate ratings at investment information and credit rating agency ICRA, said the hospitality industry revenues are expected to grow by 12-15% year on year in the quarter ending December on an already high base of the third quarter of FY23.

“Supported partly by the preference for experiences and travel, the festive season this year has been much stronger than last year and pre-Covid-19,” she said. “The demand has largely stemmed from domestic tourists, although foreign tourist arrivals have been picking up.”

Deep Banka, chief operating officer of Zostel, said popular destinations such as Mussoorie, Manali, Rishikesh, and Lonavala are expected to surpass all previous records.

As per data, the top searched destinations by Indians travelling within the country from December 23 till January 2 are Puducherry, Puri and Udaipur.

Daniel D’Souza, president and country head for holidays at SOTC Travel, said with Cordelia cruises and the introduction of Costa’s domestic sailings, cruise holidays are witnessing high interest not only from metros and the mini-metros but also regional India’s tier two and three cities.

“High net-worth individuals are keen on once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as a cruise to undiscovered Antarctica, hunting for glaciers in Greenland, or a visit to the official residence of Santa Claus in Finland’s Rovaniemi,” he added.


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