After second wave of COVID-19 subsided, travel confidence began to gradually return from June
With festivals and the coming holiday season raising demand for travel to levels not seen since the COVID-19 pandemic, where people are headed, for how long and what is their means of transport are distinctly different from the early days of the unlockdown across the States.
After the second wave of COVID-19 subsided, and travel confidence began to gradually return from June, the average length of stay was between five to seven nights, with most people preferring destinations located within a driving distance. Now, people are willing to plan a longer break of upto 10 days especially for Christmas and New Year, and take a flight to travel further away, says Daniel D’souza President & Country Head, SOTC Travel.
For most domestic tourists, it is a toss up between hill stations in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty or beaches of Pondicherry and Goa, say various online travel agents. Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan are also hot favourites.
MakeMyTrip has also seen a large number of bookings for homestays in Goa, Lonavala, Alibaug and Mahabaleshwar in the West, and Nainital, Mussoorie, Shimla and Manali in the North. Coorg, Munnar, Chikmagalur and Ooty in the South are also popular for their “workation homestays”, including plantation stays and eco-friendly cottages.
So, who do Indians prefer to travel with? Mr. D’souza says their survey shows that 62% respondents prefer to travel with family or friends, 20% as either couples or solo and 18% as part of a vaccinated group.
Due to border restrictions imposed by various countries, there is a much bigger demand for tourist destinations within the country.
“The spotlight has shifted firmly to Destination India and we have witnessed a surge across domestic destinations. We have achieved our 12-month 2019 bookings in merely nine months of 2021 and are currently on 135%. International [travel] has seen a surge of 9X in queries for international travel for July-September vs April – June of 2022,” Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited.
“We know there’s huge pent-up demand because any time restrictions lift, we see immediate, pumped-up demand – be it domestic or international,” notes Ritu Mehrotra, Regional Manager – South Asia at Booking.com
As far as international travel is concerned, Maldives, Dubai and Europe are clear favourites, especially with key destinations in South Asia yet to open for Indians.
“Destinations in South Asia seem to be on the much-awaited list of Indian tourists, with many eagerly waiting to travel to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, as restrictions ease in the near future. We have seen a significant jump in international travel bookings for November and as per the data on the platform, the month is leading with maximum travel bookings during the quarter, says Vipul Prakash, COO, MakeMyTrip. He adds that there has been a significant uptick in searches and bookings to the U.K. and to the U.S.
Not just leisure travel, corporate travel is also gradually picking up- 24% of IndiGo’s total business comes from business travel. The largest airline in the country ferries almost six out of every 10 air travellers who fly domestically. Its Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer, Sanjay Kumar, recently said they have seen a 50% recovery in the corporate segment, and that post Diwali this was likely to improve further. “People have started travelling for meetings and conferences on the corporate side,” he observed.
MakeMyTrip, too, points out that travel bookings show “full recovery across Pharma, Healthcare, Real Estate and Biotech sectors as well as Manufacturing, Defense & Space, Logistics with professionals now returning to travel for work”.