Know how much to budget for your trip, what precautions to take and which destinations are a safe bet
About one million tourists visited Maldives in 2021 (till November 15 this calendar year) of which over 240,000 were Indians, according to data from Think Strawberries, the agency appointed by Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). The number of Indian arrivals in Maldives makes India the number one source market for second year in a row.
On the domestic front, Goa has become hugely popular, along with Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and the North East.In fact, a recent survey shows that 79 per cent of Indians’ have visited between 2-10 states during the past one year, and nature centric travel is the top draw, be it the beaches of Goa or the hills of Himachal, Leh-Ladakh, Uttarakhand and the North East. Rajasthan, the Andamans and Kerala have also made it to the list of preferred destinations.
Even bike trips are doing well. Digital travel platform Agoda’s Indiagenous Travel survey found that Indians are exploring travel options for three key reasons: scenery (68 per cent), cuisine (50 per cent) and art and culture (43 per cent).
With the easing of restrictions and vaccine acceptance, people are now planning their travel bucket list and even business meets are being planned at conventional leisure destinations.
Says Sudhir Sobti, a tourism professional who travelled as part of a business delegation to Pahalgam for three days: “It was an absolutely normal happy feeling being in Kashmir in early October and Covid safety norms were carefully being followed by the authorities at the Airport. I had carried the required RT-PCR report from Delhi with me. For those who could not manage this test beforehand, there were suitable hassle-free arrangements at the airport itself. Golfing at the Pahalgam Golf course was an out-of-the-world experience. Surprisingly, I learnt that the tourist traffic to Kashmir exceeded the pre-Covid days.”
Wellness destinations are a safe bet for travellers. Giving a sense of what it costs to travel to these popular hotspots, Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head– Holidays, MICE, Visa, at Thomas Cook (India) Limited says, “We offer exciting domestic per person holiday packages. For a 5-night-6 day holiday to some of India’s most favourite destinations, one must budget for at least Rs 23,500 per person for Kashmir, Rs 28,000 for Leh-Ladakh, Rs 23,000 for Himachal Pradesh, Rs 25,600 for Uttarakhand, Rs 28,600 for the North-East and Rs 30,000) for the Andamans, while a trip to Goa would be approximately Rs 18,000 per person.”
North East for its promise of being a cultural and experiential extravaganza is becoming a major tourist destination attracting travellers. It also has the lowest AQI and is clean and green. Says Ankit Rastogi, Head of Accommodation and Activities, Cleartrip: “The Hornbill Music Festival of Nagaland held in Kisama village is among the most popular music festivals in the country. During the event, last year’s flight bookings for Dimapur (the closest airport for reaching the festival) saw the bookings almost triple as compared to normal days. For Guwahati (another close-by airport) the air bookings increased substantially as well. In addition, Naga food experiments are famous the world over and these culinary itineraries have a lot to offer during this time of the year. Other popular and emerging festivals attracting experiential enthusiasts inclined towards music are the Majuli music festival on the world’s largest river island Majuli in Assam, and Sangai in Manipur. In the East, the Konark festival in Odisha is all about dance, music, culture, art, and craft. It is held in the first week of December.”
Food tours are gaining popularity. Just like music, destinations that offer remarkable culinary experiences are always on the list of gourmet enthusiasts and food lovers. A recent trend in this space is food lovers indulging in a cooking session with the chefs in order to get the true experience and learn about the local spices. Says Rastogi: “Many homestays attract travellers with their culinary experiences, where spice gardens can be visited to have a first-hand experience of how spices are grown. One can also participate in the kitchen along with the hosts and see the use of cardamom and pepper, among other crops. This particularly clicks with global guests and domestic millennials as well.”
Plan your winter vacation
Now is the time to start booking your winter travel. You can go snowboarding or tobogganing or try reindeer sleighs, stay in a glass igloo and get a spectacular view of the Northern Lights or visit Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi, Finland. You can also try winter saunas with fire and ice pools or indulge in fondue in a tram. Snowscapes of winter along with the festivities and light-ups of Christmas are there all across the UK and in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. Many places offer winter adventure activities like skiing, ATV rides, snowboarding, snow cycling, ice skating, snow sledding.
Budgeting for a winter international holiday
Says Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head, SOTC Travel: “While planning an international trip to European favourites like France and Switzerland, we recommend customers to budget Rs 65,000-95,000 for airfare per passenger. We offer accommodation with breakfast, transfers and sightseeing as per itinerary, along with insurance for about Rs 90,900 per person for a week-long trip to Switzerland, and Rs 61,600 for a 5-day holiday to France. Additionally, visa formalities would be Rs 8,500-9,000 per head. We also offer sweet deals like buy-one-get-one, under which a companion can also be accommodated. Air fare is extra in all cases.”
Closer home, Dubai and Maldives are the most preferred global destinations. Dubai holidays would cost about Rs 20,000 per person for a 4-day stay, with Rs 32,000-38,000 extra for airfare. For Maldives, the group tour budget starts at Rs 59,000 inclusive of flights, accommodation and meals. Luxury hotels during this festive season start at about Rs 300,000 for a 5-day stay with accommodation and breakfast.
Travel with caution
To travel or not to travel? That is the question. The deterrents are the Covid-19 protocols, which vary across destinations, and the fear of local outbreaks, as in the case of Russia, and Kerala and Maharashtra in India. However, with most places now recognising full vaccination and RT-PCR on limited routes, travel has bounced back to pre-Covid levels. But it has become 10 per cent more expensive if you are travelling now, says Romil Pant, Senior Vice President-Leisure Travel, Thomas Cook (India) Limited. He says travel companies are now investing a lot more in safety norms such as keeping vaccinated travel advisors and contactless bookings. Thomas Cook also offers free rescheduling and cancellation, Covid insurance with 24/7 doctor on call, vaccinated Covid-negative fellow travellers, Covid-negative vaccinated drivers and hotel staff, plus sanitised rooms and vehicles. Pant says all Thomas Cook packages and trips are equipped with TravShield–a comprehensive safety commitment and assured safe travel programme in association with Apollo Clinics.
When travelling globally, factor in extra expenses such as charges for RT-PCR and other tests. One traveller, Ananta Pandit, got stuck in Paris and had to shell out 50 euros, or about Rs 4,200, as she had forgotten her test reports. Ditto for Natasha Soni who paid 65 CHF in Switzerland (Rs 5,200) for a similar test. Compare this with a Rs 500 RT-PCR when you are travelling from Delhi to Mumbai.
Plan your travel
Travellers should plan their travel in advance, carefully evaluating locations and observing the ongoing Covid situation before finalising the destination. Prahlad Krishnamurthi, Chief Business Officer, Cleartrip, says, “Having the necessary information about regulations, travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, etc helps ease out last-minute hassles and ensures a better experience. At Cleartrip, we understand the uncertainties that surround travel decisions and offer products like EzCancel, which gives the flexibility to consumers to easily cancel flights and get full refund in case of any last minute changes.”
Corporate travel is also coming back gradually as people slowly resume working from offices. Vinod Kannan, Chief Commercial Officer, Vistara, observes a surge in demand on the metro routes in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata, and leisure destinations like Goa. He says Vistara has altered processes and intensified sanitisation efforts, and adds, “We were also the first Indian airline to let passengers book an additional adjacent seat for greater peace of mind while travelling. We offer touchless check-in and arrival for all passengers while ensuring row-wise staggered boarding and deboarding. All passengers are encouraged to web check-in and self-print their boarding cards through constant communication across platforms. We only accept digital payments for physical transactions. The baggage tags are also sent digitally to passengers. All passenger touchpoints are regularly and thoroughly sanitised, and all aircraft interiors are cleaned with approved disinfectants ahead of each flight.”
Explore options of financing your holidays, if you think that is right for you. Says Akash Dahiya, Founder, SanKash, a travel fintech company: “We have had a 3x jump in travel loan volumes from pre-Covid levels, not only for vacations, but also for pilgrimages, education or home travel. Post lockdown, people are in “save-&-spend” mode, and want to consume but not from their savings, as past waves have impacted their incomes and future waves aren’t ruled out. An interesting thing about travel loans is that we have 40 per cent repeat borrowers, which means travellers tend to settle the first loan before they take the next trip. Currently our average loan duration is 10 months.” Their typical user is in the 30-35 age bracket, has a family with one kid, is a passport holder and takes two travel products in a year. The user looks for an experience-based holiday instead of an asset-based one, with the average ticket size at Rs 95,000. Dahiya’s company also introduced travel insurance last quarter and is seeing a 500 per cent spike in uptake. He anticipates that the gross revenue from insurance will be at par with the firm’s lending revenue next year.
Finally, hope for the best, steer clear of unnecessary risks, and be unsurprised by anything in between, when you travel now.
Table: Indicative travel budget for different destinations
|Travel Cost: Air/Rail/Road (Rs)
|Hotel Stay: Ballpark cost (Rs per head)
|65,000 (3N 4D)
|20,000 (3N 4D)
|90,900 (6N 7D)
|61,600 (4N 5D)
|23,500 (5N 6D)
|28,000 (5N 6D)
|18,500 (5N 6D)
|23,000 (5N 6D)
|25,600 (5N 6D)
|28,600 (5N 6D)
|30,000 (5N 6D)
- The Himachal Pradesh package would typically cover Shimla, Manali, Dharmashala, and even Chandigarh
- The Uttarakhand package would cover Nainital, Jim Corbett, Almora, and Ranikhet
- Land Package includes Accommodation with Breakfast, Transfers, sightseeing as per itinerary and insurance for duration of stay
- Flight cost is tentative and taken for the month of December
- Land Package: Rate of Exchange taken as 1 EUR = Rs 88 and 1 CHF = Rs 80
- Add-on supplement would be Rs 8,500-9,000 per head for visa formalities
- Travel costs are ex-Delhi
Credit: Thomas Cook India Private Limited