Pack your bags, travel: How to make the most of your international holidays

Lucrative discounts and packages lure Indians: here is how to choose the best deals

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

London, Dubai or Singapore: there is a world of places to travel, and Indians will go there, making up for the two years lost in the pandemic.

International flight prices have increased some 38 per cent since 2019, according to KAYAK, an online travel agency and search engine. The bill for a night in a double room in a 3- or 4-star international hotel has increased about 22 per cent since 2019. The prices are not holding back Indians, though this year their international vacations looks to be shorter at 24 days (decreasing about 13 per cent from 2019), according to an analysis of KAYAK’s flight search data.

Apart from travel costs, there is visa delay to consider, especially for the US and UK. “The visa challenge is two pronged: obtaining appointment slots coupled with extended processing time. Appointments for the UK are available within a week, the visa-processing time ranges between approximately 3 to 6 weeks,” said Daniel D’Souza, president and country head–holidays, SOTC Travel.

“However, customers also have the option to fast track the process under priority/super priority visas at an additional cost. For the USA, the earliest available appointment for fresh visas is August 2023. Europe’s Switzerland is issuing visas in 7-10 working days, Spain in 3-10 working days, Greece in 2 weeks,” he said.

SOTC’s data indicates interest for visa-on-arrival/ quick-visa destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles. People with Schengen/USA/UK visa can apply for an e-visa for Turkey.

Dubai to Europe

Dubai is Indians’ most-searched destination for festive season travel, while Bangkok, London and Singapore are high on the list. Vietnam and Cambodia too have witnessed an uptick. Turkey recorded a 25-35 per cent surge in demand compared to pre-pandemic levels, given that it processes visas within 7-8 days under normal and 3-4 days under fast-track process. South Africa recorded a 20-25 per cent increase in visa demand. For Bhutan, Indians don’t need visas but permits that can be procured at the port of entry or before that.

“Despite supply constraints resulting in overall cost escalation of about 10-20%, what is noteworthy is that strong pent up demand is driving appetite for international travel—our demand pipeline is up by over 2x for the Festive-Winter Season (vs last year),” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited,

“Our consumers are willing to increase spends by 20-25% Vs pre-pandemic. In addition to the powerful family/multi-generational family segment, we are witnessing significant uptick from young professionals/millennials and couples/honeymooners,” he said.

Indians will be travelling for the Qatar FIFA World Cup in November and the Singapore Grand Prix in October. “India has always been a key source market for tourism into Singapore. During the period from January to August 2022, [as many as] 370,000 visitor arrivals from India have been recorded. We have an array of exciting events such as Grand Prix Season Singapore that will entice the Indian audiences,” said G B Srithar, regional director, India, Middle East, South Asia and Africa, Singapore Tourism Board.

Ship cruises offering dining, accommodation and entertainment are back in demand: popular ones include Mediterranean cruises, Scandinavian Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises to the Bahamas, Singapore and UAE. “Cruise holidays offer a strong appeal to our segments of multi-generational families, millennials/young working professionals and couples/ honeymoon segments alike, and we are witnessing a month-on-month surge of 35% for domestic and international cruise holidays,” said D’Souza, of SOTC Travel.

For long- and mid-haul destinations, Indians are looking up Jordan, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt. Despite visa constraints Europe continues to see significant demand, especially for Diwali and Christmas markets, he said.

Travel tips

Time is crucial if you want to avail of festival discounts offered by airlines. “Travelers should book their tickets for international travel at least 1-2 months in advance to get the best deals, especially before the peak festive season. Since this is the first festive season with limited Covid-19 restrictions for international travel, the demand will be high this year for international vacations,” said Aloke Bajpai, group CEO and Co-Founder, Ixigo, a travel technology company.

“Airfares for popular routes are expected to shoot up 5-10 days before peak travel dates in October. For example, one-way average airfares for a Delhi-Dubai flight are somewhere around Rs 11,000 currently till 19th October. Prices start increasing on the same route from 20th October onwards reaching as high as Rs 18,000-19,000 for a one-way ticket in the last week of October,” he said.

To avail of better pricing and deals, Thomas Cook advises its customers to plan their holidays in advance, with a booking window of 45-60 days for long haul and 30-45 days for short haul. “Indians are quintessential deal seekers, and our data indicates a high uptick for our special offers like Buy One Get One Free, Early Bird,” said Kale.

Thomas Cook buys inventory in bulk to offer customers group tours, a segment the company says is recovering strongly. Other cost-saving options include the Swiss Pass, which has free local transport, and Singapore Tourist Pass with unlimited rides on public transport.

If your travel dates aren’t set, choose “flexible” filters while booking flights and accommodation as many hotels and airlines are offering re-schedulable tickets and accommodation.

Destinations Return airfares(Rs)
Singapore 28,000
Thailand 28,000
Malaysia 33,000
Indonesia 42,000
Vietnam 22,000
Dubai 22,000
Mauritius 49,000
Turkey 50,000
London 75,000
South Africa 55,000
Destinations Land-only package (Per person, Rs)
Singapore 32,665 PP
Thailand 14,572 PP
Malaysia 14,909 PP
Indonesia 12,130 PP
Vietnam 48,252 PP
Dubai 26,023 PP
Mauritius 24,171 PP

Source: Thomas Cook and SOTC

Source: Business Standard

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