With foreign travel set to pick up, here’s how you can get the best deals for your trip, along with advice on the destinations you could to head to
The demand for international travel is slowly but surely picking up in India, with an increasing number of countries allowing Indians to enter without the mandatory quarantine. In many cases, fully vaccinated passengers are no longer required to furnish a negative RT-PCR test upon arrival at the airport.
Says a spokesperson at MakeMyTrip: “With more countries beginning to reopen their borders for Indian travellers after a gap of two years, it is safe to assume that pent-up demand for international travel will predominantly drive bookings ahead. Current data patterns on our platform indicate that 96 per cent of the searches are for the coming summer holiday season, with Dubai, Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, London, Paris and Amsterdam ranking high on the bucket list. Furthermore, booking patterns indicate that travellers are increasingly willing to splurge on accommodation and hyperlocal experiences. Many are also actively choosing slow travel leading to long stays when planning their first international trip post the pandemic.”
In leisure travel, people are looking at destinations closer home. Data shared by SOTC reveals that Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Maldives and Mauritius are witnessing 40-50 per cent growth; Turkey and Egypt 40%; and Sri Lanka 25-30 per cent. With more flight options and improved connectivity, Nepal has started to get good demand this year.
Ditto with Thomas Cook which has seen a preference for countries closer to India. Says Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited, “Relatively nearby destinations that are driving demand include Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Thailand, Singapore, Nepal and Dubai-Abu Dhabi for the last month of Expo 2020. International destinations are quickly filling our query/bookings pipeline due to positive announcements and zero quarantine requirements.”
Travel consultants have also had a surge in demand for long-haul favourites in Western Europe such as Switzerland, UK, France, Spain and Turkey, with multi-fold growth in queries over last year.
What’s more, reopening of borders and easing of restrictions has caused a considerable uptick in Thomas Cook’s Corporate MICE sector. The firm says it already has 45-50 groups confirmed for H1 2022.
Dubai is much sought after due to Expo 2020, says a Yatra.com spokesperson. “Other key destinations witnessing demand for leisure travel include Europe, Thailand, Dubai and Maldives. Travellers can get special deals on credit cards offered by various OTAs. Owing to the hike in fuel prices, airline fares have risen by 20 per cent across domestic and international routes,” he adds.
Positive announcements are bolstering confidence in travellers. Says Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head, SOTC Travel: “We are witnessing a strong demand with 2x growth week-on-week since the end January from an outbound travel perspective. Recent announcements on Thailand’s air bubble agreement and Singapore’s new development of extension of VTL (Vaccinated Travel Lane) for quarantine-free travel pan-India will further boost travel demand. Our online search for short haul destinations is seeing a 100 per cent-plus surge. Positive news on Australia’s reopening to fully vaccinated Indians after nearly two years. Add to this, that Indians with visitor visas for Australia (Subclass 600) that have expired, or will expire by June 30 this year, will be eligible to apply for a future visitor visa at no extra cost. This is building the momentum for Australia especially for the ICC T20 World Cup.”
What the customer must know
People must plan early, select destinations, hotels, and local private transport carefully, along with insurance policies that cover quarantine if one is infected while travelling. Additionally, one must look for flexibility in terms of cancellations/rescheduling of the package.
A big concern for everyone has been understanding the Covid-19 curbs, and the vaccination or quarantine protocols, which may vary from one country to another.
Online travel agency Agoda shares some research on countries that have eased these norms. Says an Agoda spokesperson: “As Omicron starts to subside, countries are taking tentative steps to reopen borders, easing their entry restrictions and opening their doors to international tourists, including Indians. For Egypt, travellers vaccinated with Covishield or AstraZeneca can fly without an RT-PCR test. All you need to do is fill a health declaration form and you’re all set. Bahrain is now allowing tourists without a pre-departure PCR test irrespective of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated travellers flying to Lebanon needn’t go for a pre-departure PCR test if they received their second jab at least six months before traveling. All one needs to do is upload the vaccination certificate on the Ministry of Health’s website.”
The spokesperson adds that France scrapped the requirement of the RT-PCR test for the fully vaccinated on February 12. Those vaccinated across the globe can enter Turkey without an RT-PCR test and must only fill a health form 72 hours prior to arrival. Travellers vaccinated within nine months of arrival do not need an RT-PCR test to enter Norway. In case the final dose has exceeded the period, a booster shot will be required.
What does the customer want?
After being confined at home for two years, people are looking for outdoor and adventure travel. Experiential holidays have become popular and people are booking longer stays now as compared to shorter breaks last year. Health and safety are a critical aspect in the new normal and this continues to shape travel behaviour.
Says Delhi-based entrepreneur Sandip Mittal: “I am booking a fortnight-long stay with my family in London this May. We will be staying in a countryside villa, not a hotel; and opting for self-drive, not public transport. We want to cruise around to other cities, go slow while sightseeing. We’d rather experience just a few places.”
Should the traveller budget for a little more than before? Due to the limited capacity of the present bubble flight arrangements, airfares to certain destinations rose in comparison to pre-pandemic levels due to increased demand versus the reduction in flights operating–both direct and stopovers. The resultant phased return to flight schedules will create a much-needed demand-supply balance, with a rationalisation of airfares, says Thomas Cook’s Rajeev Kale.
How much more expensive is the post-pandemic stay and travel? SOTC’s Daniel D’souza says, “With easing of restrictions and removal of RT-PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers, the cost is back to pre-pandemic levels, a case in point being Dubai. Europe and the US, however, have witnessed a hike of about eight per cent in costs due to inflation.
Finally, Covid-19 case counts, safety protocols, quarantine restrictions and cleanliness are all key factors in travel decision-making in 2022. Travellers are quickly adapting to local public health conditions, with cleanliness, safety and exclusivity remaining important factors in their planning.
Table: Some deals for your international travel
|Hotel||Price (Rs)-MRP/discounted||Flight details (arrival/departure)||Stay package|
|80,648/59,470||New Delhi-Dubai-Sharjah-New Delhi||5-star hotel with breakfast, private cab facility to and fro airport to hotel|
|88,315/64,136||New Delhi-Male-New Delhi||5-star villa with breakfast and dinner, spa on a speed boat on arrival day and on day of departure|
|Hotel de la Paix, Switzerland, 5N/6D||1,64,579/1,37,150||New Delhi-Warsaw-Zurich-Warsaw-New Delhi||3-star hotel with breakfast and 4 activities: Panorama train travel, Mt Titlis Excursion, Jungfraujoch Excursion and Mt Pilatus|
|Leonardo Hotel Frankfurt, 3N/4D||Starting from 30,990 per person||New Delhi-Frankfurt-New Delhi||3-star Hotel, with breakfast, two-way cab from airport to hotel|
|42,644/35,537||New Delhi-Paris-New Delhi||4-star hotel with breakfast, cab from airport to hotel|
|53,064/41,619||New Delhi-San Francisco-New Delhi||3-star hotel with breakfast, two-way private cab and 3 activities: Bus tour, visiting 25+ attractions and Yosemite and Giant Sequoias day tour|
|40,032/40,027||New Delhi-London-New Delhi||4-star hotel with breakfast|
|Tejaprana Resort & Spa, Bali, 4N/5D||2,99,223/2,34,685||New Delhi-Dubai-Bali-Dubai-New Delhi||4-star resort with breakfast, private cab from airport to hotel and 5 activities|
|Golden Carven Hotel 4N/5D||21,870/17,153||New Delhi-Egypt-New Delhi||3-star hotel with breakfast and 1 activity: lights and sound show|
Credit: TechSci Research