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Foreign travel turns summer favourite despite high fares

New Delhi: Many Indians are looking to travel to overseas for the summer holidays despite a 60-70% rise in air fare on several routes and delays in processing visas, industry experts said.

“Airfares are higher than the pre-covid levels with international fares on some routes as high as 60-70%, but it has not deterred overall travel sentiments. People are willing to spend on flights and hotels,” said Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and group chief executive officer of ixigo.

While Dubai, London, Singapore and Maldives are favourite destinations, travel portals have also seen an increase in queries for Bangkok, the US, Australia, and Europe, including France, Italy and Spain.

“International hotel bookings from April to May spiked 3.7X, while the bookings made in March rose 3X in comparison to the year-ago period. For international summer travel between 16 April and 15 July, bookings increased by 229.51% in comparison to the summer of 2022, for bookings made on or before 22 March,” Prahlad Krishnamurti, chief business officer, Cleartrip, said.

The Centre allowed scheduled international commercial flights from 27 March last year, after the covid-led two-year disruptions. Industry experts said while international traffic is at 70-75% of pre-covid levels, signs of a strong resurgence in international travel are emerging since late 2022.

“We have been seeing sustained demand from Indians for travelling to Australia, with a recovery rate of 87% compared to pre-covid arrivals as of January, according to Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS). India is maintaining its rank as the 4th inbound source market for Australia and maybe the first to recover to pre-covid levels this year,” said Nishant Kashikar, country manager for India and the Gulf at Tourism Australia, said.

According to travel portal yatra.com, while airfares have rationalized 5-6% from January levels, they are still high due to lower frequencies of flights and higher demand.

“This year prices will rationalize but demand will still be there, and there will be more inventory. Indian airlines like Air India, IndiGo, Akasa and Vistara, will put more capacity and this will help fares falling a bit,” Sabina Chopra, co-founder and chief operating officer for corporate travel, and head industry relations, Yatra.com, said.

However, while Indians are planning international trips despite visa issues and time-consuming approval process, they are also opting for domestic destinations, and five-star properties and resorts in India are seeing fully occupancies.

Varanasi, Rishikesh, Coorg, Goa, Kochi and Jaipur among others feature in the most preferred travel destinations, according to travel sites.

“Domestic destinations require less planning and are preferred as quick getaways, besides being more affordable. We have seen an increase of 70% in the number of searches on our site,” Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-founder, EaseMyTrip, said.

However, lower capacity in the domestic market has kept airfares 25-30% higher than pre-covid levels . Travelers are advised to book their tickets in advance as the summer schedule for domestic travel is lower but last-minute bookings may be expensive, Bajpai said.

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