Outbound Travel Falls as Indians Catch Poll Fever
Thirty eight-year old Priyesh Kaushik has his summer break planned well in advance, unlike this year. “The election fervor this time is something unlike the previous polls and we did not want to miss it,” says the media professional who decided to postpone his two-week trip to Europe, post the elections. “While we did take a foreign trip during the previous elections, this year we had to stay back to witness the poll frenzy.”
Much like Kaushik, fewer people have gone on foreign holidays this summer, choosing to stay in the country to cast their votes and then wait for the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections. The outbound travel during the summer months, travel companies and tourism boards say, has dipped by 15-20% as compared to last year.
“Outbound travel during the polling period has seen a degrowth of almost 15-20%,” says Jatinder Paul Singh, senior VP and head, leisure travel (outbound) — sales and distribution, Thomas Cook India.
Karan Anand, head-relationships at Cox & Kings agrees. “The general elections this year saw a shift in travel patterns. As the election schedules were announced well in advance, the customers timed their holidays to either avoid travelling on the day of election in their constituency or postponed their trip after the elections.”
The pace of travel plans and bookings for the summer, according to travel companies, has been slow this year. “Usually the summer bookings begin from the first week of April, but this year the booking pattern has been slow and we see it picking only after May 16,” said Vishal Sinha, COO, TUI India, a leisure travel firm.
Even tourism boards say summer travel, during which large number of Indian tourists travel to their country, has not been at par with previous summers. Unlike earlier Lok Sabha elections, tourism boards have seen a greater drop in tourist arrivals from India this summer. Malaysia, for instance, saw a marginal dip of 1% in tourist arrivals from India during the general elections in 2009. “Travel operators have seen a drop of almost 6-7% among Indian travellers and the business has been slow,” said Manoharan Periasamy, director of Tourism Malaysia. Usually, the airlines run choc-a-bloc in mid-April itself, but this year you could still find seats available, quips Periasamy. Thanks to elections, travel companies expect the holiday season to be an extended one, this year. “Usually, the summer holiday season ends by midJune. But this year, as peak travel begins only post May 16, people are expected to go on vacations till July end,” said TC Guruprasad, MD, CentrumDirect, which owns Club7 Holidays. As the election euphoria draws to a close, the pent-up outbound demand will come to the fore. “We are now seeing an unprecedented surge in bookings and payment — upward of 30%, and this is across our volume group business, as also our individual traveller segment,” says Singh. According to Amadeus-Frost & Sullivan tourism report, over the next 20 years, the number of outbound travellers from India will grow exponentially, to a point where India will be one of the top outbound travel markets in the region.
‘Usually, the airlines run choc-a-bloc in mid-April itself, but this year seats were available’