Out­bound Travel Falls as In­di­ans Catch Poll Fever

The Economic Times - - Front Page - DIVYA SATHYA­NARAYANAN

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’

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