Cooped up at home since the deadly second Covid-19 wave, Indians have begun to pack their bags and leave town again.
With Covid-19’s intensity decreasing in recent weeks, domestic travel in the country is showing green shoots of recovery.
The figure for August this year—6.7 million—is nowhere close to that of the same month in 2019 (11.7 million), before the pandemic struck. Yet, the revival is palpable.
Add to that the coming festive season and there is even a perceptible boom down the street, say experts.
“There is a growth of between 15%-20% in our domestic flight bookings,” Nishant Pitti, co-founder of travel portal EaseMyTrip, told Quartz. “Travel bookings will pick up further during the festive season as we have seen a jump of around 450% in advance bookings for Diwali week as compared to last year.”
In a sign of things to come, some incredible scenes were witnessed recently at the Mumbai airport.
Moreover, the fresh wind isn’t in the tourism and travel sector’s sail alone.
“We have seen demand for rental cars increase. The bookings are mainly from tier-1 cities such as Delhi and Bengaluru,” said Sunil Gupta, managing director and CEO of car rental firm Avis India.
More good news for India’s travel sector
India, on Oct. 7, announced the partial lifting of its ban on international arrivals, in place since March 2020. From Oct. 15, the country will issue tourist visas again to those flying in by chartered flights. Tourist visas will be issued from Nov. 15 to foreigners flying in by commercial flights.
Airfares may see a spike following this reopening, though Indian travellers may not be too worried, experts said.
“There has been a 50% jump in international travel bookings in the current period as compared to the start of the year between January-March 2021,” Pitti said. “For international travel…people are more concerned about the safety and sanitisation procedures as compared to rise in airfares.”
Where and how are Indians travelling?
Within the country, Indians are flying mostly to metro cities, booking trends on travel portals show. Globally, Maldives remains a favourite.
“Maldives, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Russia are the most preferred international destinations, with the Maldives accounting for 50% of our international travel bookings,” Pitti of EaseMyTrip said.
Many believe Indians seeking “revenge travel” will prefer the luxury options. “While the lockdown forced people to stay at home, there is now a pent-up demand for travel, and we are seeing people renting premium or luxury cars to have a comfortable and luxurious experience,” Gupta said.
A resumption of international flights will also help the hospitality industry, especially the luxury properties that are now surviving on major discounts.