After relatively muted travel seasons in the last couple of years due to Covid-19 pandemic, the great Indian summer travel season is back with a bang after travel agencies and platforms across the industry seeing huge pent-up demand and surge in bookings for next few months. Despite increased airfares and hotel room rates, companies are witnessing high demand emerging from not only popular metros cities, but also from relatively smaller cities and Tier-II and Tier-III markets.
Booking data and trends from leading travel service providers and OTAs indicate shift in demand and booking pattern of Indian travellers, who want to travel both across the country and internationally in large numbers. What is noteworthy, is that demand for domestic and short haul destinations for Summer season is at par with pre-pandemic levels and witnessing increasing growth on month-on-month basis.
Observing some early positive trends in leisure travel ahead of the upcoming holiday season, Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip (MMT) feel revealed that the preference for relaxed itineraries is continuing, with the average room night per booking for April -June quarter increasing for domestic and outbound holiday packages.
Preference for relaxed itineraries
“The average nights booked for outbound packages for the summer quarter is 27 per cent higher than last year’s corresponding period; and almost 85 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic average. In domestic packages, too, we have seen a 54 per cent increase in average room nights booked this year over the corresponding period in 2019. The preference for relaxed itineraries has positively impacted average per-passenger spend. Travellers are seeking experience-led travel, resulting in more bookings with pre-booked activities,” he said.
According to MMT, long-haul destinations, including Europe, are generating a lot of interest, short-haul destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives, and UAE make it to the top five. Domestically, Goa, Kochi, Srinagar, Dehradun, and Leh are the most sought-after flight destinations.
70% growth in searches
Travel OTAs across the country are witnessing various trends around the Summer travel and according to EaseMyTrip (EMT), domestic destinations are being explored more by people as they are more affordable and require less planning. Himachal Pradesh, Nainital, Nandi Hills, and Coorg have emerged as popular destinations on EMT to beat the summer heat.
“Indian destinations also allow individuals to explore different regions or attractions within their own country; allowing them to have a quick getaway. However, international travel is slowly picking up due to ease in visa situation. Short haul distances such as Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Dubai are becoming popular. It is encouraging to see that summer travel is on the rise and we have seen an increase of 70 per cent in the overall number of searches on our website,” said Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip in conversation with ETTravelWorld.
People willing to spend more on flights & hotels
Highlighting pent up demand for international travel for Indians this summer season, Aloke Bajpai, Group CEO & Co-founder, ixigo said that airfares are higher than pre-Covid levels with international fares on some routes going as high as 60-70 per cent, but this has not deterred the overall travel sentiment.
“People are willing to spend more on flights and hotels. Despite February and March being weak months for travel we have seen an unprecedented demand for these months due to festive travel and we expect even higher traffic for the summer season. International destinations like Dubai, London, Maldives, the US, and Australia have seen a rise in travel search queries for summer travel. The overall demand is more than the supply and this mismatch is causing airfares to rise,” Bajpai mentioned while sharing the data.
4x surge in demand for long haul
During this peak summer booking season, Thomas Cook India has witnessed 4x surge in demand for long haul and 3x for short haul and domestic destinations compared to the previous year. The company has seen an upward trend from multi-generational families, young professionals/millennials, couples, and ad hoc groups of friends travelling together to celebrate special occasions and holidays.
Sharing more details, Rajeev Kale – President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook India mentioned that Europe continues to top their demand pipeline with a surge of over 300 per cent for the upcoming summer holidays, followed by South East Asia’s Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia; with Vietnam and Cambodia witnessing brisk business; also Maldives, Mauritius, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah.
“Additionally mid-long hauls like Australia, New Zealand, Turkiye and South Africa are also seeing strong re-emergence; also bucket-list destinations like Iceland and Rhodes Island in Greece. What is noteworthy, is the big growth in travel to Japan and South Korea for the Cherry Blossom season. Baku and Almaty with convenient access and easy visas are popular new emerging destinations. Top domestic locales include Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa, Andaman and the North East; also Bhutan in the Indian subcontinent,” he said.
Kale also mentioned that despite the increasing overall costs by over 10 per cent for travel, their customers are willing to increase spending.
High interest for experiential holidays & short getaways
Decoding travel trends on the same line, Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel mentioned that Indians are displaying unprecedented appetite for travel this upcoming summer and our demand trends indicate strong interest of 3x over last year.
“Our data trends indicate high interest for experiential holidays, short getaways, domestic cruises, and spiritual travel. We are witnessing an upward booking trend for Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Leh-Ladakh, North East, Andamans followed by Goa and Kerala. Spiritual tourism continues to witness uptick with Char Dham and Do Dham leading customer preferences. Biking trips, safari holidays and domestic cruises are witnessing spike in customer interest,” he said.
International hotel bookings up 3.7x
According to search and booking data shared by Cleartrip, international hotel bookings from April to May spiked by 3.7X while the bookings made in March spiked by 3X in comparison to the same period last year.
For international summer travel from April 16 to July 15, bookings have increased by 229.51 per cent in comparison to last year considering bookings were made on or before March 22 for this year and last year. There’s also been a 60 per cent rise in the adoption of no-cost EMI payment option and 17 per cent rise in advance bookings due to the Cleartrip’s #NationOnVacation sale.
Commenting on the development, Prahlad Krishnamurti, Chief Business Officer, Cleartrip expressed optimism over significant spike in travel demand during the April-May period. “We have seen a 60 per cent spike in bookings across air and hotel categories (which is 2x times over what we achieved during the same period last year). As a customer-centric entity, we will continue to roll out initiatives which will tap into the booming travel demand and offer superior propositions while making travel more affordable and accessible,” he said.
Hill Stations tops the list for summer bus travel
Search queries on Abhibus app & website for April and May have gone up 56 per cent for summer travel this year, revealed Rohit Sharma, COO, Abhibus. “Hill stations are the most preferred summer travel picks followed by beaches and pilgrimage destinations. Nainital, Ranikhet, Darjeeling, Dharamsala, Mount Abu & Mussoorie are seeing an increased demand for summer travel,” he added.