Festive travel in India: Festivals are a major part of the culture in India, especially due to the vast diversity and the number of festivals we have. Naturally, this means that people often travel to celebrate these festivals, be it to their hometowns or to other places to celebrate with a vacation. But this year, much like 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has made travel more difficult. However, with India seemingly at the tail end of the second wave of the pandemic, it seems that travel is picking up as the festive season approaches us.
An uptick in bookings
The transportation and accommodation sectors have seen an uptick in bookings, as per several aggregators.
“The Market has really been showing positive trends for both Air Ticketing and Hotels business. We are witnessing a constant surge month on month in our travel bookings. We could see a 10%~15% surge in flight passengers in Q4 as compared with Q3, especially for last year, the ratio came to 113% post the first lockdown. Hotels see almost 75 – 85% bookings happening about three days prior to travel, but for flights, bookings mostly happen well in advance. We do see some green shoots for hotel bookings for the festival dates but the proportion is still miniscule, but yes demand is slowly and gradually picking up. We have currently started seeing 50% higher than average bookings for flights for festive season through our platform, which is very exciting as it is a very positive trend for the entire travel industry as it depicts that with the ease in lockdown guidelines and decreasing number of COVID cases, people are now looking forward to travel during festivals,” HappyEasyGo Founder and CEO Boris Zha told Financial Express Online.
SanKash Founder Akash Dahiya said, “With festive season in sight, we are seeing 70% increase in queries and almost 50% increase in bookings.”
Similar was also the observation by Confirmtkt Co-Founder and CEO Dinesh Kumar Kotha, who said, “We are observing a sudden spike of demand for particular dates of the festival, for trains we are observing waitlists touching peak numbers on several routes.”
“Demand for festive travel has seen encouraging growth in all three segments- flights, trains and buses (MoM as well as YoY). Bookings for some popular routes (on ixigo apps and website) towards the end of August 2021 for festive travel have seen an average MoM increase of 45% for trains, 71% for buses and 20% for flights,” said Rajnish Kumar, Co-founder, Non-executive Director & Group CPTO, ixigo.
But festivities are not the only reason that is leading to increased booking at this time of the year. According to Mansur Mehta, Managing Director of Suba Group of Hotels, “More than the festive season, the current surge in bookings can be attributed to people being fed up with work from home. In the need for fresh air, people are booking getaways more than anything else.”
Preferred packages and destinations
“People are looking for affordable options with no compromise on quality, they are looking for a full package where agents take care of providing options that follow all safety standards and offer all inclusive packages. Destinations like Udaipur, Ladakh, Kashmir, Northeast are witnessing a surge considering they are offering luxurious and safe accommodations,” Dahiya said.
Zha said, “We have noticed that interestingly tourists have started to become more particular and hygiene conscious in terms of where they stay, which is why they choose branded properties. Also, because they are ready to spend higher on their stay, for their food, they still prefer eating from decent places versus booking hotels with food packages. Currently rates booked with breakfast and room only is the most preferably choice of the guest however staycation (Day use package) has seen a good growth in overall business. Our 5-star packages contributed close to 20% of the overall business booked in the last 2 months, followed by 40% packages booked from 3-star and 35% packages coming in from 4-star category properties. Villas with private pools are a season’s favourite as it has generated interest of all the travellers looking for a relaxing weekend as in regular hotels, swimming pools are commonly shared among the guests and are non-operational as per the protocol.”
“We are also seeing spiritual destinations like Tirupati and Shirdi getting a surge in demand but of that 80 to 85% business is coming in from the city which is connected by drivable distance vs cross state border. Also the destinations with mountains or beaches are most popular with travellers, like Lonavala, Shimla, Mussoorie, and Manali,” Zha added.
Mehta gave more information about the preferences of customers, saying, “Understandably, safety and hygiene are the top priorities at the moment. To this end, they are relying more on reviews and COVID-appropriate steps that hotels are taking to ensure the safety of travellers. Moreover, they are willing to pay more for better hotel-managed transport. Finally, with airfares under control, they are preferring air travel more than any other means. Particularly for the festive period, people are preferring short, drivable destinations.”
Kotha said that major metros and big towns like Hyderabad, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam are getting a lot of traction.
“Ladakh, Kashmir, and Goa are some of the popular leisure destinations being booked for festive travel this year. Inquiries for travel to international destinations have seen an average month-on-month increase of 45-50% in August 2021. With several countries easing travel restrictions, interest in leisure travel for countries like Maldives, Switzerland, Germany, Qatar, Turkey, Nepal and France is also rising,” said Kumar.
Things to keep in mind while traveling
“Passengers should follow all the guidelines set by the Centre, and the particular state of travel. They should go through all COVID related tests ahead of travel and carry certificates accordingly. Any important travel should be planned ahead to avoid long waitlist and get familiar with the requirements of the state they are travelling to,” Kotha.
“COVID appropriate behavior is a new etiquette with not only authorities gearing up for implementation but local people at destination also pitching in by policing and pointing out people that are not following COVID behavior. So, all travelers must carry masks, sanitizers, undertake social distancing and follow all guidelines of local authorities issued in general interest. One should check with a travel agent to know what is allowed and what is not before making any bookings. Also it is recommended to check for health insurance before travelling as it takes care of any eventuality that may arise at the destination,” said Dahiya.
“While vaccination has instilled a sense of confidence and relief among travellers, it is our sole responsibility to ensure that we adhere and follow safety and hygiene protocols pertaining to ourselves and our loved ones travelling with us. Guests can visit the state tourism websites to be sure of the travel protocol and guidelines before planning to travel to that state or city,” said Zha.