‘Return of inbound travel hit by recent visa issues’

NEW DELHI : India’s travel and tourism industry will need to rely on domestic demand for some time to come as inbound tourists still lag behind pre-pandemic levels.

However, according to Booking.com, a website for hotel and flight reservations, demand for domestic travel has recovered after the Omicron wave earlier in the year.

India is recovering from the pandemic-related doldrums, said Santosh Kumar, country manager for India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia at Booking.com. “People are just starting to get back to their normal routine when going into the offices. This trend of taking more vacations, staying longer, and spending more on experiences is something we haven’t really seen. This is really reflected in our business upswing in the market as well. India has definitely become a priority market for us more than before,” he said.

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While metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai remain on the travel bucket list, places like Goa, Udaipur, Jaipur, Puducherry, Amritsar, Ooty and Manali are the top booked destinations by travelers during this festive season, he added.

“Despite some headwinds we have experienced, such as rising food and fuel prices or average daily hotel rates in some destinations such as non-metropolitan cities, demand is very strong. And it’s still going strong,” he said.

He said India has been very self-sustaining in terms of domestic travel. For Booking.com, the June quarter saw a significant rebound compared to the first three months of 2022 when the Omicron wave hit the country. CY23’s second quarter was when travel in India really took off for the company, Kumar said. However, there was a lull for the company in July. In August and September the numbers rose again significantly, he said. “India has performed even better than the global numbers I’m talking about,” he added.

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Religious travel has also started to become quite strong again for the company. He said travelers are still combining work and leisure, and the average booking window has also increased. This was not the case during the pandemic when many people made last minute bookings. But he said it could be some time before international travelers return to India. The return of those arriving has been hampered by recent visa problems, such as in the UK.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, foreign tourist arrivals in India in 2021 saw a 45% drop from the previous year. The Asia-Pacific region has lagged slightly behind Europe in terms of recovery, Kumar said. Asia’s recovery is also linked to China’s recovery, which is currently open. The company recently recruited cricketer Suresh Raina as Ambassador for India for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, along with international cricketers Jos Butler and Pat Cummins. Kumar said the company does not provide details on the finances of its partnerships and campaigns.

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“The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia will be an incredible sporting and cultural event. We believe that cricket, like travel, has the power to bring us closer together, to delight millions around the world and to inspire fans and remind fans that there is a world of experiences waiting to be discovered.” he added.

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