TOKYO : The east has emerged as the most viable option for budget-conscious Indian tourists due to sky-high airfares to the west and visa delays for US, Canada, UK and Schengen nations of Europe. As a result, nations like UAE, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives and even Sri Lanka have become go-to destinations for budget travellers.
“Value-for-money tourists have little option but to go east. Apart from prolonged visa delays, airfares to the west are at unheard-of levels. One-way economy fares on Delhi-Milan and Delhi-Vancouver routes on September 5 are Rs 1.1 lakh and Rs 2.2 lakh, respectively, due to the student rush. Average return fares from India to New York and London are starting at Rs 1.5 lakh. We have never seen anything like this,” said Anil Kalsi, joint secretary of Travel Agents Federation of India.
While an all-inclusive 5-6 day trip to Thailand and Vietnam will cost less than Rs 1 lakh, Singapore and Malaysia will cost a little more, say travel agents. Indian tourists are being assiduously wooed by tourism boards of almost all countries as they look for a post-Covid recovery of fortunes. Now countries that offer easier access are seeing more footfalls from India.
Saujanya Shrivastava, MakeMyTrip COO (flights and Gulf Cooperation Council), says average airfares to Canada, US and UK have increased by a minimum of 70% (August 2022 over January 2020) while short-haul destinations like UAE, Thailand, Singapore and Maldives have seen a much subdued increase, ranging from 16-40%, over the same time period.
“…airfare is one of the many factors that influences a traveller’s decision. Other factors include expenses at the destination and ease visa availability… We have observed that recovery for key short-haul destinations versus pre-Covid like UAE, Maldives and Saudi Arabia is 15% higher than the recovery of top long-haul destinations (US, UK and Canada). Within short-haul destinations, Maldives, UAE and Saudi Arabia are witnessing strong recovery in the range of 80%-110%,” Shrivastava said.
According to Khun Vachirachai Sirisumpan, director (Delhi) of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Indian tourists were choosing West Asian and eastern destinations lately, including Thailand, especially those making last-minute travel decisions that require easier visa clearance.
“Thailand has resumed visa on arrival and (there has been a) gradual increase of flight connectivity with India, including direct flights to Phuket. Between January 1 and July 31, Thailand has welcomed more than 3.3 lakh Indian nationals.”