Holiday travel around Christmas, NYE weekend to top 2019 levels

NEW DELHI : NA record number of Indians are expected to travel to celebrate year-end holidays, braving higher air fares and room tariffs than pre-pandemic days and congestions at roads and airports, said industry experts.

According to them, positive consumer sentiment is warming up demand for domestic as well as international destinations for the winter holidays.

Travel firm Thomas Cook India is witnessing over 250% growth for the Christmas and New Year festive demand than last year and an 85% increase over 2019. Top domestic destinations are Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Kerala, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa, Andaman and the North East, it said.

Companies are also witnessing significant appetite for luxury vacations like glamping and haveli stays in Rajasthan or for high-end resorts such as the Khyber and Ananda properties despite 30-40% higher tariffs. Activities like winter sports and spa-wellness are also high on the consumers’ travel plans.

Daniel D’Souza, president and country head of holidays, SOTC Travel, a sister concern of Thomas Cook India, said its domestic travel business will see overall growth of 3.7x versus pre-pandemic levels, with over 25% first-time customers, including young Indians.

Even a 100% rise in luxury hotel pricing is not deterring travellers, he added. “Despite increased pricing we continue to see strong demand for luxury experiences. HNI customers are keen on priceless experiences like rejuvenating at the Ananda in the Himalayas, or a private game drive with expert naturalists at Ranthambore, or even luxurious cruising experiences.”

Nationwide occupancy for hotels in October had slumped from the previous month due to a dip in business travel during the festivities. But average room rates across the organised hotel space are expected to rise further, helping hotels maintain healthy revenues to above pre-pandemic levels for the month, hospitality consultancy HVS Anarock, Hotels & Hospitality Overview India, said in a report.

The demand surge has also prompted luxury resorts to charge a massive premium. Aman Resorts in Rajasthan has higher booking for Amanbagh and Aman-i-Khas properties, and occupancies will go well into January, the hotel brand’s country manager Harry Fernandes said. The packages start at 82,000 per night for suites at Ajabgarh, and at 1.24 lakh a night at its luxury tent near Ranthambore National Park.

According to holiday aggregator Booking.com, the most searched destinations by Indian travellers for domestic travel between December 24 and 2 January are Puducherry, Lonavala, Manali, Udaipur, Mumbai, Jaipur and Goa.

Royal Orchid hotels, which operates about 90 hotels, has seen 40% booking for the New Year weekend. However, it does expect demand to rise further and is projecting 85-90% occupancy overall.

“Compared to 2019, when occupancies were 80% on New Year’s Eve, we do expect 5-10% growth. Our average rates on 2022 New Year’s Eve have increased by 45% over the same period in 2019. We do expect the festive period to have higher rates this year than the pre-covid times,” Chander Baljee, the founder and managing director of the listed hotel company, said.

The Royal Orchids management expects demand across hotel locations such as Kabini, Hampi, Goa, Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar, Jaipur, Kulu Manali and Shimla, among others.

In a recent report, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry said India’s travel market is estimated to reach $125 billion by 2026-27 from an estimated $75 billion in FY20.

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