The last 10-15 days have turned out to be quite a surprise for Himmat Anand, founder, Tree of Life Resort and Spa in Jaipur. The 14-villa premium property has been receiving a host of enquiries and bookings for November and December.
This is unprecedented, said Anand. “The domestic market usually reacts just 2-3 weeks before the travel time.”
Many other travel and tour operators in the country will agree. Experts said the domestic travel and tourism industry has been growing exponentially in the past few years, and is in for a big bounce this business season in spite of the economic slowdown.
Ashwini Kakkar, executive vice chairman, Mercury Travels, attributed the glad tidings to the rupee depreciation. Driven by the realisation that overseas travel is now more expensive, more and more budget-conscious Indian travellers are settling for domestic destinations instead. “The industry has been growing at around 6% and its growth could certainly hit double digits this time round.”
Anand agrees. The current market scenario, he said, could well lead to a growth of over 12% this holiday season. “In the near term, I definitely see an increase in the number of people choosing domestic travel over international visits.
In fact, a lot of bookings for our property have already come in for the first half of October. The on-year increase in percentage terms this season will be anywhere between 8% and 10%.”
According to Amrit Pandurangi, senior director, Deloitte in India, airlines are also not in a position to provide discounts as fuel prices are up and rising. “International travel, in the absence of any serious airfare reduction, will see a reduction this year. Business travel overseas will also remain muted as companies are focusing on cutting costs.”
So much so that outbound tourism could drop up to 30%, said Anand. For instance, long-haul, high-value holiday packages (ranging from Rs80,000 to over Rs1 lakh per person) for destinations like the US, the UK and Europe are down more than 40%. Similarly, short-haul, low-value packages (ranging from Rs35,000 to Rs50,000 per person) for places like Thailand and Far East countries are down 10-15%.
However, travel to South Africa (SA) and Australia is still looking good as the rupee has not devalued as much against the local currencies as it has against the dollar. In fact, SA’s latest aggressive tourism promotion targeting Indian travellers highlights this fact.
For their part, tour operators like Cox & Kings, Thomas Cook and Mercury Travels are pitching certain destinations to their clients where the local currency’s fall is comparable to that of the rupee, so that the impact is not felt by the traveller.
“Destinations like Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and Mexico have seen almost rupee-like devaluation in their currency. So, tourists are open to visit them rather than say the US or Europe,” said Kakkar.