Inputs from Thomas Cook and SOTC on Diwali travel trends

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Rajeev Kale – President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Govardhan Puja offer an attractive extended weekend that is propelling travel desire – our data indicates a strong rebound with our demand pipeline surging by over 3x for Diwali (Vs last year). Our customers are making the most of the 5 – 9 days opportunity for a festive vacation with family and friends. Diwali is an important festival and we are seeing significant movement with India’s migrant working professionals travelling back to their hometown to celebrate Diwali with their families.

Both domestic and international destinations are seeing an uptick not just from families / multigenerational families, but increasingly from our young professionals/millennials and couples segments.

Domestic Tourism is clearly on the upswing with the Festive Season witnessing a forward booking surge of 25% compared to the previous year. Demand is at an all-time high for locations like Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Leh Ladakh, Kerala, Goa, Andaman and the North East; also Rajasthan and Gujarat. In addition to drivecations and staycations, our data highlights a shift to longer stays and mono destinations (state) with in-depth exploration of approx. 12 days. With pleasant weather conditions, we are seeing a considerable demand uptick of 15-20% for our outdoor-adventure camping, trekking, biking trips, private villa stays, etc.

We are witnessing an uptick for short haul destinations like South East Asia’s Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia with a 30% increase in demand; also Dubai-Abu Dhabi 30%, Maldives 15% and Mauritius 10%. Easy visa/no-visa destinations are emerging well like Oman that does not require a visa if holding a long term US/Schengen visa, etc.

Europe continues to be a favourite despite visa challenges, and top destinations this season are Switzerland, France and Italy. Long haul destinations like Australia are witnessing a surge in demand of over 35% with the upcoming cricket bonanza starting October – across our leisure and corporate MICE segments – we have mid to large sized groups of 100-1000 travellers. New Zealand and South Africa witnessed a 20-25% demand over the last quarter. What is noteworthy is that Turkey is seeing a noteworthy 25-35% increase in demand – compared to pre-pandemic levels. Fresh destinations emerging strongly on the radar include Vietnam, Cambodia, Baku and Almaty; also South Korea.

Additionally, the cruise opportunity is growing rapidly and we are seeing a recovery uptick of 50% with cruises representing a great value proposition for our customers, an all-inclusive holiday offering dining, entertainment, on-shore tours, without the hassle of check-in check out, transfers, etc. On the domestic front, Thomas Cook & SOTC have emerged as top sellers of India cruises (Cordelia), with over 4000 customers booked from restart of travel. Popular international cruise liners for the upcoming festive season include Singapore and Malaysia on Genting Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Spokesperson: Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel

Pent-up travel desire is driving key demand and customer confidence is at an all-time high. Indians across segments are displaying increased interest to travel to their favourite destinations – domestic and international. Customers are keen to utilize the upcoming festive weekend and we have a strong pipeline of customers planning near term travel – booking holidays 7-10 days in advance; an impressive uptick in last minute bookers by over 70% v/s other weekends in October-November period.

What is noteworthy is that our demand trends indicate a jump of over 100% of pre-pandemic levels in certain markets for winter and festive season travel, and our forward booking position is looking healthy and we are at approx. 55% recovery of our October to December period v/s 2019.

Our internal data indicates high interest for visa on arrival/easy and quick visa destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia; also new emerging destinations like Vietnam and Cambodia. Additionally, customers with valid Schengen/USA/UK visa can apply for an e-visa for Turkiye, and customers with valid Schengen/USA/Canadian visa are eligible for a long term multiple entry visa for Saudi. Travelers with a valid Australia/Canada/Japan/UK/USA/Schengen visa can travel to Oman.

Australia is witnessing strong demand due to the upcoming cricket fixtures starting October 2022, also this time of the year is the best time to visit the destination. Other preferred long and mid haul destinations are Turkiye, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya and South Africa. Despite visa constraints Europe continues to witness significant demand, especially for Diwali and Christmas markets; also Scandinavia. Domestic favorites feature Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan; Goa and Andamans continue to remain beach favourites.

Spiritual tourism is on the upswing. With Diwali signifying the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya following his 14 years of exile, the celebration of the festival in Ayodhya is unmatched. Our Ramayana trail offers customers the most memorable journey of the temple circuits in the region culminating to the shores of river Sarayu that is lit with countless diyas, and a grand aarti that is performed following which the diyas are set afloat on the river

Millennials and young professionals are keen to explore offbeat experiences and thus showcasing increased interest in hidden gems such as Ubbalamadugu Falls in Andhra Pradesh, Doodhpathri and Chatpal in Kashmir, Syalsaur in Uttarakhand, etc. Customers are also seeking drivecations and staycations to nearby offbeat drivable destinations to get away from the city. Our data indicates high uptick for outdoor and adventure travel including paragliding, skiing, hiking, white river rafting, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sea karting and biking trips. Cruise holidays offer a strong appeal to our segments of multi-generational families, millennials/young working professionals and couples/ honeymoon segments alike, and we are witnessing a month-on-month surge of 35% for domestic and international cruise holidays. We are also observing a strong demand for eclectic stays like private villas, colonial bungalows, heritage homes and treehouses, interestingly we are seeing the reemergence of glamping.

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