Costlier Flights, Hotels Boost Int’l Holiday Bills

NEW DELHI : Afamily of four from southern India is flying out this week for its annual summer break to Switzerland, France and Austria. In the last two years of the pandemic, the couple and their two teenaged children had not been on an international holiday. This time, the business family, which likes to travel in style, is shelling out 32 lakh for the 12-day holiday, nearly twice what it would have paid in 2019 for a similar trip.

The travel agency, Pathfinders Holidays, said most families for whom they are organizing holidays have nearly doubled their budgets for trips to Europe and other favorite international destinations such as the UK, Australia and even South Africa, as holiday expenses soar.

Yet, travel firms are seeing a significant surge in demand from Indian tourists for overseas holidays, despite ticket prices which, in some cases, are nearly double of what they were in the summer of 2019 and hotels hiking rates by 30-40% on an average, for locations frequented by Indians.

Karan Vakharia, director, Pathfinders Holidays, said flight and hotel costs are rising rapidly. “Sometimes, it’s difficult to hold on to prices for customers because there is so much demand. But it’s not like customers are unwilling to spend, despite over a 100% increase in ticket prices and 30-40% increase in hotel prices,” he said.

According to Indiver Rastogi, president and group head of global business travel at Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC, the spurt in demand for flights has boosted air fares, especially since jet fuel prices are at a record level and available flights are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels. Favorite destinations for Indian travelers remain Switzerland, France and Italy, followed by the UK, Egypt, Turkey and the US. While flights to these places are costlier by 25-30%, there’s been a 25% increase in fares to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Rastogi said. Flights to Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Maldives remain almost the same as 2019 levels, he added.

Arun Ashok, regional head for India and Middle East at online travel agent Luxury Escapes said the average order value (AOV) for key destinations has soared, up nearly 25% for the Maldives and about 13% for Thailand from 2019 figures. “However, nowhere is this increase as sharp as it is in Dubai, where the AOV has increased by over 60%. We looked at average length of stay for each of these destinations which is more or less similar during the two periods of 2022 and 2019 for travel between April and June this year,” he said.

Ashok said the US, UAE and the Maldives are the top three destinations being searched for on their platform and all have shown significant increases compared to 2019 (+32%, +82%, +62%, respectively) in terms of search interest.

Daniel D’souza, president and country head, holidays, SOTC Travel, added that it has seen overall holiday travel costs rising 25-40% across countries. However, he expects this to stabilize with airlines gradually raising capacity and routes. He said short-haul favorites are seeing growing demand and corresponding holiday costs to Dubai, Abu-Dhabi – Yas Island, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam are witnessing a surge. While medium-haul destinations like Turkey and Egypt have seen a 10% increase in holiday costs, long-haul destinations like Europe, the US and Australia are at 25%.

Rakshit Desai, managing director for India at travel retailer Flight Center Travel Group, said that Canada and the US have seen the steepest rise in airfares, with an average increase of 80-90% versus pre-covid fares.

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