Postcards from Pápa

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Offbeat and less pricey destinations are the new draw for vacationing Indians

Postcards from Pápa
HOT SPOTS: The streets of Pápa, a historical town of Hungary
WWhat does the Itinerant Indian do when a fluctuating rupee threatens to dampen his holiday spirit? He simply changes his flight plan. Instead of the usual suspects — central and western Europe and the US — he now takes trips to hitherto unexplored countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Data suggests that around 30 per cent Indian travellers have opted for unconventional destinations during this year, compared to 20 per cent last year. The top draws have been Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary, Canary Islands, Chile, Zimbabwe, Reunion Islands, Croatia, Estonia, Fiji and Argentina.

According to Nicholas Lim, president (Asia), Trafalgar, a Geneva-headquartered travel service provider, there is a shift strongly visible in the Indian market. Indians no longer wanted to visit 10 cities in 10 days, rather they wanted to spend a lot more days in one country.

“Though the tourism sentiment is gloomy, India is still the fastest growing market. His company, that entered the Indian market last year, has seen 88 per cent growth so far. “We have a small base here at the moment but we have grown 88 per cent this year over last year,” he said.

Karan Anand, head (relationships), Cox & Kings, said, “The reason for travelling to a country for a vacation primarily hinges on that person’s fondness for the destination and this will not change irrespective of the fact whether the rupee will weaken or strengthen. New destinations such as the Czech Republic, Oman and Zambia have also gained traction.”

Not just non-conventional destinations, but Indians are also opting for non-traditional experiences. “These include dining in a crater (of non active volcanoes, of course), or on a floating glacier, camping in the midst of Egypt’s dramatic White Desert, living in a tree-house or igloo or camping in the Brazil’s Amazonian forest,” said Shibani Phadkar, senior vice president at Thomas Cook (India).

Thomas Cook’s team for personalised holidays has designed programmes such as stays in a lighthouse in Scotland, wine trails in South Africa, accommodation in caves in Turkey and castles in the UK, farm-stays in Italy, touring-via-horseback, segway, bicycling, a walking tour from Zagreb to the Adriatic coast in Croatia or even Ferrari driving experiences in Singapore.

“Indian travellers are more experienced now and they wanted to try out different things. Though the number is still small and it is too early to call it a trend but offbeat destinations such Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic are gaining prominence. Eastern Europe has never been popular with Indian tourists but now the situation is changing. Price is definitely one reason as these destinations are comparatively cheaper than traditional Western Europe and United States,” said Ajay Prakash, owner, Nomad Travels and past president, Travel Agents’ Federation of India (Tafi).

Also, now that Bollywood royalty, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor chose to holiday in Romania this time, though they have always maintained that Switzerland and London are their favourite places, offbeat destinations are surely here to stay.

soumonty.kanungo

@mydigitalfc.com

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