NEW DELHI An estimated 14 million Indians travel abroad every year. But as the rupee slides, many who were headed to Europe or the United States are instead travelling to cheaper destinations like South-east Asia or Australia.
Since late April, the Indian rupee has lost a fifth of its dollar value. Travel agents say that countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia have become popular destinations for short holidays. “People are switching from long-haul holidays in Europe and the US to short-haul ones in these countries,” says Vinay Gupta, who heads the Northern Division of the Travel Agents Association of India. Philippines is an emerging choice for Indians looking for honeymoon or family holiday destinations. “It is a critical period for us till the rupee stabilises,” he says.
However, there are travellers who, instead of cancelling their trips to the West, plan to shorten itineraries and scale back on accommodation. “We have noted some postponement in travel plans but not cancellations,” says Rajesh Magow, co-founder and CEO of Makemytrip.com. “Most of the bookings were made in advance [when the dollar was not so expensive] and so not much has been affected yet.”
Kanjilal Gour, President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, says the sliding rupee has a positive side too. “Many foreign tourists have been extending their trips to other cities like Udaipur, Gwalior, Mumbai and even Orissa. These aren’t on the regular tourist map for foreign travellers,” he says. “Shopping is an added attraction now.”
Gour sees this as an opportunity to increase travel within India, but the positive impact will only be visible next year. “India is an exotic destination, so foreign travellers plan in advance. The upcoming season (between October and February) looks promising,” he says. Magow feels there is a market for short-haul trips, activity-based holidays and off-beat destinations in India. When it’s not possible to go around the world in $8 like Raj Kapoor, it makes sense to go around India in a little more.▪