Thomas Cook’s report reveals an ‘extended summer’ this year

Typically, India’s peak summer travel season for West and South India covers April and May. However, this season saw demand extending into the months of June and July

Thomas Cook India has commissioned and released its 2016 Indian Summer Travel Report Card (ISTRC’16), an in-depth study providing insights into how Indians travelled this summer, the new trends observed, new destinations which came up, and which destinations trended the most.

Extended summer

A unique trend specific to summer 2016 was that of an extended summer season across source markets. Typically, India’s peak summer travel season for West and South India covers April and May. However, this season saw demand extending into the months of June and July courtesy varying vacation periods across school boards – starting as early as mid-March. This has seen cascading demand into June, July and August. Key markets such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata contributed significantly to this trend along with mini metros such as Pune, Indore and Ahmedabad.

Early bookers

More than 39 per cent Indian travellers were early planners this year, planning almost 120-180 days prior to departure and opting for long haul destinations such as Australia, South Africa, the USA and New Zealand. Considering a number of long weekends in 2016, more than 66 per cent of Indian travellers preferred clubbing public holidays with personal leave.

Slow travel

Emergence of “slow travel” with options like walking tours seeing uptake, was also observed. Slow travel is popular amongst travellers who appreciate the journey, are curious to learn via travel and absorb experiences enroute. Village/farm stays in Switzerland and leisurely hiking, cycling tours in Europe also saw growth. Slow travel seemed to offer work weary corporate India a neat outlet for rest and rejuvenation. India’s GenY see in Slow Travel, an opportunity to undertake courses while holidaying; for instance a one-month trekking course in the Himalayas, scuba diving in Seychelles, or kick-boxing in Thailand.

Destination favourites

This summer witnessed high demand for Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Croatia. Short hauls were a clear flavour of the season with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong-Macau and Bali trending; with newer entrants like Korea, Japan, China emerging. USA saw strong interest with marked uptake for New York, San Francisco and LA; also Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Florida.

Visa on arrival/ no-visa destinations saw uptake

Over 31 per cent Indians were last-minute travellers this season and in an attempt to expedite the planning-booking process, opted for no-visa destinations or those that offered visa-on-arrival (VoA) like Maldives, Hong Kong, Bali, Mauritius, Cambodia, Jordan, Kenya, Thailand. Long weekends coupled with simple visa regimes of destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka gave domestic tourism strong competition. Travellers displayed interest in short haul e-visa favourites like Singapore, Malaysia and the UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah) as per trend analysis this summer.

Growing demand for soft adventure/ experiential travel

Original and immersive experiences were high on the travel agenda; Indians seemed curious to go on an adventure, whether it was experiencing soft adventure such as snorkeling, hiking/mountain biking, going volcano climbing, sampling new cuisines or cooking with local chefs and shopping for fresh produce and wines in destinations such as Italy, France, Malaysia or Spain. Unconventional locales and unique stay accommodation ranging from chateaus, tree house, castles, home stays, light houses, luxury tents saw new interest.

New travel segments

Growing demand (35 per cent) was evident for ad hoc groups of friends/colleagues – especially in the young professional segment (25-35 years). These extended groups connected via social media, travelled for common interest tours such as cycling in Scandinavia and Amsterdam, marathons in Boston, Berlin etc, and wildlife expeditions to South Africa, women-only tours to Thailand, Malaysia for culinary experiences. What also featured strongly was preference for Van Tours especially in Europe, covering popular options of Switzerland, Germany and Austria (18 per cent) especially from family/ extended family also ad-hoc groups of friends.

Self-drives emerged as a favourite option, especially for honeymooners, with destinations such as New Zealand, the USA, UK, Scotland and New Zealand topping the list.

Average holiday stay for summer 2016 was 6-10 days for short hauls, and 14-20+ days for long hauls. Average travel budget allocated by Indians this year for domestic travel was Rs 35,000 per person; Rs 60,000 upwards per person for short haul international getaways and Rs 1.5-3 lakh per person for international long haul vacations.

Increasing use of technology

The Thomas Cook Holiday mobile app saw a growth of over 50 per cent month-on-month. Leads for Foreign exchange App saw a 100 per cent uptake. A significant highlight was the consumer behaviour to opt for visas online – with a growth of over 300 per cent.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Rajeev D Kale, president and country head – leisure travel and MICE, Thomas Cook India, said, “Spurred by a burgeoning economy that has vastly improved their spending power, coupled with declining airfares, Indians have emerged as the world’s newest globetrotters. Despite a depreciating Rupee, the Indian travel sentiment remained highly upbeat with focus on early planning and maximising savings.”

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