As procuring visas for European countries, which have traditionally been popular among Indian travellers, is taking relatively longer, tourists are flocking to short-haul destinations, including Southeast Asian nations. The visa challenge is two-pronged — obtaining appointment slots and extended processing time.
For instance, getting an appointment slot for Germany is taking 10 to 11 weeks, while the processing time for a visa is as high as 15 working days. For France, the situation is similar. For the UK, though, travellers can secure an appointment slot within four weeks and the visa processing time span is between 8-10 weeks.
During pre-Covid times, a UK visa would take 15 working days to get processed and even less for a well-travelled individual. For countries like Germany, France and Switzerland, the duration would be four days.
“Given European visa challenges, customers are opting for easy visa destinations (no visa/e-visa/on arrival). Not surprising then that we are witnessing a considerable demand shift to Southeast Asia,” Rajeev Kale – president and country head, holidays, MICE, visa – Thomas Cook (India), said.
The company has seen an uptick of 25-30% in demand for countries like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia in the past few months. Kale said Australia is also seeing robust demand of 15-20% from both leisure and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) segments.
The industry experts also pointed out that while customers are keen to go on a vacation, they are opting for cost-saving options to minimise the impact due to the appreciating dollar. They are going for apartment stays and all-inclusive travel passes to save on additional expenditure.
“Currently, we are witnessing definitive rise for our closer to home and easy visa destinations like Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the UAE, and also island destinations like Maldives and Mauritius – with demand up by 30-35% month-on-month,” Daniel D’Souza – president and country head, holidays – SOTC Travel, said.
Yatra.com hotels and holidays senior vice-president Aditya Gupta said the depreciating value of the rupee, clubbed with the hike in crude oil prices, has impacted the travel plans of Indian tourists. The company has witnessed an increase of 15% in the price points of airfares, accommodation options and sightseeing, among others.
“There is a spike in costs of travel packages to the US and Australia by about 8-10% in June compared with May. While European countries were one of the preferred destinations for travellers from India, the bookings this year did not witness any increase,” Gupta said.
EaseMyTrip co-founder Rikant Pittie said the company has observed that people are choosing destinations where the rupee is stronger against local currencies.
Besides, the fluctuations in rupee are also driving demand for domestic destinations like Kashmir, Leh-Ladakh, Goa, Kerala, Puducherry, Coorg, Ooty and Munnar, with many tourists opting for packages that offer all-inclusive pricing and hence are easy on the wallet.