From Kyiv to Croatia, Indians set to beat the summer heat with offbeat trips

NEW DELHI: From exploring Spain’s Toledo — a cultural melting pot known for its Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments — to discovering the wonders of Kyiv and Astana and hiking in the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, Indians are all set to beat the heat this summer with offbeat trips.

While bookings for overseas travel this summer have gone up by 30-50% from last year, Indians are also looking beyond the usual pit stops of London, Dubai, Singapore and Bangkok, travel portals said. The surge in interest for unusual destinations led travel operator Cox & Kings to launch new itineraries such as ‘Castles of Croatia’, ‘Marvels of Kyiv’, which is all about experiencing Ukraine, and ‘Baltic Capitals’—a seven-night holiday covering Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Lithuania.

“This year, we see a trend where Indians are spending more time at a destination in order to soak in the local culture and experience the local cuisine,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings. “Apart from sightseeing, travellers are seeking immersive experiences like wandering through the fanciest shopping street in Zurich —Bahnhofstrasse — to visiting a malt whisky distillery in Edinburgh to know how Scotland’s national drink has been made since 1840.”

Destinations like Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan that stands out for its contrasting architecture amid the vast open steppe; Lombok, an Indonesian island east of Bali, and Mykonos in Greece are some of the most popular ones on MakeMyTrip this summer.

“Travellers are evolving and exploring new destinations. Discerning travellers are looking for unique experiential travel options with about 50% of the bookings being made by those in the 25-35 age group,” said Mohit Gupta, COO of MakeMyTrip. “Astana, Almaty, Lombok and Mykonos are the top growing international destinations, besides Rome, Toronto, Amsterdam and Istanbul, which have grown more than five times.”

High on the list of Indian vacationers is information on local activities that they can engage in on arrival to make the most of their holidays, said Balu Ramachandran, head of air and distribution at Cleartrip. Offers on Cleartrip, which is seeing growing interest for cities such as Guangzhou, China’s third-biggest city, and Istanbul, now cater to the entire travel cycle and go beyond flights and accommodation, Ramachandran said.

Bookings for Toronto, Denpasar in Bali, Colombo and Phuket have registered an over 150% uptick on Cleartrip from last summer.

“We are seeing a lot more queries for smaller destinations in Europe like Prague, Budapest and the Nordic countries. There is a decent traction for Russia as well,” said Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) at Yatra.com.

While inbound tourist numbers have been a cause for concern for India, global economies are betting on Indians heading out of the country. The UN World Tourism Organisation predicts India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020, up from 20 million in 2017.

Varun Gupta, COO of Goomo, said the portal has seen an increase in new destinations and experiential holidays to Scandinavia, Iceland and Vietnam. economictimes


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