Summer is here, and so is the age-old question: where are you headed for the summer vacation? According to the recently released Summer Holidays Prediction Report, based on the holiday enquiries on HolidayIQ.com, which gets 45 lakh Indian visitors every month, the number of travellers planning a holiday this summer is up 34.6% compared to last summer. To help you with your planning, we asked industry insiders to crystal-gaze on everything from air fares to trends worth capitalising on.
The good news is that reasonably priced accommodation in the country won't be a challenge. Says Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings Ltd: "Room rates in Indian hotels during the summer months are not that high." As the latest Hotel Price Index (HPI) report by Hotels.com reveals, India beats other countries when it comes to getting the best value for hotel tariffs.
The average per night cost for a hotel room in India is Rs 4,715 compared with Rs 10,345 shelled out by Swiss travellers per night domestically. On an average, Indians spend Rs 7,531 per night on hotel stay while travelling abroad.
Besides, room rates in the coming months are likely to fall due to high inventory. "In the past year, several new hotels have opened across segments, from mid-market to luxury, offering customers more choice. With new inventory and overall demand continuing to grow, room rates will face pressure in the short and medium term," says a Hilton Worldwide spokesperson.
Subhash Goyal, chairman, STIC Travel Group, adds, "The Ministry of Tourism has allocated Rs 3 crore for the development of tourist facilities and hotel spaces in less-explored areas. With this, the supply side will definitely rise."
Last year, many factors contributed to a rise in air fares and consumers felt the pinch even after the peak seasons. "This year, to lure customers back to air travel, airlines have been offering tickets at attractive prices. These promotions will help them mobilise their inventories through the year while keeping the market share in their favour," says Vikram Malhi, country head, Expedia.
This has already happened thrice this year, and Malhi foresees "more such price wars as the travel season approaches".
Goyal is not as optimistic. There is usually a hike of 8-10% in air fares during the May-June period. This year, too, we are expecting a similar hike, if not more," he says, adding that, "Fare wars are more of a lean season tactic, which will definitely come into the picture later in the year."
The only way out is to hedge your bets by booking early. Another way to ensure a good deal is a packaged tour. Says Vishal Suri, deputy COO, tour operating, Kuoni India: "Our group tour packages include air fares and we work closely with our partners to offer the best to our clients."
According to the HolidayIQ report, 70% of summer holidays are being planned for popular destinations such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Ooty and Darjeeling. "For foreign holidays, we are seeing a preference for Thailand, Singapore, Dubai and Turkey," says Sunil Hasija, executive director, TUI India.
If, however, you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy discounts of 20-40%, try places where summers are the shoulder season - Goa in the monsoon and much of Europe in June. Says Surinder Singh Sodhi, senior vicepresident and head, leisure travel (inbound), Thomas Cook (India) Ltd: "Agra, Jaipur and Kerala make it to the top of the list and hotels can be had at almost half the price."