How long are we supposed to wait, ask Indian travellers, itching to get around the world

NEW DELHI: Deepesh Nanda plans to have his honeymoon in Dubai.Concerns over Covid-19 and the need to follow multiple pandemic protocols have not deterred the Bhopal resident, a dealer in commercial vehicle tyres, and his fiancee from choosing the desert city as their honeymoon destination, where they plan to spend five nights next month.Nanda said his wife-to-be and he wanted to visit Dubai, which was also one of the locations for IPL this year. “I think the destination is following the necessary protocols,” he said, referring to concerns over the pandemic. “Covid will go on for a while. For how long will we wait.”Cooped up at home for almost the entire year, Indians are finally taking their flights for overseas leisure travel, mostly for certain destinations closer home, online travel agencies (OTAs) said. The Maldives and Dubai are top on the charts, in what could be the first signs of the return of overseas leisure travel. Recent booking patterns on India’s biggest OTA, MakeMyTrip, indicate a threefold increase in bookings to the Maldives compared with the first week of October. “As various international tourist destinations reopen their borders for foreign nationals, we are witnessing a positive shift in sentiments among Indian outbound travellers as well. The interest is driven by the approaching winter holiday season with many willing to take their first international trip to a leisure destination at a distance of five to six hours of air travel,” MakeMyTrip chief operating officer Vipul Prakash said. The trend is majorly led by Dubai and the Maldives which are among markets that reopened their borders for Indian travellers in the initial phases of the unlock, he added. Aditya Agarwal, the head of corporate strategy at OTA Cleartrip, said for travel between November 1 and December 31, the Maldives and the UAE were the most popular destinations, accounting for nearly 69% of the expected international traffic from India. The US is the third most popular destination on Cleartrip.India has air bubble agreements with countries including the UAE, Netherlands, Maldives, US, UK, Japan, Bhutan, Canada, France and Germany. Nishant Pitti, a cofounder of EaseMyTrip, said Dubai and the Maldives were the top international destinations on the platform while Goa was the most popular domestic destination.Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) said it was seeing an increase in bookings for Taj hotels in Dubai and the Maldives. “While the UK was showing signs of recovery, with the fresh lockdown in place there isn’t much movement,” a spokesperson added. On the domestic front, Goa seems to be a hit with travellers again. Mumbai to Goa and Delhi to Goa have featured among the top five booked routes on Cleartrip for the last four weeks. Parul Thakur, Marriott International’s senior area director for sales and distribution, South Asia, said resorts were witnessing an increase in occupancies. “The JW Marriott Mussoorie, W Goa and Westin Sohna are some hotels where the occupancies are higher than 2019,” she added. The IHCL spokesperson said on the domestic front, its leisure resorts in destinations such as Rajasthan, Goa, Coorg, Corbett and Rishikesh had seen good occupancies in the past few weeks.
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