The falling rupee may have hit the budget of Indian tourists. But on the flip side, leisure travellers from abroad are evincing more interest in India as hotel stay has become cheaper, say tourism industry officials.
India has suddenly become a widely searched topic on the web for its tourist destinations, with most mid-level travellers, who would earlier come in the discounted off-season, now enquiring about expensive hotels.
In comparison, the fall in the rupee has forced outbound Indian tourist to search vigorously on the web for even smallest discounts in order to stay within the budget.
“Because of the falling rupee -- the interest in Indian destinations has risen. We have seen more searches done for India from Southeast Asian countries and London,” Jackson Fernandez, travel search engine Wego's general manager for India, told IANS.
In comparison, the outbound Indian traveller has begun to search more for cheaper flights and different categories of hotels.
Indian tourists are now “tending to move to different spectrum of rates”.
“Instead of higher value stay, they are making adjustments. Where earlier they would choose to stay at the centre of the city, which would be expensive, they are moving to other places for a better price,” said Fernandez.
Sanjay Bhasin, managing director of Goibibo, says with the falling rupee, “India has suddenly become more attractive”.
Bhasin said the tourism market had been hit by a 25% hike in air fares as well hotel rates compared to last year.
However, the inbound mid-level traveller is now checking rates and trying for early booking for the peak season of October-February.
The rupee fall has led to a drop in outbound tourist traffic by close to 12%, said Bhasin.
“But incoming growth has started. Queries to Goibibo have gone up by 50% for religious tourism and for the main season period,” he said.
Queries have come for Bihar's Bodh Gaya sector from Japan and southeast Asia, he said.
On how the rupee's fall has affected travel plans of Indians, Bhasin said: “People who would go to the United States and Europe are travelling to Dubai, Gulf and southeast Asia, while those who would be going there are moving instead to Kathmandu and Colombo. And the traveller who would earlier have headed to these neighbourhood places is now going to the domestic tourist market.”
Raja Natesan, chief operating officer, TUI India, too said that the rupee's fall has hit the travel industry, especially outbound leisure travel.
“Usually by early April, there would be a surge in leisure bookings all over India. This year, this surge started almost at the end of April. Agents all over India reported a loss in demand and business was sluggish. Some established agents reported a loss in enquiries of 30% compared to last year," Natesan told IANS on mail.
"However, domestic business has benefitted somewhat as a result. We are seeing a surge in domestic bookings,” Natesan said.
He said that with the air ticket getting more expensive, it has hit the tourist hard.
“There has been a combined hit to the pocket of anywhere between 18-40% when compared to last year," according to Natesan.
“This is not good news for the travel industry and it may well result in tour operators discounting heavily to attract the customer back, but that simply means the already thin profit margins will get further eroded,” he said.
According to Fernandez, with Diwali being the next travel season, outbound Indian travellers have already started searching for early bird offers.
“People know that if you book in advance, you get better rates. Typically, where the economy is falling, outbound travel is expensive and people try to accommodate more economically,” he added.
Fernandez said a study by wego.co.in has shown that “Indians are still travelling, but adjusting their options within the same category of accommodation and examining airlines for the smallest variances in fare rather than cancelling plans”.
He said Wego is “like the Google for travel” and provides a platform where people can find the best travel rates for hotels and travel. “We can give indications,” he added.