A silver coin, taken out of the Kukreja home safe in Ulhasnagar every Diwali, will make its maiden international trip this year.
Deepak Kukreja, a local entrepreneur, carries the ‘lucky’ coin embossed with an image of Goddess Lakshmi for card games synonymous with the festival. However, unlike the usual poker parties at friends’ houses or nearby resorts, the 44-year-old has booked his family on a gambling vacation at a Colombo casino hotel for this year.
“The airfares and overall package cost was almost on par with our normal Diwali budget. Two of our family friends will join us,” said Kukreja.
Several groups have booked similar packages to celebrate the festival away from the usual routine, said travel operators.
“The fun elements of Diwali include the entire gambling experience. This has created an interesting demand for destinations such as Macau and hotels such as the Venetian. Bookings of cruises are also seeing a surge with short-haul itineraries of Costa, Star Cruises and Royal Caribbean to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong being preferred,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head for leisure travel and MICE at Thomas Cook India Limited.
He said that a majority of the bookings comprised groups of friends from Mumbai, Gujarat, NCR and Punjab.
Cox and Kings Ltd, another travel company, saw a 20% year-on-year growth of such travellers. “There are multiple flights across all Indian metros to these destinations. As the travel time is between two and three hours, it is an ideal getaway for gambling during Diwali,” said Karan Anand, head relationships with Cox and Kings Ltd. “People head to these locations for a short break, and most probably have a three-night, four-day itinerary,’’ he said.
International properties big on gambling also offer frills such as luxury stays, spas, fine dining, and nightclubs, said Neelu Singh, director and chief executive officer with Ezeego1.com. She said that visa-on-arrival and short travel distances also attract travellers.
While trips to Macau, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Sri Lanka are in high demand, casinos in Goa, Daman and Sikkim also lure a significant number of Diwali travellers.