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Sunday, Oct 27, 2002

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Exotic holidays without pinching the pocket

Ashwini Phadnis

NEW DELHI, Oct. 26

SO, what are your plans for Diwali and the forthcoming winter vacations? Will you be the traditional type, spending the Festival of Lights lighting diyas or, will you just be huddling with the family in front of the fire to keep the cold at bay?

You do have options though, your purse permitting, of course. You can join the growing number of Indian travellers who are taking off to exotic Europe, the Far East, even Australia and New Zealand during the holiday season.

Extending a helping hand are the travel companies which see a huge potential and have started pricing their tours in an affordable fashion.

One option is to take SOTC's `Tour Europe ka, keemat Far East ki,' (Travel to Europe at the price of a holiday in the Far East). "To make the Far East package as attractive as the European, we have introduced it as an all-inclusive package under which the customer pays nothing else. The Mauritius holiday package with three nights in Dubai, absolutely free, is another option for the Indian leisure market. The attractive pricing of these Diwali holiday offers with special bonanza upgrades, further price discounts and a free stop-over in Dubai have got us over 3,000 confirmed bookings in only five weeks," says the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Kuoni's Outbound Division, Mr Zubin Karkaria.

SOTC is the outbound division of Kuoni Travel (India) Private Ltd.

Concurring with Mr Karkaria's views is the Chairman of STIC Travel Group of Companies, Mr Subash Goyal, who feels that Indians are travelling abroad like never before.

"Out-bound travel from India has surely gone up. Apart from Australia, South-East Asia and Europe, China is slowly but surely becoming a popular destination with Indians. Among the honeymooners, Australia, particularly the Gold Coast area, is becoming popular, as is South Africa," Mr Goyal told Business Line. Besides, the lure of duty-free shopping in Dubai, the charms of Switzerland, plus the dream of visiting friends and relatives in the US and England is making the Indian traveller take to international skies like never before, Mr Goyal said.

However, if you want to get an idea of the travel trends as to where the Indian traveller was headed last year before taking a final decision, then you may be a bit disappointed. Market sources say it will be difficult to draw parallels on how many Indian tourists travelled abroad last year and to which destinations. This is due to "the lull caused by September 11 and the consequent visa problems."

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