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Monday, Feb 17, 2003

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War fears... no way, the bags are packed

Ashwini Phadnis

NEW DELHI, Feb. 16

ARE you sweating it out trying to decide where you should go for the upcoming summer holidays? Or are you worried that the possible outbreak of a conflict in the Gulf region could put paid to your dreams of spending this summer in Europe and the US?

Brush aside these thoughts and start packing tropical wear for the beaches of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, or even Australia. If you are looking for a change try a cruise or go in for an option of a land and cruise combination which allows the passenger to board a ship for a cruise but also allows them to see the city before going to sea.

At least these are the destinations and tours that are being lapped up by Indians as a preferred option for the upcoming summer season. Officials of SOTC told Business Line that the demand for cruising has witnessed a steep increase over the past two years.

"The cruises to the Far East are particularly attractive because of economical pricing. Besides, Malaysia which offers great entertainment, night life and shopping experiences is also popular among the Indian traveller," SOTC officials said.

The agency works closely with Star Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Liners sending almost 4,500 passengers annually.

Echoing similar sentiments, the Chairman, STIC Travel Group, Mr Subash Goyal, felt that the Australian city of Gold Coast was fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for Indian travellers particularly honeymooning couples.

"Besides, the conventional tourist spots like Mauritius, Thailand and Singapore are seeing a lot of demand during the upcoming summer season," Mr Goyal said. There was near unanimity among watchers of the travel and tourism industry that whatever tourist movement there was from India to Europe and the US, is likely to dry up on the first signs of break out of conflict in the region.

But do not be fooled. The easy availability of foreign exchange, cheap packages, the option of taking loans for a holiday and the lure of shopping is making hordes of Indian pack their bags, not their worries and head as far away from the possible war zone as possible this summer.

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War fears... no way, the bags are packed

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