As the festival season approaches, Indians have upped enquiries and bookings for short haul, easy visa and visa-on-arrival destinations over the coveted Schengen visa, for which the waiting time is up to 10-30 days at present.
Australia is witnessing increased interest in view of the cricket fixtures scheduled there in October, but the waiting time again for visa is eight weeks.
The current waiting time for visas include 15 working days for Europe (Schengen), 30 days for Greece, and 7-10 weeks for the UK. Some of the European nations where Schengen visa is not requires are witnessed increased queries.
Sources say daily applications across visa facilitation offices are up to pre-Covid levels, if not more.
“The visa challenge is two-pronged: obtaining appointment slots, coupled with extended processing time. Our US tours are in demand from customers who are already holding valid visas,” Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head, Holidays, SOTC Travel, told BusinessLine.
According to Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India), given the current visa challenges for Europe, “internal data indicates interest for visa on arrival/easy and quick visa destinations”.
Popular short-haul destinations include West Asian destinations such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Maldives, Egypt and Mauritius, and have been seeing increased bookings.
In the immediate neighbourhood, Nepal and Bhutan are among the most sought-after countries.
The mid- and long-haul countries witnessing interest for later part of the year include Switzerland, France, Croatia, Finland, and also the Australia-New Zealand segment.
Rikant Pittie, Co-founder, EaseMyTrip, said some countries such as France, Spain and Demark have either eased visa issues or are “speeding-up the processes”. “The [visa] situation is because of the unprecedented applications, which are causing the delay. It is just the pent-up demand that is being witnessed,” he said.
Bookings across tour operators for the festival season are up 25-40 per cent, compared to pre-Covid period. Hotel bookings are up 40 per cent y-o-y.
Among the domestic destinations, the favourites includes Kashmir, Himachal Pradeh, Andaman, Rajasthan, Kerala and north-eastern States.
Air fare movement
According to Indiver Rastogi, President and Group Head, Global Business Travel, Thomas Cook (India) & SOTC, the impact of fare cap removal is likely to be seen by mid-September-October onwards. The increase is 20-25 per cent for Andaman, 15-20 per cent for Goa, 5 per cent for Kerala and Himachal and 10-15 per cent for Kashmir.
Airfares from various hubs such as Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bengaluru are witnessing an uptick from September 15, compared to the beginning of the month due to the upcoming Durga Puja/Navratri holidays.
EaseMyTrip’s Pittie, however, feels, festivals could be a reason for companies to announce sales and offers, thereby “ensuring good deals and higher bookings”.