BHUBANESWAR: Revenge tourism seems to have hit Odisha too. And given the astronomical rise in prices of international flight tickets, travellers from the State are choosing domestic travel over international destinations.
With easing of Covid-19 restrictions, stakeholders in the travel industry said, there is a surge in domestic demand, albeit not as per the pre-pandemic times, whereas bookings for leisure travel to international destinations this season is down by at least 90 percent in comparison to the same period.
While places like Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman Nicobar have been the much sought after destinations since January this year, a meagre number of premium sector travellers are inquiring for countries like Europe, Maldives, Thailand, Bali, Singapore and Mauritius. On an average, tour operators under Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Odisha chapter are getting at least 10 to 20 per day inquiries for Kashmir alone since the pandemic curbs were lifted gradually from March this year.
Kashmir is sold out for the months of April, May and June, said Chairman of IATO, Odisha chapter, Gagan Sarangi. “There is a pent up demand for travel and tourism now in Odisha. We are getting a lot of inquiries for Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Shimla, Manali and Darjeeling but are unable to book all of them due to lack of hotel rooms in these hill stations. Prior to the tourism season, Kashmir was promoted as a tourist destination massively. Hence, the crowd,” he said.
If the current demand continues and there is no fourth wave of Covid, he said, the travel and tourism sector in the State will be back to pre-pandemic level by November this year. As far as international travel is concerned, the demand is low.
“Although people who previously travelled to foreign countries for summer vacations are inquiring about international destinations, they are ultimately taking the domestic route,” said Sahid Laskar who manages SOTC in Odisha. With prices of flight tickets up by at least 30 per cent, he said SOTC and many travel agencies are no longer including flight fares in their international packages which makes holidaying dearer. For instance, a flight (round trip) from Bhubaneswar to any destination in the US via Dubai now ranges between Rs 1,47,000 and Rs 2,01,000. In 2019, the cost was in Rs 80,000-90,000 range.
Sources in Bhubaneswar-based Swosti Travels said inquiries for foreign destinations after international flights resumed in March has been just within 1 to 5 per cent in Odisha, mostly for destinations like Europe, Maldives, Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Dubai and Mauritius. But the flight options are limited. “Direct flights to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur have been withdrawn and a traveller from Odisha will have to visit via Kolkata. Besides, one has to travel in national carriers which are expensive,” said Sarita Nanda, a city-based travel expert.