Festive travel surges in Bengal amidst global recession

With the rupee hitting low against the dollar, there are fewer trips to long-haul global destinations but there’s no stopping for travel junkies of Bengal who want to pursue their travel passion to overseas during the festive season.

The peak travel season in Bengal during festive times is never dull and is always vibrating with life. With financial turmoil in Greece, volatility in currency market, refugee crisis prevailing in Europe and the recent bomb blast in Bangkok making news, nothing has deterred the wanderlust spirit of Bengal travellers. Although outbound travel to global destinations have been affected to a certain extent, but all airlines flying out of Kolkata Airport have full occupancy in both business and economy class during the puja days.

T& H interacts with prominent travel personalities in Kolkata to find out the real situation prevailing in the outbound travel sector of Bengal during the upcoming festive season. According to Rajendra Churiwala, Director, Eastern Region, IATA Agents Association of India, “The recent crash of the rupee against the dollar has hiked the cost of global travel. Outbound global travel is quite slow during this festive season as compared to previous years owing to global recession. The current shape of jute and steel industries is far from being sound and the overall industrial scenario is not so bright across the country. The airlines are extorting huge money in the form of fuel surcharge and high cancellation fees. The baggage allowance has been reduced. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) needs to look into the matter to sort out the crisis.” Churiwala also pointed out that airline players are not paying commission to the travel agents.

Most holidayers are planning to visit domestic destinations like Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. Churiwala said, “With Mihin Lanka Airlines operating from Kolkata Airport, Sri Lanka is the emerging destination for Bengal outbound tourists. There is around 30 to 40 per cent drop in outbound global travel this time. It is mostly the family and free individual travellers from urban, middle and higher- income bracket who are packing their bags to travel hotspots. Also the offshore destinations like Dubai, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur that have direct flight connectivity from Kolkata are ruling the roost.”

Festive travel season in Bengal has never been insipid and the current period is no such exception. Sanjay Maniar, President, West Bengal, IATA Agents Association of India said, “The current festive period has been more encouraging than last year since more tourists are bitten by travel bug. South-East Asia is the biggest attraction for tourists from Bengal this time since it suits their budget and is for every age group. There is no doubt that the weakening of the rupee has affected the outbound tourism sector to a certain extent but there are no such cancellations. More number of outbound global tourists prefer complete tour packages. There has been a marginal increase of around 10 to 15 per cent in both global and domestic travel. All the South-East Asian carriers operating from Kolkata Airport like Thai Airways, Air Asia, Silk Air and Cathay Pacific Airways are running full occupancy in economy class during the festival days.” Maniar also added that owing to school holidays, the family leisure travellers from urban, upper middle-class are flying to holiday destinations while the upwardly mobile class with high disposable income travels round the year.

South-East Asia aside, there are beach destinations in India that are the current travel hotspots including the Andamans. Devesh Kumar Agarwal, Chairman, Eastern region, TAAI, commented, “The Andaman Islands are a good bet and tourists mostly go to visit the Havelock Island. Even business class seats are full in South-East Asian carriers flying out from Kolkata Airport during festival days. More number of tourists prefer to travel and utilize their holidays but the flight seats are limited. Hence there exists a gap between demand and supply in outbound global travel during the peak travel season. The domestic air fares are dynamic and season-based. There is surge in both outbound domestic and global travel. Although there is rupee devaluation but travel-crazy people make an all-out-effort to plan their holidays during the peak travel season in Bengal.”

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