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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Only foreign vacations please: Outbound travel booms
May 15, 2007 - 11:12:26 AM
Those in the mood of a holiday filled with adventure sports, Australia and New Zealand are the places to go to. On the other hand, with the wedding season in full swing, honeymooners swear by Mauritius and Maldives.

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[RxPG] New Delhi, May 15 - Going to the hills of Shimla for a break is a thing of the past and wandering in the palaces and havelis of Rajasthan is passe. For a good chunk of neo middle class India, the definition of holidaying today is essentially 'travelling abroad'.

According to Subhash Goyal, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators - and chairman of STIC travel group, around 7 million people travelled abroad in 2006-07. The outbound travel market has grown at an average of 25 percent over the past three years, he said.

So whether it's the exotic locales of Thailand, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the shopping malls of Singapore, the gold souks of Dubai, the Buddhist temples of Bangkok or the delights of Disneyland, the average Indian traveller is everywhere.

Call it a newly found passion or an attitudinal change, Indian travellers are now spending more on out of India trips.

And it is not just one trip abroad, but in some cases two-three brief vacations each year - thanks to a host of attractive packages offered by tour operators.

'You live only once and you never know till when. So what is the point in just saving up if you don't get to enjoy your present? Travelling has always been a passion for my wife and me. And now we are allowing this passion to travel overseas,' said Harmeet Singh, who works for a multinational company in Delhi.

'With so many packages coming your way, it's both affordable and easy to travel to a place of your choice. We're really hooked to it,' Singh told IANS.

'After toiling away for hours and days altogether, it's only fair that you treat yourself to a nice vacation. Besides discovering a new place, there is also the thrill of travelling abroad. This year I visited Singapore, Bangkok and Thailand with my family. Now I am planning a Europe tour next year,' said Raihana Rahman of Assam.

A number of reasons are cited for this increasing globetrotting trend.

A higher disposable income, a new mindset of 'pampering yourself', the affordability quotient that is offered by numerous holiday packages and cheaper fares from various airlines are some of the reasons.

'Other than the higher disposable income that's pushing families to indulging in themselves, easier bank loans for holidays and more countries having visa relaxations for Indian families, is further boosting the outbound travel industry,' noted Goyal.

Apart from the metros, the trend of holidaying abroad is fast catching up in smaller cities and towns, said Ritu Lumba of Vacation Club International.

Places like Nagpur, Vishakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, Nasik, Jaipur, Amritsar and Ludhiana are among places showing a positive growth towards outbound tourism since mid 2006. The average amount spend daily per person is between $75 and $200, with hotel choices varying from three to five stars.

The fact that this does not include airfares or shopping, India stands a higher spender in the outbound market compared to many developed countries.

'Not just once, people are opting for two-three trips abroad a year. The recreational need of people is changing over the time,' said Lumba.

Among the holiday destination, the Far East, with Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, is a hot favourite among people because travelling to these places is quite affordable.

For instance, Thomas Cook offers a 12-day package tour to Bangkok, Pattaya, Genting, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for Rs.69, 450. The fare is inclusive of food, accommodation and a three-day river cruise.

In another package, one can explore Thailand for five days at Rs.14,900, inclusive of airfare, food and accommodation in Pattaya and Bangkok, a visit to the Coral Island and a Bangkok city tour.

'Going to Kerala for a holiday might be more expensive than going to the Far East. So people don't mind spending the same amount or even chipping in some extra money and going abroad,' said Sachin Rampal of Thomas Cook India.

Europe, which is still on the higher side of the average Indian's travelling budget, is also gaining in popularity.

'I have toured around Europe, Egypt, the US, Bangkok and Singapore in the last couple of years. Though Europe is an expensive affair, I won't mind doing some serious saving and then indulging in yet another tour there,' said Aparna Razdan, a freelance writer.

Dubai and China, besides neighbours Bhutan and Nepal, are also popular among holiday-goers. A vacation can be tailor made for you, depending on what kind of holiday you are looking for.

Those in the mood of a holiday filled with adventure sports, Australia and New Zealand are the places to go to. On the other hand, with the wedding season in full swing, honeymooners swear by Mauritius and Maldives.

So with sun shining bright in most of India, guess it's time to pack your bags and put on your globe trotting shoes. Bon Voyage!

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