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Rise in Hyderabad backpackers heading for foreign locales

Posted on May 25, 2011
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HYDERABAD: The offices of international tour operators in the city are doing a brisk business this summer with most recording a 30 per cent rise in business, the best-ever in the last three years, thanks to soaring temperatures. Beginning April, operators say, dozens of denizens have been dropping by at their outlets every day to sign up for a holiday package to a foreign destination. On the list of most sought-after locations are: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Mauritius, among others. In fact, travel agents say that several vacationers this time are giving domestic hotspots a miss and are instead travelling overseas, especially to the Far East.

Tour operators say their cash registers are ringing after a gap of three years. They note that 2007-08 was by far the best season of the last decade though 2011 has not been very bad. “In 2007 and 2008 we sent over 300 customers abroad between May and June, but then it hit rock bottom. In comparison, the 50-odd travellers we have got so far is a good sign,” said Ahsan Shaker, executive (leisure travels), Raj Travels.

Agrees Sandeep Kothari of Cox and Kings (Saifabad branch) whose office too has seen over a 30 per cent jump in backpackers this summer.

But flying really high on deals are operators like Thomas Cook, which has seen a 60 per cent (pan India figure) rise in business this year with 10 per cent of tourists coming in from Andhra Pradesh. “And besides the popular locations, this year has also seen demand for Scandinavia, Ireland, Spain-Portugal, eastern Europe and New Zealand,” said Madhav Pai, chief operating officer, leisure travel (outbound), Thomas Cook.

But while Pai argues that this rise is largely because of affordable packages offered by tour operators, local agents claim otherwise. According to them it is the steep rise in domestic air fares and implementation of a bevy of taxes on hotel stays that have made the once modest vacations in India overly expensive. “You now have a luxury tax, besides a service tax to pay over and above the room tariff. This has shot up the price of a holiday package significantly. So, if one has to choose between Kerala and Thailand, it’s the foreign locale that is likely to work out cheaper these days,” said Mir Liaqat Ali, general manager, One Stop Holidays. The going rate for Thailand (3 days 4 nights) at present is just about Rs 20,000 while a tour of Kerala costs anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 per head.

The cost factor apart, it is also ‘pester’ power that is fuelling this trend of foreign vacations, say some travellers from the city. “Domestic destinations can be covered anytime during the year. Besides, there is tremendous peer pressure among children to do a foreign tour during vacations. So we decided to use this long summer vacation to take the kids to Hong Kong-Macau-Shenzen, though it did work out to be more expensive,” said Prakash Reddy, an entrepreneur, who spent over Rs 2 lakh on a trip.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few takers for domestic destinations as well. Selling like hot cakes are packages for Kulu Manali-Kufri-Simla, destinations in Uttarakhand such as Rishikesh, Nainital and Mussoorie and even Kerala, a hot favourite among honeymooners.

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