With cheap air fare rates and lucrative tour packages, there was a big surge in the number of tourists visiting abroad earlier. The tour packages were so cheap that a 3-night and 4-day stay in South Asian countries like Thailand and China would cost less than the cost of a same-duration stay in Goa or Kerala.

But with the rupee depreciating steeply against the dollar, as low as Rs 60 a few days back, the scenario has changed almost overnight. Nikhil Ganju, the country manager (India) of TripAdvisor, felt that people were now looking for shorter trips and destinations within India.

"The rupee depreciation has left a significant impact on the outflow of tourists. Even if people are looking for trips to European countries, they are opting for shorter trips in order to curtail the budget," Ganju said.

According to Ganju, various Indian destinations, which are the favourites of foreigners like Kashmir, Ladakh, Darjeeling, Andamans, Kerala, Goa and Rajasthan, have reemerged as top draws for tourists.

Ganju's views were shared by Anil Punjabi, chairman (eastern chapter), Travels Agents Federation of India (TAFI). "There has been at least a 15-20 percent decline in the outgo of Indian tourists to foreign countries such as European nations, US and South East Asian countries," chairman (eastern chapter), Travels Agents Federation of India (TAFI) Anil Punjabi said.

Punjabi said that till last year if a 10-day tour to Europe per head would cost Rs 1.5 lakh, the same would now cost more than Rs 2 lakh. As the travel firms and hotels in foreign countries dealing with India quote the price in dollars, the cost of spending holidays will be more expensive for Indians, he said.

"After the rupee's free fall we tried to convince hoteliers, with whom we deal, to give discount or bring down the cost. But they refuse, arguing that they have not increased the prices, it is the currency which has weakened," Punjabi pointed out.

According to leisure company Cox & Kings, tourists will try to beat the increased cost by booking and planning their holidays in advance and differently so that there is a saving of between 15 and 20 percent.

Karan Anand, Head of Relationships of Cox & Kings, noted that group tours would get a fillip as traditionally it was cheaper by at least 15 percent as compared to free and independent travel.

Tourists will also spend less in shopping abroad to beat the cost escalation. "Last year when I visited Europe I had spent around Rs 50,000 on shopping. This year during my planned visit to US, I will not spend more than Rs 20,000 on shopping," said Sujay Pal, a banker.

The rupee depreciation has its positive side too, as henceforth India will become a much cheaper destination for tourists originating from the US and Europe, tour operator Raj Basu said.

(Agencies)

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