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Adventure: Indians' new travel mantra

September 21, 2006 11:35 IST
The scales have titled. For every two incoming tourists to India, there are three outgoing Indian tourists headed overseas.

In some sense, it is a victory for the national tourist organisations of the destination countries that have been wooing the Indian traveller so assiduously.

The more interesting trend, though, is the travel behaviour of Indian tourists. No longer happy to be herded around in groups on standardised itineraries, they have started venturing out into the unknown (or at least relatively unknown) to explore the wide wondrous world for themselves.

Take Malaysia, for example. Kuala Lumpur, Genting Highlands, Langkawi and Melaka are regular fare; everyone has seen loads of holiday snaps of these places.

But according to P Manoharan, director, India, Malaysia Tourism, Indians are getting adventurous, experimenting with jungle treks, cave adventures and so on, as well as water-based activities.

Increasingly, they are heading off to Pangkor Island on the west coast, Palau Tioman Island, Redang and Perhentian and Kota Kinabalu. Indians are also rediscoving Langkawi -- and for reasons other than just the beach, for a change.

Even in Switzerland, people are going beyond the regular circuit of Zurich, Interlaken, Lucerne and the Lake Geneva region. According to Switzerland Tourism, Indians have finally started visiting the country in winter as well -- for ski resorts like St Moritz.

Other places such as Zermatt and Lugano – towards Italy -- are attracting Indians too. In Austria, moving beyond Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck, they are exploring Graz, says Ankur Khanna, director, Tristar Holidays.

Lower Austria is another draw, says Christine Mukharji,
director, Austria National Tourist Office, for those looking for cruises along the Danube and a look at the vineyards.

In the UK, longish stays are getting popular in Scotland, Windsor, the Shakespeare belt, Cornwall and Devon -- places familiar to many Indians educated in English through textual references.

The "cram-it-all-in" trip, clearly, is on its way out, as Indians give themselves space and time to stretch their legs and absorb the surroundings.

Even Thailand is no longer just Bangkok, Patayya and Phuket. Suddenly, it's also Hua Hin and Krabi, says Khanna, though at the moment it's only the absurdly adventurous who'd be willing to visit, given the political uncertainty.

Apart from that, Indians are visiting entirely new countries as well.

Arvind Garodia, chief executive, Travel Hut, has even sent some people to Afghanistan (of course, on their own eager volition).

He has been trying to promote Jordan as well. Turkey and Greece have also seen some Indians, though wine trails in the south of France are hot at the moment.

Makemytrip.com has seen Bali and Seychelles picking up, says this travel website's COO, Keyur Joshi. From Bangalore, says Ashwin Narayanan, assistant vice-president, marketing, Travel Tours, there has been a swarm to Egypt.

Many high-end clients are also spending a lot of money in Taragona, south of Spain, as well as in the area around Barcelona and Malaga, he says. Cambodia and Vietnam are finally attracting many Indians, though he feels direct flights would surely help push up numbers.

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Ravi Teja Sharma in New Delhi
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