Travel operators in India have reported a surge in bookings, which they attribute to a combination of a growing thirst for travel among consumers, plus an ever-growing list of festivals that provides the excuse to go to new places.

Already in the first few months of 2019, bookings are up by as much as 20%, and the drivers are millennial travellers. The trend is also helped by the increasing number of middle-class Indians who also have the time to indulge in the long weekend, according to the Business Standard.

It reported that both MakeMyTrip, an online travel booking platform, and traditional travel agent Thomas Cook have seen festivals and long-weekend travel opening up the market.

Festival tourism is the new trend, according to Rajeev Kale, president and country head of Leisure Travel, MICE, Thomas Cook (India), who said there is a desire especially among India’s younger travellers to get in touch with their roots, citing the popularity of festival-oriented tours such as Holi in Vrindavan, or Mathura and Dwarka.

Nor are millennials limiting themselves to domestic events: “They are also signing up for Mardi Gras, Songkran, and several others in international locations,” said Kale.

“Extending the weekend by taking a day off work is giving rise to ‘smart weekend holidays’,” he added. “Both are catalysing our travel demand this year.”

The recent Kumbh Mela and Holi festivals gave Thomas Cook a 20% boost in the number of bookings over the previous year, the company said.

And MakeMyTrip reported a similar experience. “Unlike in the past, where festive travel largely meant travelling to the home city, we are seeing more and more people holidaying with family,” said Vipul Prakash, COO, MakeMyTrip.

The company reported an 18% growth in international travel during Diwali last year, while domestic bookings were up 22%.

Even the forthcoming general elections are being packaged as a travel opportunity. Thomas Cook is already marketing post-voting holiday discounts, for both domestic and international group tours. Consumers can claim a discount by showing their inked finger at a Thomas Cook office to prove they’ve voted.

“With several election dates falling on Mondays or Thursdays, our data reveals that travel-hungry Indians are likely to extend their weekends,” said Abraham Alapatt, president and group head, Marketing, Service Quality, Value Added Services & Innovation, Thomas Cook.

Sourced from Business Standard; additional content by WARC staff