Come October and there’s not a ticket or a room to be had anywhere. Everyone’s either travelling home for holidays or leaving home to holiday. This year, most festivals fall on days that make long weekends almost de rigueur, so the travel and hospitality sector are gearing up with festive offerings. To make up for the revenues lost when airfare hikes were announced in June and July, an otherwise peak travel season, travel-related services are now pulling out all stops—discounts of up to 40%, cash-back offers and tempting promotions. Take a look at all that’s on offer.
The Royal Plaza
Cost: Rs 18,749
Overlooking the Teesta river and the Kanchendzonga range, the Sarovar hotel is offering a three-night package for two, including breakfast and lunch or dinner, and two half-day sight-seeing trips.A 5% tax is applicable on the package. One child over 12 years can be accommodated in the room for an additional Rs 3,999.
This four-night honeymoon package from Cox & Kings takes you to a boutique resort situated on a privately owned uninhabited island. The offer includes breakfast, all transfers from Mahe airport, romantic meals and spa treatment.The air fare to Mahe is not included.
For the hospitality industry, this is definitely a busy season. Given that tourists invariably opt for “cheap and best” options, hotels are offering discounts of 15-30%. Most hotel chains are in the process of finalising their special packages and will start announcing them by September 15.
The Sarovar Hotels group is among the early birds which is ready with their promotions. Says Pradeep Kalra, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, Sarovar Hotels: “The two key markets during October are Gujarat and Bengal. People belonging to these two areas travel in droves in this season. So we have designed special packages to cater to them.” The group is offering up to 40% off on rooms at its properties in Goa, and has come out with winter packages at its other hotels.
Not to be outdone, the Toshali group has special Diwali packages. It is offering a three-night special at the Royal View Resort in Shimla for Rs 13,333, and at Toshali Sands in Puri for Rs 22,222. If you want to experience Kolkata during the Durga Puja frenzy, try the threenight package offered by The Kenilworth Kolkata, which is nearly 40% cheaper than the rack rates. For Rs 16,499, a couple bags accommodation in a business-class room, along with breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner, airport transfer and a half-day pandal-hopping trip.
However, some hotels may choose to offer more value additions instead of discounts. Says Manish Tolani, director of sales, JW Marriott, Mumbai: “We’ve focussed on theme-based weekend packages, like a wellness package choc-a-block with yoga and spa treatments.”
Industry experts predict that airlines will start offering sector-specific discounts to manage the passenger load more efficiently in the peak travel period, and at least one international carrier has already slashed fares. British Airways has announced a special fare of Rs 9,990 plus taxes on flights to London from the metros if booked before 13 October. Other foreign airlines are likely to follow suit.
Unfortunately, domestic airfares, by and large, are unlikely to match this. Says Noel Swain, vicepresident, marketing, Cleartrip: “We may not see great discounts as all the airlines are focussed on profitability.” So given that the 50% discounts and the companion-fliesfree promotions are a thing of the past, don’t waste time booking your flights. In fact, SpiceJet is reportedly planning to increase fares by 10-12% during Durga Puja and Diwali. But if you hurry, you may still bag the ongoing offers of Rs 0-2 base fares by Go Air, Indigo and SpiceJet.
One way of minimising the impact of high travel costs on your holiday budget is to try your luck with travel facilitators, both online and offline. Not only do they offer tempting all-inclusive itineraries, but the deals are sometimes better here. Says Karan Anand, head of business development, Cox & Kings: “We have been innovative in providing the best possible packages in the face of rising air fares.” So while Cox & Kings is promising a cash-back offer on their outbound and domestic packages— from 30% cash back on an Uttarakhand package to 22.5% on a trip to Turkey—the likes of Cleartrip and Yatra are promising attractive promotions.
The rule of thumb is to keep an eye on all such promotions and to book hotels and flights/train seats no later than mid-September to avoid disappointment. Also remember that sometimes the best deals are right next door. Says Niraj Vashi, founder of Nivalink, a travel portal: “During October, four- and five-star business hotels, especially in metros, go through a lean season. So they offer discounts to fill up rooms.” And you avoid falling prey to high fuel costs too.
Uncommon places,the affordable way
The destination: Singburi,Thailand (142 km from Bangkok)
Why go there: This is where you can experience the real Thailand.
What to do: If you sign up for the four-week Discover Thailand programme with the International Internship & Volunteer Network, you get to spend three weeks learning about Thai culture, visiting little-known villages and lazing around on a sun-kissed island. In return, you have to teach English to the Singburi kids for a week.
Who can sign up: If you are over 18 years, a graduate and can speak fluent English, you need to submit a resume and statement of purpose on www.iivnetwork.com to kick-start the application process.
Damage to wallet: The programme costs Rs 86,821, including stay, airport and local transfers in Thailand, meals and sight-seeing.The per day cost works out to under Rs 2,900. Even if you find budget hotels for less, it will not include such experiences.
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