Indians get ready for a holiday this R-Day weekend

January 22nd, 2009 - 4:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) It might be only three days and there may be a global recession on, but itinerant Indians are undeterred as they pack their bags for a quick holiday or just to catch up with family and friends this Republic Day weekend - and the travel trade can’t stop smiling. Tour and travel agents are particularly pleased with this windfall as bookings have gone up in almost all parts of the country, with people travelling during the three-day break from Jan 24 to Jan 26, when India celebrates its Republic Day.

Many had cancelled their New Year plans following the Mumbai terror attack and are now getting ready for a quick holiday or to meet up with relatives. A trip that should cost them anywhere from Rs.5,000 to Rs.25,000 - depending on where they want to go.

Travel agents say they are getting bookings for the usual holiday destinations - Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Goa - as well as to overseas destinations like Bangkok and Singapore.

In West Bengal, tourist bookings have gone up by 15 to 18 percent because of a five-day holiday - starting with a shutdown called by the Socialist Unity Centre of India on Jan 22, and a state holiday on Jan 23 on Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary.

“Both enquiries and bookings are up,” Anil Punjabi, the chairperson of the Travel Agent Federation of India (eastern India), told IANS.

Being just a few hours by air, Bangkok is a preferred destination for those in Kolkata. Swarup Das, a software engineer working in a state-run company, however, has a more exotic location in mind. He left for the Maldives with his wife and children on Wednesday night.

“One seldom gets such a continuous chain of holidays. So, I would like to make the best use of it without losing any leave,” he said.

For many, it is a time to catch up with pending business.

Industrialist Sanjay Budhia left for the US on Jan 21 to meet his customers. “It will be a holiday here and so I have no work. That’s why I have decided to utilise the holiday to do a lot of pending work in the US,” said the managing director of Patton India.

Elsewhere, Gujaratis, known for their love of travel like the Bengalis, made their plans too.

Many in Ahmedabad are taking trips to the cold climes of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The hill town of Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh is another sought-after destination.

The extended weekend also means trips to religious places for many Gujaratis.

Ditto with those in Punjab who are taking advantage of the break to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

“We will be visiting the Golden Temple and will then go to see the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border,” said lawyer Rajesh Bhatia from Chandigarh.

With several people from Chandigarh, Delhi and other places planning a trip to Shimla and other weekend getaways like Kasauli hills and Chail, hotels in these places are reporting good bookings.

“We have already received nearly 70 percent bookings. The weekend rush is expected to be good this time even though there is no snow,” leading Shimla hotelier Sanjay Madan of Eastbourne Resorts told IANS.

For those looking for something different to do, farm stays are providing an option.

Harkirat Ahluwalia, owner of Citrus County Farmstays, a farm resort located 130 km from Chandigarh, said they are fully booked. “Many are even coming from Delhi,” he added.

Based in Delhi, Rishi Khandelwal of Wish Bone India Travel said there had been an increase of 50-60 percent in holiday bookings for the upcoming weekend.

“Normally we get five to six bookings - maximum 10 - in a week. But since this weekend will be an extended one there has been a surge in bookings. We have received nearly 50 bookings for this weekend alone,” Khandelwal said.

The meltdown might have impacted the IT city Bangalore, but its young crowd have planned for the weekend - and are heading for either Goa, Puducherry, Ooty, Mysore or Kerala - all within a 600 km radius of Bangalore.

As Goa obviously seems to be a hot destination, travel agents say the tourist season is finally catching on.

“The tourist season now is a bit upbeat, as compared to December when there was a terror scare,” said an excited Vishal Raikar, who runs Inland tours and travels in Vasco.

Sanjay Naik of the Star travel agency, located in Calangute, said Goa is a popular place to be in especially when it comes to extended weekends or ‘on the spur’ vacations.

But not all are in a holiday mood.

“This is a difficult period. We’re reeling under economic recession. We need to save our money, instead of wasting them in spending our holidays. I will be staying at home in Bangalore during the three days,” said Shridhar Reddy, an IT professional.

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