Indians get more holiday options for Christmas as countries ease rules

Topics Christmas | Holidays | air travel

In the past few weeks, countries including South Africa and Oman have opened doors to foreign tourists.
Over 80,000 Indians travelled to Dubai and 13,000 visited the Maldives in the past few months, encouraged by easy connectivity and relative safety. Limited travel options have been a factor, too, as both Dubai and Maldives opened for visitors in July.

But with the expansion of air travel bubbles and relaxations in visa and quarantine norms, Indians now have a wider choice for Christmas vacations. Indians are now planning trips to Africa, Oman, and the UK, too, according to travel companies.

“We have witnessed a 10 per cent surge in bookings for Egypt and Kenya. What is encouraging is that this includes immediate travel for the Christmas-Year end period. Travellers are seeking to make the best of attractive offers. We have also seen an uptick in demand for Bali for February-March, as travellers anticipate a re-opening,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays), Thomas Cook India. Maldives and Dubai, however, continue to lead the growth trajectory for overseas travel, Kale said.
In the past few weeks, countries including South Africa and Oman have opened doors to foreign tourists. Oman is giving 10-day visa-free entry to citizens of 103 countries including India.

From December 15, the UK began implementing 'Test to Release' scheme, which halves quarantine period to five days. Passengers have option to take Covid-19 test five days after arrival and can reduce quarantine period on receipt of negative result.

Thailand began issuing special tourist visas, but visitors have to mandatorily quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. An air travel bubble agreement has also been signed with Nepal, making it the 23rd country to have direct air link.

According to visa services provider VFS Global, 37 countries have resumed visa issuances in India, but only six are offering all types of visas, including tourist ones. These include Belarus, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE, and the UK.

Those holding valid visit visas are allowed to travel to the US, but fresh ones are not being issued for leisure travel.

A MakeMyTrip spokesperson said: “As countries gradually ease travel restrictions for Indians, we are witnessing a spurt in interest and searches to select international destinations including the UK, Dubai, Maldives, and Oman, among few others. Dubai and Maldives remain high on the consideration list of leisure travellers, considering they reopened for Indians in the early phase of unlocking and have managed to rebuild the confidence of tourists with their safety and hygiene initiatives.”

“We now see positive growth from the Indian market. After reopening our borders, we have recorded 13,801 arrivals from India, with 14.6 per cent market share. Right now, India is the second-largest market in terms of arrivals to the Maldives,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, the national tourism office of the island country.

IndiGo has increased flights to the Maldives with new services from Delhi and Bengaluru and has also increased frequency from Mumbai. It is also seeing good demand for charters from corporates and high-net-worth individuals. Vistara, too, is operating a few charters between Kolkata and Maldives.

“Since the reopening of borders in early January, Dubai has seen a huge demand for travel and the city has been among the top five destinations with the highest search results,” Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing said. The emirate attracted both cricketers and celebrities as it hosted the Indian Premier League and visitors from the Indian sub-continent accounted for 32 per cent of all arrivals between July and September.

The Dubai shopping festival, which began on Thursday, and New Year eve fireworks will als be attractions for tourists visiting the emirate at this time.

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