Days before the Lok Sabha elections were held in Mumbai on April 30, political parties and social activists alike had begun to warn of low voter turnout. Offices would be shut that day, and May 1 was Maharashtra Day, followed by the weekend -- just the excuse Mumbaikars need for a short vacation. Little surprise, fewer than 45 per cent of them turned out to cast their vote.
While poll pundits will try to understand how this turnout will affect the contestants, it reflects the new travel trend.
Indians are increasingly choosing short and frequent holidays -- domestic or international -- of four or five days, over the earlier once-a-year long holiday, according to travel agents and portals. These are now, incresingly, single-destination trips organised around long weekends.
"Because of work pressure and city stress, we have seen this wave of people taking long weekends or four- and five-day trips every quarter," said Mercury Travels' executive vice-chairman Ashwini Kakkar.
The economic slowdown has put a premium on both time and money. Not only have people turned wary of spending on travel, many have to multitask at work, which leaves little time for a long holiday. This makes short breaks around long weekends the best option.
Nikhil Rungta, the head of marketing of Yatra.com, one of India's most popular travel portals, says there are roughly 14 such long weekends this year. "There was more demand for holiday packages than we could sell around Republic Day and Good Friday," he recalls.
On an average, travel operators have witnessed year-on-year growth of 20-35 per cent in the demand for these quick trips. Cleartrip.com, another travel portal, has seen a 15-18 per cent rise in bookings for weekend trips, while 55-60 per cent of Yatra.com's holiday bookings fall in this segment.
MakeMyTrip.com vice-president (Retail and Business Development) Amit Sabarwal said the uncertainty all around has made people dump elaborate planning for spontaneous holiday decisions. Adds a manager from Deloitte India: "People are breaking up what was earlier a single destination into multiple destinations, and taking more vacations." Thus, while earlier people made long trips to cover Singapore and Malaysia together, now they prefer a four-day trip to one of the two destinations.
Both traditional and online travel companies have been quick to tailor packages that are ideal for short trips, leaving the tourist with a choice to travel more frequently rather than splurge on a single long trip. Thus, tie-ups with hotels and resorts close to cities are being ramped up and cheaper rates in places like Dubai and Bali are being leveraged to the hilt.
"Traffic to Southeast Asia and West Asia is due to the decrease in airfares and hotel costs. Dubai's hotel tariffs, for example, have gone down owing to the overcapacity there," said Le Passage to India Managing Director Arjun Sharma.