Visa-Free Opportunities and Festive Hotspots: Agoda Maps Out December for Indian Travelers

Visa-Free Opportunities and Festive Hotspots: Agoda Maps Out December for Indian Travelers

By Author

Published on November 30, 2023

Embarking on the month of December, the travel landscape unfolds with enticing trends that promise to shape the wanderlust of Indian tourists. Agoda, the online travel agency, has delved into its search data, providing valuable insights into the evolving travel preferences for this festive season.

Top Markets and Festive Getaways:

Agoda's search data reveals the top five markets planning travel to India in December, with the USA, Singapore, Japan, UK, and Australia taking the lead. Inbound travelers are keen on exploring various destinations within India, with New Delhi and NCR, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, and Jaipur topping the list.

For the Christmas season, both international and domestic destinations have captured the attention of Indian travelers. Internationally, Bangkok, London, Singapore, Toronto, and Dubai are the most sought-after, while domestically, Goa, Pondicherry, Ooty, Munnar, and New Delhi and NCR take center stage for those seeking a festive retreat.

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Impact of Visa Policy Changes:

Agoda's data sheds light on recent visa policy changes, particularly the lift in visa requirements for Indians traveling to Thailand and Sri Lanka. Following this announcement, Agoda observed a significant 28 per cent increase in searches for Thailand compared to the preceding ten days, indicating heightened enthusiasm and interest among Indian travelers for this now easily accessible destination.

Expectations and Opportunities:

These insights are crucial in understanding the evolving preferences of Indian travelers, emphasizing the influence of visa policy changes on travel decisions. As December approaches, these trends are expected to shape the holiday travel landscape, with travelers setting their sights on both domestic and international destinations for memorable experiences. The USA, leading the list of markets planning trips to India, signals a robust start to the festive travel season.

Visa-Free Destinations and Winter Travel:

The introduction of visa-free destinations such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka presents a significant opportunity for travel companies. Thomas Cook and SOTC are witnessing at least 20% growth in bookings for these destinations, with travelers favoring no-visa or easy-visa options. Thailand, with its waived visa requirements, is already experiencing a 30% growth for the upcoming holiday season.

The Challenges and Opportunities:

While around 70% of Indians opt for nearby destinations, the post-covid era has seen a recovery in outbound tourism, reaching 61% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Thomas Cook reports increased inquiries for destinations across all customer segments, indicating a strong demand for "mini-cations" to easy visa short-haul destinations.

In conclusion, the December 2023 travel trends showcase a dynamic landscape, reflecting the changing preferences of Indian travelers, the impact of visa policy changes, and the opportunities presented by visa-free destinations. The festive season promises a blend of domestic and international exploration, with a focus on convenience and enriching experiences.


UP Tourism's New Initiatives to Promote Rural Tourism and Empower Local Communities

UP Tourism's New Initiatives to Promote Rural Tourism and Empower Local Communities

By Nithyakala Neelakandan

Published on June 18, 2024

The Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department has recently signed two significant Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) to boost rural tourism and promote sustainable livelihoods. 

The first MoU, a five-year agreement, was signed between the Directorate of Tourism, Uttar Pradesh, represented by Principal Secretary Mukesh Kumar Meshram, and the State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM), represented by Mission Director Deepa Ranjan. This collaboration is set to enhance tourism infrastructure while empowering rural communities through improved access to financial services and sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Key initiatives under this MoU include:

  • Identifying and addressing infrastructure gaps in selected villages.

  • Developing tourism infrastructure and mobilizing communities for tourism activities.

  • Organizing capacity-building programs and promoting homestays.

  • Conducting training programs for Self-Help Groups (SHGs), homestay owners, and tourist guides.

  • Enhancing social media management, content creation, and familiarization trips.

UPSRLM will play a crucial role in:

  • Identifying potential SHGs and mobilizing communities.

  • Building the capacity of SHG members through training programs.

  • Supporting village cleanliness and promoting tourism villages via social media.

  • Sharing relevant data with the Directorate of Tourism and maintaining tourism infrastructure as needed.

The second MoU was signed between UPSRLM and the Manyawar Kanshiram Institute of Tourism Management. This partnership aims to develop sustainable food service enterprises in the state, with technical support and capacity building provided by the Institute.

These initiatives are part of UP Tourism's broader strategy to transform the state’s tourism landscape. By promoting rural tourism, they aim to:

  • Significantly boost local economies.

  • Provide diverse livelihood opportunities.

  • Enhance infrastructure to host a variety of tourism experiences.

To date, 229 villages have been identified for tourism development. These efforts are designed to empower rural communities through skill development and the promotion of local art, craft, culture, and cuisine.

Jaiveer Singh, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Uttar Pradesh, highlighted the importance of these initiatives: “These MoUs are a testament to our commitment to elevating the entire tourism ecosystem of Uttar Pradesh. By encouraging rural tourism, we are not only boosting local economies but also providing rural populations with various means of livelihood and employment.”

Mukesh Kumar Meshram, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture, emphasized the collaborative effort: “Our collaboration with UPSRLM and the Manyawar Kanshiram Institute is a significant stride towards sustainable tourism and community empowerment. This initiative will enhance facilities and infrastructure, offering tourists an authentic experience of rustic village life.”

Deepa Ranjan, Mission Director, UPSRLM, added, “This partnership will empower rural communities by integrating them into the tourism value chain. It will create new opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development in the villages.”

Eesha Priya, Special Secretary, Tourism, concluded, “We are focused on developing a comprehensive tourism strategy that benefits all stakeholders. The synergy between tourism development and rural livelihood enhancement is crucial for the holistic growth of our state.”

Through these strategic partnerships and initiatives, UP Tourism aims to create a vibrant tourism ecosystem that offers authentic rural experiences while empowering local communities. The focus on rural tourism not only promises economic growth but also ensures the preservation and promotion of Uttar Pradesh's rich cultural heritage.


Booking.com Joins Forces with Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, Amplifying LGBTQ+ Representation in Travel and History

Booking.com Joins Forces with Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, Amplifying LGBTQ+ Representation in Travel and History

By Nishang Narayan

Published on June 17, 2024

Booking.com is enhancing its mission to make travel accessible for everyone by announcing a new partnership with the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center. This collaboration aims to preserve and promote LGBTQ+ history and culture, reinforcing Booking.com's commitment to diversity and inclusion in the travel industry.

Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President of Booking.com, expressed pride in being a Founding Partner of the Visitor Center, stating, "Booking.com is incredibly proud to be a Founding Partner of the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center, making it easier for visitors to learn more about a significant piece of history for the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, in one of the most popular travel destinations in the world."

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This partnership announcement coincides with Booking.com's release of new research emphasizing the importance of inclusivity in travel. Key insights include:

  • Over half (59%) of American LGBTQ+ travelers have faced discrimination while traveling.

  • 50% of American LGBTQ+ travelers feel more insecure and self-conscious due to their LGBTQ+ identity.

  • More than half (58%) of American LGBTQ+ travelers prefer destinations with established LGBTQ+ tourism, while 46% seek destinations where they can promote social awareness and acceptance.

  • 72% of American LGBTQ+ travelers acknowledge that increased inclusivity in the travel industry has made them feel more comfortable.

For more detailed insights, the research methodology, and global statistics, please visit the Booking.com global media room.

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About Booking.com

Part of Booking Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKNG), Booking.com's mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. By leveraging technology to reduce travel friction, Booking.com connects millions of travelers with memorable experiences daily. Follow @bookingcom on social media or visit globalnews.booking.com for more information.


Holiday Inn Club Vacations Launches All-New, My Vacation Portal

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Launches All-New, My Vacation Portal

By Nishang Narayan

Published on June 17, 2024

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated, an international vacation ownership company, has launched My Vacation Portal, an innovative online platform designed specifically for Club Members and owners. This new portal offers a centralized, self-service tool for booking reservations, managing upcoming stays, accessing key membership details, making payments, and more.

"At Holiday Inn Club Vacations, customer obsession is one of our core growth strategies. We are passionate about providing great service and empowering guests to interact with our brand on their own terms," said JP Hurtado, Chief Information Officer at Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated. "In crafting My Vacation Portal, our focus was on our owners and Club Members. We engaged them throughout the development process, regularly gathering their feedback, testing features, and incorporating their recommendations. The outcome is a user-friendly tool tailored to their needs today while staying aligned with the evolving preferences of future consumers."

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Key Features of My Vacation Portal:

  • Optimized Design: Seamless access on web browsers and mobile devices.

  • Multi-Location Search: Room photo galleries and the ability to book reservations.

  • Centralized Platform: Manage both membership and HOA, including making HOA/maintenance fee payments.

  • Self-Service Capabilities: Transfer Club Points to IHG One Rewards Points and extend Club Points.

  • Access to Details: View upcoming stays, current and future payments, partnership details (e.g., IHG One Rewards member number), current Club Points, exclusive offers, and more.

My Vacation Portal is part of several digital transformation investments made by Holiday Inn Club Vacations to enhance the experience for owners and Club Members. The platform will be continuously updated and enhanced to elevate user experience.

Holiday Inn Club Vacations Members and owners can now access My Vacation Portal by visiting myvacationportal.com and logging in with their credentials.

To see how My Vacation Portal appears to Club Members and owners, view the video here.

About Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated

Encompassing resorts across the United States and the Mexican Caribbean, Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated is a resort, real estate, and travel company with a mission to be the most loved brand in family travel by delivering easy-to-plan, memorable vacation experiences that strengthen families.

Based in Orlando, Florida, the company has been a leader in the vacation ownership industry since 1982, when Holiday Inn® founder Kemmons Wilson debuted the company's flagship property, Holiday Inn Club Vacations® at Orange Lake Resort, next to Orlando's Walt Disney World® Resort.

Today, the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort portfolio spans across the United States and into the Mexican Caribbean, following the company's international expansion in May 2023. Throughout its history, the company has maintained the core family values true to its founding Wilson family, while aggressively pursuing growth, transforming its member engagement model, and building an industry-leading team passionate about the guest experience.

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