Revenge tourism is for real!

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#coronavirus, #Covid-19, #Goa, #Tourism, #Travel

None of the top six metros crossed pre-pandemic air traffic levels

– Goa crossed pre-COVID-19 air passenger footfalls in December 2021
– Religious towns Tirupati, Shirdi, Kishangarh and Prayagraj also crossed their pre-COVID-19 passenger numbers

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– Metro cities continued to lag in footfalls

From Shimla to Ooty, many hill holiday destinations are referred to as the “Queen of the Hills,” but ask anyone which is the party capital of India and pat comes the unanimous answer: Goa! If domestic air passenger data is any indicator, a sizable number of people turned to Goa to celebrate the New Year and the days leading up to it.

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The number of domestic passengers in Goa rose 14 percent to 815,935 in December 2021 from 715,293 in December 2019, before the pandemic, data released by the Airports Authority of India showed. These numbers suggest that revenge tourism is for real and holds out hope for the air travel and hospitality sector, which was badly battered by the pandemic.

India has two broad tourist seasons, each with distinct preferred destinations. Travellers head to the hills in summer, while the sand dunes of Rajasthan, the beaches of Goa and Kerala along with the islands of Port Blair are the winter favourites. The data shows that Goa is not an outlier – passenger traffic surpassed pre-COVID-19 numbers in Jodhpur and Udaipur as well – marquee destinations in Rajasthan.

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Not just tourism

There is another trend that the data shows. People were keen to visit religious places and took them in droves. Both Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Shirdi in Maharashtra – two of the most popular religious destinations in the country – saw air passenger numbers surpass pre-COVID-19 levels. There was a 15.7 percent increase in Tirupati and a 28.8 percent rise at Shirdi.

As part of the pandemic restrictions, states shut temples and both these temple towns, which depend on religious tourism, had taken a hit. The influx of devotees is thus a welcome move for the local economy.

Also on the list were Kishangarh in Rajasthan, which is the gateway to Ajmer Sharif and Pushkar, and Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. Kishangarh saw a 36 percent increase in air passengers, although part of that was due to additional destinations being connected in 2021 as compared to 2019. Prayagraj saw 55.7 percent more air passengers.

Summer destinations make it big in winter

Interesting as it may sound, the typical summer destinations of Srinagar, Leh and Jammu also crossed December 2019 levels of air passengers. Srinagar’s passenger footfalls almost doubled to 340,902 in December 2021 from 171,942 two years earlier. Footfalls in Leh and Jammu grew 54 percent and 31.7 percent, respectively. Jammu acts as the gateway to the Vaishno Devi shrine.

Smaller towns outshine

For the 102 airports for which data can be compared between December 2021 and December 2019, only 38 recorded traffic that was better than pre-COVID-19 levels, mostly from a very low base. Air passengers in Agra, for example, increased more than 10-fold to 8,625 from a mere 821 in December 2019.

The high growth rates at these airports were largely due to additional flights now available to these destinations. At 23 of the 38 airports, the daily passenger footfalls were less than 1,000. These are Jagdalpur, Kalaburagi, Agra, Shillong, Pasighat, Lilabari, Rajkot, Hindon, Gwalior, Durgapur, Pathankot, Kangra, Jabalpur, Jharsuguda, Kishangarh, Dimapur, Jamnagar, Tezpur, Kanpur, Aizawl, Diu, Agatti, and Kandla.

#coronavirus, #Covid-19, #Goa, #Tourism, #Travel

Growth at most of these destinations was due to flights being added under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), which was started to promote regional air connectivity by making flying affordable for the common citizen.

Some destinations such as Rajkot had been heavily dependent on Jet Airways for their services and had seen a slump in traffic after the airline’s services were suspended in April 2019. Likewise, Tezpur, Dimapur and Aizawl in the northeast and Diu on the west coast were served by Jet Airways.

Metros lag

None of the top six metros crossed pre-pandemic air traffic levels – New Delhi came in the closest at 92.2 percent, while the poorest recovery was at Chennai, with 67.4 percent.

#coronavirus, #Covid-19, #Goa, #Tourism, #Travel

While Mumbai regained the second position after losing it briefly to Bengaluru, traffic at both airports was only 81.2 percent and 79.9 percent, respectively, of December 2019 levels.

Tail note

Whenever COVID-19 case numbers subside in the country, people have travelled in droves. Whether it is the air bubble to Maldives or Goa, vaccination certificates, or negative test results as proof, nothing has been a deal breaker for the traveller. This is a fair indicator of the times to come on the other side of a pandemic or in between waves, if we have to live with the pandemic for long.

This, definitely, is good news for the aviation and hotel sector. The ‘Sold Out’ signs should return faster than one can imagine.

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