With the Lok Sabha elections in the state over and at least two to three weeks left for school and college to reopen after summer break, vacations are still on the to-do list of families here. While Jammu and Kashmir continues to remain one of the favourite tourist destinations in the country, demand for Leh and Ladakh have also peaked this year.
According to Vishwas Kelkar, president of Travel Agents Association in Pune, despite heightened tensions across the border in the recent months, a larger number of tourists are planning to visit the northern state this year. “Between April 25 and 29, a group of 53 tourists travelled from Pune to Kashmir. Within the same period, we made travel arrangement for at least six foreigners to the state. Another batch of 25 people are leaving for J&K on May 25,” Kelkar said.
Dhwani from Veena World, a local tourism firm, said besides the lush green Valley, demand for Leh and Ladakh, a popular bikers destination, has also seen a spike in this year. With the Indian Railways introducing a clutch of summer special trains, some middle-class families are also headed to Udaipur and Mount Abu in Rajasthan. The train, Udaipur-Pune special (09675) was introduced on April 9 and will continue to run till June 25.
In Maharashtra, the Konkan belt that offers scuba diving at Sindhudurg, continues to be popular among tourists.
Not just the hilly destinations in India, many are also making quick travel plans to some foreign destinations. While Europe has always been a favourite among travellers in India, many in Pune are exploring foreign destinations that offer “visa on arrival” and adventure tourism. Countries like Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Bali and Thailand offer hassle-free visa, say tour operators in the city.
Megha Rangnekar from Prasanna Holidays said that international travel took a hit with the grounding of Jet Airways.
“Passengers are now making alternative travel plans through Etihad, Emirates and Turkish Airlines. However, the scrapping of Jet Airways has hit travel plans of many this season,” Deep Bhong, from Journey Cart Holidays, said. He added that flight fares have also spiked with Jet out of the race.
Vijay from Swades Travels said that the travel sales, so far, have been slow. “The reduction is anywhere between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. It might have been because of elections, but we are hoping that the business will pick up now that the elections are over in Pune.”