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Indian travellers exploring the uncharted

Rakesh Chaudhary, an adventure seeker had trekked several dense jungles and deep valleys around the country but was running out of options for his next trip. That was until he heard about Costa Rica. A week-long trip later, he did not want to return home from South America.

The Arenal Volcano and Lake in Costa Rica

"I had covered almost all of India and wanted something new. So, I chose Costa Rica and am proud of my decision. It's a mesmerizing place. I never wanted to come back to Delhi," Chaudhary, manager at an international bank, told IANS.

A rise in disposable incomes and changes in lifestyle patterns and exposure to the world through the internet have led Indians to explore offbeat destinations and spend much more on vacations, say travel experts.

Those with deep pockets and spare time are heading to eastern Europe, Africa or even Latin America while others continue to flock to short haul destinations like Thailand and Singapore, but keep away from the general tourist spots.

"An ever increasing number of Indian travellers are opting for places like Kao Mai, Phi Phi islands and Hua Hin in Thailand instead of just Bangkok and Phuket. The numbers of such people are rising," Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head of online travel portal Expedia India, told IANS.

"Working professionals who can't afford a long holiday constitute the largest number of travellers to these short-haul destinations," he added.

According to another online travel portal, Tripadvisor, 35 percent of Indian travellers are heading out to offbeat destinations within the country and across the globe while 38 percent of them are spending more and more on summer holidays.

"Adventure travel too is gathering steam as travellers opting for adventure activities such as outdoor camping, rafting, hiking and safari trips have seen a fillip from last year," said Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India.

International holiday spots Iceland, Finland, Romania, Spain and Greece are emerging as the new favourites, indicating a trend to go off the beaten track.

Meanwhile, several countries too are going all out to woo the Indian traveller, especially those looking for a change with food festivals, roadshows and business and trade fairs.

"Keeping in mind the number of Indians now travelling around the world, India is definitely an important market," Haitham M. Al-Ghasani, Director of Tourism, Promotion and Awareness, told IANS.

Oman organised the second edition of its annual roadshow that covered several Indian metropolitans in February, promoting itself as a high-end tourism destination.

Similarly, South African Tourism's (SAT) eighth annual five-city roadshow began in January in Mumbai as it showcased its popular destinations and varied culture.

"As per our research, a majority of Indians love a mix of adventure and leisure activities. From bungee jumping to window shopping, South Africa is the perfect blend of both," said Slabber.

According to the tourism board, 25,995 Indians visited South Africa in the fiscal ended February 2010. The figure rose to 30,304 in the fiscal ended February 2011 and settled at 28,684 in the fiscal ended February 2012.

Industry experts too feel that Indians are getting paid better and are venturing out more and don't mind spending on expensive international holiday packages.

"Rise in disposable has led to a tremendous rise in the number of Indian travellers over the last few years and there is still tremendous potential left untapped," George Kutty, secretary, northern region of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), told IANS.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of Indians travelling abroad in 1991 was 1.9 million, which rose to 12.99 million in 2010 with a compound annual growth rate of 10.5 percent.

The number of departures in 2010 registered a growth of nine percent over 2009 as compared to 1.8 percent growth in 2009 over 2008.

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