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Mid-Day Premium Yeoor Hills, Rajmachi, Lohagad: Explore unique trekking spots in Maharashtra

Only last weekend, Pankaj Sabnani celebrated his birthday by trekking to Aadrai off Khireshwar village, as it encouragingly came on Sunday, his day off from work. The last time, he had this privilege was in 2015, so it was fascinating for the Mumbaikar, who has been trekking for over 16 years. “It felt amazing and extra special because it was my birthday. I went on a trek because I always try to do something good on my birthday.” Every year, Sabnani explores trekking spots around Mumbai. It is something that he has been doing since 2009, when he first started trekking and hasn’t stopped since then.  The monsoon season is here and with it comes the need for trekking enthusiasts to trek and explore the neighbouring trails and even set up camp. Even as India boasts of many trails, every season Mumbaikars set out to explore the different peaks in Mumbai and Maharashtra. With that being said, Sabhnani isn’t the only Mumbaikar out and about this season as many others make their way either through professional trekking groups or by themselves while braving the rainy season to explore nature’s abundance not only with its greenery but also its waterfalls.  Being a frequent trekker in Maharashtra, Sabnani usually sets out during the monsoon with his friends. However, outside of the state, he has trekked not only in May but also in December. He shares, "Trekking gives me a lot of happiness, peace, clarity of thought, keeps fit and happy. I correlate trekking to life - like in trekking things sometimes don't go according to plan, just like in life. I believe it is very philosophical.  Trekking beyond MumbaiWhile the 38-year-old Mumbai-based strategist believes Mumbai lacks enough trekking routes, Sanjay Gandhi National Park is one he identifies that people can embark on and explore nature by walking from the main gate to Kanheri caves.  On the other hand, Sabnani believes there are a lot more places to trek outside starting with Matheran, which he says has four to five different routes that people can explore. "One place I frequently go to in Matheran is Garbett Plateau, which is scenic and beautiful during the monsoon. In Palghar, there is Kaldurg, which is very easy for beginners. It is a one-hour trek up to the fort, and one hour back to the base. Then there are other trekking spots like Alang Malang Kulang in Nashik, popularly called AMK, it takes a out two nights and three days for you to trek. You have to halt in villages or set up camp there." The other one that Sabnani does during the winter season is the Rajgad Fort to Torna Fort in Pune, which the Andheri-based trekking enthusiast recommends is worth every while, and is a trek which people undertake throughout the night.  Even Thane-based Karen Fernandes, another frequent trekker like Sabnani, has found some gems ever since she started trekking more than 16 years ago. She shares the feeling, "I like trekking because it lets me escape the buzzing city, and I am surrounded by greenery, so it helps me feel one with nature. Not to forget, the view at the end of the trek is always worth it." While Fernandes believes there aren't too many trekking routes in Mumbai, she is a huge fan of routes in the Raigad district and even Karjat closer to Mumbai. "The closest to me is the Yeoor Hills but apart from that I have gone and like going to Mahuli, Lohagad, which also has the Visapur Fort, and Karnala too," the 32-year-old adds. Interestingly, she has noticed more people go on treks within Maharashtra now than ever before in the last few years, apart from those elsewhere in the country.  As many people have pointed out in the past, Fernandes also echoes the sentiment of how much has changed on these trekking routes in all these years. The Mumbaikar, who plans to go for a trek this weekend, explains, "The crowds are increasing but there is no awareness around how to take care of one’s surroundings. There is also no respect for nature. The authorities need to do a better job of maintaining these places."  It is this very same reason that makes Ulhas D'silva, a Vasaikar, hesitate to reveal some of his favourite spots, which are in Vasai, apart from other places. The 31-year-old even has a plan. He shares, "We go trekking in Maharashtra on weekends during the monsoon for about five times a year. Besides that, we plan for one Himalayan trek every year."  Being closest to nature when he is on a trek, D'silva says there are many spots in Vasai, which he jokes can be considered a part of Mumbai, that are wonderful but wants to keep them hidden. He expresses, "Let's keep the lesser-known treks the same way because I have seen mountains overpopulate in a blink of an eye over the years. Sadly, the majority of our crowd throws waste, goes to drink, and plays loud music."  However, upon a little prodding, he reveals, "Vasai has only one hill the Hira Dongri, which is in Giriz, and is a short 15-minute trek. Beyond that, Palghar boasts of a lot of good treks like Tak Mak, Kohoj, Asherigad, Tandulwadi and many small lesser-known gems." These are apart from Kaldurg, which Sabnani also highlights. "Most of these were used by the then ruling entities like the Portuguese and Marathas as watch towers to warn against sea invasions," he adds.  The Mumbaikar also goes on with others that are accessible from Mumbai like Irshalgad, Kalsubai, Kalavantindurg and Rajmachi, which are a few of his favourites apart from Lohagad. "The best part about trekking that I love is being a part of nature in the most genuine form," he concludes.  

19 July,2024 12:32 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
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Travel trends 2023: 28 pct increase in searches for Thailand post visa lift

As travel season approaches, enthusiasts are eagerly gearing up, packing bags for adventures awaiting exploration. Airports buzz with excitement, and online searches surge as travellers plan their next getaways. The anticipation is palpable as the travel community eagerly embraces the upcoming journey-filled season. Inbound tourism insights for December, as shared by Agoda, shed light on the top markets planning trips to India and the destinations they are eyeing. According to Agoda's search data, the top five markets planning travel to India in December include the USA, Singapore, Japan, the UK and Australia. In terms of destinations within India, inbound travellers are primarily interested in New Delhi and NCR, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, and Jaipur. During the Christmas season, Agoda's data reveals the preferred international and domestic destinations for Indian travellers. For international Christmas getaways, the top five destinations include Bangkok, London, Singapore, Toronto and Dubai. On the domestic front, Indians are searching for festive retreats in Goa, Pondicherry, Ooty, Munnar and New Delhi and NCR. These insights, based on searches conducted between October 1st and November 21st, provide a glimpse into the holiday travel preferences of Indian tourists. The third key observation highlights the impact of recent visa policy changes on travel enthusiasm. Following the relaxation of visa requirements for Indians travelling to Thailand, Agoda's search data indicates a significant surge in interest. In the ten days following the announcement, there was a notable 28 percent increase in searches compared to the preceding ten days. This data suggests that the eased visa policy has sparked heightened enthusiasm and interest among Indian travellers for Thailand, making it a more accessible and desirable destination. Thailand tourism is a captivating blend of cultural richness, pristine landscapes, spa therapies and vibrant city life. Visitors are drawn to its ornate temples, bustling markets, and world-class beaches, creating a diverse and enchanting travel experience. From the lively streets of Bangkok to the tranquil islands, Thailand's allure lies in its unique combination of tradition and modernity. As the travel landscape continues to evolve, these insights offer valuable information for stakeholders in the tourism industry, helping them understand and cater to the evolving preferences of Indian travelers. The data not only showcases the popular destinations but also underscores the impact of policy changes on travel decisions, providing a comprehensive overview of the factors influencing the Indian travel market during the holiday season.

12 July,2024 07:06 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
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Mid-Day Premium Unveiling the Wild: Everything you need to know before your first safari

When we say safari, we often picture a first-person viewpoint from an open vehicle on a muddy trail, and the sight of the wild cats and other majestic wildlife in their natural habitat. With the presence of rich biodiversity with various national parks and reserves like Kaziranga and Ranthambore, the appeal of safaris is not lost on Indians. There has also been a growing interest among Indians to experience different adventures that plunge you into the heart of the wild around the globe. But before you embark on this thrilling journey, a little preparation goes a long way.  This comprehensive guide by industry experts equips you with all the essential tips for your first safari, ensuring you maximize your experience while respecting the wildlife and the environment. From packing must-haves to understanding safari etiquette, get ready to transform your next vacation into an extraordinary encounter with the wonders of nature! Top spots for your next safari Kenya Kenya is the classic safari destination, and for good reason. “Known to be home to breathtaking wildlife, the well-known Maasai Mara, a continuation of Tanzania's Serengeti, tops the visiting list. Here, one can witness the Great Migration yearly, wherein innumerable wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles cross the plains in a dramatic spectacle of survival. This event is a distinguishing reminder of nature's inescapable cycle and the wild allure of the animal kingdom. Samburu National Reserve’s Samburu Special Five prepares to showcase to the visitors the species that are unique to the region, including the Grevy's zebra and reticulated giraffe,” shares Aman Shah, chief executive officer of Kenya's luxury destination management company, Wild Whispers. The country also offers safaris in other parks and reserves, such as Amboseli National Park, famous for its large elephant herds and stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, and Tsavo National Park, home to various wildlife and dramatic volcanic landscapes. Beyond safari, Shah speaks of cultural immersion opportunities, “A safari in Kenya is completed only when you are immersed in the engaging rich culture of the tribes. The Maasai and Samburu tribes, recognised across the globe for their rich traditions, offer truly striking insights. Spending time at a Maasai village or being a part of the traditional tribal dance helps one understand the local flavour of the age-old heritage of the land.”  With the recent visa-free policy for Indians starting January 1, 2024, Kenya is poised to attract even more visitors, showcasing its diverse attractions and warm hospitality.” Also read: Monsoon delights: Cake recipes to enjoy with a steaming cup of tea Sri Lanka Sri Lanka offers a different safari experience, with lush jungles, towering mountains, and diverse wildlife. This country is known for its large elephant population, and spotting a herd of these gentle giants in their natural habitat is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Moreover, imagine the thrill of spotting a leopard, a flash of movement against the lush Sri Lankan backdrop. These elusive and shy cats are just one of the many wonders waiting to be discovered on an unforgettable safari adventure. Yala National Park is one of the most popular safari destinations in Sri Lanka, home to leopards, sloth bears, crocodiles, and various birdlife. You can also visit Wilpattu National Park, known for its dense forests and elusive elephants, or Udawalawe National Park, a haven for elephants and a great place to see herds of these magnificent creatures interacting with each other. Known as the 'Pearl of the Indian Ocean,' Sri Lanka is attracting more and more visitors, especially from India, thanks to its stunning natural beauty, rich history, vibrant culture and delicious food. Qatar Qatar is emerging as a premier global tourist destination, with India among the 80 countries benefiting from visa-free entry. While safaris in Qatar may not be the first thing that comes to mind, Qatar offers a unique desert safari experience unlike any other. The vast sand dunes of the Qatari desert provide a habitat for a surprising variety of wildlife, including oryx, Arabian red fox, sand cats, and houbara bustards. A typical Qatar safari will involve traversing the dunes in a 4x4 vehicle, with stops for camel rides, sandboarding, and exploring the Khor Al Adaid Inland Sea, a geographical marvel where the desert meets the sea. Qatar also offers falconry experiences, where you can learn about the rich tradition of falconry in the region and even interact with these majestic birds. Also read: Planning a trip to Sri Lanka? New visa cost changes you need to know Key points to consider while crafting your dream safari WeatherThe weather can greatly impact your safari experience. “Some animals are more active during certain seasons, and the scenery can change dramatically. If you visit during the rainy season, you might face muddy trails and have a harder time spotting the animals. On the other hand, the dry season often means animals gather around water sources, making them easier to find. Knowing the best time to go will help you pack the right clothing and gear,” explains Shah.   SafetySafety should be a top priority when choosing a safari operator, according to Mario Stubbs, managing director of Serendipity Collection, a premier destination management company in Sri Lanka.  He elaborates, “Ensure the operator you select has a good reputation and extensive experience in running safaris. Check reviews and ask for recommendations from friends or online travel communities. A reliable operator will have well-maintained vehicles, knowledgeable guides and clear safety protocols.”   DurationSafaris can range from a single day to several weeks. “If you're short on time, a day safari or a weekend trip might be perfect. However, if you have more time, you could opt for a longer safari that allows you to indulge in various activities like dune bashing, camel rides, etc. Longer safaris often provide a deeper, more immersive experience, while shorter ones can be a great introduction to the safari world,” recommends Aditiya Sharma, business development director at Regency Holidays, a destination management company offering a wide range of experiences in Qatar. Mastering safari etiquette for an unforgettable experienceWitnessing nature in all its raw beauty - from the chance encounter with a leopard to the majesty of elephants - is a transformative experience. But before you set off on your wildlife odyssey, Stubbs shares essential tips to ensure a smooth, enriching, and respectful experience for you and the animals. He animatedly tells us, “By following these tips from The Serendipity Experiences, you're guaranteed a safari adventure filled with awe-inspiring wildlife encounters, cultural immersion, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. So, pack your sense of adventure, grab your camera (remember, no flash!), and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.” Become a champion for nature Respect the rhythm of the wildRemember, you're a guest in the animals' home. Maintain a safe distance for everyone's comfort. Patience is key! Let the animals go about their day without startling them with sudden movements or loud noises. Leave no tracePack out what you pack in. Dispose of trash responsibly to keep the environment pristine for these magnificent creatures. Your guide: Your safari sherpa Trust the expertsYour safari guide is a treasure trove of knowledge. Their expertise ensures your safety and allows you to witness the wonders of the animal kingdom up close. Always listen to their instructions – whether it's staying in the vehicle, maintaining silence, or respecting animal boundaries while observing them. Capture memories, no disruptions Embrace natural lightDitch the flash! Let the sun illuminate your photographs, capturing the animals in their natural state. A flash can startle them and disrupt their behaviour. Be a mindful shutterbugWhile that perfect shot might be tempting, avoid loud noises or sudden movements and respect the animals' peace and privacy, especially during vulnerable moments like feeding or caring for their young. Embrace the local spirit Dress with respectWhen visiting local communities, dress modestly to show respect for their culture.  Seek permissionBefore snapping photos of people, always ask for their consent. Be open to learning about their traditions and customs – it's all part of the enriching safari experience! Packing essentials for your safari adventure Packing for a safari adventure is all about being prepared for the elements and unexpected encounters with wildlife. For a safari, one must have the essentials in place before the trip to ensure comfort, convenience, and safety. Aditya Sharma, business development director at Regency Holidays, a top DMC in Qatar, provides essential packing tips ahead of any safari:  1.    ClothingOpt for camouflage colours and shades that blend into the environment, such as beige and olive green. Pack lightweight, breathable fabrics to stay cool during the day, and bring layers for cooler evenings. Ensure your footwear is sturdy and comfortable, suitable for game walks and exploring uneven terrain. 2.    Gear and gadgetsA high-quality pair of binoculars is essential for seamless wildlife viewing from a distance. A DSLR camera with a zoom lens is recommended for capturing detailed photos. Remember to pack extra batteries and memory cards to avoid missing crucial moments. A portable power bank is also necessary to keep your phone charged. 3.    Personal care itemsProtect yourself from the sun with a high-SPF sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. If you are on any medications, be sure to bring them along, and keep a basic first-aid kit handy. Carry a few snacks to prevent hunger, as there are no small shops once you are in the desert. 4.    Travel documents and moneyEnsure your passport has at least six months of validity for international travel. Comprehensive travel insurance is essential to cover medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unexpected events. Having some local currency on hand is helpful for tips and small purchases. 

12 July,2024 09:56 AM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
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Outbound travel from India emerges as future growth engine for global tourism

Outbound travel from India is emerging as a future growth engine for global tourism, with the rapid expansion of the middle classes and scaling up of air connectivity across the country, a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed. In Asia Pacific, the recovery of the tourism sector is different. While outbound travel from China has picked up and domestic tourism is expanding, inbound tourism remains significantly down on pre-pandemic levels and is constraining wider economic recovery in China, said the report. On the other hand, Indian tourists are emerging as a future growth engine for global tourism. "The Brazil G20 Presidency and the Italy G7 Presidency have also put human capital and skills issues in tourism as priority issues in the respective workstreams in 2024, building on outcomes from the India and Indonesia G20 Presidencies," the OECD report mentioned. Globally, tourism has rebounded strongly following sharp declines triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic that led tourism flows to plummet in 2020-21, following six decades of consistent growth, supporting economic growth and well-being. Also Read: To travel or not? Decoding the overtourism and irresponsible tourism catastrophe "However, the recovery is uneven, and rising geopolitical tensions, cost-of-living pressures, and climate-related events bring new challenges. Active, forward-looking policies are needed to step up efforts to build a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future for the sector," the report stressed. Tourism's direct contribution to GDP had recovered to 3.9 per cent in 2022 in OECD countries with available data, half a percentage point below 2019 levels, and "the evidence suggests that the recovery has continued since". A full global recovery is projected by the end of 2024, buoyed by positive traveller and business sentiment, and pick up in travel in Asia Pacific, with growth anticipated to return to pre-pandemic trends as demand and supply imbalances continue to unwind. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

09 July,2024 01:10 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
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Mid-Day Premium To travel or not? Decoding the overtourism and irresponsible tourism catastrophe

“Why would you choose to travel away from the city and go near nature?” asks Sagar Singh, a Mumbai-based environmentalist and educator. A common theme that occurs in response to the question is – to have a relaxing, peaceful time away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life. atOptions = { 'key' : 'd0ddb8ef8f1a62a8cdd22fac27fc5ea7', 'format' : 'iframe', 'height' : 90, 'width' : 728, 'params' : {} }; Now imagine going away from your city and witnessing how others feel the same way and have landed at the same place as you, transforming the destination from a peaceful haven to a site of constant noise and litter. This has been happening to tourist destinations globally, especially post the COVID-19 pandemic. The locals, travellers and the environment are all grappling with overtourism, which is inevitably magnifying the impact of irresponsible tourist practices. “I was fortunate enough to stay in a forest area in Himachal for most of 2020 and 2021, but I witnessed the area completely change once the lockdown opened up,” says Singh, adding, “if the current direction of tourism continues, there won’t be any place left to enjoy nature in its truest form.” What is the problem?The famous ‘Fireflies Festival’ in Maharashtra recently came under scrutiny because of tourists disturbing the ecosystem by littering, using flash photography, and even inadvertently stepping on female fireflies. This is not an isolated incident. Not only are famous tourist destinations getting overcrowded, but the perils of irresponsible tourism are also reaching relatively unexplored places, disturbing their local and ecological systems. “The problem in most places is that the stakeholders of tourism businesses try to replicate the format that has been successful in other places. For example, in Konkan, most places are trying to replicate Alibaug or Goa. However, the same formula doesn’t apply everywhere. You have to be conscious of the location. Not every place might have the infrastructure and the environment to deal with the flow of tourists and the activities they want to undertake. For example, making noise in a wildlife sanctuary is not something that should be encouraged or accepted,” explains Mohit Bagadia, founder of Raan Guhagar, an eco-hostel in Ratnagiri. “There is a need to find ways to manage tourism sustainably, not only environmental sustainability but also social and cultural,” he adds. Shivya Nath, an author, sustainable traveller and founder of the travel blog The Shooting Star, backs the argument, stating, “There are lots of challenges with tourism right now like overtourism, over extraction of resources and tourism leakage where the benefits are not going directly to local communities. Implementing sustainable tourism practices is a learning journey. Right now, there are not enough policies and incentives in place for the tourism industry to implement more sustainable practices. There is a gap between intention and action. So, we need more policies and awareness campaigns to bring these practices in focus.” Is social media responsible? Image for representational purposes only (Photo Courtesy: iStock) While industry practices play a key role in combatting overtourism and irresponsible tourist practices, the consumers or travellers play an equally important role, especially in today’s social media-savvy world. With an influx of travel influencers and travel-related content on social media, it is inevitable to wonder about its impact on tourism. Is social media responsible for overtourism, we ask Nath. “There were issues with overtourism even before social media exploded. But obviously, the current trends do play a role in driving overtourism. What has been happening a lot on social media, especially Instagram, is that creators have been geotagging locations, for example, a pristine waterfall, a hiking trail, etc., which do not have the capacity for too much tourism. But the more people see these places geotagged, the more they have FOMO and end up going there. Then, they geotag the location, so it’s like a chain, which needs to be broken. One important way is to create that sort of awareness among travel creators, educating them about the responsibility that comes with their influence,” she answers. However, she adds, “Instead of waiting for travel creators to do better, we need policy or network level changes. Maybe, Instagram can do away with the feature of geotagging specific locations and keep it limited to cities or countries.” Singh, who himself enjoys a good social media following, believes that hidden places should be kept hidden. “Now, more than experiencing the beauty, it has become about posting on Instagram. A comparison has started. There’s no joy left in experiencing nature-related things,” he laments. Also read: Planning a trip to Sri Lanka? New visa cost changes you need to know What is the solution?“Everyone has a right to travel and there’s enough space for that,” believes Bagadia. However, some key changes are required to accommodate this. Dealing with a situation of this magnitude requires actions from all stakeholders including the tourism industry, local authorities and travellers. Responsibility of Travel CompaniesTourism companies and tour organisers must take conscious steps to combat the issue of overtourism and irresponsible tourist practices. Shannon Fernandes, co-founder of Vagabond Experiences, a Mumbai-based travel company, reveals, “We have stopped organising treks and trips to overcrowded places and our group sizes are very small, usually not more than 15. A naturalist accompanies us to educate people about the places they are visiting.” When asked about the practices tour organisers must implement to protect the environment, he says, “There’s a ‘leave no trace’ policy in travel, which essentially means that when you visit a destination or are close to nature, you leave the place like you found it. So, we encourage travellers to carry reusable bottles, not leave any trash and avoid creating waste as much as we can.” While these small steps make a big difference, proper planning is essential to combat overtourism. According to Nath, overtourism is an intrinsic problem. “Destinations that become popular naturally need to anticipate that there might come a time when there will be too many tourists. So, they need to plan and put policies in place to control that. For example, Bhutan has a fee for visitors. While I understand this might not be equitable, there are other ways too. Some national parks in the US had introduced a system during COVID where one needs to win a lottery to be able to enter the park. You can have permits also. First, you need to measure your carrying capacity and determine how many tourists are too many tourists, and this needs to be done in consultation with the locals. Policies and marketing should be put into place depending on that capacity,” she explains. Policy Changes RequiredSustainable tourism practices will not be effective, if not backed by policy changes and action by local government bodies. “Suppose you carry a reusable bottle. But if there are no refilling stations, you will end up buying and using plastic bottles anyway,” justifies Singh, adding, “local government bodies should take action. If they really care about the ecology, income of the local communities and impact of irresponsible tourism, there has to be an infrastructure around it.” While some places are getting overcrowded, the authorities can also play a role in dispersing tourists to other, less crowded places that have the capacity and need for tourism. “In Maharashtra, during monsoon, the Sahyadris remain very crowded, for example, places like Lonavala, Malshej Ghat and Mahabaleshwar. They are easily accessible from metro cities. However, there are other places that don’t see a lot of tourists simply because they are not close enough. The government can provide proper public transport to make accessibility easier so that crowds get dispersed and the burden on specific places eases. This can be done in a properly planned, sustainable way so that tourism does not harm the local ecosystem,” suggests Bagadia. Personal Responsibility of TravellersAll the practices and policy changes will be unhelpful if travellers don’t take personal responsibility and accountability of their actions. It is extremely important to be mindful while travelling and refrain from doing anything that interferes with natural processes. Here are a few things one can follow, as suggested by people we spoke to. Think beyond sightseeingOne must view travel in terms of art, culture, architecture, local practices and other meaningful experiences, believes Nath. “It should not always be about the monuments and famous places. Walk in the area, explore and contribute to the local economy in any way you can,” says Bagadia. atOptions = { 'key' : 'd0ddb8ef8f1a62a8cdd22fac27fc5ea7', 'format' : 'iframe', 'height' : 90, 'width' : 728, 'params' : {} }; Do your researchBefore visiting any place, make sure you have the information you need to be a responsible tourist. Search about the biodiversity, local businesses, dos and don’ts, etc. Speak to the locals and get a better understanding of the destination. Choose eco-friendly accommodations“Eco-stays are sensitive to the environment. They try to strike a balance between comfort and sustainability. For example, we have a strict no single-use plastic policy, and we even make guests sign a form for the same,” explains Bagadia. Choose less-crowded time periodsOne can travel to a destination off-season. Instead of the weekends, one can travel during weekdays if taking leave is possible. Follow the basicsDon’t litter. Carry reusable bottle. Don’t disturb the local practices. Even as overtourism persists, the travel and tourism industry is only expected to grow. So, the way forward is to implement changes personally, commercially and on a policy level. While these may seem easier-said-than-done, extensive discourse around the subject is the only way to create awareness, explore possible routes and challenges, and implement changes.

08 July,2024 01:02 PM IST | Mumbai | Raaina Jain
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Palace on Wheels to offer destination weddings, bookings to start from September

After the Palace on Wheels, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful and luxurious trains in the world, will offer to be a destination wedding, the booking for the same will start in September.  The officials said the train mostly hosts foreign travellers due to its high rates. However, after deciding to offer it as a wedding venue, a new market segment will be opened. This will include the Bollywood community, the Indian business families and others who have been exploring new wedding destinations. This will also help in generating revenue for Rajasthan, the officials added. The wedding rates will be decided depending on the distance between the venues. “Bookings have to be made in advance for weddings," said Pradeep Bohra, director of Palace on Wheels. He said, "The costs will be decided depending on the distance. For example, if someone wants to travel from Delhi to Jaipur or Sawai Madhopur, charges will be fixed accordingly based on per person.” This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever.

01 July,2024 04:07 PM IST | Jaipur | IANS
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Mid-Day Premium Planning a trip to Sri Lanka? New visa cost changes you need to know

Endowed with scenic landscapes and historical architecture, Sri Lanka is amongst one of the top destinations for Indian tourists. Iconic spots like the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Bentota's serene beaches, and the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy have long been popular destinations for Indians.  Close proximity and relatively short flight times make Sri Lanka an accessible destination, however, recent changes in visa regulations have affected this flow of tourism. Experts reveal that, despite the introduction of stricter visa requirements and increased processing times, tourists continue to throng to Sri Lanka. To decode how the changes in Sri Lanka visa costs affect Indian tourism, Midday consulted travel expert Mohak Nahata, Founder & CEO of Atlys. How has the change in Sri Lankan visas affected travel for Indians?Nahata: Previously, Indians travelling to Sri Lanka could obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for 20 US dollars. Later, the island country introduced a Visa-Free Scheme for Indian nationals, allowing them to get a free ETA before their arrival. After the Visa-Free Scheme ended, Sri Lanka has now tied up with third-party providers to process visas for Indian and other foreign nationals. As a result, the visa fees for Indians have increased. While the visa itself may have a standard fee, there is now an additional service charge of around 8-10 US dollars levied by third-party providers for processing the visa application. What this implies is that while Indian nationals could earlier obtain a free ETA under the Visa-Free Scheme, they now have to pay the visa fee plus the third-party provider service charge, which has effectively increased the overall cost of obtaining a visa for travel to Sri Lanka. Are the recent changes for Sri Lanka visas posing any new challenges?Nahata: The transition from Sri Lanka's earlier system of obtaining an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) directly from the government website to the new process involving third-party providers as an intermediary has introduced some challenges for Indian nationals planning to visit the island nation. One of the primary challenges is the additional layer of documentation and procedures required when going through a third-party visa processing agency like Third-party providers. This could include providing supporting documents, attending visa application centres for biometrics, and navigating the agency's online application platform, which may not be as straightforward as the previous government-run ETA system. Furthermore, the involvement of third-party providers has led to an increase in overall visa costs due to the service fees charged by the agency, on top of the standard visa fees. This additional financial burden, although relatively modest, could still be a deterrent for budget-conscious Indian travellers or those making last-minute travel plans. The transition to the new visa process could also lead to longer processing times, as applications need to go through an additional intermediary, potentially causing delays or uncertainties in travel planning for Indian tourists. While the challenges posed by the new system are not insurmountable, they do introduce an extra layer of complexity and cost for Indian travellers, who were previously accustomed to the relatively straightforward and cost-effective ETA process. Adapting to the new procedures and factoring in the additional expenses may require some adjustment and careful planning for Indian tourists visiting Sri Lanka. Has the rise deterred Indians from travelling?Nahata: Despite the rise in visa fees for Indian nationals travelling to Sri Lanka, the increase does not seem to have significantly impacted the number of Indian tourists visiting the island nation. Here's how the situation is unfolding: The recent hike in Sri Lanka visa fees, which includes the visa cost itself plus an additional service charge levied by the outsourced visa processing agency third-party providers, has made travelling to Sri Lanka slightly more expensive for Indian tourists. However, Indian travellers continue to throng to Sri Lanka in large numbers, undeterred by the marginal increase in visa-related costs.Several factors contribute to Sri Lanka's enduring appeal as a popular destination for Indian tourists, offsetting the impact of the visa fee rise. These include the geographic proximity between the two countries, deep-rooted cultural and historical ties, Sri Lanka's diverse attractions catering to leisure and religious tourism and its positioning as a relatively affordable international travel destination. Industry observers note that the steady flow of Indian tourists to Sri Lanka remains unabated, with no noticeable decline in visitor numbers following the visa fee increase. This resilience in demand can be attributed to Sri Lanka's well-established reputation as a favored travel hotspot for Indians and the perceived value for money it offers, despite the slightly higher visa-related expenses. While the visa fee hike may have caused some initial apprehension, it appears that Indian travellers have absorbed the additional costs, suggesting that Sri Lanka's appeal as a tourist destination transcends the marginal increase in visa-related expenses for this key source market. What makes Sri Lanka a lucrative travel destination for Indians? Does India serve as a market source for Sri Lanka?There has been a surge in tourists travelling to Sri Lanka. With the ongoing financial crisis, many Indians perceive it as a cost-effective destination. Numerous families have also planned their summer 2024 vacations in Lanka. According to statistics from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, India was the top source market for tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in 2019 with over 425,000 Indian tourists visiting, comprising around 18 per cent of the total international arrivals.  While numbers dipped during the pandemic years, India is expected to regain its position as Sri Lanka's leading source market as travel normalises post- Covid. Here are some factors how India does serves as a major source market for tourism in Sri Lanka due to several factors: Geographic proximity: India and Sri Lanka are neighbouring countries separated by a narrow strip of sea, making travel between them relatively easy and cost-effective. Cultural ties: The two countries share deep cultural, religious, and historical links dating back centuries, which attracts many Indian tourists interested in exploring Sri Lanka's Buddhist sites, Hindu temples, and cultural attractions. Affordable destination: Sri Lanka is perceived as a relatively affordable tourist destination for Indian travellers when compared to more expensive international destinations. MICE tourism: Many Indian companies and associations hold meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) in Sri Lanka due to its conducive facilities and lower costs. Leisure tourism: Sri Lanka's beaches, wildlife, hill stations and ayurvedic tourism appeal to Indian leisure travellers.

01 July,2024 11:00 AM IST | Mumbai | Ainie Rizvi
Step into the heart of Aadrai Jungle, a hidden gem in the Sahyadris in Maharashtra. Photo Courtesy: Mid-day file pic

Trekking to camping: Embark on these 8 unique trails in Maharashtra this monsoon

With Maharashtra boasting of some of the most breathtaking treks and trails, the monsoon season brings with a lot of hope as Mumbai and Pune locals head out to explore their surroundings like never before. As the monsoon showers roll in, it’s time to swap out the summer blues for some rainy-day fun and adventure. BookMyShow has rounded up the ultimate list of monsoon adventures from June to September, embracing the season as a time for rediscovery and joy. From chasing waterfalls to being cosy up by a campfire under a canopy of fireflies, the rainy season offers a perfect excuse to get outside and make the most of the weather. Explore these 8 experiences in Maharashtra this monsoon season:1. Aadrai Jungle Trek - Treks and TrailsStep into the heart of the pristine Aadrai Jungle, a hidden gem in the Sahyadris. This trek takes you through lush green forests, cascading waterfalls, mysterious caves and serene valleys. As you journey along ancient shepherd trails, you’ll encounter the untouched beauty of one of Maharashtra's most scenic regions. Perfect for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, the Aadrai Jungle Trek promises a day of breathtaking landscapes and pure serenity. Where: Aadrai Jungle, MaharashtraWhen: Friday, June 21 – Saturday, August 31Book tickets from Mumbai and from Pune 2. Pawanai Camping - Pawna LakeEscape the hustle and bustle of city life with a relaxing camping experience by the serene Pawna Lake. Conveniently accessible from both Mumbai and Pune, this campsite offers a peaceful retreat where you can relax in cosy tents, enjoy a delightful BBQ and marvel at the starry sky reflected in the calm waters. Wake up to the sound of chirping birds and the gentle lapping of the lake as you indulge in a hearty breakfast. Pawanai Camping brings to you a perfect weekend getaway for a refreshing escape in nature. Where: Pawna Lake, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 15 - Sunday, June 30 3. Bhandardara Fireflies Camping – Trek IndiaExperience the magic of nature’s light show at Bhandardara, where thousands of fireflies create a mesmerizing display under the night sky. Set up camp amidst the majestic Sahyadris, enjoy a snug bonfire and let the twinkling lights of the fireflies enchant you all night long. Stay perched with the view of Alang, Madan, Kulang, Kalsubai, Ratangad and Ajoba forts, making for a magnificent backdrop that enhances the serenity of this picturesque setting.  Where: Bhandardara, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 15 – Saturday, June 22 4. Visapur Monsoon Trek - LiveB4YouDieEmbark on a trek to the historic Visapur Fort and immerse yourself in monsoon magic. Traverse mist-covered trails and verdant forests, discovering ancient ruins that whisper tales of the past. As you ascend, the breathtaking views from the top will reward your adventurous spirit. Ideal for thrill-seekers and history buffs alike, the Visapur Monsoon Trek promises an unforgettable experience of raw beauty and adventure. Where: Visapur Fort, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 15 – Sunday, September 29 5. Devkund Waterfall Trek Journey to the tranquil Devkund Waterfall, nestled near Bhira Village, renowned as the ‘Bathing Pond of Gods’. This hidden gem is a sanctuary of serenity amidst dense forests and picturesque landscapes. Wander through lush trails and peaceful paths to discover the pristine waterfall, inviting you to immerse yourself in its crystal-clear waters for a refreshing dip. With its perfect blend of adventure and natural allure, the Devkund Waterfall Trek is an essential destination for nature enthusiasts seeking solace and scenic beauty. Where: Devkund Waterfall, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 22 – Saturday, September 28Book tickets from Mumbai and from Pune 6. Harishchandragad Trek - Trek and TrailsExplore the ancient and majestic Harishchandragad Fort, a treasure trove of history and nature. Trek through various routes like Junnar, Sadhale Ghat and Nalichi Vaat, each offering a unique and challenging experience. Discover the medieval carvings at Nageshwar Temple and the enigmatic Kedareshwar Cave. The dramatic views from Konkan Kada and the serene Taramati peak will leave you spellbound. Where: Harishchandragad, NashikWhen: Saturday, June 15th, 2024 – Saturday, June 22nd, 2024 7. Kalsubai Monsoon Trek Ascend to the summit of Maharashtra's highest peak with the exhilarating trek to Kalsubai. This trail promises stunning vistas of lush green valleys, mist-covered mountains and vibrant flora and fauna along the way. At the peak, the soothing ambiance and stunning scenery surrounding the Kalsubai Temple, especially during sunrise, offer a moment of awe-inspiring beauty. The Kalsubai Monsoon Trek is a must-do adventure this monsoon season! Where: Kalsubai Peak, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 22nd, 2024 – Saturday, September 28th, 2024Book your tickets from Mumbai and Pune 8. Karnala Jungle Trail - Monsoon SpecialDiscover a haven for bird enthusiasts at the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, just a short drive from Mumbai. This sanctuary, home to over 150 resident and 37 migratory bird species, offers a unique opportunity to spot rare birds like the Ashy Minivet and Malabar Trogon. Wander through the lush, deciduous forests and enjoy the tranquillity and natural beauty of this small but vibrant sanctuary. The Karnala Bird Walk is a perfect escape for nature lovers and a delightful day trip for families and bird watchers alike. Where: Karnala Bird Sanctuary, MaharashtraWhen: Saturday, June 22 – Saturday, July 20

30 June,2024 07:53 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
The cruise will be sailing on three- and four-night voyages from 2025 designed with magical days at sea and filled with immersive storytelling and captivating entertainment like only Disney can do. Photo Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line launches Disney Adventure in Asia in Singapore

Disney Cruise Line launches Disney Adventure for the first time in Asia in Singapore from 2025. Sailing from Singapore from the next year, the one-of-a-kind cruise line will offer families throughout the region the ultimate holiday at sea. The first Disney Cruise Line ship to homeport in Asia will be a destination itself, sailing on three-night and four-night voyages designed with magical days at sea and filled with immersive storytelling and captivating entertainment like only Disney can do. “We’re bringing the magic of Disney Cruise Line to Asia for the first time ever, and we want to give our guests the cruise relaxation and Disney fun they can only experience aboard one of our ships,” said Sharon Siskie, senior vice president and general manager, Disney Cruise Line. “When they set sail on the Disney Adventure, guests will find incredible, immersive areas that bring the worlds of Disney, Pixar and Marvel to life in ways like never before – and these uniquely Disney experiences will inspire families to reconnect, recharge and make unforgettable memories that they’ll cherish forever.” New areas to discover aboard the Disney Adventure will be both a journey and a destination, a voyage of limitless possibilities that brings to vibrant life the core pillars of Disney storytelling. Through the magic of imagination, discovery, fantasy and — of course — adventure, guests will embark on voyages to seven uniquely themed areas, each teeming with dozens of incredible characters and unforgettable experiences, without ever leaving the ship.  The power of imagination, which opens doors to new adventures and emboldens dreamers to create magic of their own, will captivate guests from the moment they enter. 1. Disney Imagination Garden will be the emotional heart of the Disney Adventure, an enchanted valley, charming garden and open-air performance venue all in one. Inspired by 100 years of heroic and heartwarming Disney adventures — from Moana on the high seas to Mowgli in the jungle — this imaginative gathering space will be guests’ gateway to an unforgettable journey all their own.  The spirit of discovery will inspire guests to chase the horizon, to see how far they can go, and to encounter surprising worlds beyond their own in the dynamic realms of Disney Discovery Reef, San Fransokyo Street and Wayfinder Bay. 2. At Disney Discovery Reef, families will shop and dine in an ethereal and ever-changing retreat evoking favorite aquatic characters and nautical stories from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Lilo & Stitch,” “Finding Nemo” and “Luca.” Inspired by the eclectic world of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Big Hero 6,” San Fransokyo Street will be a family entertainment area pulsing with the energy and atmosphere of a vibrant street market and boasting an assortment of interactive games and activities, shops, cinemas and more. 3. At Wayfinder Bay, guests will be called by “the line where the sky meets the sea” to an open-air oasis under the sun, where relaxation and exclusive entertainment await. The sophisticated yet casual poolside retreat will reflect the Pacific Islands-inspired artistry of Disney Animation’s “Moana,” offering some of the most stunning views of the sea and sky aboard the Disney Adventure.  The magic of fantasy draws on hopes, dreams and wishes to create whimsical new worlds from many of Disney’s most beloved and timeless stories, with fairytales made real in the enchanting and expansive Town Square. 4. Town Square will be a celebration of Disney royals — a magical land dedicated to those who wish upon a star hoping their dreams will come true. This fantastical forest filled with shops, lounges, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues will exude the enchanting feeling of summer in full bloom with nods to “Tangled,” “Cinderella,” “Frozen,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and more. The heart of every Disney adventure is the irresistible thrill and joyful delight of boldly embarking on new and exciting experiences, a feeling guests will dare to discover within Marvel Landing and Toy Story Place. 5. At Marvel Landing, heroes will unite in a destination for fans of all ages. As a celebration of Marvel’s larger-than-life personalities, this area will offer Avengers-level adventure, with all-new attractions and experiences that showcase imaginative representations of guests’ favorite Super Heroes. Toy Story Place will inspire guests to explore, create, connect and have fun in a whimsical, interactive play land with themed food venues and water play areas, where the world of Pixar’s “Toy Story” movies and shorts springs to life in surprising and inventive ways. Where magic meets the sea The Disney Adventure will offer guests a Disney Cruise Line holiday on a grand scale, including the hallmarks of every Disney cruise – fun and relaxation for everyone onboard, incredible dining, world-class entertainment and exceptional guest service. Every sailing will include an endless array of indoor and outdoor fun, with exciting attractions, interactive play areas, fun in the sun and special entertainment, plus so much more for families to enjoy together. Young cruisers will have the time of their lives with dedicated spaces and clubs for kids, tweens and teens, while adults relax and unwind with premium dining, lounge and spa experiences. “Consumers in this region have shown such strong affinity for Disney, and we are thrilled to bring an unparalleled Disney Cruise Line vacation to their backyard,” said Sarah Fox, vice president and regional general manager, Asia, Disney Cruise Line. “By infusing Disney’s signature service with handpicked experiences unique to Asia, guests can look forward to the magic at sea through personalized touches, a selection of global cuisines, and abundant retail offerings carrying a distinct local flavor.” A highlight of every Disney cruise holiday is the world-class entertainment that brings the ship to life. Throughout the Disney Adventure, guests will enjoy unforgettable character encounters, dazzling stage shows brimming with Disney songs and characters, signature events, first-run films, karaoke and game shows.  Guests aboard the Disney Adventure will also enjoy the exceptional dining and impeccable service that Disney Cruise Line is known for. Guests will indulge in a collection of imaginative restaurants where dinner is more than a meal — it’s a chance to feast on favorite Disney stories through immersive theming and distinctly Disney entertainment. Guests will be accompanied by the same dedicated service team throughout the voyage, adding a level of familiarity and attention to their dining experience. When it’s time to rest, guests will retreat to well-appointed staterooms complete with special Disney touches and family-friendly conveniences, such as Disney Cruise Line’s signature split-bath concept, which allows two people to get ready at once. The Disney Adventure will also feature extensive concierge accommodations, providing ultimate luxury and a heightened level of personalized service and convenience, including access to exclusive areas and amenities such as a private indoor lounge, an expansive sundeck with a pool and whirlpools, high-end shopping venues, and dedicated spa and fitness facilities. A new adventure on the horizon Beginning in 2025, the Disney Adventure will sail three- and four-night cruises from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre for at least five years as part of a collaboration between Disney Cruise Line and Singapore Tourism Board. Singapore’s strategic location, world-class air connectivity and port infrastructure make it a thriving cruise hub in Southeast Asia, a diverse region that is home to over 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Disney Cruise Line estimates the passenger capacity of the 208,000-gross-tonne Disney Adventure to be approximately 6,700 with around 2,500 crew members.  More details about the maiden voyage and onboard experiences will be announced at a later date.

30 June,2024 07:11 PM IST | India | mid-day online correspondent
Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

72 pct parents agree that being LGBTQ+ has negatively impacted their bucket list

In an increasing number of countries, millennials are the first generation to embrace queer family travel. As more LGBTQ+ families embark on that exciting first multi-generational trip,’s latest 'Travel Proud' research reveals the heightened awareness and acceptance among LGBTQ+ families that their trip will be influenced by their identity.  Constraints, concerns shape destination choices The first step for any traveller is finding and booking a destination and for LGBTQ+ parents this comes with particular concerns. 60 percent of this group feel that being LBGTQ+ has a big impact on their vacation research and destination choices, while nearly four in five travellers (78 percent) will investigate how LGBTQ+ family-friendly a destination is when making their choices. Despite the progress that is being made in a growing number of countries, there continue to be constraints on LGBTQ+ family travel. 87 percent of LGBTQ+ parents feel some popular destinations are off limits because they or another family member identify as LGBTQ+. This also results in them changing their travel wish lists with 72 percent agreeing that being LGBTQ+ has negatively impacted their bucket list.  LGBTQ+ travellers are modifying behaviours while travelling LGBTQ+ parents will adapt their behaviours to deal with their identity concerns once out of the home. 71 percent say that being LGBTQ+ negatively impacts how they and their family behave when travelling together, with almost the same number (74 percent) saying it negatively impacts how they present themselves. Meanwhile, 83 percent of LGBTQ+ parents admit to modifying their appearance and behaviour while catching a flight and 90 percent will create alter egos to obscure their identity. How the travel industry helps queer travellers’But families are seeing the positives in changes coming from the travel industry. 80 percent of LGBTQ+ families say that seeing increased inclusivity in the travel industry has made them feel more comfortable travelling. And 81 percent say that being LGBTQ+ makes them feel more confident as a traveller. While in destinations that have adequate legislation in place to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people, the majority of LGBTQ+ parents feel comfortable across the entire travel journey – 83 percent feel comfortable catching flight from their home country, 84 percent feel comfortable getting onto public transportation, 87 percent feel comfortable eating in restaurants outside of the place they are staying and 88 percent feel comfortable going out late in the evening with their family.  Also read: Mental health experts share tips for supporting LGBTQ+ students

25 June,2024 06:14 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock

Mid-Day Premium Experts share guide to hottest trends and top tips for your next vacation

It’s that time of the year again when everybody seems to be travelling to exotic destinations on Instagram. While emerging trends reveal the increasing popularity of visa-free and spiritual hotspots, planning your dream vacation during peak summer season can seem overwhelming. Whether you’re a solo adventurer or someone who likes to explore with their family, choosing where to go and finding the best bargains requires a lot of research. We’ve got industry experts to delve into the hottest summer travel trends, and share travel hacks to help you grab the best deals. Get ready to explore cooler destinations, experience immersive cultural journeys, and create unforgettable memories all without breaking the bank. Seeking refuge in cooler destinations Soaring temperatures coupled with summer vacations are driving Indian travellers to seek destinations that offer some respite from the heat. According to's Travel Predictions 2024, 76 per cent of Indian travellers are determined to use their holidays to cool down in places far from the scorching sun and 74 per cent mentioned that climate change is now a pivotal factor influencing their vacation plans pushing them towards cooler destinations.  “This trend is evident in search data, with hill stations dominating the most searched summer destinations. Ooty tops the list of the most searched leisure destinations this summer followed by Manali, Darjeeling, Srinagar and Rishikesh. Other popular choices include Munnar, Kodaikanal and Mussoorie all experiencing an increase in searches as compared to the same time last year,” says Santosh Kumar, country manager for India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia at The increasing popularity of spiritual journeys among familiesAs per, spiritual travel is among the top motivators for Indian families with destinations like Ayodhya, Vrindavan and Tirumala among the top 10 most searched summer destinations. “Spiritual tourism as a category is growing rapidly with Indian travellers seeking spiritual getaways to destinations like Ayodhya, Ujjain, Varanasi, Amarnath, Puri, Char Dham and Shirdi. These destinations not only offer spiritual solace but also an opportunity to immerse in the rich culture and heritage of the destination,” observes Kumar. He goes on to tell us that since the inauguration of the Ram Mandir, there has been a 550 per cent growth in searches for Ayodhya this summer. “As per our search data, spiritual destinations like Ujjain, Badrinath, Varanasi, Shirdi among others are witnessing a y-o-y growth in searches this summer. This growth is further driven by various Government schemes and initiatives that have enhanced connectivity and infrastructure in these destinations,” explains Kumar.   Visa-free destinations lure Indian travellersVisa-free travel and easier visa policies are opening the world to Indian travellers, sparking a travel boom. “The ease of travel offered by visa-free countries allows for more impulsive trips,” suggests Ashish Sidhra, co-founder of Underlining the appeal of visa-free destinations, he says, “Today's tech-savvy generation is seeking seamless travel experiences, and visa-free destinations are a major draw. With minimal paperwork, booking a last-minute flight to a pristine beach paradise becomes a real possibility. This trend aligns perfectly with Gen Z’s preference for shorter, experience-rich vacations over traditional long-haul adventures. The increasing disposable income of the youth population also provides them the financial freedom to go on last-minute holidays.” He also credits the role of social media and travel influencers in shaping this trend. “Countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka have witnessed a surge in popularity among Indian travellers. Captivating visuals and stories shared online have ignited a desire among young Indians to create unforgettable memories in these visa-free paradises,” explains Sidhra.Also Read: Masala Chai Tiramisu? Follow these innovative masala chai recipes to enjoy the monsoon season Seven hacks to find the best airfareSkyscanner's recent research shows that Indian travellers are on the lookout to secure the best bargains - while 47 per cent of Indians are actively seeking the best deals, 20 per cent are waiting for last-minute steals. “Value for money remains the top priority for Indian travellers and an easy hack to hit that sweet spot is being flexible. By adjusting your travel dates, destinations, airlines, or airports, you can unlock a treasure trove of travel deals and turn your travel dreams into a reality,” poses Mohit Joshi, travel and destinations expert at Skyscanner. Below, he shares money-saving tools and travel hacks to help you make the most of your adventures without blowing the budget.   Savings generatorIt's a powerful money-saving tool designed for travel enthusiasts who are on the hunt for great value deals. The Savings Generator helps travellers score the best bargains by displaying average monthly prices, highlighting the best times to book popular destinations, and even suggesting more affordable alternatives. It's your go-to companion for planning unforgettable trips without breaking the bank. Using the whole month searchSkyscanner's Whole Month search tool allows you to view flight prices for an entire month, identify the cheapest days to travel and adjust your plans accordingly to save money. 'Everywhere' searchIf you are uncertain about the destination or open to exploring a new destination, this tool ranks destinations by price, offering you the opportunity to discover new locations worldwide and find the best travel options based on your selected travel dates and budget. According to our data, ‘Everywhere’ is the most-searched-for destination for Indians on Skyscanner in 2023.  ‘Savvy’ searchPowered by Open AI’s ChatGPT technology, this new tool lets you describe your ideal trip and provides up to three curated destination recommendations with rich descriptions and images, directing you to Skyscanner's flight search to compare the best prices. Set up price alertsIf you find a flight you like but not the price, set up a Skyscanner Price Alert. It will monitor the flight for you and send an email or push notification when prices change. It's the smartest way to snag a deal if you have a few weeks or months before you plan to buy. Mixing and matching airlines/airportsInstead of booking round-trip flights with the same airline, mix and match airlines and airports for potentially cheaper fares. For example, you might fly out with one airline and return with another, or depart from one airport and return to another. Catch the red-eye flightCheck for a departure flight in the evening after work or overnight. Depending on how long the flight is, you could get an extra evening, morning or full day at your destination. Flying at slightly less popular times means you are likely to get them cheaper too.   When is the best time to book your flight?Skyscanner’s recent research suggests that 78 per cent of Indian travellers are planning to get away this summer, but 39 per cent haven't booked yet. The main reasons? Indecision on dates (51 per cent) and destinations (50 per cent). Indian travellers are on a mission to snag the best bargains, with 47per cent actively hunting for deals and 20 per cent waiting for last-minute steals. “If you're also waiting for a last-minute deal or wondering when the best time to book is,  Skyscanner's analysis into the cheapest weeks to travel this summer reveals that while the initial week of July is popular, it also comes with higher prices. However, after analysing tens of thousands of data points, we found that Indian travellers can save 10 per cent by opting to fly during the week starting July 15, compared to the following week. This translates to substantial savings,” explains Joshi. He further tells us that based on Skyscanner’s data and flight price trends, Tuesday is the prime day to secure bookings. “With airlines often launching discounts on Monday nights, Tuesday mornings are the golden window for snagging the lowest prices, usually offering savings between 15 per centand 25 per cent,” concludes the travel and destination expert.  5 Pro tips for booking hotels on a budget “Exploring lesser-known, emerging destinations can result in significant cost savings, as rates tend to be lower and the overall atmosphere more relaxed. These locations often offer unique experiential opportunities at a fraction of the cost of more popular tourist hubs.,” shares Saurabh Gahoi, vice president of Ramee Group of Hotels. Below, he shares 5 expert strategies to help you score the best hotel deals.  Be flexible with timingFor the best hotel deals, aim to book early, especially if you have your heart set on a specific location or date of travel. Prices fluctuate throughout the year, with weekends and holidays being the most expensive. If you are flexible with your travel dates, choose weekdays over weekends for cheaper hotels. Consider package dealsResearching travel packages that bundle flights, hotels, meals, and even activities can be a cost-effective option. By combining these elements, you might find a better overall price in comparison to booking everything separately. Be price-savvyTo maximise flexibility and potentially score last-minute deals, consider setting price alerts and opting for refundable rates. Contact hotels directlyDon't limit yourself to online booking platforms. Contacting hotels directly can sometimes unearth exclusive deals not advertised online. This personal touch might lead to unexpected savings or upgrades. Leverage loyalty programsSign up for loyalty programs with your favourite hotel chains or booking platforms. When you sign up for a loyalty program, you will earn points for every stay that you book. These points can then be redeemed for free nights, room upgrades, and other perks.

19 June,2024 03:47 PM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
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