The rupee is wrecking holiday plans. The declining value of Indian currency against the US dollar has begun to hurt the middle class. It’s the money, honey, say one Delhi couple who have just seen their Indonesian honeymoon washed away by the paralysing effect of Manmohanomics.
The Kumars (name changed) had grand plans for a post-nuptial celebration in Bali as their honeymoon fell within their budget of Rs 1,25,000. The Kumars had booked the trip three months in advance. But because of the rupee’s freefall, today they have been forced to settle for the backwaters of Kerala. “Their budget has gone up by at least Rs 35,000-Rs 40,000. The middle class travels with a fixed budget so they had to opt for a domestic destination,” says Guldeep Sahni of Weldon Tours.
The current condition of the Indian rupee has forced many outbound Indian travellers to change their vacation and travel plans over the October to December period. There is already a 30 per cent dip in bookings compared to the business that materialised last year in the same three peak travel months. The worst affected are corporate incentive tours. Nearly 25 per cent have been postponed till the rupee improves.
Except for Australia and New Zealand, travel plans for destinations where the US dollar and the euro are being quoted in holiday packages are being affected, say travel agents and tour operators. “There are two categories of travel requests coming to those handling outbound circuits. One is from those who are sceptical about the future economic scenario and, wanting to defer their plans, have called for cancellations.
I have got 12 such bookings cancelled, each having a family or a group of two to six persons or more,” says Sahni, adding, “The second is those who have not yet confirmed their plans. We’re calling them regularly they’re closely watching the scenario and want the dollar-rupee situation to improve. There is an almost 30 per cent decline in bookings compared to what I got last year.”
There is worse still. Some travellers, who don’t have the option of getting their money back, are requesting travel agents to adjust their star category of hotels and reduce the durations of tours to make up for the rising travel cost. This is true particularly of those who had planned to go to long-haul destinations; they are now negotiating with their travel agents to switch to cheaper destinations (closer to India) in Southeast Asia.
Manoj Mishra, who had booked a five-star package for Singapore and Malaysia worth Rs 75,000 per person for seven nights, had to settle for a fourstar package as that is what was available at the same price. “I can’t change my family’s travel plans at this moment so I will settle for what falls within my budget,” Mishra said.
Travel agents have their eyes fixed on the currency converter. As says Raghuvinder Singh of D Pauls Travels: “Till the US dollar was hovering at Rs 62 booking and requests were coming. But once it touched Rs 65 to the dollar, they have stopped coming. We generally used to get a confirmed booking after three calls. Today, even after 10 to 15 calls, bookings are not materialising.”
Added Sahni: “The traveller is not clear. Blame it on the slump in the economy. Today only I got three calls, all different requests – one for South Africa asking me for a short-haul destination, another for Europe asking me to cancel and look for an Indian destination, and the third asking me to change the hotel star category to suit the pocket in a Far East destination.”
Affected the worse are the plans of corporate dealers and sales teams going for incentive tours overseas.
“Nearly 20 per cent to 25 per cent overseas corporate tours have been put on hold as these are large groups and their budgets, even if it goes down by 20 per cent, will cost lakhs of rupees,” says S.K. Dewan of Dewan Travels.