New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) Where will you be this Raksha Bandhan? Basking in the sun on a beach in Pattaya, ambling down the mall in Shimla or maybe shopping in Jaipur with the family... It's the perfect getaway time for many with the first extended weekend of the year combining the festival celebrating sibling love with Independence Day.
Unlike other festivals like Diwali, where most people would like to stay at home, Raksha Bandhan presents few obstacles. And several families, complete with sister and brother, are planning the quick escape from the humdrum of daily life.
Travel portals have witnessed tremendous surge in booking for the first long weekend this monsoon and everyone is smiling.
Aamit Jaivir, 33, for instance, is off to Thailand along with his family and would be celebrating Raksha Bandhan in Pattaya, Thailand, along with his sister and parents.
'We have always celebrated Raksha Bandhan at home, but this year we wanted it to be different. So I decided to gift my sister a perfect family holiday. Festivities should not force you to follow certain regimes. They, in fact, should inspire you to spend good quality time with your family. This is what we are doing this year,' said Jaivir.
Travel lovers look for long weekends at the beginning of the year itself. This year, the monsoon break is from Aug 13-15, which includes Raksha Bandhan and Independence Day.
'This is the first extended weekend this monsoon season and therefore it has attracted a lot of attention in terms of holiday bookings,' Keyur Joshi, COO and co-founder of travel portal MakeMyTrip.com, told IANS.
Thomas Cook's Madhav Pai points to the changing face of Indian festivities.
'Families now wish to spend the moments of joy and festivities with their near and dear in picturesque locations,' said Pai, COO, leisure travel, outbound.
According to Sabina Chopra, co-founder and executive vice president (operations) of Yatra.com, the number of travellers goes up by 50 percent during long weekends and business doubles.
'Various hotels are promoting special packages for this extended weekend. In fact, the traffic on Yatra.com has risen by 50 percent in the last couple of days,' she said.
'The most popular destinations from Delhi are places like Jaipur, Shimla and Manali as they are drive down to destinations. In the western region, destinations such as Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar and Goa are most in demand,' she added.
People are also targeting international destinations.
'There is a segment of travellers who prefer international destinations such as Singapore, Thailand and Dubai for a short haul holiday (three nights, four days),' she added.
'Hong Kong, Malaysia and Mauritius are also popular,' added Rajeev Kale, COO, leisure domestic, cruises and sport holidays for Thomas Cook.
Weekend getaways are gaining in popularity as they fit the schedule and don't burn a hole in the pocket either.
Yatra.com has packages to places like Corbett, Bharatpur, Chail, Dalhousie, Pushkar and Amritsar for a modest Rs.2,457 per person.
Starting prices for special holiday packages by MakeMyTrip for varied destinations such as Darjeeling, Goa, Munnar and Coorg can be as low as Rs.2,099 per person.
Yatra.com's international packages include a snap holiday to Singapore for Rs.29,299 and Dubai for Rs.21,199.
Hotel administrations are thrilled.
T. Banambar Patra, managing director of Toshali Resorts International, said the response from travellers has been overwhelming.
'Booking response is excellent. We have sold 2/3rd of our rooms. There is great enthusiasm with family and children to avail of package than buying individual rooms. Most of the domestic guests love to travel with family and extended friends and their family,' said Patra, who runs resorts in Puri and Shimla.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)