Many tourists skip Lanka, choose NE

Terror attacks in the island nation prompt holidayers to change their itinerary. Many are going, for the first time, to the Northeast, besides Bhutan and Thailand

The charming little airport in Paro, Bhutan.

After the Easter terror attack on churches in Sri Lanka, Indian tourists are flocking in big numbers to Bhutan, Thailand and India’s North-East.

Fear of more attacks is the reason for skipping Sri Lanka, tour operators say.

Most tourists choosing the North East have never been there before, says Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings, says.

In wallet terms, travelling to Sri Lanka and travelling to North-east India work out almost the same.

“That is a significant factor influencing Indian tourists. Tourists get five nights and six days to Bhutan for about Rs 42,000, and Sikkim and Darjeeling for Rs 38,000,” Karan adds. The cost to Sri Lanka is not starkly different, and the packages include airfares.

Cox & Kings has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of bookings to the North East in the last two weeks.

Budget determines any last minute destination change, says Neelu Singh, CEO and director of travel site Ezeego1.

Sri Lanka is famous for beaches, and the North East, without a coast, is not exactly similar, she reckons. “But these destinations offer nature in abundance,” she observes.

A trip of six days and five nights to Sri Lanka comes for Rs 53,000, inclusive of airfare, and covers four destinations. For a similar price, tourists can fly to the North East and visit Guwahati, Kaziranga and Shillong.

She says about 70 per cent of tourists who cancelled their trips to Sri Lanka are going to Thailand, Bhutan and the Andamans, besides the North-eastern states.

Star attractions
Bhutan, Thailand, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam and Darjeeling are emerging as new hot-spots for those who have deferred or cancelled their trips to Sri Lanka. Paro, Punakha, Thimpu, Guwahati, Kaziranga, Shillong, Gangtok and Kalimpong are the among the top-visited sites this season.

Why North East, Bhutan, Thailand?
Besides the pleasant weather, diverse culture and rich wildlife, many want to visit the wettest place on earth, Mawsynram in Meghalaya. “Bhutan is known as one of the happiest countries in the world, and this prompts many tourists to delve into their culture,” says Neelu of Ezeego1.

Millennials craft their itineraries to ensure the right balance of leisure and exploration, tour operators say. Ankit Jindal, CEO and co-founder of travel website Trodly, says, “Though the situation in Sri Lanka is stabilising now, it will take some months before travellers plan trips to the country again.” Just like Sri Lanka, Bhutan is a short flight away and offers a good mix of cultural, scenic and adventure activities, he says.

“Paragliding and rafting are two most popular experiences in Bhutan. Those who were looking forward to a beach holiday and water sports are choosing Thailand,” he told Metrolife.  

He recommends the Maldives as an alternative to Sri Lanka.

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