The lifting of air bubble agreements has given a boost to outbound tourism from Kerala to Europe and other popular destinations, although airfares remain higher and not all international flights have resumed service .

Dubai and much of Europe have reopened their skies to tourists after the pandemic, although others like Thailand, Malaysia and a few other Southeast Asian countries have yet to fully open up. The Maldives is still popular among spendthrift tourists, especially honeymooners, says Riyaz UC, chairman of the FIICI tourism committee and managing director of Spiceland Holidays.

“The ebb of the third wave of the pandemic, the easing of air bubble agreements, the opening of the e-visa facility to India (which in turn allows an equal number, if not many more Indians to be able to fly), the decrease in airfares that had skyrocketed during the pandemic, and airlines that have resumed service to more countries have helped restore people’s confidence in travel abroad, including in package tours. Likewise, the interest in hosting corporate conferences abroad has also picked up and the demand for bookings is increasing to host them in Southeast Asian countries from August to September,” says- he.

Many believe that airlines would have lowered fares even more had it not been for the increase in the price of crude oil due to the war in Ukraine. “Lowering air fares and flight frequency back to pre-pandemic levels is key to overseas travel,” says Benny Thomas, managing director of Holiday Shop, a Thiruvananthapuram-based travel agency.

“The average return airfare to the US hovers at ₹1.30 lakh, down from ₹90,000 before the pandemic. Also, the accommodation rate has increased slightly, possibly due to the weakening of the Indian currency. However, business is slowly picking up. On the other hand, it presents a suitable opportunity for travel within the country. The record arrival of domestic tourists in Kashmir over the past few months is an example of this,” he says.

Home red carpet

Tour guide Rajesh PR, who is currently accompanying a tour group from Kerala to Switzerland, says Europeans in general welcome Indians, perhaps because people from many other countries shy away from traveling abroad due to the war in Ukraine and impending economic uncertainty. “Also, you don’t need to wear a mask in most of Europe and the weather is nice,” he says.

This greater number of Keralites are moving abroad and the popularity of their vlogs is another reason for overseas travel. Terin and his wife Kessia, who settled in Ireland, were among those who traveled to Switzerland to visit their relatives from Kerala who were visiting the country. “They could get a visa more easily in a fortnight than we did from Ireland,” says Terin.