Travelling Highlights 2018: New air routes for exotic destinations, replacing hotels with homes and more

From new air routes linking India with exotic news places to Airbnb seeking to replace the traditional ‘hotel’, Raul Dias brings you a few important highlights that shaped the way we travelled in 2018.

There is no denying the fact that Indians are the new ‘world travellers’. Interestingly, a recent report by Skift Research titled ‘The State of India Outbound Travel 2018’ shows how in just the last 20 years, the number of outbound tourists from India has grown from 3.5 million to 21.9 million. This makes India the fastest-growing outbound market after China.

No wonder then that we see each other almost everywhere, from places as obvious as Manhattan to those as deliciously obscure as Ulan Bator in Mongolia. From reports of a bunch of raucous Indian men virtually taking over an entire cruise ship in Australia as part of an office off-site trip to big fat Indian weddings in Lake Como and Las Vegas, there’s really no escaping us! And be it Prague or Phnom Penh, there will probably ne’er be a restaurant menu that won’t cater to our vegetarian food predilections.  And so, on the cusp of a brand-new year, let’s ponder over a few milestones in both travel and hospitality that have most certainly changed the way we travelled in 2018…

No wonder then that we see each other almost everywhere, from places as obvious as Manhattan to those as deliciously obscure as Ulan Bator in Mongolia. From reports of a bunch of raucous Indian men virtually taking over an entire cruise ship in Australia as part of an office off-site trip to big fat Indian weddings in Lake Como and Las Vegas, there’s really no escaping us! And be it Prague or Phnom Penh, there will probably ne’er be a restaurant menu that won’t cater to our vegetarian food predilections.  And so, on the cusp of a brand-new year, let’s ponder over a few milestones in both travel and hospitality that have most certainly changed the way we travelled in 2018…

Visa power
Let’s face it. Visa woes have often gotten the better of us all. Me included. Despite having travelled to 62 countries, I still get bothered and flustered with all that requisite paper work when applying for those pesky “may-I-please-visit-your-precious-country” passport stickers and stamps called visas! Well, as it so happens, I needn’t be so despondent anymore. As of October 2018, Indian citizens have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 60 countries and territories. We no longer need a visa to travel to Indonesia, Ukraine, Tunisia and Qatar.

In fact, Serbia became the first and only country in Europe to offer visa free entry to Indian passport holders. As for the online visas, a biggie like Australia started offering an online, e600 visitor visa to Indian passport bearers with others like Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan following suit. All Indian passport bearers are now eligible for a visa on arrival in countries like Gabon, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Iran and Jordan. And just a few days before I write this piece, Myanmar has announced visa-on-arrival for Indian tourists beginning 12th December, 2018.

Travelling Highlights 2018: New air routes for exotic destinations, replacing hotels with homes and more

Young and the restless
With India being a nation of the youth, 2018 was all about the 18-35-year-old travellers leading the way. Usually the ones to set the trends before following them, millennials, and the even younger Generation Z, seek more hands-on and rewarding experiences. According to the website travelagentcentral.com, activity destinations that offer music, food and up-close nature experiences like safaris and sailing were up there on the top of the list for 2018.

Young travellers gravitated toward destinations that offer more than a typical backpacker’s European-style getaway and instead provide more immersive natural and urban experiences. No wonder one of the hospitality world’s greatest disruptors like Airbnb decided to target Indians with their new vertical called Airbnb Experiences that offers everything from learning to surf in Sri Lanka to the more fine dining-centric activity of truffle hunting with an expert in Florence.  

Travelling Highlights 2018: New air routes for exotic destinations, replacing hotels with homes and more

Homestay over hotel?
Speaking of Airbnb, according to a recent report by Business Insider, the home sharing company now has 4 million listings in 191 countries worldwide, an amount that tops the number of listings held by the top five hotel brands combined. And Indians seem to have taken to this vacation accommodation model vis-a-vis traditional hotels like never before in 2018.

Be it family reunions in Chiang Mai or bachelor parties in Phuket, renting out an Airbnb for the entire duration of stay is the preferred way to have to good time in the perennial favourite South East Asian destination for Indians — Thailand! Conversely, listings on Airbnb in India have grown by 115% year-on-year to more than 35,000, with the domestic segment of Indians travelling within India growing the fastest for the company.

Travelling Highlights 2018: New air routes for exotic destinations, replacing hotels with homes and more

New connections
The last quarter of 2018 saw a host of both Indian and international airlines offering as many as six new non-stop routes from Mumbai. Operating for the first time from Maximum City, we saw airlines like Air Italy and Uzbekistan Airways flying in. While the former started its five times a week non-stop flight from Mumbai to Milan, Italy from October 31, Uzbekistan Airways kicked off three direct flights a week between Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent and Mumbai from October 30.

Among the Indian carriers, Air India restarted its direct flight services from Mumbai to Frankfurt, Germany. And while Jet Airways has now started connecting Mumbai to Manchester, UK with five-times a week flight services, Go Airways started its direct flights from Mumbai to Phuket in Thailand and Male in Maldives. Bring it on, we say!

Raul Dias a Mumbai-based food and travel writer and restaurant reviewer. Follow Raul on Instagram @rauldias123

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