Delhi residents plan R-Day getaways, Maha Kumbh a big draw

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

New Delhi : It may not be the perfect “extended weekend”, but Republic Day which falls on a Tuesday has nevertheless enthused Delhi residents to draw up short getaway plans – with many taking this as an opportunity to visit the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

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According to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), while holiday bookings for the coming weekend are not phenomenally high, they nevertheless have seen a jump of about 10 percent.

“There has been a jump of about 10 percent in the holiday bookings for the coming weekend. A number of people are opting to take official leave on Jan 25 to enjoy a four-day getaway to some place nearby or venture somewhere further,” Gour Kanjilal, an official of IATO, told IANS.

“Among all places, Haridwar in Uttarakhand has been booked to the hilt – thanks to the Maha Kumbh Mela. Three-night packages worth Rs.15,000 are sold out,” he added.

The Maha Kumbh, a religious fair that occurs once in 12 years, has few parallels. While the fair has a long way to go – it ends April 28 – a number of people, especially office-goers, have decided to take advantage of the weekend and go for a visit.

Aruna Sharma, a banker who is planning to take her mother to the religious gathering over the weekend, said: “For office-goers, getting leave is difficult. Since my mother wanted to visit the Maha Kumbh and I managed to get a day off on Jan 25, it should work out to be a good four-day getaway.”

Besides Haridwar, most of those who are opting for a trip are going to places like Jaipur, Jim Corbett National Park, Agra, Matheran and Goa, said travel operators.

“Goa is doing great for the weekend and Republic Day. However, the popular hill stations for short vacations are not doing well. It’s already so cold in Delhi that people don’t want to go to another freezing place to holiday,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder of the popular travel portal

Agreed Kanjilal: “People hear news of accidents because of fog, delay in flights and train schedules and chilling temperatures in North India. Delhi is already freezing, so who would want to go to a hill station now? Goa, therefore, is doing well.”

“There is a jump of 10-15 percent in the holiday bookings for this weekend until Jan 26,” Chopra said.

The bookings are not just on the domestic front, but also for destinations abroad, said Richa Goyal Sikri, director, Group Business Development of the STIC travel group.

“People, especially from the metros, have planned short trips of two nights-three days to destinations abroad like Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Kathmandu, Singapore, Dubai, Manila and Thailand. Many of them have opted for holiday packages so that they can see most of the places and enjoy themselves in the limited time,” Sikri told IANS.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])