India’s millennials are increasingly preferring non-traditional experiences over much taken romantic destinations. Unique destinations are in high demand and is being propelled by tier-2 and 3 markets in the country.

Rajeev Kale
President and Country Head,
Leisure Travel, MICE
Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

Thomas Cook (India) Ltd has witnessed a significant demand for Valentine’s Day- upwards of 27% and falling on a Thursday this year, has allowed travellers to avail an extended weekend (a 4-day break).

Thomas Cook India’s data highlights that while demand for romantic destinations such as France, Switzerland, Italy, Bali, Langkawi (Malaysia), Mauritius and Maldives continue to grow, untapped and off-the-radar destinations, such as Korea, Japan, Fiji, Reunion Island, Morocco, Tunisia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece and South Africa are seeing a significant spike in interest. On the domestic front, destinations like Dharmshala, Manali, Kerala, Goa, Dalhousie and Udaipur have emerged clear favourites.

Interestingly, while Valentine’s Day has been viewed as a metro phenomenon, tier-2 and 3 cities are displaying a strong demand – metro/mini-metro cities (such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune) contributing 60% to Thomas Cook India’s Valentine Day bookings, with 40% driven by tier-2 and 3 cities (Kochi, Jaipur, Madurai, Lucknow, Chandigarh).

Romantic experiences such as champagne brunches/candle lit dinners, sunset cruises, couple spas, etc. continue to be the flavour of the season, however it is unique, non-traditional experiences such as quad-biking, snorkelling, sailing trips, bungee jumping, zip lining/zorbing, kite boarding/wind surfing, sea-plane tours, scenic self-drives that are seeing a high demand – a growth of 45% against last year.

Unique culinary experiences such as vineyard tours and sampling new age wines in South Africa, cooking classes with a local chef in Malaysia or indulging in Chef Hawker Chan’s Michelin-starred street food in Singapore; outdoor and adrenalin infused experiences like a self-drive in a super car through Tuscany’s countryside or the ultimate experience of an FI ride around the Yas Marina Circuit, an igloo stay in Finland to witness the Northern Lights, a Vespa city sightseeing tour in Singapore, a sunset cruise or kayaking along the mangroves in Abu Dhabi, a swim with the Hawksbill sea turtles off Indonesia’s Lengkuas Island and road trips including Manali-Leh, have seen strong interest.

To optimise on the upcoming Valentine’s Day extended weekend, India’s travellers are capitalising on visa free (visa not required) or visa-on-arrival destinations like Bali, Jordan, Thailand and Kenya and Islands like Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles.

Solo travel is also interestingly on the increase this Valentine’s Day (an increase of 20%) led primarily by the millennial segment- to celebrate their love for travel. Sizeable demand is seen from the single women’s segment and this includes travel to safe destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Dubai-Abu Dhabi, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Shillong and Coorg – with shopping, spa-wellness, culture and culinary experiences topping their wish list.

Thomas Cook’s luxury product “Indulgence” has seen strong uptake from India’s HNI-UHNIs for truly spectacular experiences, like luxury tented stays at Egypt’s White Desert and Oman’s Wahiba Sand, or a stately chateau in Picardy, France; a romantic dining and jacuzzi experience at 3000 meters at St Moritz; an exotic Hammam in Turkey or a private hot spring bath experience at a Japanese onsen; romance South African style at the Karkloof Safari Spa set amidst KwaZulu Natal’s magnificent Midlands; private night yachting in Australia; night fishing in a dhoni under the stars in the Maldives; exciting Harley Davidson biking tours in New Zealand; a unique wine-mud bath tour at the iconic Napa Valley or an unforgettable spa experience in Iceland’s geothermal Blue Lagoon;

Commenting on the changing trends and emerging destinations this Valentine’s Day, Rajeev Kale – President and Country Head – Leisure Travel, MICE, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd. said, “Travel for Valentine’s Day is a strong and growing opportunity for us- across our outbound and domestic business lines, and we have observed a significant increase of over 27% this year.”

“Noteworthy is the increasing demand for experiential, engaging travel, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we have witnessed India’s couples demanding fun, couple activities, be it self-drive holidays, wildlife trails and jungle safaris or wine and cuisine experiences, exhilarating outdoor activity like rappelling, white water rafting, ice climbing, kayaking or paragliding. We have also created unique itineraries with experiences like undersea walks in the Andamans, learning to cook Malabar cuisine in Wayanad, nature treks in the Himalayas (Kausani), tiger safaris at Corbett, trying out martial art/ Kalairipaytu at Munnar and Ayurvedic spa therapy in the Nilgiris.”