One of the few upsides of the Coronavirus pandemic is that foreign travel curbs and extensive testing of outbound and incoming travellers, has cured not a few nouveau citizens of vacations-abroad mania. Perhaps because of drastic foreign exchange purchase controls imposed on citizens for over four decades in the heyday of neta-babu socialism to conserve “precious foreign exchange”, after liberalisation of the economy in 1991 and especially in the new millennium, India’s burgeoning middle class started holidaying abroad with a vengeance. In pre-pandemic 2019, an estimated 27 million Indians — including your correspondent — travelled abroad on vacation. That’s three times the number of tourists who visited India that year.
The unexpected pandemic has cured the foreign travel fervour of our countrymen. Suddenly it’s become apparent that exploring our own sub-continent has all the charm of travelling in Europe and then some. For one, there is as much ethnic, cultural, heritage and topography diversity in India as in Europe and the US put together. Moreover with all state capitals and tourism sites now linked by shorter and cheaper air hops and road and rail links, and globally bench-marked hotels mushrooming everywhere, it makes greater sense to vacation within the country. And the greatest plus point of domestic holidays is the infinitely superior and warm service visitors get in local destinations. Vastly superior to the grudging, surly service one gets in under-staffed, over-priced hotels and restaurants abroad. This latter-day discovery of India has become a widespread phenomenon.
Certainly your editor won’t be vacationing abroad for a long time.