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Travel portals have been seeing a tremendous rise in hotel bookings this Diwali, indicating that more Indians are ditching traditional ways of celebrating the festival at home and choosing to unwind at a quick getaway. “We are witnessing a 40 per cent increase in bookings around Diwali compared to last year,” said OYO chief operating officer, Abhinav Sinha. The online hotel aggregator’s data shows people are taking short breaks and checking into hotels either in a nearby destination or in their own city to relax after the festivities.

Cleartrip’s chief revenue officer, Amit Taneja, echoes the view. The travel portal’s hotel bookings for Diwali have gone up by 74 per cent compared to other weekends around this time. In line with the trend, market leader Make-MyTrip is seeing 11 per cent more users travelling this Diwali compared to last year, while Cleartrip has registered a 34 per cent year-on year increase in air travel bookings this Diwali.

MakeMyTrip has captured 31 per cent of the online travel market share as of July 2017, according to research firm KalaGato. Cleartrip and Yatra hold the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, with 9.6 per cent and 7.3 per cent market share. Metro cities are getting deadlier every Diwali because of air and noise pollution. The national capital, considered among the most polluted cities in the world, was enveloped by a thick blanket of smog for days after Diwali last year. While non-metro cities also rank pretty high up in the list of polluted cities, tourist destinations offer a better alternative for many in the younger age bracket.

The portals list Jaipur, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Udaipur as being among the most preferred destinations for Delhiites. “A fairly significant chunk of travelers are planning to indulge their wanderlust by celebrating Diwali at destinations that have a unique charm such as Amritsar, Jaipur, Varanasi and Kolkata,” says Yatra’s chief operating officer (B2C), Sharat Dhall.

A survey that the website conducted among 2,700 respondents at the end of September showed that 67 per cent of them planned to travel during the festival season, with Diwali and Dusshera falling closer to the weekend. While the hill stations of Nainital, Dharamshala and Manali are also popular for those travelling out of the capital, cities such Pune, Panaji and Ahmedabad find favor among Mumbaikars.The preference this year, though, is for a short break rather than a long one. OYO’s Sinha says the duration of a break has come down this year compared to the last. “About 77 per cent of the bookings so far are for 1-3 days,” says Cleartrip’s Taneja. The Yatra survey also showed that about 73 per cent of the travelers said it was a good opportunity to indulge in short getaways.

The portals find that the hotel booking volume is mostly from the smart traveler who does not want to spend on luxury stays, especially after the levy of 28 per cent Goods and Services Tax on rooms with per day tariffs of above Rs 7,500.

A MakeMyTrip spokesperson says 90-95 per cent of its users prefer budget and mid-range hotels, while Cleartrip has seen about 45 per cent bookings coming from hotels priced at Rs 3,000- Rs 5,000 a night. However, the festive season is set to hit fever pitch this week with last-minute bookings which are priced a lot higher. And the websites are expecting a surge in business.While 40 per cent of Cleartrip’s festive season bookings last year happened in the two days ahead of Diwali, OYO expects 60-70 per cent growth in last-minute bookings this Diwali.