Rupee crash forces Indian holidaymakers to ditch Italy for Goa

Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:43pm EDT
 
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By Aditi Shah

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Indian rupee's crash has swept away banker Nupur Sood's dream of a holiday in Venice: instead the 35-year-old will settle for cold beers on the beaches of Goa on India's west coast.

"We are pampering ourselves with a leisurely holiday but it will be domestic. I guess it is the only way to compensate," said Sood, who plans to stay next month at the plush Grand Hyatt hotel in Goa, managed by Hyatt Hotels Corp, as a consolation for missing her holiday of a lifetime in Italy.

Sood is among India's growing urban middle class, whose rising incomes over the past decade made holidays abroad affordable. However, the currency crisis in Asia's third-largest economy is taking foreign travel beyond their reach and many are planning vacations in their home country.

While this will be a blow for domestic tour operators promoting overseas travel it will be a shot in the arm for India's stagnant hospitality sector, which is reeling as high inflation and rising import costs eat away at profit margins.

Hotel groups, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, Marriott International Inc and Hotel Leelaventure Ltd are seeing a spike in bookings for the winter season from domestic tourists and from foreign travelers, who importantly bring in foreign exchange.

"There is a lot of optimism in the hotel industry that, for both these reasons - it being cheaper for inbound travelers and a substitute for outbound travelers - we expect to have a good winter," said Dilip Puri, managing director, India at Starwood Hotels.

The Indian rupee hit a record low of 68.85 against the dollar on Wednesday - down about 20 percent for the year - despite multiple attempts by the government to calm investors' concerns. Emerging markets more broadly are being hit by capital outflows in anticipation of a reduction in U.S. monetary stimulus. The rupee recovered some ground on Thursday.

Its slide has contributed to a 35 percent surge in domestic tourism between January and June and a 15 to 20 percent fall in outbound tourism over the same period, the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India says.   Continued...

 
Tourists visit Miramar beach along the Arabian Sea in Goa's capital Panaji, August 29, 2013. India's growing urban middle class, whose rising incomes over the past decade made holidays abroad affordable. However, the currency crisis in Asia's third-largest economy is taking foreign travel beyond their reach and many are planning vacations in their home country. While this will be a blow for domestic tour operators promoting overseas travel it will be a shot in the arm for India's stagnant hospitality sector, which is reeling as high inflation and rising import costs eat away at profit margins. Picture taken August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer