March 26, 2009 / 8:58 AM / 10 years ago

Asians seen picking shorter holidays closer to home

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - With an economic downturn threatening jobs and cutting bonuses, wealthy and middle-class Asians are taking fewer and shorter vacations closer to home, according to the head of Lonely Planet in Asia.

“In the current climate, if you told your boss you wanted three weeks off, he’d show you the door. So people are taking bite-sized vacations and fewer vacations,” James Sundram of the renowned travel and guide book publishers told Reuters.

“They are also traveling closer home, within a four-hour flight or so,” he said on a visit to Mumbai.

While Asians preferred to travel to Europe and the United States in recent years, more are now traveling within their own neighborhood, to places such as Thailand and Malaysia, said Sundram, who is based in Singapore.

In India, Lonely Planet’s focus used to be on foreign travelers. But young Indians are increasingly traveling and looking for unusual destinations, Sundram said, and are choosing to holiday in Asia now, rather than in London or Florida.

Airlines and tour operators are struggling as businesses and individuals cut back on travel. But Asia is faring better, Sundram said, because it has always been regarded as a cheaper option, and more Asians are now traveling locally.

“People are exploring their own countries too now, and they’re traveling to see family,” Sundram said.

Travelers are opting to explore a place more thoroughly, rather than hop in and out of three different places on a single holiday now, he said.

Lonely Planet, which publishes nearly 300 of its ubiquitous guidebooks each year, is itself in danger of being dumped as an unnecessary expense in these tough times, with more people choosing to surf the Internet for information, said Sundram.

“But hard-core travelers recognize that a Lonely Planet guidebook is the equivalent of perhaps a day’s travel budget, and saves them much, much more,” he said.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Miral Fahmy

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