This is that time of the year when many residents become busy drawing up plans to escape the heat and explore new locations.

For years, January and February have been the money-spinning months for tour operators to roll out exciting offers and rope in new clients. On the customer front, these are the months to block air tickets for April and May to avoid last-minute rush.

While the travel pattern has changed over the years and companies are coming up with round-the-year packages, the peak season continues to be from March to July, says Thomas C Thottathil, spokesperson of Cox and Kings (India) Ltd.

Cashing in on the season, Thomas Cook recently conducted a countrywide road show to introduce the offers of the year. In Chennai, it was the third in the series of the annual Holiday Summer Sale as part of which the firm unveiled attractive packages and tailor-made tour options to suit varied interests.

The tourism industry, which passed through a difficult phase last year in view of the economic downturn, is now growing at an encouraging phase and the recent projections of airlines are a pointer in that direction, Mr.Thottathil says.

However, the bookings for the year have been very slow when compared to 2008, according to the Indian Association of Tour Operators president Vijay Thakur.

“Our industry was severely hit by recession and it is trying to limp back to normalcy. The proposed Commonwealth Games keep the bookings going,” says Mr.Thakur, adding that it is time the government focus on publicity measures for the Commonwealth Games.

“Other countries made most out of such occasions by publicising rigorously. We still have not begun our advertisements. Our association has been lobbying the government on this issue as this month should ideally be utilised by promoting our destinations,” he added.

Outbound tourism, however, he observes has increased and this month has seen a lot of bookings. “The tourist inflow is very less compared to outbound tourists. Cost factor is a major hitch for many. Many tourist destinations in India work out to be more expensive than travelling to countries such as Malaysia, Bangkok and Singapore.”

Local tour operators, meanwhile, say their market lies in the last-minute bookings as a major chunk of their clients prefer nearest tourist destinations.

Many travel companies partner with governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Kashmir during this month to promote lesser-known places.

This season, like last year, Goa, Kashmir and North East figures on top of the list of popular tourist spots. Europe, followed by U.S., Egypt and Cyprus are a major draw for Indian tourists.