With travellers rejecting frugality and digging deeper into their pockets to seek world-class experiences, the Indian travel and tourism industry is firming up plans to cash in on their arrivals.
India has already moved up six places to rank 34th on World Travel and Tourism Competitive Index 2019 released recently by the World Economic Forum (WEF). And with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicting the country to account for nearly 50 million tourists by 2020, the Indian travel and tourism industry is eyeing a bigger share of the world tourism pie.
Digital payments platform PayTM has recently announced an investment of Rs 250 crore in its travel business over the next six months.
“While large sectors in India are laying off people, the percentage of tourism jobs has risen by 2.9 per cent in past years. Tourism is poised find a place among the top five career options for millennials, who also are a major traveller segment,” said Mohit Poddar, CEO & co-founder, Shoes on Loose.
“Rising personal incomes and changing lifestyles, availability of lower fares, diverse travel packages are pushing the more affluent Indian middle class to spend more on travel,” IPE Global MD Ashwajit Singh told.
Ankit Rastogi, head of accommodation and activities at Cleartrip, said Indians are allocating budgets to travel like never before and their own data corroborates the trend. “Comparable to developed economies of the world, Indians spent close to 11 per cent of their average disposable income on travel and tourism.
“As per Cleartrip data, travellers are willing to spend more on travel, evident from the share of 4 and 5 star hotels moving up to about 40 per cent in 2019. For accommodation, 38 per cent of the bookings are for hotels with average room rate per night Rs 5,000 and above,” said Rastogi.
And solo travellers are as much a part of this trend. “In terms of an absolute number, there are more male solo travellers. But if you look at the ratio over time, out of all solo travellers coming on Ithaka, in 2018, about 19 per cent were women and this year their number has gone up to 26 per cent,” Ithaka co-founder and CEO Rahul Singh told IANS.
Data does indicate a rise in expenditure for air-travel and lodging, but what about something more niche, like cruises?
Tirun, the sole Indian representative for Royal Caribbean Cruises that grew by 28 per cent in 2018, finds people opting for unique experiences for celebratory events like weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other life milestone celebrations.
According to its CEO Varun Chadha, India’s burgeoning middle class seeks novel
vacation options apart from the traditional fly land tour packages. “On a cruise holiday, guests get to see and do more, especially since they have the chance to visit multiple countries in one cruise.”
“Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, China and South Africa are among the countries becoming popular,” said Sunil Gupta, MD & CEO of car rental company Avis India. “For domestic travel, people prefer to explore destinations in states like Kerala, Gujarat, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.
Indians are seeing international destinations, especially short-haul ones, as affordable, but there is also a renewed zeal to explore domestic locations, propelled further by the weekend travel trend.
Almost all the companies that spoke to lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to countrymen to visit 15 destinations by 2022 and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s promise of developing 17 model sites to encourage inbound tourism in her maiden budget speech.
Travel platform TripAdvisor has also recently announced its strong focus on helping the Indian traveller discover more domestically, be it iconic attractions or unique experiences.
Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, Co-founder and CEO of hostel-booking giant Zostel, sees a change in the way the Indian travellers finalise their travel destinations — seeking to immerse themselves and experience more from its culture and surroundings.
“A couple opting for a homestay in Kotgarh would be interested in trying its hands at organic farming and plucking apples from the orchard there. People are looking to ditch hotels for more experiential stays,” said Chouhan.
Going ahead, Ithaka stresses upon the need for personalisation and trip curation along side travel deals, easy loan approvals and quick access to guidance for planning as both the travellers and the industry push the boundaries for new experiences.