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The rapid return of the Indian traveller

Indian based OTA shares insights on a largely overlooked traveller market: Did you know Indians are discovering experiences and they do and spend more than most on their vacations?

While it seems all eyes are on China’s return to international travel, another major market also hit hard by the pandemic is already making a mark: India.

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In fact, the Indian market has been rapidly recovering since last year and is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to Baidi Li, SVP Commercial for APAC at Go City – the world’s largest multi-attraction pass business.

“By 2025, India is expected to hit 29 million outbound travellers, which accounts for 6 percent of the country’s urban population.”

“The Indian traveller is doing a lot more travel than he or she was doing a few years ago pre-COVID,” notes Chitra Gurnari Daga, CEO and co-founder of Thrillophilia, an India-based online travel agency (OTA).

And they are not just travelling more: they are doing more in-destination, which is good news for operators of tours, activities and attractions.

Li and Daga – who will be speaking at Arival Activate | Bangkok 2023 in June – offer insights on the emerging Indian traveller market and tips for the tour, activity and experience operators hosting them.

Baidi Li

Indian travellers spend more on experiences

As travel ramps up for the India market, Daga has noticed a significant difference in their booking habits: Indian travellers want to do more things. They have a greater appetite for booking experiences, activities, and tours on their holidays.

As Li points out, even the pandemic has failed to dampen their curiosity – the number of attractions visited by Indian tourists has surged by 40 percent since 2019.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Indian travelers are now opting for more frequent vacations. While the average pre-COVID Indian traveller might have taken one holiday a year, Daga shares Thrillophilia is seeing people now booking one to two long holidays a year and three to four short weekend breaks to a wide variety of popular and emerging destinations around India and abroad.

In fact, Indian travellers are not only enjoying more frequent holidays but also spending more time in each destination. Li explains visitors to London in 2019 opted for three-day passes on average – according to data from Go City.

However, the duration of their passes has now extended to an average of nearly five days. Millennial Indian travellers, in particular, are opting for more group tours, and a lot more travelling abroad, Daga observes.

“Five years ago, Millennials were not travelling outside of India.” Now, even Millennials with modest means are finding ways to book with cheap flights and hostels.

Luxury travel is growing as well, both for Millennials in the middle-income bracket, as well as less active older travellers and families travelling with kids and grandparents.

The size of the budget does not necessarily affect the number of experiences Indian travelers are booking, though: “When people have less money they will choose a destination which is cheaper, when they have money they will pick a destination which is a little more heavy on the pocket,”

Daga explains, “But both travellers will do enough activities.”

“Generally speaking, trust remains a crucial factor in influencing Indian travelers’ booking behavior,” adds Li. “Many are choosing to book through an OTA they personally trust to ensure they receive the best value for their money.”

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Understanding the Indian traveller: Food, families & Millennials

For suppliers of tours, activities and experiences who may want to attract or are already seeing more Indian travelers, Daga offers some insights to understanding this emerging market.

1. Food is a High Priority

“I think the Indian traveler has a very important habit and that is food,” Daga advises suppliers hosting Indian travelers to understand their meal preferences and ensure they are provided options for the right place to eat.

“The Indian traveler loves food, and the Indian traveler loves Indian food when he or she goes out also.”

2. Family, Older Travelers Focus on Luxury

Families as well as older Indian travelers are looking for luxury. “When an Indian family travels with kids (and often grandparents), what they’re looking for is comfort and luxury,” shares Daga.

“Indian travelers who are beyond 45 years of age are not very active, they don’t want to hike a lot.”

3. Millennials: Party All Night, Activities All Day

In contrast to luxury-oriented family travelers, “the Indian Millennial wants to party all night, do activities all day: they want to do everything,” shares Daga.

Also, Indian Millennials “are very internet-conscious, they will read a lot on the internet… they would gather their knowledge and only then come and move forward.”

Having good reviews and clear tour descriptions are important factors in attracting Indian Millennials who prioritise researching online before booking.

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