Travel-Happy Indians: Summer kindles wanderlust, thirst for Abroad

summer-travel1Mercury is soaring in north India, with the merciless sun killing appetite for everything, but that peculiar indulgence called wanderlust. It’s no wonder everyone is packing their bags and heading off to either cooler climes in this sprawling country or taking the first flight overseas. School is out, heat is up and time away is just the right remedy!

India’s expanding middle class, estimated to be around 300 million, bigger than the population of America, is stressed by inflation, but are in no mood to dampen their holiday spirits. With a ticket to Singapore or Bhutan coming in cheaper than far-flung places within this humongous subcontinent, an increasing number of people are vacationing abroad during summer and winter holidays. According to Tourism Australia, the number of Indians travelling overseas is set to rise from around 15 million currently to 50 million by 2020.

They aren’t the only folks predicting high numbers. According to Amadeus-Frost & Sullivan tourism industry report, Indians travelling to the Asia-Pacific region alone spent $13.3 billion in 2011. This number is expected to rise to $91 billion by 2030, making Indians the second-biggest spenders in the world (after China) on overseas travel.

“The burgeoning middle class segment and higher disposable incomes have been a huge contributing factor to outbound tourism business. Inflation does impact purchase and travel decisions to a certain extent, but consumers find a way around to still ensure they take that holiday,” says Vikram Malhi, Country Head, Expedia India. “Travel nowadays is not seen as just ‘getting away from the routine,’ but is considered as an important event to spend time with the loved ones at least once a year.”

Family Time

A big chunk of this outbound traffic comprises families. Flying away to an exotic location is just what a family needs after months of waking up early, packing lunch, stuffing school bags and rushing out.

According to TripAdvisor’s India Family Travel Survey, about 89% of the families’ surveyed plan to go on at least 2 vacations in 2013. This is the despite the fact that they expect to spend over 50% more on their holidays compared to 2012.

Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India explains, “The TripAdvisor family travel survey reveals that families will maintain their vacation plans this year even though 50% anticipate they will spend more compared to 2012. While this could imply an increase in family average holiday budget, realistically it is likely to be symptomatic of the prevailing trend of higher airfares, fuel prices, room rates and more recently even train travel.”

It’s not about just fun and frolic. The survey indicates that parents see travel as holistic learning as well with as many as 97% respondents saying they consider travel important for their children’s education. Furthermore, 67% respondents said holidays should be a balance of recreational and educational experiences for children.

Top Destinations

summer-travel2The Indian Outbound Tourism Market report by Renub Research reveals that Thailand is the most popular destination visited by Indians, accounting for nearly 7% of the outbound traffic in 2011. Singapore comes as a close second at 6%. Malaysia, the US and China are at 3rd, 4th and 5th place respectively.

However, countries like Hong Kong, Switzerland, UK, Australia and Canada, which were not considered ‘hot’ earlier, are now gaining a handsome share of the Indian outbound market. Sri Lanka, Nepal and Japan are also amongst the top vacation spots markets for Indian tourists.

In terms of spending, it is the US of A that controls over 30% of Indian outbound tourists spending. Next in line are Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and UK in that order.

Many countries are keen on cashing in on a big piece of this pie. South Africa’s Western Cape provincial government is planning to increase marketing activities in India to attract some of this outbound traffic.

Turkey Tourism recently launched a pan- India advertising campaign called ‘Million Reasons’. ”India is an important market for us and we have worked towards staying relevant in the competitive and fast-changing tourism environment,” says Ozgur Ayturk, culture and tourism counselor in the Turkish embassy in New Delhi.

And the list doesn’t end here. Stepping up efforts are countries such as Brazil, Portugal, Philippines, Finland, Greece, Spain and even Saudi Arabia.

Value for Money

One of the reasons Thailand and Malaysia make for such popular destinations in terms of actual traffic is because they’re close enough and cheap enough. Easy visas, short-haul flights and comparatively affordable stay and shopping make most of the Asia-Pacific region a top destination for middle class Indians. In fact, flying to Thailand and chilling there for a few days on a beach will probably cost you lesser than a trip to Goa during the peak season.

“Outbound tourism will keep growing year after year,” predicts Mahli. “The existence of low-cost airlines flying international routes will further add to these traffic numbers from India, opening doors for many more consumers and making international travel affordable for them. Tier 2 & 3 cities will also fuel this trend of outbound travel besides the metros. Indian consumers now look for experiences rather than just touristy places to go to,” he says.

Summer Salvation

Well, number-crunching is not exactly a happy pastime, especially in this benumbing heat. So, it’s time to plan your summer getaway – for those living outside India, this diverse multi-cultural country has some really cool retreats tucked away in the Himalayas in the north and the Nilgiris in the south. And do not be seduced by sales pitch of hundreds of travel agencies offering freebies and discounts; if nothing, walk alone and script your own summer salvation.