Destinations Asia

Foreign Tourists and Locals Split on India’s Best Attractions

Jun 09, 2014 10:45 am

Skift Take

Locals and tourists often have different perceptions of what attractions are interesting in a destination — just ask someone in New York’s Times Square for directions.

— Jason Clampet

Free Report: The Megatrends Defining Travel in 2015

Brian McGuirk  / Flickr

A tourist, not from India, at the Taj Mahal. Brian McGuirk / Flickr

The Taj Mahal is a tourists’ treasure, a so-called wonder of the world, but Indians are apparently less awestruck by it than foreigners.

Of all the domestic visitors to cultural sites—”Centrally protected ticketed monuments” as they’re known officially—12.2% made it to the Taj Mahal. Meanwhile, foreign visitors were twice as likely to visit the white marble complex, accounting for 24.3% of admission to sites across the country, according to India’s Ministry of Tourism.

The disparity between domestic and foreign popularity is also seen at the next three most popular monuments—Agra Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, and Fatehpur Sikri. Each is multiple times more popular among foreign tourists than domestic ones.

The relative popularity of locations and sites reveal distinct differences between the way Indians travel their homeland and the way foreigners visit it. Both sets of travelers are set to increase into the future, and their habits and preferences guide investments in India’s travel and hospitality industries.

Visits by domestic tourists are significantly more numerous than foreign ones everywhere the ministry tracks. In 2012, the Indian government logged 1 billion domestic tourist visits and 20.7 million visits by foreigners. Domestic tourism istypically more popular than foreign tourism around the world.

Eight of the 10 most popular sites among domestic tourists claim greater portions of the Indian tourist cohort than foreign tourist one. That is to say that the sites that are popular to Indians are not the sites that are popular to foreigners, and, to a large extent, vice versa. Most cultural sites have a two-tiered system for tickets, with foreigners paying much more. The Taj Mahal charges foreigners 750 rupees (about $13) and locals 20 rupees (about 34 cents).

Domestic tourism to cultural sites in India is spread much more broadly than foreign tourism; where most foreign visits to sites in India occur at just four locations, it takes 10 locations to account for 50% of domestic visitors.


The most popular sites for locals are grouped around Delhi in the north of the country. The most popular sites for foreigners are in the south. The north-south trend is largely reflected also reflected in visits to various Indian states.

India domestic vs foreign tourism map

Indeed, the India that Indians travel is truly different than the one that foreigners visit.

This story originally appeared on Quartz, a Skift content partner.

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