Skift Take

With a dramatic shift in traveler behavior, industry stakeholders must reimagine their offerings to cater to the new domestic tourist who feels that the need to take frequent breaks is more important than ever.

More Indians are taking personal loans to travel and meet vacation-related expenses, according to Madhavan Menon, executive chairman of Thomas Cook India. 

“The average Indian traveler is now more willing to spend rather than save. They want to indulge in new experiences such as motorcycle rides from Leh to Ladakh, glamping, and trekking,” Menon told Skift’s Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in the latest episode of the Skift India Travel Podcast.

In fact, a study by online loan platform Paisabazaar revealed that as many as 21% of consumers took a personal loan for vacation in the first half of the year — with 81% for domestic travel and 19% for foreign travel in the first quarter of financial year 2023.

Menon also pointed out the emergence of the Indian traveler who would rather go on several short vacations and weekend getaways instead of one long holiday. To capitalize on the growing demand for these trips, Thomas Cook in July launched “India’s Incredible Short Breaks,” which is emerging from not just India’s metros and mini metros but also tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

Easing Visa Norms to Lure Indian Tourists

Obtaining travel visas has been a challenge for Indian tourists. While Southeast Asia and the UAE have traditionally been easy to travel to, more and more countries are joining the list, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia.

“The availability of visas on the long haul is where I think we had our fair share of problems. And in all fairness, the embassies needed to scale up post-pandemic,” said Menon.

With new resources at these embassies, Menon said there is heightened level of scrutiny and therefore the increase in rejection rates. 

“I think that will settle down over a period of time. My expectation is that by the year-end, we would have sorted out all the glitches around obtaining visas for European destinations,” he said.

On the U.S. visa wait times, Menon said that while the challenges persist, airline officials servicing the country report there are no shortage of bookings on the segment. 

5 Things We Learned from the Episode

  • Inbound tourism would return to normalcy by 2024. And SITA, the inbound subsidiary of Thomas Cook India is already witnessing this trend in its bookings.
  • India has been one of the fastest markets to hit pre-Covid levels as Southeast Asian airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Emirates have boosted capacity into the market.
  • Considering visa concerns, Indian travelers are now opting to travel to countries that have a visa on arrival or a much quicker visa processing time. 
  • The thirst to travel within the country is spreading fast, especially with the ease of connectivity provided by domestic carriers.
  • Post-pandemic, the travel habit of Indians has shifted from being a saver to a spender.

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Tags: india, loans, skift podcast, thomas cook, Travel Trends, u.s. visa

Photo credit: Travelers now prefer taking several short vacations and weekend getaways instead of one long holiday. Tauseef Khaliq / Pexels

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