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“As a company we are very bullish on the Indian opportunity.” – Santosh Kumar, Booking.com’s country manager for India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

That’s how Kumar opened Booking’s “How India Travels” report release on Wednesday in Delhi, which cited several reasons for the optimism: 

  • Projections show that travel spending among Indians is expected to go up from $150 billion in 2019 to $410 billion by 2030.
  • While outbound trips account for 1% of total trips, they contribute to 25% of the total expenditure, which is on track to increase to 35% in the coming decade.
  • The number of aggregate trips is also set to double, growing from 2.3 billion in 2019 to a projected 5 billion by 2030, according to the India tourism statistics.

There is a marked difference in how they travel: Beyond traditional tourist destinations, Indian travelers are now on a quest for novelty, craving authentic and immersive experiences, as highlighted in Booking.com’s report released in collaboration with knowledge partners McKinsey & Company.

This shift, according to the report, is prompting online travel agencies to focus on tailoring personalized offers and optimizing landing pages to provide relevant product recommendations.

The report also sheds light on the shifting travel landscape, offering insights into the new Indian traveler and the factors driving this growth.

What’s Driving These Travelers? Driven by a strong economy, a growing middle class and a fairly young population, Indian travelers are prioritizing travel experiences. This is further bolstered by the expected shift in India’s income pyramid, marked by a six-time growth in households earning $35,000 annually by 2030.

Where are They Traveling?

International: Competitive tour packages, easier booking processes, and improved visa access have made foreign travel more accessible to Indian tourists. Destinations like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam and Nepal are becoming preferred choices, showcasing the diversification of international travel options for Indian globetrotters.

Interesting Point: In some cases, Booking notes that for destinations like Bangkok, Nepal and Sri Lanka, a 5-day international destination package costs almost the same as a domestic package, making overseas travel even more attractive.

Domestic: Smaller cities in India, such as Varanasi, Coimbatore, Mysore, Puducherry, Chandigarh and Kochi, are gaining popularity among travelers. While some are destinations in themselves, other serve as gateways to other destinations.

What’s Contributed to The Small City Rush?

  • Swadesh Darshan schemes to promote more destinations.
  • More branded hotel supply in smaller cities.
  • Increasing popularity of spiritual and religious tourism.
  • The air connectivity allowing to connect hinterlands with metro cities.

What’s Driving This Wanderlust?

Indian travelers are largely influenced by social media platforms, TV shows and Indian cinema. That explains why travel brands engage in celebrity endorsements and partnerships. Mega events like sporting tournaments (ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023), diplomatic meetings (G20 Summit 2023), music concerts (Lollapalooza) and many more also influence travel decisions. YouTube is the go-to platform among social media platforms for travel inspiration, followed by Instagram.

Booking.com is a sponsor of the ICC Cricket World Cup currently taking place in India.

6 Skift Takeways from the Report:

1. Shorter Trip Planning Windows to Plan Longer Trips: Indians are notorious as last-minute bookers and the pandemic has further shortened the booking window to an average of 30 days in 2023. However, what’s changed is the duration of these trips. In 2022, nearly 29% of Indian travelers embarked on trips lasting over 25 days, emphasizing a preference for extended leisure travel experiences. This also hints at an inclination towards more immersive and in-depth exploration.

2. Solo Travel? Nah! In contrast to global travel trends, Indian travelers exhibit a strong preference for traveling with friends. This emphasizes the social nature of Indian travelers who value companionship and shared experiences during their journeys. This preference also has implications for the types of travel experiences and accommodations that are likely to be in demand.

3. Sustainable Tourism? Concerned, But Won’t Spend: While sustainable travel is a growing concern for Indian travelers, it has yet to become a primary guiding factor in their travel choices. Kumar noted that price is still a determining factor to make travelers choose between a sustainable option and something more. This suggests that there is room for growth in promoting and integrating sustainable practices in the Indian tourism industry, catering to the environmentally conscious segment of travelers.

4. On The Road: Over the past decade, India has invested over $200 billion in transportation infrastructure, with a significant focus on road improvement. This investment promises to enhance the overall travel experience by modernizing airports and addressing challenges in the bus transportation sector, making travel smoother and more efficient. India is poised to become the fastest-growing aviation market globally, with a projected 10-12% increase in air trips between 2023 and 2030.

5. Not Just Hotels: There is a surge in demand for unconventional stay options like hostels, vacation rentals, and chalets. These alternatives are growing at double the rate of traditional hotels, reflecting a desire for more unique and personalized lodging experiences. According to Booking.com, the growth rate of average daily rate and booked room nights of alternative accommodations are around twice that of hotels and managed chains

6. It’s Personal: To maintain an edge in the industry, travel companies should look to offer unique experiences catering to diverse traveler interests, the report notes. This personalized approach would enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Justa Opens Its First Wildlife Resort in Corbett

Justa Hotels & Resorts will open its first resort in Corbett on Thursday. The Justa Lazy Haven Corbett is also the company’s first wildlife resort.

This marks the company’s 22nd hotel in the country and its third property in Uttarakhand after Mukteshwar and Rishikesh. The property in Corbett is part of the company’s expansion plans in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, which has a huge potential for tourism. Justa is also looking at developing a similar circuit in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, the company said in a release.

“We are looking to build an itinerary-based business where we can offer an entire tourist circuit to the guests, which would allow them to cover all the major destinations in a region in a span of 7-10 days,” said Ashish Vohra, founder and CEO of Justa.

The 24-key resort will also have an in-house naturalist.

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Tags: asia monthly, booking.com, hospitality, india outbound, mckinsey and company, online travel, online travel newsletter, skift india report, travel spending, wildlife

Photo credit: Puducherry, an erstwhile French colony, is a popular destination among domestic travelers. Kaushik Murali / Unsplash

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