By Rahul Vaishnavi
New Delhi, June 8:
A strengthening rupee, the impact and influence of social media and, most importantly, the yearning of Indian travellers to explore the world, especially during the ongoing summer vacation, is contributing to the robust growth of India’s outbound travel sector.
Growing at a steady 12 percent year-on-year, the experts estimate that over the next 20 years, India will be one of the top outbound travel markets in the region, and the 4.5 million travellers to Asia-Pacific destinations in 2011 will increase to a whopping 70 million by 2030.
“The key factors contributing to the robust growth are the strengthening rupee, the rise in disposable income, the desire to explore new places as well as the increasing influence of social media,” Sharat Dhall, head of travel portal Yatra.com, told IANS.
“An ever-increasing number of Indian travellers are now choosing foreign destinations for holidaying,” he added.
A survey by Yatra.com has shown that after the rupee strengthened, bookings for international summer holidays has picked up substantially with 89 percent of travellers considering such destinations.
And the ongoing summer vacations in schools and colleges in many parts of the country are also adding significant numbers to outbound travellers.
According to Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India, which offers holiday advice for travellers from around the world, 66 percent of Indians are planning a foreign vacation this year, up by 21 percent compared to last year.
“On an average, Indians plan to increase their annual travel spend by 15 percent this year as compared to 2013,” Ganju told IANS.
Experts said traditional holiday hotspots like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, which are affordable due to their proximity to India, continue to remain the favourites.
However, the ongoing internal unrest in Thailand has benefitted places like Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“South Asian destinations like Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong as well as Dubai and the UAE continue to remain a hit among Indian travellers this summer as well,” said Mohit Gupta, chief business officer-holidays, MakeMyTrip.
“We are also seeing increasing interest in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean destinations as well as Cambodia, Vietnam and China,” he added.
Overall, around 60 to 65 percent of the travellers prefer South Asian destinations, around 20 to 25 percent are choosing Dubai and Middle Eastern
vacations while the rest are heading to Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand, which tend to be high-priced.
Crediting the ever increasing popularity of social networking sites, executive director of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) Gour Kanjilal said in today’s age of technology, such websites were playing a major role in helping people plan their vacations.
“Right from advertisements and special offers that help in luring the travellers to assist them in researching the chosen destination, technology and particularly the social media, is definitely influencing the people,” he said.
According to Dhall, Yatra.com has been “aggressively” using the medium to reach out to potential travellers with promotional schemes, special offers and discounts, in addition to helping them in choosing a destination, researching it and making all the bookings.
“Fifty-two percent of Indian travellers are choosing destinations online this summer,” said a survey conducted by Yatra.com.
Agreed Gupta, who said that social media had become an integral part of our daily lives and that social feedback was real-time, direct and demonstrably actionable.
“A lot of people now make travel decisions based on their friends’ vacation pictures on Facebook, peer feedback on travel destinations and even feedback on the experience with the service provider,” he said.
(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at [email protected])