By: Ankush Nijhawan, Chairman, FICCI Outbound Tourism Committee
The past decade has witnessed an extraordinary transformation in the way Indians perceive travel. The desire to explore new destinations, experience different cultures, and embark on memorable adventures has surged within the hearts of millions of Indians. As a result, the outbound tourism industry in India has experienced remarkable growth, creating both opportunities and challenges for stakeholders across the globe.
Almost 27 million Indians travelled overseas in 2019 in the pre-Covid world. Year 2020 and 2021 were largely lost to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the world gradually opening to travel and tourism, in 2022, almost 20 million Indians have travelled overseas. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, over 18 million Indians have travelled outside the country between January-November 2022. For those more optimistic about the recovery in outbound travel, the number is expected to reach the 2019 pre-Covid high of 27 million this year, or else full recovery is expected by 2024.
India’s outbound travel is growing at a much faster rate than any other country. Data from many sources reveal that while outbound travel searches from most Asia-Pacific countries increased between 30 per cent and 60 per cent from 2019, searches from travellers in India jumped by 225 per cent. From January 2019 to mid-May this year, hotel and flight searches by Indian travellers to Indonesia increased by 256 per cent, 215 per cent to Singapore, and 147 per cent to Thailand. And searches to Vietnam, a country long overlooked by Indian travellers grew even more (a 390 per cent rise from 2019).
While some may perceive this trend as merely an outward cash flow, it is essential to recognize the tremendous opportunity it presents for the growth of the Indian economy. The cross-border spending not only enhances the global economy but also encourages international trade and cultural exchange. The exposure gained through travel broadens horizons and opens doors to business opportunities, enabling Indian entrepreneurs to leverage their experiences and networks to contribute to the global economy. Outbound tourism fosters the development of ancillary industries, such as travel insurance, foreign exchange services, and visa processing. The growth in outbound tourism also acts as a catalyst for the development and promotion of domestic tourism, benefiting local communities, preserving cultural heritage, and driving regional economic growth.
As we look to the future, it is essential for all stakeholders to work together to nurture and maximize the benefits of outbound tourism, ensuring that it becomes an integral component of India’s economic growth. Governments can play a pivotal role by implementing supportive policies, investing in infrastructure development, and promoting India as a source market for outbound tourism.
The author is Chairman, FICCI Outbound Tourism Committee and Co-Founder, TBO.com & MD, Nijhawan Group