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Business News/ Companies / Quick getaways, spiritual quests fuel India's tourism: Booking.com's Houldsworth
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Quick getaways, spiritual quests fuel India's tourism: Booking.com's Houldsworth

The surge in India's travel industry is not only fueled by expanding spiritual and wedding tourism but also by a strong outbound travel market

Laura Houldsworth, Asia Pacific managing director for Booking.com said India's travel industry continues to rise, and the resiliency has shown the country is not necessarily following world challenges.Premium
Laura Houldsworth, Asia Pacific managing director for Booking.com said India's travel industry continues to rise, and the resiliency has shown the country is not necessarily following world challenges.

NEW DELHI : India's travel and tourism sector is seeing robust growth, propelled by an increasing appetite for frequent and shorter trips, said Laura Houldsworth, Asia Pacific managing director for Booking.com. In a recent interview with Mint, she said this surge is not only fueled by expanding spiritual and wedding tourism but also by a strong outbound travel market.

"We're expecting Indians to want to travel more frequently and take a lot of shorter trips as well, unlike the one to two trips we saw in the past," Houldsworth said.

Indians took about 2.3 billion trips in 2019, which is estimated to rise to about 5 billion by 2030, the company had said earlier.

She said the rise in cultural and religious exploration, particularly in India's tier-two and three cities, is driving domestic inbound travel.

The trend towards more frequent and shorter trips represents a marked departure from the past, with emerging travel destinations like Varanasi, Kochi, and Mysore gaining popularity among travelers from metropolitan areas, she said.  "As more branded properties come into these locations, we will continue to see inbound travel increase too," she added.

Ooty,  Srinagar, Manali, Darjeeling and Goa were among the most searched leisure destinations for Indians travelling domestically from 15 April to 15 July, as per Booking.com.

The company has a list of over 70,000 properties on its platform in India and a third of the bookings being made are for alternative accommodations.

Houldsworth said the country is among the top five markets for Booking.com in the Asia Pacific region and the top three within Asia. 

India's travel industry continues to rise, and the resiliency has shown the country is not necessarily following world challenges, she added.

Meanwhile, easier visa policies from a lot of short-haul destination countries, seeking to attract Indian travelers, helped continue this momentum of growth for the travel industry.

“While domestic travel continues to shine, Indians are also exploring short and long-haul destinations within Asia and beyond. Competitive packages, easier booking processes and improved visa access have made foreign travel more accessible to Indian tourists," she said.

This summer, 40% of Indians are traveling within the Asia Pacific region, 20% to the Middle East, and 40% to London, New York and European countries.

Dubai with its luxurious offerings and futuristic appeal tops the list of most searched international destinations this year. Asia continues to hold immense charm with cities like Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Bali high on Indians' summer travel wishlist, according to the company.

Despite the recovery of Chinese outbound tourism to 60% of its pre-pandemic levels, many countries still want to welcome Indian visitors.

The company sees China recovering rapidly this year and expects a reasonable contribution to the region's growth. However, the airline capacity out of the region is still hovering around 60-70% of the pre-covid level and the country may not recover fully until the end of 2024, she said.

"What that has meant is that the world pivoted towards looking at India more seriously since it has the world's largest population with a rising middle class that has an increased desire to travel. We're seeing more and more countries looking to capture that Indian traveller by making visas easier and increasing flight capacity to and from here. We're starting to see more and more Indians wanting to travel more often," she added.

Houldsworth said the company has seen a record number of room nights being booked on its platform over the last couple of years globally. "In 2022, we had 900 million room nights and last year over a billion room nights," she said.

Notably, although international travel rebounded somewhat in 2023, India saw a drop in visitors compared to pre-pandemic levels. A survey by hotel consultancy WTTCII and Hotelivate found that only 7.24 million international travelers came to India last year. 

This is a far cry from the 10.93 million visitors India received in fiscal year 2020, according to the country's tourism ministry. It's important to note that pre-pandemic figures included a large number of non-resident Indians (around 6.98 million) returning home to visit family and friends.

Despite some recovery, India remains a small player in Asia-Pacific tourism market. The region attracted roughly 230 million visitors in 2023, with India capturing only 3.13% of that market share, according to the report. This translates to approximately 7.24 million international travelers choosing India as their destination.

Meanwhile, regional giants like China (35.5 million visitors) and Thailand (28.04 million) attracted considerably more tourists. Malaysia also pulled in a good number (14.47 million). Notably, the entire Asia-Pacific region is still recovering from the pandemic, falling short of the 347.7 million international arrivals it saw in 2018, the survey said.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Varuni Khosla
Varuni is an Assistant Editor at Mint. She writes engaging and informative stories on luxury brands, hospitality news, business of sports, business of advertising and marketing, gaming, tourism and travel, and the business of alcohol. She is skilled in communication, research, and analysis. Varuni is passionate about covering the latest trends and developments in the lifestyle and business sectors.
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Published: 01 Apr 2024, 05:09 PM IST
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