More and more people from India are now taking the big leap when it comes to travel. The number of Indian tourists going abroad from India is increasing every year. While a quarter of a billion Indians are estimated to have travelled internationally in the year 2018, despite the depreciating Rupee, the number will reach 50 million by 2020, predicts a recent report by UN World Tourism Organization.
Varun Chadha, Chief Operating Officer of Tirun, a travel company and India representative for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., says around 40 per cent of the 26-27 million Indian tourists who went abroad in 2018 were leisure travellers, and about 2 per cent of them were cruising.
The most preferred international destinations this year included Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore and Colombo, says Balu Ramachandran, Head of Air and Distribution at Cleartrip. Some of the places that showed a growth in popularity over last year are Manama in Bahrain, Denpasar in Bali, Kuwait city, Doha and Sharjah, where weekend bookings were a huge trend.
Summer saw an impressive increase of 56 per cent in international travels while in monsoon it grew by 36 per cent. Sydney and Melbourne witnessed a 100 per cent growth in travel bookings in monsoon.
Ramachandran adds that with its indoor tourist attractions and extravagant shopping arcades being fully air-conditioned, Dubai has successfully retained its number one spot as an international travel destination for many Indian tourists across seasons.
Cruise Lines International Association reports show that Indians prefer to cruise most in Asia, Mediterranean and Caribbean. Asian cities of Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai, Mumbai and Kochi see about 76 per cent of cruise bookings by Indians. These are followed by Barcelona, Amsterdam and Copenhagen in Europe and Orlando, San Juan and Miami in the Caribbean and Bahamas. Other popular destinations include Alaska, Antarctica, Australia and Galapagos.
Solo travelling saw an increase in the numbers as well. Compared to 2017, this year saw an increase of about 40 per cent in the number of Indians travelling by themselves.
Short-haul domestic destinations were popular among Indian tourists too. Cities like Ahmedabad, Goa, Kochi, Jaipur, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore were popular leisure destinations on a budget.
Sunil Gupta, Managing Director and CEO of Avis India, a car rental company based in the United States, says international travel from India has increased by 40 per cent over 2015-16. In the past few years, Avis has noticed a growing trend among Indian travellers to book their vehicles at international destinations while still in India, for a stress-free travel later. US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa record the highest demand for cars, followed by European states like UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Croatia, Italy and Germany where bookings peak during summer. The most requested cars are SUVs/MUVs. Couples prefer sedans and economic cars whereas luxury cars are preferred by senior corporate officials and vans by larger family groups.
Profiling of Avis India customers shows that chauffeur-driven cars are opted for by all kinds of travellers for business trips, meetings or leisure. Customers going on a holiday or a millennial wishing to experience freedom will usually opt for a self-driven car.
Travel is among the few industries where the rupee volatility hasn’t made a huge impact. According to Avis India, the travel sector has been recording increase in its numbers every year and is largely immune to the weakening rupee. A major reason may be because the market runs primarily on advance booking and people who have already booked flight or train tickets and made hotel reservations are bound to carry on. Moreover, Indian tourists who are in the planning phase are considering destinations like Turkey, Iceland, Indonesia, Hungary, Costa Rica and Japan where the effects of the depreciating rupee have been negligible. The fall of the rupee has further propelled bookings in domestic destinations.
Tirun’s Varun Chadha says they tried to address the currency depreciation issue by adjusting the pricing levels. “We re-set some of the pricing levels to hit benchmarks such as Rs 27,000 and Rs 30,000 for our 3/4 Night Singapore Cruises (depending on an interior or Balcony stateroom) and approx. 51,000 for our exclusive 6 Night Cruise from Mumbai on our premium cruise liner Celebrity Cruises,” says Chadha.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) annual report predicts that the number of Indians travelling internationally will double in the next two years compared to what it is this year. The growing statistics of international bookings and the immunity to rupee volatility further supports such prediction.