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Outbound Travel: Trending and Evolving

Outbound is trending yet it is evolving too in terms of products and preferences

Almost 20 million Indians have travelled overseas in 2022 in comparison to 7.72 million in 2021 or the pre-pandemic peak of outbound visits of over 26.91 million. According to the latest available outbound travel data for 2022 released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, over 18 million Indians have travelled outside the country between January-November 2022. This is about 68-69 percent recovery in 2022 when compared to the pre-pandemic peak of 2019 outbound visits, much better than inbound recovery that recorded just shy of 6.2 million FTA (Foreign Tourist Arrivals) visitors, around 56 percent recovery when compared with the peak FTA recorded in 2019 at over 10.93 million.

Beginning to Trend

TAAI President, Jyoti Mayal, says that the year 2022 was a year of rebound for outbound tourism. “Whichever countries are providing visa, people are going there. So 2023 is going to be good year for outbound. One thing that has come out strongly is that due to the Covid, we learned to explore our own country, but now are again ready to explore overseas destinations. Indians are looking for new destinations going beyond popular cities. There is huge growth looming in the air. People are willing to travel,” said Mayal.

According to Ajay Prakash, President, TAFI, “After about two years of the pandemic, Indian outbound travel is showing great resilience and recovery. As rule of thumb, the number of outbound travellers has always been three times than inbound travellers, and I don’t see this changing in near future.”

Praksah says that with China having been totally closed down, a lot of destinations started wooing Indian travellers going beyond their traditional approach. Some offering free-visa travel, some announced that Indians can visit them without visa or offered visa-on-arrivals. The world has realised that Indian travellers are big spenders. So, they are wooing them aggressively.” With regard to countries like the UK and the US, visa backlog, he pointed continues to be the issues. And if not addressed can have an impact in number of Indian tourists visiting such destinations this year.”

Offering a cruise liner’s perspective, Naresh Rawal, Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Resorts Word Cruises (India), said, “The launch of Resorts World Cruises from Singapore with the Genting Dream in mid-June 2022 was timely, as the cruise industry was gradually recovering in a post pandemic environment. As such, we observed strong demand for the Fly-Cruise outbound market in 2022 and we are optimistic that the momentum will continue in 2023 as the industry learns and adapts to it evolving environment.”

According to Lubaina Sheerazi, CEO & Co-Founder, BRANDit, “With the return of normalcy in 2022 and India becoming the world’s fastest-growing economy, the tourism sector has made a strong comeback. India is expected to become the world’s most profitable source market.”

New Trends in tTravel

On the question of new favourite destinations emerging in post-covid period, Prakash said, “World is discovering that there is more to tourism other than popular tourist destinations and that we Indian travellers are more sophisticated, more discerning, more demanding and choosier. I do see that there will be a difference in the kind of holidays people will take in post-covid times. Everybody wants something unique now. Of course, I agree that we have such as large and growing middle-class. Indians will continue to visit traditional destinations, but more people will be looking for newer, more unique experiences.”

Mayal points out “The only one drawback currently for outbound travel is visa. Many countries are still slow in offering visas; some are yet to open their borders. Obviously in the countries which have opened up their visa facilities like Dubai, Turkey, Egypt, Maldives, Mauritius, travel is booming. It goes without saying that whichever countries are opening their borders sooner, they will benefit from travel rebound.”

Expressing optimism that the Fly-Cruise segment will remain a popular choice of travel and vacation option throughout 2023, Rawal also observed, “At the initial stage, cruisers were very much focussed on safety and well-being as a result of the global pandemic. However, cruise lines had successfully demonstrated its high level of enhanced safety measures, which had resulted in a higher confidence level among travellers. Travellers in general are increasingly open to cruising as a choice vacation due to its convenience and value for money,” he added.

Sheerazi observed, “Many travel trends that we witnessed during the pandemic are here to stay. Eco-conscious and sustainable travel will be preferred. Slow travel is on the rise as people want to engage with local communities and give back to nature. With the return of MICE travel, we have been observing the emergence of a new crop of business travellers seeking leisure activities on their trips. Lately, talks around mental health and holistic approach towards health have intensified making wellness tourism popular.

NTOs have a Role to Play

As regards the roles that NTO will play in shaping and affecting new trends in the Indian outbound travel, Prakash said, “NTOs have to be more proactive, they have to raise better awareness, they have to look at introducing their attractions to Indian travel agents, which is the only way. They have to be more active in India in terms of investment, handholding agencies, associations; they have to make investment to make their presence felt here, they have to conduct roadshow, they need to organise fam trips, do launches, and B2B interactions.”

Furthermore, he added that the NTOs need to regularly come to India and engage with the trade and exhibit because every destination is competing for the Indian tourists. “They have to be on the top of Indians’ mind and come up with interesting, innovative products that will appeal to younger generation because younger generations are conscious of environmental impact of travel,” he added

Mayal is of the view that some of the destinations are not doing enough to revive their fortune in the India market. She said that NTOs play a role in affecting post-Covid new and emerging trends in the Indian outbound travel, Mayal said, emphasizing that she is saying this ‘as the head of an association,’ “I believe that the countries which are economically dependent on tourism should open their borders and welcome tourists with open arms because tourism is only thing that can overnight make economies bounce back to normal. The moment people start travelling, they start spending and money starts coming to city, states and countries.”

“So I would suggest that all the countries who want to boost tourism need to work more closely with associations. We are always there. Because in turn, it does benefit our members and that is what we are here for,” she further added.

According to Rawal, “Destinations and NTO will definitely have a significant impact on emerging trends in outbound travel, as the policies that are introduced or enforced will determine the viability to travel to these destinations. Hence, it’s important for cruise lines to continue to work closely with the respective authorities at the relevant destinations to ensure accessibility and provide input in the formulation of procedures and policies.

Sheerazi, a destination marketer herself, says, “They definitely play a big role when it comes to emerging trends. As the industry evolves, tourism boards not only anticipate the trends but also work towards keeping up with the pace. They consistently work around innovations and disruptions to offer the best to tourists. Even during the pandemic, they kept the interest alive by connecting digitally with travellers. NTOs are always on their feet, adapting to new trends, embracing change, and nudging travellers to newer experiences.”

Market Recovery

As for Indian outbound number reaching to the 2019 level this year, Prakash said, “If not this year, then the number will positively be back to 2019 level in 2024. Our outbound travel has already reached 70-75 percent of pre-Covid level.”

Rawal opined, “The landscape is continuously changing, which will impact the rate of growth for the outbound travel. It will take some time for it to reach the pre-COVID peak of 2019, but we are heading towards a positive and right direction.” Further adding on the outbound Indian cruise market, he said, “The outbound cruise market post COVID-19 has been very positive via the Fly-Cruise segment, branching out from personal travel to the MICE sector. We are optimistic that the Fly-Cruise segment will remain a popular choice of travel and vacation option throughout 2023.”

Sheerazi suggested that while 2022 was the year of recovery, 2023 is the year of cautious enthusiasm and stability. “We hope that the pre-Covid peak will be achieved by 2024 given the accelerated growth,” she added.






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