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Outbound optimism

Globally, destinations have opened up borders and are now set to welcome travellers from across the globe, with minimal protocols. The approval of Indian vaccines including Covishield and Covaxin has been a gamechanger for the Indian outbound. 2022 is seen as the turnaround year for outbound tourism and NTOs across the globe are banking about the burgeoning Indian outbound market.

 

According to the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased by 58 per cent in July-September 2021 compared to the same period of 2020. However, they remained 64 per cent below 2019 levels.

Speaking about the present scenario of international tourism, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO, said, “There is clearly a strong demand for international tourism, and many destinations have started welcoming visitors back safely and responsibly. However, the true restart of tourism and the benefits it brings, remain on hold as inconsistent rules and regulations and uneven vaccination rates continue to affect confidence in travel.”

As per Research and Markets report, India's outbound tourism market is set to surpass US$ 40 billion by 2026 with an impressive double-digit growth rate during the forecast period 2021 - 2026.

Indian outbound dominance

Destinations within close proximity still see India as the top source market. Berthold Trenkel, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar Tourism, stated, “India was and will continue to be one of our top source markets for Qatar – and in the medium term will rise to #1 position. India is a key market for us both in terms of repeat travel as well as first-time visitors. Pre-pandemic, we have witnessed a significant rise in arrivals from India and look forward to accelerate our efforts in sustaining the momentum and fully unlocking the potential of leisure travellers.”

India has been one of the fastest growing markets for Indonesia with Bali being the most visited destination. Sigit Witjaksono, Director of Tourism Marketing for Asia Pacific, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Indonesia, added, “India has always been focussed market for Indonesia since 2016. Before the pandemic, visitors from India continued to increase every year. In 2019, total visitors from India reached 657.300 and then reached 104.765 visitors in the first three months of 2020 before Covid-19 outbreaks. With this good trend, it is certain that Indian tourists will be our attention.”

With increasing connectivity and awareness, Indian travellers are also looking at Latin American experiences.

Speaking about the importance of Indian market, Luis Cabello, Trade & Tourism Counsellor of Peru in India, said, “India has always been a market of much interest for Peru. Its economic growth will ensure that a certain section of the Indian travellers continue to choose Peru as a destination rich in nature, gastronomy, culture and history. Between the time we started operations in India and the end of 2019, the number of Indian passengers traveling to Peru increased 130 per cent. We would like to believe that it is a result of our hard work and presence in the Indian market. There is much more to be done and more to be achieved, and we will continue to work hard so that many more Indians keep adding many more Peruvian destinations to their bucket list.”

Recently Mauritius opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers. The destination has been a hit amongst Indian honeymooners and FIT market.

Arvind Bundhun, Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, said, “People are getting upset for not being able to travel for the last two years and are eager to travel. The rapid inoculation drive in Mauritius and India, majority of the population are vaccinated and protected against Covid-19. On the other-hand while, discussing with all our trade partners in India, we found out that a significant section of Indians are eager to travel to Mauritius. Hence, we are quite optimistic of revival of substantial tourist footfalls in Mauritius and will remain amongst our top priority list.”

Novel marketing mix

The pandemic has compelled NTOs to relook at their marketing strategies. NTOs are now looking at hybrid marketing platforms and are hyper-personalising their strategies.

GB Srithar, Regional Director, India, Middle East & South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board, said, “It is of immense importance that we stay engaged and connected with our consumers as well as trade, especially in such times. We have been doing a lot of interesting and innovative hybrid/virtual events over the last 1.5 years to keep our consumers engaged and entertained in the Indian market. For 2022, we aim to enhance our reach to key secondary cities and continue collaborating with in-market brands to increase cross-cultural affinity amongst Indian travelers. And on trade front, we seek to work closely with our partner-friends to promote and continue positioning as one of the most preferred destinations for Indian travellers.”

Both India offices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have also embarked on an active networking and marketing campaign in India. TAT New Delhi offices recently organized networking event in Delhi, Kolkata, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Raipur and Kolkata amongst others. The objective was to update on the gradual re-opening of Thailand for tourism from India. Vachirachai Sirisumpan, Director, TAT- New Delhi talked about the re-opening of Thailand. He also highlighted TAT’s new marketing campaign “Visit Thailand Year 2022” that will emphasize Thailand’s strength in biological diversity and cultural richness under the Amazing New Chapter’s concept.

Qatar is gearing up to welcome the globe during the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The destination has created new infrastructure and facilities for this mega event.

Trenkel, stated, “We are working towards establishing Qatar as a world-class destination and welcoming more than six million visitors a year by 2030. We have a host of exciting new initiatives to announce in the coming year which will include our biggest promotional marketing campaign “Experience a World Beyond” released in October 2021 in key markets across the globe and will see its introduction in India by the first quarter of 2022. Qatar currently has over 100 hotels and hotel apartments in the construction pipeline as we gear up to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Our role at Qatar Tourism is to continue to evolve our experiences by promoting new hotels and hotel developments, theme parks, restaurants, shops, and major leisure projects in the lead up, at and beyond the FIFA World Cup 2022. We are working to lay the foundation for guests to have a safe, exciting, and unforgettable experience while in Qatar.” 

Focus Segments

South Africa is now looking to promote destinations beyond the popular cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism, said, “In India, our target segments currently are experience-seeking millennials who wish to travel solo or in small groups, HNIs, family-oriented middle-class segments and MICE, as these are anticipated to be the driving forces behind travel recovery. We anticipate that the demand for open spaces or rural holidays and outdoor activities will rise as travellers actively seek out socially distanced holidays. Reflecting this demand for offbeat, non touristy experiences, we are packaging and selling itineraries that include the new regions of South Africa. These include the stunning and relatively unexplored Port Elizabeth, Robertson, West Coast, Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, Panorama Route (in Mpumalanga) and Garden Route.”

Peru is known for its natural attractions; the destination is targeting millennial and luxury segment from India market. Cabello, said, “Peru is the richest country in the world which offers culture, nature, gastronomy and experiential living and one and all. Sustainable tourism is no wonder in a country like Peru which is naturally endowed with open spaces and vivid topography. We will continue to promote everything that the country has to offer. Those in search of something new need only look at luxury river cruises in Loreto, Cloud fortress Kuelap and Gocta waterfall in Amazonas and Moche route for the history aficionados. We welcome the young and the young at heart, women exploring the world, as well as families, honeymooners and trekkers.”

Travellers are now looking at hidden destinations which are naturally less crowded in nature. Speaking about the newer destinations in Japan, Yusuke Yamamoto, Executive Director, JNTO Delhi office, said, “For India market, we focus on attracting families, Incentive tours, FIT and GIT. We are keen to invite Indian families to Japan and enjoy Japanese Culture, Nature, Art, Mega Cities, Tradition, etc Indian travellers can enjoy authentic Japanese Cuisine and of course, they can enjoy Indian Cuisine at Indian restaurants in Japan. You will be surprised to know that there are over 2100 Indian restaurants in Japan. Indian travel agents already know and promote Golden route [Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima] and Alpine route. Currently and in future, we are interested to introduce newer destinations to Indian travellers like Hokkaido, Tohoku, Wakayama and Okinawa thru travel agents.”

MICE recovery

MICE has been predicted to be one of the last segments to recover. Bundhun, explained, “Historically, it has been noticed that MICE and business travels are more unpredictable and slower to recover than leisure travel after any disruptions to travel patterns. However, we have been receiving many enquiries for MICE groups including destination weddings, film shoots, golfers etc. since we have opened the border which makes us more optimistic and expect the MICE market to bounce back very soon.”

Indian MICE is extremely critical for many destinations including Singapore. The destination is expecting the segment to recover in the long term. Srithar, said, “According to Global Data, Indian visitors would be among the most coveted travelers due to the country's developing economy, young population, and rising middle class. According to the analytics firm, the government expects to attain record levels of 29 million outbound journeys by 2025 — a good picture given the stresses of Covid-19.  With the recent announcement of Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) arrangements between Singapore and India, travel resumption between the two countries is underway. It will take some time for tourism to come back to pre-pandemic levels. However, Singapore is well-positioned to emerge from this pandemic. We remain confident in the long-term prospects of Singapore's tourism sectors – both for leisure and MICE & business travel – as the fundamentals that make Singapore an attractive place for unique, high-quality travel and MICE experiences remain unchanged.”

Speaking about the trends in MICE Nkani, added, “We expect MICE travel to recover in H1 2022 albeit with smaller group sizes and hybrid models. However, pan-Africa MICE travel and corporate travel can be expected to bounce back sooner. With the effect the pandemic has on the global economy, MICE and corporate travellers are seeking good value for money propositions now more than ever. We have been repackaging accordingly, with the intent to offer them excellent deals and discounts. Safety measures are transparent and well communicated, and have been factored into overall packages, so that there is no surprise or extra cost to travellers.”

Trade Engagements

Majority of the destinations connected virtually with the travek trade in 2020. With destinations opening up, NTOs are back to their traditional physical campaigns.

Yamamoto, said, “In 2021, we aligned our marketing efforts with respect to changing set of situations due to novel Coronavirus 2019. We focussed our marketing campaigns on the taglines Cleanliness, Hygiene, Safety, Discipline, etc. We built campaign by featuring Yoshinori Tashiro in our official videos [He is familiar face for Indian audience] and received mind-blowing response on our Youtube channel. We are thankful to Indian travellers for their love and support for Japan. Similarly, for 2022 campaign, marketing team will act and react accordingly to the changing situation.”

Thailand is now focusing on the Indian weddings segment. The destination will host series of roadshow to tap this segment. Cholada Siddhivarn, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mumbai office, said, “We have initiated the session called Amazing Thailand: The Wedding Series. Connected Thai Hotels who are into Indian Wedding to meet with the wedding planners in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai with the support from Neferrtiti, the Great Indian Wedding and Event and in Ahmedabad with support from Absolute Events. We have invited 10-15 wedding planners each city and 10 new hotels in Thailand to introduce their properties and services. Also, with suitable incentives, we hope we can help our partners more. We will also do the trade meet in Chiang Mai and Phuket next year.”

Indonesia is all set to promote their destination during SATTE 2022. Witjaksono, said, “We are pleased to participate at South Asia's Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) as "Partner Country" to showcase Indonesian destinations and new experiences at Indonesian Pavilion at SATTE 2022. In our participation in SATTE 2022, We would like to show the world that Indonesia is ready to welcome back international tourists and keep improving the destination experiences with #IndonesiaCare. And we are sure that Indian tourists are looking forward to visiting the land of the Gods, Bali, which is their favourite destination. Be prepared, because #itstimeforBali.”

Akshay Kumar

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