India’s domestic tourism growth will continue to be strong and will be further fuelled by inbound travels through the country’s presidency of G20, conferences, and exhibitions that are now increasingly held here, according to Thomas Cook (India) Chairman and Managing Director Madhavan Menon.
On the other hand, long-haul outbound travels from India are also expected to pick up with the onset of summer in Europe and the US, he said.
“Domestic tourism is here to stay and the reality is that we’re going to see more and more activity in the domestic space without a doubt,” Menon said when asked if the strong growth in domestic tourism witnessed post-COVID would sustain.
One of the main reasons for the surge in domestic tourism is the changed consumer behaviour after the pandemic, believing in living for today and not worrying about tomorrow, coupled with their strong confidence in the economy, he added.
“The pandemic has brought about a change in human behaviour. You’re seeing more people operate from home. The tendency to spend more time with the family has increased, as a result of which the need to take frequent breaks is what the domestic market is driving,” Menon said.
He further said,”Now, my expectation is that people earlier would have done one international trip and maybe another domestic trip. Today, it has completely changed. We’re now talking of multiple domestic trips, even short weekend (trips)”.
Menon, however, added,”But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you will see Indians travelling both short-haul and long-haul. I think we are witnessing the so-called saver becoming a spender is another important thing.”
All of this, he said, “stems from one fact of their confidence in the economy. This is not coming from anywhere. It is not just pandemic driven. It is also the fact that people are confident that the economy is growing, their jobs are secure, and they expect that things will improve from here.”
The rapid development of infrastructure, building of more airports and hotels across the country is also driving the growth, Menon added.
Another factor that will drive India’s tourism is the emergence of the country as an economic power and hosting important global events.
“G20 is just one other government event, and going forward as India emerges as an economic power that it is today positioning itself as, you’re going to see more travel to India. I think that is going to be significant. India is going to be in the limelight and it is going to attract more tourists to India,” Menon said.
The other important segment with a lot of activity is international travel to India to attend government conferences and exhibitions, he added.
“In the past, most people travelled to other countries to attend exhibitions. Now these exhibitions are being held in India also because we have the infrastructure to do it,” Menon said, citing examples of Pragati Maidan in the national capital and the Jio World Centre in Mumbai.
When asked about outbound travels from India, he said there have been a lot of short-haul travels of up to three-and half-hours to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius, Malaysia, and Thailand.
“The longer-haul is only starting now because it was winter through January to March in Europe and the fact that visas were not easy to obtain,” Menon said, adding a spike in long-haul travel was expected in the ongoing quarter.
“An outlier that we witnessed in the first quarter was travels to Japan and Korea. We used to send on average 200 passengers at the most every year to Japan. This year we’ve seen close to 1,300 passengers travelling during a month to Japan. So we are seeing different trends,” he added.
Overall, he said group travel, which was slow to take off, is now picking up and customised travel is growing in all segments without exception.