As winter takes hold, India’s tourism industry is experiencing a notable surge in inbound travel signalling a strong rebound. Travel companies, including ixigo, EaseMyTrip and Cleartrip, have witnessed a substantial year-on-year increases ranging from 22 per cent to 62 per cent.

Ixigo witnessed a 62 per cent surge in bookings and searches compared with the previous year, while EaseMyTrip and Cleartrip witnessed increases of 30 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.

Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder of EaseMyTrip, said, “New year advance bookings have also started soaring by approx 30 per cent compared with last year. This number will jump exponentially as we near the new year weekend.”

Karthick Prabu, Head of Strategy at Cleartrip, said Delhi remains the top entry gateway to India, followed by Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai/Madras, and Hyderabad. He said airfares to India have remained mostly stable compared with last year, with only seasonal or festive rushes witnessing a 30-40 per cent increase.

FTAs up

According to the Ministry of Tourism, foreign tourist arrivals from January to October 2023 reached 72,43,680, marking a significant increase from 46,55,160 in the same period in 2022. The growth trajectory shows a 55.6 per cent increase compared with 2022 and a -15.9 per cent change compared with the pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Aloke Bajpai, Co-founder and Group CEO of ixigo, attributed this surge to the concerted efforts by the Indian government. “This surge is a testament to the concerted efforts by the Indian government to promote tourism in the country, like the development of cultural and spiritual hubs like Varanasi, Prayagraj and Ayodhya, and improvement in connectivity with the launch of semi-high-speed Vande Bharat trains,” he said.

Pittie said the active participation of the Ministry of Tourism in major global travel expos in 2023, is projecting a promising growth trajectory for India’s inbound tourism. 

Step up marketing

However, Rajiv Mehra, President of IATO, said that there were improvement in 2023 but emphasises the need for increased international marketing efforts. He states, “We urge the govt to significantly step up international marketing.” The industry is also pushing for trained tourism professionals in embassies abroad to enhance marketing strategies in the face of fierce global competition.

The government, has however, said it is actively implementing 97 projects covering 3,111 km of road networks at an estimated cost of ₹74,353 crore to enhance connectivity to prioritised tourist destinations. It has a goal to develop 50 destinations. Though there is no clarity on promotion and marketing.

Business travel has played a crucial role in the recovery. FCM Travel reported a significant increase in skilled workers and working holiday travellers entering the country. Rakesh Negi, Head of Business Transformation at FCM, said there has been a 98.5 per cent increase in business travellers from India, China, the Philippines and the United Kingdom in 2023 compared with the previous year.

As Australia reopened its borders in February 2022, business travellers have flocked back to the shores, with inbound business travel from various countries witnessing substantial growth.

Although Virendra Jain, Co-founder and CEO of VIDEC Consultants, sees a positive outlook, he said, “India - the future beckons.” While outbound travel has almost restored to pre-pandemic levels, inbound travel is expected to consolidate its recovery in the coming year.”