India’s inbound tourism sector is experiencing a significant rebound, with foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in 2023 surging 64 per cent compared with 2022. This translates to 92,36,108 visitors between January and December 2023, compared with 64,37,467 in the same period of the previous year. However, despite this impressive growth, the sector remains 15.5 per cent below pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2019, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s data. 

The United States emerged as the top source country for inbound tourists in December 2023, accounting for 22.33 per cent of arrivals. Bangladesh followed closely behind with 16.97 per cent, while the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada were the other countries in top five source countries. Interestingly, the data reveals a slight shift in the top source countries throughout the whole year, with Bangladesh holding the top spot for January to December 2023.

The Financial Earnings from Expenditure (FEEs) during January-December 2023 stood at ₹2,31,927 crore, reflecting a substantial 65.74 per cent growth from the previous year. In terms of US dollars, FEEs reached $28.077 billion, demonstrating a robust 59.43 per cent growth, albeit showing a decline of -8.61 per cent compared with 2019.

Experts predict continued growth in the inbound tourism sector, with Virendra Jain, co-founder and CEO of VIDEC Consultants, expressing optimism for 2024. Virendra Jain, co-founder and CEO of VIDEC Consultants said, “While outbound travel has almost restored to its pre-pandemic highs, inbound travel is expected to consolidate its recovery next year. Riding on the back of unflinching consumer demand, this year has been fantastic for the India travel story, and has created a solid underpinning for optimistic outlook for the future. India - the future beckons.”

He anticipates a year of diversification and product expansion within the online travel agency (OTA) segment, driven by both organic growth and mergers and acquisitions.

An analysis of the purpose of visits reveals a shift towards business and professional travel during December 2023, comprising 10.28 per cent of arrivals compared with 20 per cent for the entire year. Conversely, medical tourism, which constituted a significant portion (45.73 per cent) of arrivals in December, saw a decrease in its share compared with the full year (26.52 per cent).

Among the top five entry ports for foreign tourists, Delhi held the leading position in December 2023 with 30.29 per cent of arrivals, followed by Chennai (8.34 per cent), Mumbai (15.08 per cent), Bangalore (6.20 per cent), and Hyderabad (6.20 per cent). Notably, Delhi and Chennai witnessed an increase in their share compared to December 2022, while Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad experienced slight declines.