Flight Plan

Changing attitudes — and latitudes

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on September 18, 2019 Published on September 18, 2019

Whale-spotting, wine-tasting, experiencing local culture — what not! Indians’ vacation preferences are changing and so is their choice of destinations

Spending your summer holidays with grandparents or other family members became passé a long time ago. Over the past few years, what has also become passé is travelling abroad for shopping.

Instead, what Indians are looking for, from their holidays, are relaxation, night life and entertainment. Some are travelling specifically to attend local cultural festivals like the Oktoberfest in Munich or the Rio Carnival in Brazil.

 

According to Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head, Expedia in India, now it is not uncommon for travellers to look for opportunities to go whale-spotting, join wine-tasting tours or even visit and help out in areas affected by natural disasters.

Research by CAPA (Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation) indicates that experiencing local food and restaurants is one of the key attractions for overseas travel. For destinations such as Australia, 24 per cent of Indian travellers look forward to trying local food and wine.

With these changing travel trends, what has also changed are the destinations that Indians are opting for. Off-beat choices like Tasmania, Iceland, Holland, Chile, Fiji, South Korea, Israel, Japan, South Africa, the Philippines, Czech Republic and Peru are now preferred over the earlier Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

 

 

Why this change?

Romil Pant, Senior Vice-President, Holiday, Thomas Cook (India), says travel patterns changed post Delhi hosting the Asian Games in 1982. “The event opened the eyes of the population to the world.”

This could well have been one of the first exposures that Indians had to countries and people in Asia but the reasons for changing travel trends are many. Most attribute the change to liberalisation in the 90s which led to, among other things, the opening up of Indian skies so more Indians took their first flying steps within the country before flying abroad.

International airlines realised the potential of a huge Indian market and more airlines started flying to different corners of India. Couple this with the rise of the middle class and more disposable incomes and a range of hotels at different price points being available and Indians were ready to take on the world.

Pant also points out that after liberalisation came satellite television and foreign exchange restrictions being eased which, too, helped Indians realise their travel dreams.

Millennials drlve growth

 

According to Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel, post liberalisation, the tourism industry in India witnessed several changes, including reductions in air fares, developed roads, and better air and rail connectivity. This increased the scope for domestic and international travel immensely for all economic classes. “The Indian traveller evolved from a family vacationer to a solo traveller and the introduction of the digital age helped develop a keener interest in exploring places,” he says.

Leading the travellers in India are the young. “Affordability of travel, the rising popularity of short-haul travel and a growing interest in exploring new destinations have influenced the youth across the country to make travel a priority. As a result, the number of young travellers has risen significantly. Millennials are the generation driving growth in the travel industry, and youngsters aged 18-34 are more likely to spend more on vacations than other age groups,” says D’souza.

However, this does not mean that Indians from other age groups are not travelling more. Adds D’souza, “Indians over the age of 50 prefer well-paced options, those between the ages of 20 and 30 prefer more adventurous holidays while conventional travel is preferred by those over 35.”

Baby boomers too at it

CAPA’s study found that Indian baby boomers — people now aged 55+ — too are travelling more. They are the fastest growing travelling age group segment for some destinations such as Canada and New Zealand. This segment continues to prefer group travel (although this may consist of a self-created group of friends) for safety and company, to well-travelled destinations, and dietary factors are more likely to be a consideration. Language abilities may also influence the choice of destination.

Traditionally, availability of suitable food has been a key consideration for Indians travelling overseas due to a large proportion of vegetarians (estimated at 30-40 per cent of the total population) or those with specific dietary requirements. As a result, tours aimed specifically at such Indian travellers are widely available, either accompanied by a chef or where meals are provided at Indian restaurants at the destination. Then there are those from the non-metros who have realised that travelling abroad is not the domain of a few. CAPA points out that since 2010, the growth of income in tier-II cities has outpaced that of tier-I cities.

The study concludes that traffic from tier-2 cities is expected to contribute significantly to the next phase of growth in outbound travel.

There are other categories of trips and travellers too: women solo travellers, adventure trips, food, music and wildlife tourism, going backpacking and sustainable travel.

Another trend that has really caught on among Indians is extending business trips. As D’souza points out, “With professional life spilling into personal life, it is not surprising to learn that Indian business travellers are extending their trips with leisure activities such as enjoying local sightseeing, exploring art and culture.”

This is also corroborated by CAPA, which says that 1,00,000-1,50,000 spouses joined their partners on business trips in 2017, with this being particularly evident in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Not being left behind are first-time travellers. According to a CAPA study, there are first-time overseas travellers from conservative backgrounds who may be looking for an ‘Overseas 101’ package, consisting of a group tour covering the highlight attractions in a safe destination, with Indian vegetarian meals and budget hotel accommodation provided.

Published on September 18, 2019
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