By Shweta Ramesh of Blue Square Consultants on September 19th, 2018

With experiences ruling the travel roster, Indian vacationers ditch the traditional sightseeing bandwagon for larger-than-life moments. One might wonder why the sudden shift, but in reality, it has been a gradual evolution gone unnoticed by many.

India is an enormous market; with 1.3 billion residents and 28 million passport holders, the country’s outbound market is predicted to grow rapidly. The country, which has one of the highest populations in the world, churns out approximately 4.9 million leisure outbound trips a year. Of course, this includes a significant number of first-time travellers foraying into the international market. The scope is wide yet complex, as the nation is massive yet diverse. There are evolved travellers now seeking enriching experiences, while a significant fragment is considering taking a leap toward international travel. The urban middle class is rapidly growing, while the astonishing rise in travel from tier II and tier III cities in India is a marketer’s delight. Did you know that India’s business travel market has crawled up to the 10th largest in the world? Yes, quite recently the Indian traveller has become a discovered species.

A look into the fascinating journey will unveil the different phases of the Indian market’s evolution. Holidaying a few decades ago meant taking short trips after weeks or maybe months of preparation, with many sticking to pilgrimage visits with family. Spending was meticulous, while the sources of planning a vacation revolved around references from family and friends or opting for run-of-the-mill packages by travel agents. There was less fuss, and few cared about the little nuances at a hotel.

Then the technology wave took the market by storm, increasing accessibility and broadening horizons. The digital revolution still continues to change the Indian market dynamics, influencing outbound travel choices drastically. People became digitally savvy and began discovering the world outside. Self-exploration and research surfaced as vital aspects of travel, gradually empowering the Indian traveller. The Millennial segment’s interest in travel emerged with digitalization, while corporate travellers developed the concept of offsite and weekend getaways. Steadily, as spending power increased, the exposure doubled, stoking the wanderlust in Indians and forcing them to rethink the concept of travel.

The need for variety, personalized itineraries and niche interest-based travel cropped up, bringing along with it the birth of experiential travel in India. Gone are the days when a hotel was all about spending a night or a day covering typical touristy spots. "Staycations", heritage properties and concept hotels have gained popularity, many of them evolving into destinations in themselves. Hostel culture is gaining acceptance in India as Millennials seek interaction with locals during their travels. Offbeat activities are preferred, and unexpected experiences are now becoming part of the Indian traveller’s bucket list.

One may not realise the spending power of an Indian traveller, but those in the luxury category don’t mind forking out a lump sum for a lifetime memory, be it chasing the northern lights from a glass igloo, indulging in Michelin-starred cuisine or paying a visit to Santa’s home in Lapland on Christmas. All sorts of niche travel segments are witnessing demand: historic tours, cruising, culinary escapades, sports and music tourism.

There is a substantial number of people from India who travel with all-access VIP passes and private jets to music festivals worldwide. Vacationing in a plush castle in Ireland, self-drive tours in Europe, glamping, local cultural classes in exotic destinations and unique experience-based itineraries are catching the attention of the Indian Diaspora.

Indian Baby Boomers make up an interesting age segment in the travel market, contributing heavily to destinations like New Zealand and Canada. Meanwhile, Millennials are not far behind, with a rapidly growing inclination toward travel over saving.

India as an outbound travel market is signalling record-breaking tourism figures for many destinations, pointing toward its strong travel economy. For this reason, it becomes imperative to comprehend and analyse Indian travellers and their complexity to drive a segmented outbound approach in the Indian travel landscape.

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The views and opinions expressed in this  blog  are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency member of Travel Consul

By Shweta Ramesh of Blue Square Consultants on September 19th, 2018