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Madhavi and Kumar's home in Bengaluru is a place of wonder. As you enter, you are transported to many places all at once; a Barong mask from Bali welcomes you as a windchime with little Eiffel towers tinkles away merrily. A colourful part of the main hall catches the eye where Oktoberfest beer mugs vie for attention with a cute little cow from Switzerland. Every corner of their home is filled with souvenirs from their travels across the globe. Inspired by this couple? We were wonderstruck too.
When this Bengaluru couple got married three years ago, they were given a DIY travel album as a gift. This set them off to sincerely fill the pages and in the process fall in love with travel itself. The couple finds happiness in packing for their next adventure and quotes Pico Iyer when asked for inspiration - "Serendipity is our tour guide, assisted by caprice"! The duo has travelled to more than 12 countries together and are looking to hit the 30 number in a short time. Which gets us to an interesting fact, 30-by-30 travel goals are the biggest thing in Indian social media currently.
With an increasing number of Indians like Madhavi and Kumar packing their bags to exotic locales abroad, there's a lot of wanderlust in the air. Travel seems to be giving Indians a high and we at Pickyourtrail took a deeper look into how Indians are travelling. We followed the trends of why, how and where Indians are travelling - and discovered that we Indians love travel and how!
75 million passports: Wanderlust hits India!
Allow us to throw a few numbers at you - in year 2000, less than 5 million Indians were heading out of the country. Today, around 20 million Indians are setting off to foreign lands seeking new experiences. According to the UNWTO, this number will increase exponentially to 50 million in the next three years.
Now examine this, 75 million passports today in India, but only 20 million people travelling? The huge gap only tells us that there's going to be whole lot of travelling Indians in the next few years. Visa regulations are also a lot easier for Indian passport holders. The Indian passport is a pretty powerful one: it ranks 59 on the power index. This means Indians can travel to 59 countries without a visa or an easy visa-on-arrival. Not just this, if you hold an Indian passport and already have a valid US visa, you can enter more than 15 countries such as Philippines, Columbia and more. With barriers such as visa slowly melting away, India is ready to explore the world.
We came across a
Times Of India reportage that mentions that travel has turned out to be the top reasons for Indians to spend money outside the country. So it's not just Madhavi and Kumar who are travelling, but a lot more Indians are looking to explore the world. We sure are excited, more power to the Indian Passport!
The number story clearly shows the exponential growth that's set to happen. What's more interesting is the changing preferences of the Indian traveller. From wanting the comfort of travelling in groups to soaking in the local culture, tasting local produce its a very important transition as these habits help in the overall growth of the economy.
The leisurely Indian and how he has changed
"It's precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break", said someone famous. Looks like we Indians are taking him very seriously indeed and giving ourselves those leisurely breaks quite often. India's holiday patterns are changing and dramatically too. We are no longer tied to domestic holidays, but are open to taking those leisure breaks abroad too.
Who is travelling more?
No longer is the trip abroad reserved for the students or working professionals. Among the 21 million Indians going abroad, India Tourism discovered that more than 25% of these travellers are going out of the country on a holiday. As the number of outbound travellers from India increases, the leisure traveller amongst these is also increasing 25% Year-on-Year.
Booming economy, great internet, happy tourists
The UNWTO has ranked India as one of the fastest growing outbound markets in the world with the volume of travellers going up by 25% every year. India's population is a young one when compared to highly populated countries such as China.
Outbound travel has also been impacted by the Modi government's digital India move. The number of internet users in India was 432 million in 2016 and is growing at a 8% rate, according to market research firm IMRB International. They also mention that the overall internet penetration in India is 31%. This heightened exposure to the internet has given the average Indian more chance to see the world around him and get inspired to travel.
With a healthy GDP growth, booming economy and higher spending incomes, travel is now more accessible to the emerging middle class of India. Add to that a huge increase in the number of low cost airlines and you have more Indians becoming frequent flyers!
The great Indian family vacation(s)
With the world becoming their oyster, Indians are now looking at at least one international vacation every year. In 2013, the frequency at which Indians took a trip abroad on leisure was 21 months. Today, the same has come down to 13 months, which is one trip a year. We work hard the entire year, stick to domestic trips during smaller holidays and then plan for that one gigantic family vacation to a fabulous international destination.
Indians travelling abroad, we noticed, like to make the most of their vacation. An average international leisure trip lasts for 12 - 14 days when it comes to places like New Zealand, Australia or Europe. Locations in South East Asia such as Bali, Thailand, Singapore are easily reached and therefore the average vacation is planned for 5 - 7 days.
Re-defining the free independent traveller
When Priyanka and Dharmender Dubey first approached us at Pickyourtrail for a honeymoon trip, they were looking at the Andamans. The Dubeys were not aware that a beautiful destination such as Bali was accessible at more or less the same cost as that of an Indian holiday. They were pleasantly shocked that they could fly abroad for their honeymoon. They did and wrote an ode to beautiful Bali too.
The definition of the Indian traveller is a pretty complex one - there are people who travel for adventure, some for food and others just to add the feather of a destination to their travel hat. From the honeymooners who went to the Andamans, to those who now go to Bali or the families that now go on yearly vacations to the Swiss Alps or Iceland even - Indian travellers are coming of age. Not just are they vacationing abroad, the average Indian spends more than the American travellers: UNWTO reports that Indian travellers spend abroad is $1200 whereas the American only spends $700! One other reason thats changing the consumer behaviour is that international vacations are no more inaccessible.
Did you know that the average Indian traveller spends $1200 abroad while the American only spends $700!
At Pickyourtrail, we like to call travellers like Priyanka and Dharmender - FIT or the Free Independent Traveller. FITs are those who hate the coach tours, like to plan their own travel, hate boring itineraries and love unscheduled days. These are people who like to explore a destination at their own pace, absorbing the country's unique food, culture and ethos. Hence our motto - Stop Touring, Start Travelling.
The FITs are not just the solo travellers or backpackers, but also families or groups of friends who don't like to tow the boring line. We would classify our FITs into two broad categories - the young adventurer and the Family travellers.
The young adventurer
India is counted as the 'youngest' among all countries in the Asia Pacific region, considering the number of its citizens below 30. The number of first time international travellers such as the Dubeys are quite a large number. According to a study by Amadeus, 23% of Indian leisure travellers are under the 30 age group.
Young Indians in the age group of 24 to 35 largely belong to this category of first time international travellers. They are either solo trippers, honeymooners or the Double-Income-No-Kids (DINK) couples. Honeymooners form a huge part of the total number of travellers we get at Pickyourtrail. Considering these first timers are at an age bracket that allows them to spend more on vacations, they opt for more adventurous trails. From climbing volcanoes in Bali to bungee jumping in New Zealand, they are ready to splurge for an adrenaline packed adventure.
Families with children are the other big travellers in the leisure segment in India. The big annual holiday that most families plan is now an international one. We have families who travel together to Iceland on a roadtrip to see the Northern Lights or the one that travelled to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary to Egypt. While the spending power of families may be lesser than the younger couples or solo travellers, they do try to maximize their vacation with as many activities as possible.
Navin Ragade, our traveller is a well travelled man. However, for his family, the Thailand trip was the first ever international vacation. This was a special one that celebrated his wife's birthday and turned out to be one that the family looks back to always. Meanwhile, Navin is planning his next vacation abroad. Read his story here
Following the Indian traveller: Popular vacations
"Paris is always a good idea", said Audrey Hepburn. Our travellers are nodding their head animatedly to this.
A week ago, we had a traveller who visited France, Switzerland and Austria - three countries in 2 weeks. While we did think it might have been a rush, Prashanth did not seem to to think so. Such was his eagerness to see as much of Europe as he could!
Yet another family is back from UK - London and Ireland, with their toddlers in tow. London got Mithila quoting Samuel Johnson while Ireland had her open mouthed with its awe inspiring beauty. They did everything from building castles in Legoland, rubbing shoulders with the Royal family at Buckingham castle and driving through beautiful Ireland. Here's their story.
It seems to us Europe holds a special place in the hearts of Indians.
Where do we vacation?
UNWTO reports mention that Europe sees 20% of the travellers from India's outbound traffic. Favourite countries in Europe include UK, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. European tourism boards have been focusing a lot on Indian tourists and are welcoming them with warmth. Europe has a special charm and appeals to the backpackers, honeymooners and families in equal measure.
New Zealand and Australia take a fair share of the Indian tourists. The UNTWO counts 10% of Indian outbound tourists headed to these countries. Both these countries are getting quite popular for adventure tourism: Australia's outbacks are well known in this respect. Not far behind is New Zealand with its Nevis swing, the world's biggest swing and adrenalin powered Jet Boating options.
The biggest part of Indian tourists go to Asia Pacific region, namely Dubai, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Much of Indian tourists prefer South East Asian destinations for two main reasons - top most being the proximity therefore, less time wasted in travel. These destinations also don't take us Indians too far from home in terms of culture and food, the familiarity factor gives a feeling of safety. This is more so for first time travellers outside India.
When do we go for our vacations?
While the new age Indian traveller is a different animal, there are somethings that don't change. Vacations in India are often associated with school vacations, the longest of which is the summer holidays between April and June. It is not surprising that Tourism India finds a half of travellers prefer to take their trip abroad in this period.
What is more surprising is that the segment of India that preferred local hill stations during winter is now moving to exotic locales abroad. More than 25% of travellers visit international destinations during the months of October to December. Winter destinations are quite exciting, here's more on what they hold for you.
Vacation planning: Breaking the barriers of boring itineraries
The Indian traveller is moving from packaged tours to becoming the free independent traveller. Though these independent travellers constitute a large part of the traveller base in India, the era of the brick-and-mortar travel agents is still not dead. A recent report by research firm Integreon highlights that 80% of travellers prefer booking their vacation through travel agents. Only the remaining minority prefer self planning.
Indians are breaking barriers. 20% of Indians book their vacations online, a big move from the traditional travel agent.
This minority is a growing lot though. Which is one of the reasons that we at Pickyourtrail prefer to be a Tech & Touch company where people can talk to our people, yet let technology and expertise help them plan their vacation. Travel agents are associated with boring itineraries and much of back and forth. Online tech travel companies like us break these barriers and bring the freedom and pride of self planning, with technology to bring in speed.
Vacation planning: not for the faint hearted!
We found that most travellers tend to run through nearly 30 sites online in the process of planning their vacation. While people find flights in one place and hotels in another, very few sites offer a complete traveller experience. Say hello to Pickyourtrail.
Vikas Kyatsandra from Bengaluru planned and booked his family's summer vacation to Singapore and Thailand in exactly 2 hours. No, that's not a typo there. He did book his entire 10 day vacation in just 2 hours with Pickyourtrail! But that is definitely not the case for the common man who goes through many months of planning for that one international vacation.
According to reports of PATA, the planning process to an intern ational vacation takes nearly double the time of the actual booking process. By what we see, Indians prefer to book closer to the date of travel. Nearly 45% of travellers book their travel a month before they depart, while 25% take the safer route of booking 1 to 3 months before the travel date. Surprisingly, there is even a fairly large 20% of travellers who decide to book their trip just a week before they fly out!
Where will India head to in the coming years?
In 2010, the famous Julia Roberts starrer, 'Eat, Pray, Love' hit the silver screen. All of a sudden, Bali was the place to go to. While most of the world headed there, we Indians were only beginning to wake up to the world of travel. It wasn't exactly the era of low cost airlines, you still had to pay full fare and worry about your wallet.
The Bali bet
In 2013 when we launched Pickyourtrail, Bali was a small island destination that not too many travel agents were interested in marketing. Thailand and Malaysia were more popular amongst both travellers and the agents.
We took a bet on Bali then and we haven't regretted! Bali's value-for-money-vacations became a popular option among Indians who wanted a close-by destination that easy on their wallets. Bali is also one place where Indians become millionaires; stay in 5-star accommodations at 3-star rates and experience a culture that is most friendly. Today Bali is the budget destinations for families, honeymooners or adventure seekers, here's an idea of what Bali holds for you.
Emerging Tourist Destinations: Top 5 in 2018
In 2018, we are predicting that these are the locations that are going to top the charts among Indian tourists.
Here's our bucket-list for 2018. Plenty of reasons why you should head there too.
Seychelles is the next Maldives of 2018. This paradise comes ahead of most island destinations across the world when it comes to an idyllic holiday. With holidays becoming stress busters, leisure vacation destinations are going to be much more in demand. In 2015, Seychelles saw just 8000 Indians visiting the islands, this has gone up by more than 40 per cent. The archipelago is now on our list for the coming year, what with celebrities like Prince William and Kate honeymooning there.
Here are top reasons why Indians will head to Seychelles in 2018:
- Indians are exempted from Visa
- Mumbai now has direct flights to Seychelles
- No driving license required for Indian travellers
- Accommodation getting more affordable
Australia Tourism recently revealed that the top five Aussie attractions that Indian travellers look for are Australian beaches, iconic landmarks, wildlife, food & wine and the Great Barrier Reef. Not surprising that this year, more than 2,70,000 travellers have been to Australia, almost 15% more than last year's arrivals.
The Land Down Under is definitely to be watched out for in 2018 we say. Take a pick from these reasons to choose Oz as your next vacation spot.
- Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are in the list of Top 10 world's most liveable cities. Melbourne has been on the list for the seven years in a row.
- The Great Barrier Reef is a huge draw for its amazing colours and underwater diversity. A once in a lifetime visit and a must on any worthy traveller's bucket list.
- Indians rated Australia's food & wine as the best in the world. The variety of cuisine that is available in this country is like no other, even for vegetarians. The land of Masterchef Australia after all.
- Australia's free online visa application process only makes it easier for Indians wanting to holiday. If you have a decent travel history, you may even get a three year, multiple entry visa.
3. South Africa
South Africa loves India. With India ranking eighth among all international arrivals in South Africa, the country sure has a soft corner for Indians. More than 80,000 people have visited South Africa last year and in the coming years, more than 1 lakh travellers are expected to visit.
Here's why you should visit the country:
- South Africa is becoming the preferred adventure destination with its wild life safaris as a huge draw, among other activities.
- The country is a relatively economic stay with 15 night vacation packages starting from INR 1 lakh upwards.
- More than 3000 adventure tourism activities are available for you to choose from.
- There is no better place for wildlife photography than South Africa.
- The country has eased its Visa norms for Indians considerably, and the process is faster too.
4. New Zealand
When New Zealand roped in Bollywood star Siddharth Malhotra to promote the tourism, Indian travellers discovered this beautiful country. It still remains to be explored to its fullest and we predict NZ will be where couples and families are going to be headed to in the summer of 2018.
Why the land of the Kiwis is going to be hot in the coming years:
- New Zealand is great for travellers who love to explore on their own. Self drive holidays are the best way to see the country.
- While there are no direct flights, convenient hubs like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok make NZ popular.
- November to March is when most Indians go on vacations for Christmas and summer vacations. This is a great time to visit NZ, as the weather is great!
- Adventure or leisure, honeymoons or families - New Zealand is loved by all travellers.
5. Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is a part of the world that is yet to be discovered by travellers. A region that is known as a backpackers jaunt, this part of Europe is where we predict travellers are going to be headed to. Slovenia, Croatia, Russia, Poland, Hungary are some East European countries that are hotspots when it comes to culture, scenic landscapes and even cuisine. Russia's colourful spires and the legends of the Kremlin are a magnet for travellers who are interested in history and culture. On the other hand places such as Prague and Austria is where you should be headed if you are a romantic seeking beauty, beer or great food.
Why Eastern Europe you ask?
- Eastern Europe is a fusion of contemporary and medieval that is a rarity to be witnessed by any traveller.
- A slew of movies and TV series have their shoot locations here.
- Eastern Europe is relatively less pricier than its more well known cousins such as France and Italy
- People are warm and welcoming, a great place to start your European adventure.
Our motto for 2018 is to live with no excuses and travel with no regrets. Does our bucket-list look enticing? What is yours? Get your travel goals set for the year and tell us where you are headed. Do leave your comments on our feature at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy travels!