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Monday, 06 March, 2017, 15 : 03 PM [IST]

Smelling The Coffee for Outbound

anurag There is a valid reason why mainstream media worldwide still obsesses with China as far as outbound travel is concerned. The last decade saw a tremendous surge in outbound tourists from that nation. India, of late, has emerged as the world’s fastest–growing outbound market and in absolute numbers it is second only to China. Chinese outbound is twice as large as India, but the momentum is shifting to India now.

Oddly this fact goes unnoticed in the popular press. But such is the focus of mainstream news channels that rely on the here and now, and not really the trend or potential. A political awakening and conscious push is driving home the rising future of Indian outbound, even as the Chinese juggernaut of outbound shows some signs of abatement.

India will expectedly account for nearly 30 million outbound tourists cutting across almost segments. Foreign tourism boards will do well by recognising the unique differences, idiosyncrasies and cultural attitudes of the Indian traveller, which can be vastly at variance with the habits of tourists’ worldwide. Tourism authorities in both long-haul and short haul-destinations observe that Indians tend to have relatively short lead times for overseas trips. And improved air access clearly determines the growth.

High-end and luxury travel might be a niche, but the mid-market segment may be an attractive source for most boards. The word of mouth connect plays a major role in decision-making. Even while engaging with the media, most boards realise the need of a direct contact as one country’s NTO discovered recently that sending mails from the head office and providing links to images and email handouts will always remain a dud. In fact, social media connect directly with the consumer might be a better tool than bland emails to journalists. However, given the sheer size and stratification of social media, journalists remain a steady source of ‘spreading the word’.

Youth travel from India is a rising group, but family holidays remains the core. A majority of outbound hovers around the ‘family and group’ travel. While Trump might seem to be scaring off the young, the pull of USA for studies might finally buck the trend. When targeting the young, boards will have to club their promotional efforts with the education industry of their countries. It’s a huge market. Chinese and Indian students together account for nearly half of all international enrolment in the USA, and make up more than a third of foreign students in both Canada and Australia.

Countries like Austria report a growth which could be exceptional, merely because of their tourism board’s outreach and accessibility, and clear plans to ‘accommodate’ Indian travellers’ unique demands, especially regarding food requirements.

As perhaps India could well be the only steady and rising economy in the world today, the Indian outbound times are looking rosy indeed. The smart ones are realising it already.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
 
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