Discussion of the travel recovery in Asia still largely centers on the return of Chinese travelers.
But it’s Indian travelers who are searching for international travel faster than travelers in any other market in the world, Agoda Travel CEO Omri Morgenshtern told CNBC Travel.
“The whole thing is booming,” he said. “Outbound from India [travel] it’s growing much faster than any other.”
The company’s data showed that while outbound searches from most Asia Pacific countries have increased by 30% to 60% since 2019, searches from travelers in India have increased by 225%.
“Indian tourism has recovered strongly due to economic growth in the country,” said Lalitya Dhavala, valuation consultant at travel analytics firm Cirium.
“The data shows a strong recovery in both domestic and international traffic compared to 2019 with … positive growth in planned capacity next quarter,” he said.
where are they traveling to?
Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia are the top choices for Indian travelers.
From January 2019 to mid-May this year, Indian travelers’ searches for hotels and flights to Indonesia increased by 256%, Singapore by 215% and Thailand by 147%, Agoda data shows.
But searches for Vietnam — a country long overlooked by Indian travelers — have soared. Agoda’s data showed a 390% increase over 2019.
“Vietnam is a top five destination and he’s never been there in 2019,” Morgenshtern said.
Before 2019, there were no direct flights from India to Vietnam, so connectivity between the two countries is now better, said Vishal Suri, CEO of SOTC Travel.
“Vietnam is a destination that is not too far from India and is still in the ASEAN region. It is only a four or five-hour flight from most parts of the country,” Suri said.
Southeast Asian destinations are still popular among Indian travelers, but Agoda’s data suggests that interest in East Asian destinations has waned, Agoda’s Morgenshtern said.
Searches for hotels and flights to Japan and Taiwan have declined since 2019, according to Agoda data. However, searches for South Korea have increased since before the pandemic.
“Travel to Southeast Asia is absolutely exploding, but East Asian countries are much more expensive destinations,” Morgenshtern said.
But Morgenshtern expects interest in East Asian travel to pick up soon. He also noted two other expensive markets that are popular among Indians – the United States and the United Kingdom.
“I don’t see why an Indian customer going to Europe wouldn’t have a lot of fun going to Japan or Taiwan.”
More purchasing power
Whether it’s a short getaway in Asia or a long vacation in Europe, Indians spend money. And they spend a lot.
“There is a perception that the economic power of Indian travelers is very low. That may be true domestically, but in terms of outbound travel, I actually think it’s on par with the Chinese when they visit other Asian countries,” he said Morgenshtern from Agoda.
Last year, Indian travelers spent about 30% more on accommodation for their international trips than before the pandemic and 20% more than the average Chinese customer, according to Agoda data.
In Thailand, Chinese and Indian travelers spend about the same on hotels, he said.
“Indians like to stay in four- or five-star accommodations and branded hotels with names they know,” said SOTC’s Suri. “They also explore proper restaurants instead of eating at fast food.”
Cirium’s Dhavala pointed out that the increase in international travel is limited to wealthier Indian travelers.
“The rest of the mid-range sector is focused on domestic travel and low-cost airlines in India are well positioned to meet this demand,” she said.