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Updated: March 30, 2014 16:45 IST

Outward bound

DANIELE PAGANI
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The growing economy and disposable income has boosted the number of Indians travelling abroad. Photo: C. V. Subrahmanyam
The Hindu The growing economy and disposable income has boosted the number of Indians travelling abroad. Photo: C. V. Subrahmanyam

The growing economy and disposable income has boosted the number of Indians travelling abroad

The Indian middle class comprising 350 million people approximately has begun to travel abroad more often, an outcome of economic growth and disposable income. The statistics show that from 2009, the number of citizens travelling beyond the country’s borders has grown by 13 per cent every year, which translates to nearly 15 million Indians, who spend an amount of 13.3 million dollars. The great majority of them – 67 per cent come from western India, especially from Gujarat and Maharashtra though Delhi and West Bengal are not outdone.

In the list of top 10 destinations, Indians travel mostly to Asia where Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai remain the most visited countries, followed by Thailand and Nepal. These are all destinations which offer wonderful beaches, mountain landscapes, vanguard cities and shopping facilities and that too within few hours of flight. Anyway, long distances are not a deterrent, since we find US and South Africa also in the list. Europe still appears a less frequented destination, mainly chosen by service class and businessmen.

Since nearly a hundred million Indians are settled abroad, leisure time travels are still mostly limited to visiting friends and relatives; a tradition that still holds strong today. Usually, they prefer long stays and are hosted by friends or relatives. Every year, about 10,000 events – conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions – are held around the world, and, with more and more Indians participating it is estimated that nearly 1.2 to 1.5 million people travel for this reason. The growth in the economy has led a rapid rise in business journeys too, almost five-fold increase over the past five years. There is an increase in several other new segments of tourism too: honeymooners have begun to travel more and more often towards romantic overseas destinations, and so do sport travellers, mainly for watching cricket, golf and football. Vacationing during long weekend has also picked up.

Besides the budget Indian tourists have no restrictions in their choice of a destination, and, their ability to speak English makes them highly self sufficient and well informed. Guide books, travel magazines, social media and travel blogs are the main sources used by new travellers to self manage their journeys. Those who prefer to rely on an agency, prefer to choose local travel agent. The smart phone applications will play a major role in the future. In the evolving market that India is only one Indian traveller in five uses the mobile phone for booking and planning.

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