What drives the Indian tourist? Family.

Did you take a holiday for leisure this summer? You’re unusual.

The first time (and only time, so far) that India comprehensively measured domestic tourism was in 2008-9 for the 65th round of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

The average Indian household took four trips overnight trips a year, higher in rural than in urban areas; there isn’t much of a pattern to inter-state differences. The NSSO defines a trip as a visit of between up to six months, and excludes trips made for work. For this piece, I’ve also excluded all trips without an overnight stay, because nearly a quarter of these are shopping trips, and they don’t really fit my idea of a holiday.

When do Indians pack their bags?

Summer is the holiday peak for rural India, but for urban India, there’s one peak in August, and then a few similar highs in May, September and October, possibly reflecting regional festivals.

Holidays also tend to be slightly longer over summer and September/ October in urban India while they vary little in duration in rural India.

But what are Indians travelling for? These are the truly surprising answers.

Indians are social creatures, who travel largely to see family and friends. The next biggest category for urban India is religious visits/ pilgrimages, while for rural India, it is a rather grim category – medical visits, demonstrating just how inadequate rural health infrastructure is. Travel for leisure is still very unusual.

Unsurprisingly then, ‘package’ tours are a relative rarity in India.

These numbers are for domestic tourism only, but given that India had an estimated >15 million outbound travellers last year, or just over one per cent of the population, the numbers aren’t likely to be very different even with foreign tourism in the mix.

Not just do few travel out of the country, very few even leave their state. The bulk of travel in rural India is within the same district, while the majority in urban India is within the same state but in another district. (For those travelling outside the state, the NSSO didn’t ask which state they were going to.)

Unsurprisingly then, the bus is the most popular mode of travel for Indian tourists.

And finally, when Indians holiday they rarely take a hotel. Yes, you guessed it – virtually every Indian traveller stays with a friend or relative.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 11:53:58 PM |

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