More Indian tourists head abroad

With growing disposable incomes, more Indians are travelling abroad for leisure or business, and Asian countries are the most sought-after destinations, according to Nielsen India Outbound Travel Moni

More Indian tourists head abroad

With growing disposable incomes, more Indians are travelling abroad for leisure or business, and Asian countries are the most sought-after destinations, according to Nielsen India Outbound Travel Monitor 2008, conducted in partnership with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Of the total outbound Indian tourists, about 64 per cent had sightseeing on the agenda while others travelled to explore new places and, visit family and friends, the report stated.

“With consumption-driven economy and a population keen to explore the world, India’s travel and tourism industry is booming,” said Vatsala Pant, associate director, The Nielsen Company.

Nature and the environment, culture and art, safety and hygiene are among the important factors considered when selecting a travel destination.

Singapore would emerge as the most common travel destination for Indians (24 per cent) in the next 12 months, followed by Dubai, Australia, and Malaysia, each at 17 per cent.

On an average, Indians spend $1,789 per person per leisure trip. Other than travel and accommodation, most Indians spend on shopping for accessories, electronics, local souvenirs, perfumes and fashion rank high on their shopping list.

Most often, Internet is the preferred source of information on destinations after travel agents and tour operators. While 12 per cent make their bookings online, travel agents, a majority go through regular travel agents or tour operators. About a fifth of travellers book directly through friends and relatives in the destination country.

The survey was based on interviews with 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, Union tourism minister Ambika Soni has asked members of the Asia Pacific countries not to issue travel advisories. This impacts the industry as most people defer their travel plans.

Speaking at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre here on Wednesday, she said though incidents like terrorist attacks and political demonstrations temporarily impact the tourism sector, it will rebound.

Soni said the ministry was working on modalities to give visas to tourists on arrival to increase inbound traffic. The country is also working on 22 mega tourism destinations, including two in Andhra Pradesh, for an outlay of Rs 25 crore to Rs 100 crore for each destination.

Besides, it is also promoting rural tourism and has identified 120 villages for this.

India, a late entrant into the tourism market, has grown around 14 per cent. Foreign tourist arrivals stood at 5.8 million in 2007, compared to 2.73 million four years ago.

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The domestic tourism visits, on the other hand, increased to 527 million in 2007 from 309 million in 2003.

The forex earnings from tourism touched $10.73 billion in 2007 and is projected to touch $20 billion by 2010. Till August this year, foreign tourist arrivals rose 10.4 per cent at 3.54 million, compared to the corresponding period last year. The forex earnings during the period rose 21.5 per cent to $8.1 billion.

PATA CEO Peter de Jong said the tourism sector took a beating when there was an outbreak of bird flu or when there are terror attacks. “Learning to cope with them is the best way to instill confidence in the sector,” he added.

Keeping in view the evolving outbound dynamics of the India market, Malaysia is set to consolidate its position as India’s travel getaway of choice through its strategic tourism initiatives.

“Our strategic thrust remains focused on the Indian market and we are targeting 500,000 Indian arrivals to our country in 2008, of which around 30 per cent is expected to come in through the MICE (meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition) tourism route,” Azizan Noordin, director (international promotion division – South Asia, West Asia, Oceania and Africa), Tourism Malaysia, said here on Monday.

In a parallel development, Indian tourist arrivals to Malaysia showed a 32 per cent growth for the January-August 2008 period at 377,011, compared with last year’s arrivals for the same period. Figuring in the top 10 tourism generating markets, India contributed 422,452 visitors to Malaysia in 2007.

Noordin said the tourism board’s marketing initiatives in India were aimed at highlighting beyond Kaula Lumpur, featuring ‘short breaks’ to Langkawi, Penang, Pangkor, Tioman, Sabah and Sarawak.

The approach, tactically positioned with the conventional and new highlights focusing on active tourism indulgences, eco-tourism, driving holidays, soft adventure and island retreats, would be the key component to attract travellers from India, he said.

“Shopping is the main activity, which Indians like to indulge more in, especially electronic goods which are 30 per cent cheaper. The tourism board has been organising three annual ‘Mega Sale’ shopping festivals in Malaysia to woo tourists. The average spend by an Indian tourist to Malaysia on shopping is $130 per day. We expect this to grow to $150 this year,” he added.

Tourism, which is the second largest forex contributor to Malaysia, next to manufacturing, accounted for 46 billion Ringgits ($13.3 billion) last year.

Of this, revenue contribution from India stood at 1.1 billion Ringgits ($ 320 million). Malaysia saw 29.9 million tourists in 2007.

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