The new Indian wayfarer: young, digital, globetrotting

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India remains a favourite of global travellers for its natural beauty and impressive architecture. So how do we explain the recent trend of Indian vacationers going to faraway continents like Europe and North America this winter? MakeMyTrip, India’s largest online travel company, shares insights about this in a report analysing the booking data collected by its platform in 2017.

According to Mohit Gupta, MakeMyTrip chief operating officer, the report proves that mobile is winning over desktop as the preferred digital booking method, accounting for 59% of all transactions. The rise in smartphone penetration and availability of cheaper data have made the transition to online booking easier despite the sluggish economy, investment slowdown and low employment rate.

At least 40% of Indian vacationers have booked their trips at least 30 to 59 days ahead. Majority of them are aged 35 and younger. Men account for most of these bookings. In terms of location, many of them hail from India’s ‘Silicon Valley’ cities – Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. What’s more, 39% more Indians are travelling during the ChristmasNew Year holiday of 2017-2018 than previous, with more getaways booked on Christmas weekend than New Year weekend.

Bhuj, India (via Pixabay)

The MakeMyTrip report goes on to say that more Indians prefer international (60% growth from last year) over local (37%) destinations. The globetrotters are split between beach countries like Thailand and Malaysia, and snow-capped nations like the US, Canada, France and Russia. These findings align with the International Air Transport Association’s forecast that India will become the third largest aviation market by 2025. They also disregard the fact that global travel costs four times more than domestic tourist spend.

That isn’t to say, however, that local destinations have lost their appeal. MakeMyTrip’s report shares that Thekaddy in Kerala, Bhuj in Gujarat (shown), and Diu are the fastest growing domestic destinations, while Goa, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Manali remain popular. This supports data from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation showing that domestic airlines carried 1.06 billion passengers from January through November 2017, an increase of 17% from the same period last year.

Helsinki, Finland (via Pixabay)
Helsinki, Finland (via Pixabay)

Interestingly, 25% of Indian travellers prefer hotels with four to five stars, but more of them have grown open to renting service apartments, villas and guesthouses. The ‘staycation,’ holidays where tourists relax, shop, or party in nearby cities, is also on the rise. Vacationers are keen to experience a slice of local life, beyond simply visiting standard tourist spots, during their getaways. This can be seen in the fastest growing destinations: Helsinki and Florence in the world, and Kumarakom, Chikmagalur and Malvan closer to home.

‘We notice a certain maturing of Indian travellers,’ says Gupta. ‘People are seeking more from their trips, looking beyond doing typical touristy things. Social media, its sharing culture and badge value (of destinations) are playing a very critical role in shaping travellers’ choices.’

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