China’s travel recovery gets more attention, but India’s outbound market is ‘booming’ even faster

The discussion about Asia’s tourism recovery is primarily centered on the return of Chinese travelers.

However, it’s Indian travelers who are looking for trips abroad more frequently than anyone else in the global market. Agoda’s CEO Omri Morgenstern spoke to CNBC Travel.

“The entire thing is booming,” he added. “India outbound [travel] is growing much faster than any other.”

The company’s data revealed that outbound travel search results from most Asia-Pacific countries grew between 30 and 60% from 2019 to 2019, and searches by travelers in India increased by 225%.

“India’s travel industry has recovered strongly on the back of economic growth in the country,” said Lalitya Dhavala, valuations consultant at the travel analytics company Cirium.

“The data shows a strong recovery of both domestic and international traffic as compared to 2019 with … positive growth in scheduled capacity in the next quarter,” said.

Where are they going?

Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia are the top choices for Indian travelers.

From January 2019 until mid-May of this year, flight and hotel searches conducted by Indian travelers to Indonesia were up by 256 percent, 215% for Singapore, and 147% for Thailand, Agoda data showed.

However, searches for Vietnam, a nation long ignored by Indian travelers — increased even more. The Agoda data revealed an increase of 390% over the year 2019.

“Vietnam is within the top five destinations and it was never there in 2019,” Morgenstern stated.

Before 2019, there were no direct flights between India to Vietnam and vice versa, which means connectivity between Vietnam and India is improved, said Vishal Suri, the managing director at SOTC Travel.

“Vietnam is a country that’s not too far from India and still within the ASEAN region. It’s a mere four or five-hour flight from the majority of the country.” Suri said.


Video 02:07:07 Growing percentage of Indian travelers in keeping with the rise of India’s economy: IndiGo

Southeast Asian destinations remain popular for Indian tourists, but Agoda information suggests that the desire to visit East Asian ones has waned, according to Agoda’s Morgenstern said.

Flight and hotel searches for Japan or Taiwan have slowed since 2019, according to the data of Agoda. However, inquiries related to South Korea have risen since before the pandemic.

“Travel to Southeast Asia is completely exploding, but East Asian countries are much more expensive destinations,” Morgenstern said.

However, Morgenstern believes that interest in travel to East Asia to rise soon. He also pointed out two other markets with high prices favored by Indians, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom.

“I don’t see why an Indian customer that would go to Europe won’t have a lot of fun going to Japan or Taiwan.”

More spending power

If it’s a quick vacation in Asia or an extended vacation in Europe, Indians are spending money. And they’re spending huge.

“There’s this notion of the Indian traveler’s economic strength is small. That may be true for domestic travel however, when it comes to travel outbound I believe that they’re at par with Chinese when they travel to other Asian nations,” Agoda’s Morgenstern said.

In the past year, Indian travelers spent about 30% more on lodging during their international travels before the outbreak and 20 percent more than the typical Chinese customer, According to data from Agoda.


In Thailand, Chinese and Indian travelers spend roughly the same amount on hotels, he added.

“Indians like to stay in four- or five-star accommodations, and at branded hotels with names that they are familiar with,” SOTC’s Suri stated. “They are also exploring proper restaurants instead of eating at fast food outlets.”

Cirium’s Dhavala emphasized that the rise of international tourism is restricted to wealthy Indian travelers.

“The rest of the middle-class sector is focused on domestic travel, and low-cost airlines in India are well placed to meet that demand,” she added.


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