More and more Indians are seeking foreign holidays
Holidaying by itself is not a traditional Indian concept. In fact during summers what one did was to travel to one’s home-town or village, and if one was lucky – made a short trip to a hill station. Indians are moving away from this trend, and taking short breaks during the year is also becoming common. And its not just week end trips to hill stations that are becoming popular, but destinations outside the country. In fact, a report by PATA the Pacific Asia Travel Association, titled ‘Total Tourism India’ says that India is now “the region’s fourth largest source market (for outbound travel) behind China, Japan and Korea…”
And when we Indians travel, we can’t help but shop! Guess how much? A mindboggling sum of 7.5 billion USD in 2006! And every year, Indians are spending 28% more than in the previous year! With incomes going up, people here are traveling and spending like never before.
Where shopping is concerned, its a compulsive thing for many Indians…and not just the women. Men splurge too. This tendency to be extravagant abroad probably started because once not very long ago this country did not offer much choice to shoppers. If one wanted high quality goods, one had to get Japanese, American or Swiss-made stuff. Thats not the case today, but there are still some items that people prefer to buy from abroad…the PATA study shows that Indians tend to shop the most for chocolates, perfumes, fashion accessories and booze. Men go more for booze and cigarettes while women for the rest…
Interesting insights thrown up by the report:
1. Indians tend to take longer trips and often travel in large family groups
2. The majority (67%) of those who go abroad head for Asia and the Middle East, followed by Europe (19%), the Americas (9%), Africa (3%) and Australasia (2%).
3. Indians travel abroad mostly on business-cum-leisure, but those traveling purely for leisure are increasing in number as more and more people rise into a higher income bracket.
4. Although Mumbai and Delhi are tops when it comes to travel ( market share of 33 per cent and 26 per cent respectively of Indian market) Mumbaikars and Delhites do not spend as much as those from West Bengal! That was a surprise because I always thought that Delhites were the spendhrifts. But they spend the least amongst the three groups mentioned above.
5. It isn’t electronic items that Indians make a beeline for. I remember this wasn’t the case with my parents’ generation. The only thing anyone was interested in buying from abroad then was an electronic item – either a camera, food processor, microwave or even a computer game. Now all of this stuff is easily available in India, some of it very good home made stuff and plus you get after sales service next door. In any case there is not too much of a price difference if one buys a Canon digicam here or in Singapore. The only thing you may not get here are discounts that you get at times during Sales abroad .
Domestic tourism has also been growing steadily here, at over 10 per cent per year. Analysts believe that this is not just due to the fact that people are earning more, but also because air travel is becoming affordable due to low cost carriers.
But domestic tourism can grow at a faster rate if hotels in India were not so expensive. We were mulling over where to go this summer and our favoured destination was Kerala. We have heard so much of the natural beauty of Kerala! However when we calculated the cost we found that a holiday in South East Asia was cheaper. This was mainly because we are finicky about cleanliness and in India unless one stays in really good hotels, it isn’t possible to get a clean loo. One can safely stay in a cheap hotel abroad (and this includes countries poorer than India, in Africa) and be assured of a clean loo.
An Indian holiday can get frightfully expensive actually. The shortage of good hotels is compounding the problem. As our economy is growing at a fast pace, business travelers both internal and international, have increased and the hotels have not keeping up with the demand. As this International Herald Tribune report says (Dec 2006 figures):
India offers only 110,000 hotel rooms. China has 10 times more, and the United States 40 times more. The New York metropolitan region alone has about as many rooms as all of India.
We keep hearing stories of executives flying from over 500 kms away, returning the same day, and flying in again the next day because there are no decent hotels available! Well, holiday makers can never compete with business travelers. Its not just domestic holiday makers who are the sufferers, international tourists too have a problem unless they plan their holiday well in advance.