Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

More Indians are travelling internationally than before: Report

There has been a rise of Indian passenger arrivals by 53 percent in Japan, and 59 percent in the US compared to 2019, according to Mastercard Economics Institute's latest travel report

Anubhuti Matta
Published: May 16, 2024 03:29:21 PM IST
Updated: May 16, 2024 10:29:56 AM IST

More Indians are travelling internationally than before: ReportThe trending destination for 2024 is Munich, Germany, owing to the European Championship. Image: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

“The India travel story will only become a bigger and bigger one over the next few years and beyond,” said David Mann, chief economist-Asia Pacific, Mastercard, at the launch of its fifth annual travel report.

Titled ‘Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries’ and compiled by the Mastercard Economics Institute (MEI), the report states that more Indians are travelling, especially internationally, than at any time in history.

As of March, domestic travel surged by 21 percent compared to 2019, while international travel experienced a 4 percent increase, according to the report.

The report takes a deep-dive into key tourism trends for 2024 across 74 markets, including 13 in the Asia-Pacific region drawing on the analysis of aggregated and anonymised Mastercard transaction data and third-party data sources.

Travel patterns in India

Fuelled by a growing middle class and expanded route capacity, in the first three months of 2024, 97 million passengers travelled through Indian airports. According to the report, about a decade ago, the same figure would have taken a whole year to achieve.

It also states that a growing number of Indian travellers with improving incomes bodes well for the travel industry. The country is likely to add more than 20 million middle class people (earning more than Rs12 lakh annually) and nearly two million high-income people (earning more than Rs66 lakh annually) in the next five years.

The expanding affluent customer base, travelling to seek luxury experiences, also means that the outbound Indian travel segment has shown exceptional growth.

Notably, there has been a rise of Indian passenger arrivals by 53 percent in Japan, 248 percent in Vietnam and 59 percent in the US compared to 2019, despite a stronger US dollar.

Also read: Sky high: Despite hurdles, the travel and hospitality industry soars in 2023

By comparison, the aggregate recovery of all overseas visitors into the US is still 6 percent below 2019 in the same period.

According to the report, Amsterdam, followed by Singapore, London, Frankfurt and Melbourne are the top five trending destinations that Indian travellers are visiting this summer (June-August).

“Over time, the Mastercard Economics Institute expects the travel industry to become increasingly democratised in India, driven by a growing middle class and favourable supply dynamics with more routes coming online monthly,” said Mann. “Between April and June, about 24 routes have either resumed or launched,” he added.

Around the world

The top trending destination for 2024 is Munich, Germany, because of the European Championship.

Japan was the destination people travelled to the most in the past 12 months, ending March.

Notably, four out of the top five markets are European destinations and 50 percent of the top 10 markets are Asia-Pacific destinations. Here’s a list of places where tourists have been travelling to in the past year:

  • Japan
  • Ireland
  • Romania
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Malaysia
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Indonesia
Cruises are also making a strong comeback with the count of global cruise passenger transactions roughly 16 percent above 2019 levels in the first quarter of 2024.

“Given persistent price increases in the hotel industry, the price difference between cruises and hotels has widened, making trips by cruise a relatively more budget-friendly option in many cases,” states the report.

Travellers are also enjoying longer trips—by about an extra day, translating to an extra boost for destinations and support for local economies. This is largely driven by the affordability of the destination and climate.

According to the report, for the 12 months between March 2019 and February 2020, a trip's average length of stay was about four days. As of March 2024, the length of a leisure trip globally is close to five days.

Spending while travelling

Travellers continue to prioritise experiential holidays and memorable events such as the solar eclipse, Taylor Swift’s shows, the carnival in Brazil, and the cricket World Cup.  

During the US solar eclipse in April, hotel sales experienced a 71 percent boost over normal business, the report noted.

Restaurant sales within 2.5 miles of the Taylor Swift concerts in 2023 gained 68 percent more business.

Also read: A home in London, a home in New York: Indian luxury real estate heats up to lure billionaires back

The report also reveals that tourists have spent less on retail shopping and more on nightlife, totalling 12 percent of tourism sales—the highest in at least five years.

“For tourism authorities, retailers, the hospitality and F&B sectors, the bottom line is that costs matter,” says Mann. “In today’s economy, foreign exchange rates and spending power have become vital components in driving a traveller’s assessment of value when they are making their plans. This suggests that businesses targeting tourism dollars need to review their current strategies, and shift them, if necessary, to maintain their appeal to travellers,” he adds.