Still waiting for that US or Schengen visa, wondering if you’ll get in time for the Christmas-NewYear holidays? How about Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Turkey, Vietnam or Sri Lanka? They are among countries banking on Indian travellers and looking to ease their entry.
According to a McKinsey study released Thursday, globetrotters from India are set to soar, given the relative economic prosperity and a growing propensity for international travel.
“If India follows China’s outbound travel trajectory (which it could, due to similarity in population size and per capita income trajectory), then Indian tourists could make 80 to 90 million trips a year by 2040,” said the report, From India to the world: Unleashing the Potential of India’s Tourists.
Thailand announced this week that Indian travellers would not require a visa between November 10 and May 10.
“We want more travellers to visit Thailand,” Tourism Authority of Thailand told ET in a statement. “In 2022, we received 965,994 Indian tourists. This year from January 1 till October 31 we received 1,302,483 Indian tourists.”
Saudi Arabia, which is heavily promoting itself as a global tourism destination, had 1 million visitors from India this year up to September and is aiming for 2.4 million in 2024 from the country.
“Flights frequency and capacity has been increased by 24% and 19%, respectively, this year compared to last year,” said Alhasan Aldabbagh, president of APAC markets at the Saudi Tourism Authority. “We have opened eight Tasheer offices (visa centres) in India to accelerate the visa process for Indian visitors. Indian passport holders that have UK, US and Schengen visas that have been used at least once will now be able to apply for a Saudi e-visa online.”
Indian Premier League sponsorship is also being used to increase awareness and boost Indian visitors, he added.
Australia has made “significant efforts” to simplify, speed up and streamline the visa application process for Indian travellers, said Nishikant Kashikar, country manager, India and Gulf, Tourism Australia.
Total trip spends of Indian tourists to Australia for the year ended June touched Rs 12,000 crore, an increase of 24% from that in the year ended June 2019, he said.
“With the application process being completely digitised, we have also seen the Department of Home Affairs offering faster processing timelines for high-quality visa lodgements and for well-travelled Indian citizens,” he said. “The absence of biometrics and no physical assessments required have become a huge advantage in this regard.”
Türkiye has solidified its position as a premier destination for weddings and holidays for Indian travelers with convenient direct flights, said the Turkish Tourism Authorities.
“The number of Indian tourists that Türkiye has welcomed in the first nine months of this year is 199,966,” it said in a statement. “We are optimistic about breaking previous records by hosting a substantial number of visitors this year.”
Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved free visas to visitors from India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand as a pilot project till March 31, according to a post on X by foreign affairs minister Ali Sabry.
“In 2023 till September this year, we got one million tourists. Indians comprised 20% of the arrivals. This is a big achievement,” said Jude Marsalin, Sri Lanka Tourism’s Indian market officer. Marsalin said participation in roadshows in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata and at other travel events has helped raise awareness.
“Bookings to Resplendent Ceylon from India have increased significantly over the last five years despite the periodic hiccups with Covid and the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. We have seen a 140% increase in revenue versus the same period last year,” said Malik J Fernando, managing director, Resplendent Ceylon, a collection of boutique Relais & Chateaux resorts.
Starting August 1, Russia started issuing electronic visas (e-visas) to Indian passport holders. As per reports, the move was aimed at helping visitors get travel approval faster for diverse purposes including tourism, business trips and guest visits. Robin Stangroom, chief commercial officer for The Set Collection, a group of luxury hotels in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Beijing, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Mexico said the year-on-year growth for the India market currently sits at 30%.
India recorded an over 140% increase in visa applications last year over 2021, said Prabuddha Sen, chief operating officer, South Asia, at VFS Global.
“With Covid restrictions and thereafter geopolitical sensitivities in some markets, many global destinations want to attract travellers from the country,” he said. “Some destinations such as Indonesia and Azerbaijan rolled out customised e-visa solutions for many nationalities including Indian nationals.”
As per the McKinsey study, in 2019, Kolkata was the only city in India with direct connectivity to Vietnam, and three other Indian cities offered sporadic flights. That’s changed.
“To stand out from South East Asian neighbours and gain popularity with Indian travelers, Vietnam improved direct connectivity from India by increasing flight frequency and adding new routes. Indian arrivals are now at an all-time high,” the study stated.
Indians are travelling like never before, said Rajeev Kale, president and country head for holidays, MICE and visa at Thomas Cook (India). The company has seen a 200% surge in demand for the January-June period this year versus the year earlier.
“A range of attractive destinations have emerged on their radar with the launch of direct flights to Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,” Kale said. He cited new routes and increased connectivity on short-haul routes such as Bhubaneshwar-Singapore, Bangkok-Kolkata, Kochi-Ho Chi Minh City and longer ones such as IndiGo’s new Mumbai-Nairobi and Delhi-Tashkent flights. Daniel D’Souza, president and country head for holidays at SOTC Travel said SOTC has seen a robust growth of 227% for outbound travel between January – June this year versus the same period last year. “This significant growth is emerging not only from India’s metros and mini-metros, but also regional India’s tier two and three cities given rising disposable incomes coupled with the aspirational value of holidays,” he added.
And for that visa to the US? Keep waiting.
“Despite the waiting time of over 500 days for a new US visa, we have over 200 applicants queuing up. Waiting time is about two months for some Schengen visas,” said Vijay Kesavan, founder and CEO of StampThePassport. “The easing of requirements by some countries in Asia should nudge a few more in the region and in Eastern Europe to actually capitalise on this opportunity.”