Three years after the pandemic, the world is opening its borders to tourists and Indians seem to be first in line.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Indians had already broken foreign travel expenditure records in FY 2019-20 by spending $6.96 billion. Tourism constituted almost 3% of India’s GDP and generated around 100 million jobs in 2019. But then, travel took a major halt over the last few years and people got tired of being cooped up in their homes. As countries have started lifting lockdown norms, there’s a new trend emerging globally— ‘revenge travel’. A phenomenon that experts describe as ‘people travelling with a vengeance’, revenge travel includes trips taken to make up for the lost time or treat oneself after a long period of fear and uncertainty.
VFS Global, a visa outsourcing firm revealed that India continues to be one of the top source markets for overseas travel. There’s a continuous wave of revenge travel – despite the almost two-year wait for a visitor visa interview – especially from cities like Delhi and Kolkata, as well as an uptick of student applications abroad. The company is witnessing major demand for visas for Switzerland, UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, student visa applications are more focused on the US, Canada and Eastern Europe. There is also a strong demand for short-haul destinations such as Thailand and Vietnam.
This comes despite an overall increase in travel costs – foreign trips are now costlier than ever, but some don’t care anymore. The meteoric rise in spending on foreign travel by Indians began almost a decade ago, according to India’s central bank records. In FY 2014-15, Indians spent a mere $11 million on foreign travel. That has now gone up by a staggering 104,000 per cent since then.
While travel has gotten costlier, it is now also much easier. With immense e-commerce development, there is an increase in personalised and doorstep services. This makes once-tedious processes like getting a visa much more convenient. There’s also an increase in direct flights, and even though accommodation and other travel necessities have increased costs, some flights, mostly domestic, have actually become cheaper.
The pandemic also generated new trends such as staycations and workcations – combining remote working with vacations. Indians are also more open to travelling within the country now. Some luxury hotels in India dropped their prices at intervals during the pandemic, leading to a spike in bookings and short-term revenues. People are now willing to use the money they would normally reserve for their international vacations on better facilities domestically. In general, travel for Indians now is more than just a temporary getaway. Citizens are open to exploring off-beat destinations and are becoming more adventurous.