The Indian tourist market is a sleeping giant for Greece

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In the coming years, India will emerge as one of the fastest-growing outbound tourism markets in the world, according to estimates from experts in the travel and tourism sector. Greece's approach to the Indian market in recent years paves the way for obtaining benefits in tourism as well, although there are still no tangible results.

In the recent meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, the prospects for strengthening the tourism relations between the two countries were discussed, among other things. The direct air connection between Greece and India will play an important role in this direction.

Indicative of India's economic growth in the coming years is a non-profit research centre and think tank, People Research on India's Consumer Economy, finding that by 2047, the country's middle class will consist of more than one billion people. Also, the top income segment, the wealthy, will jump to an estimated 437 million.

It should be noted that India's outbound travel sector has already seen significant growth in recent years. The number of Indian travellers heading abroad reached about 27 million in 2019, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9% during 2011-19.

According to Mr Mandeep S. Lamba, South Asia President of HVS, a global consultancy exclusively focused on the hospitality industry, although the pandemic has temporarily dampened international travel, there has been a gradual resurgence.

In 2022, more than 21 million Indians resumed international journeys, with the top 5 destinations being the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, Singapore and Thailand.

In particular, a recent report highlights that India emerged as Asia's largest source market for outbound tourism in 2022, showing an impressive 190% year-on-year growth. After nearly three years of limited cross-border travel, Indians are again travelling to explore the world, reflecting a trend similar to the pent-up demand that fueled domestic tourism over the past two years.

The massive growth in outbound travel

India's outbound travel market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of over 11% to exceed $44 billion. Dollars by 2032, according to a recent industry report.

According to Mr Lamba, this increased demand for outbound travel reflects the evolving aspirations and improving the affordability of India's growing middle class and youth population, increasingly seeking international travel experiences.

Indian passport holders now enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 57 countries, pushing the Indian passport up seven places to 80th in the Henley Passport Index. Moreover, with India recently claiming the title of the most populous country in the world,

How governments around the globe attract Indian travellers

Toward this end, as Mr Lamba points out, countries worldwide are trying to attract Indian travellers by launching targeted marketing campaigns that showcase their unique attractions, with some even partnering with Indian celebrities or influencers. Abu Dhabi Tourism, for example, has roped in Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh as a destination ambassador.

Meanwhile, Germany, which welcomed more than 600,000 overnight stays from Indian travellers in 2022, is investing around half a million euros in marketing efforts to regain pre-pandemic levels of 1 million overnight stays from Indian tourists by the end of this year.

The German Embassy is also working to simplify the visa application process and reduce visa processing time. Similarly, Italy is working to reduce Schengen visa waiting time for Indians, and the country has issued almost 38% more visas to Indians in the first seven months of 2023 compared to 2022.

China has temporarily relaxed visa regulations for Indians, and Thailand is planning similar measures. Meanwhile, Germany, the US and the UK, among others, are working to ease work visa norms for Indian citizens.

Improving aviation infrastructure supports outbound tourism

Improving airport infrastructure in India is also fueling the outbound growth trajectory. As Mr Lamba points out, several domestic and international airlines are increasing the number of flights from international destinations to key cities in India.

Direct flights are also being added on various routes, including Delhi to Minsk, Belarus, Kochi in Kerala, and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Egypt Airlines, for example, launched direct flights from Delhi to Cairo to capitalise on transit traffic from Delhi to Europe, Africa and North America.

Domestic airlines such as Air India, Vistara and IndiGo are also launching new direct international flights from the country. IndiGo plans to launch 174 new international flights this year. This strategy aims to attract more Indian travellers,

Additionally, many destinations, airlines and cruise lines have introduced enticing offers to attract the price-sensitive Indian traveller. For example, Saudi Arabia has introduced a free 96-hour stopover visa with a free one-day hotel stay for travellers using SAUDIA airline.

In contrast, Singapore Airlines Scoot offers a 50% discount for children.

These offers comments Mr Lamba, coupled with the fact that countries such as Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Singapore and France accept payments with India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI), allowing Indians to pay in rupees during their journey, making outbound travel even more lucrative for Indians.

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