India’s travel and tourism sector is steering towards a robust recovery. According to Former Secretary of Tourism, Arvind Singh, despite the pandemic’s widespread impact, India’s travel and tourism sector has showcased resilience and is contributing significantly to the country’s economy and employment landscape.
Highlighting India’s remarkable trajectory within the global travel and tourism industry during the 2nd edition of ET Travel & Tourism Conclave & Awards, Singh shared that the sector is expected to contribute INR 16.5 trillion to the economy in 2023, just 3.5 per cent below the pre-pandemic 2019 levels. “This resurgence is set to generate 1.6 million jobs, nearly restoring the workforce to its previous bandwidth. Such growth is expected to mean that approximately one in 13 workers in India will be part of the travel and tourism sector,” he added, citing the recent report.
This, he indicated, will contribute INR 36.8 trillion to the GDP by 2033, employing over 58.2 million workers, equating to one in 10 in the sector.
Within the India market, domestic tourism took the lead in 2022 marking 1.96 billion trips. “Spending on transportation takes precedence in domestic travel, with accessibility being a key factor in shaping the quality of travel choices. The influence of recommendations from friends and family holds significant weight, underscoring the crucial role of positive destination reputations,” he underlined the trends.
Besides this significant increase, a surge in foreign tourists arriving in India during January to June, marked a 106 per cent increase from the previous year, reiterated Singh.
Also, outbound trips, especially to newer destinations in the Middle East saw a surge too. The trips to newer destinations will continue fuelled by the expanding middle class desire to explore diverse destinations, Singh added.
Both domestic and outbound tourism expenditures also grew in India in 2022, pointed Singh, with transportation dominating domestic travel spending and recommendations from friends and family playing a crucial role in destination choices.
Additionally, India’s hosting of the G20 Presidency worked as a catalyst for the sector, continued Singh. “Events like these have not only showcased the country’s robust convention facilities but also its capacity and accommodations with requisite facilities. The successful hosting demonstrated India’s potential to host international events on a large scale, underlining its strength and capability in the tourism sector, especially MICE,” he added.
Under the umbrella of the G20 presidency in India, the Ministry of Tourism hosted four G20 Tourism Working Group Meetings in different Indian states. Overall, there were about 200 meetings held across 60 locations nationwide throughout the presidency year.
“Going forward, the growth of both India’s outbound and inbound markets is expected to play a pivotal role in driving future advancements across the Asia Pacific region in the coming months,” Singh stressed.
Global tourism GDP to grow by 23.3 %; APAC to see full recovery of lost tourism jobs by 2024
Moving beyond India’s success story, Singh, while presenting a holistic industry review, outlined the broader global trends in the travel and tourism industry post-pandemic.
“The global travel industry took a substantial hit during the pandemic, with Travel and Tourism contributing 10.4 per cent to global GDP and supporting 334 million jobs before the crisis. Despite challenges, the sector experienced a 22 per cent growth in 2021, valued at USD 7.7 trillion, albeit remaining 23 per cent below the 2019 peak. Recovery was strongest in Latin America, North America, and Europe, nearing pre-pandemic levels by 2021,” he shared.
Projections for 2023 are optimistic, he said, citing The World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts anticipating a 23.3 per cent growth in the Travel and Tourism GDP, nearing USD 9.5 trillion, trailing only 5 per cent behind the 2019 peak. “China‘s reopening is expected to contribute to this growth, with Latin and North America seeing full recovery. Challenges such as conflicts, economic uncertainties, labour shortages, and the climate crisis call for enhanced capacity and joint action within the sector,” he suggested.
Shifting focus to the Asia Pacific, Singh shared that the region faced a 50 per cent decline in 2022 compared to the 2019 peak, largely due to challenges in China and Japan. However, a forecast of a 16 per cent recovery is expected by the end of 2023, reaching over USD 2.6 trillion. Despite employing 155 million people, a shortfall was observed, but a full recovery of lost jobs is anticipated by the end of 2024. Recovery rates vary across countries, with South Asia experiencing only a 5 per cent decline in Q4, driven by restored international seat capacity, particularly in India, said Singh.
“Despite positive trends, challenges in air connectivity persist in the Asia Pacific due to reduced flight frequency and increased airfares, impacting travel affordability and duration, limiting inbound tourists. However, the region is witnessing a recovery, marked by the gradual return of Chinese travellers,” he added.
Singh further laid emphasis on continued collaboration, responsible practices, and infrastructure development as the key imperatives needed for sustained growth and enhancement globally.
Trends & Challenges
“Amidst the ongoing transformation phase in tourism, there’s a collective endeavour to rebuild, reboot, and reconsider the industry’s landscape. This has led to various significant trends emerging globally post-pandemic,” Singh said.
The surge in last-minute bookings has led to increased impulse travel, necessitating dynamic pricing policies. Additionally, the prevalence of online agencies and algorithm usage underscores the need for flexible cancellation policies.
Another emerging trend is multi-generational travel, where families seek personalised activities. This, said Singh, calls for specific accommodation facilities to meet these demands. “The rise of solo travellers, staycations, workations, and digital nomads blending work and leisure is also reshaping infrastructure needs. This includes the high-speed internet and flexible check-in/check-out options,” he added.
Singh pointed out that over-tourism too stands out prominently among the key challenges, evident in certain regions and cities overburdened with the tourist rush. This has prompted a shift towards exploring less crowded destinations during off-peak times, requiring crucial education for responsible tourism behaviours.
Also, the challenges concerning short-term rentals have surfaced in specific cities, intensifying the rivalry between hotels and rental apartments. “Regulatory efforts are needed here to ensure fair operations in this evolving landscape,” he added.
Amidst these, sustainability remains a pressing concern too. Singh shared that focus on collective emphasis on sustainable experiences, avoiding deceptive travel practices, and pursuing relevant responsible tourism certifications will help pave a long way for the sector. Education and collaborative efforts are deemed crucial to ensure a harmonious balance between tourism, the environment, local communities, and the economy, Singh said.