The long election season has been proving a dampener in outbound tourism. Industry captains and insiders expect the situation to improve once results are out.
According to an estimate, more than 13 million Indians travel to foreign countries every year, mostly in the summer. Experts had expected outbound tourism to grow 15-20% this year, but the growth has, thus far, been just around 5-6%.
"Most outbound tourism takes place through travel agencies, who take people from different regions for planned trips. But the elections have dampened the situation," said Iqbal Mulla, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), an umbrella organisation of over 2,500 travel agents.
The latest trend among Indians is to go to lesser known destinations like Morocco, Kenya, Zanzibar, Vietnam, Turkey, Greece, etc. This is in addition to traditional destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.
"Preference are changing. People now opt for cheaper, unexplored destinations," adds Mulla.
"The Malaysian Airline tragedy has affected tourism to some extend," said Manzar Hussain, owner of Andheri-based Manzar Travels.
The recent slow but sure recovery in foreign countries and its implied effect on Indian economy is also having an effect on tourism as travellers are planning to spend more. A recent survey by a leading travel portal revealed that travellers were ready to shell out about 27% more, which works out to around US$ 3,746.
"It was about US$ 3,264 last year," said Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India. Around 46% of the respondents in the survey revealed that they were trying to find "off the beaten track" holiday destinations.
"Experimental and unconventional international travel is becoming popular. We continue to receive queries on a variety of experiences such as adventure and sports—from self-drive holidays in New Zealand, safaris in Tanzania to F1 racing in Singapore," said Mohit Gupta, chief business officer, MakeMy Trip, a leading travel portal.
According to Amadeus, a technology partner for global travel industry, there is a huge scope for growth in outbound travel in the coming years. According to its data, in 2012 about 13 million Indians (1% of population) travelled abroad; in contrast, 57.4 million (4%) Chinese went abroad, and 7 million (30%) Australians travelled outside their country.
Elaborating on the huge scope there was there in Indians travelling out in the future, Vikram Malhi, GM, South and Southeast Asia, Expedia, another prominent travel portal said: "India has emerged as the world's fastest-growing outbound market and is second only to China. To fight against the dipping rupee, people are now travelling to South East Asian countries rather than cancelling their international vacation."