Following the global slump caused by the pandemic, the travel and tourism sector in South-east Asia is witnessing an upsurge, driven by an influx of tourists from India, the world’s most populous nation. This arrival of Indian tourists is a much-needed relief for the industry, especially with China’s slower-than-expected reopening.
In order to meet the growing demands of India’s booming middle class and their increased spending capacity, companies across airlines and hospitality sectors are recalibrating their offerings. Notable airlines such as IndiGo and Thai Airways are adapting their services, as the region stands to significantly benefit from India’s burgeoning outbound tourism, according to Brendan Sobie, an aviation industry analyst.
The travel and tourism sector holds significant importance for the economies of several South-east Asian nations, contributing to approximately 12% of the region’s GDP pre-pandemic, and employing over 40 million people, as per data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Historically, the sector was significantly powered by China, but current official data reveals a slow recovery from that front. With Chinese visitors being 60% less in May than in 2019, the increase in Indian tourists presents an opportunity for a much-needed recalibration of the sector’s key players including airlines, hospitality offerings, and tourism operators.
According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), India is likely to mirror China’s growth pattern in outbound tourism over the next decade, albeit constrained by limited airports. However, a steady increase in Indian tourists could eventually turn the narrative in favor of India as the region’s tourism powerhouse in the post-pandemic decade.
Statistics from Thailand, a country for which tourism serves as a critical economic driver, reveal that the number of Indian tourists is only 14% lower than it was in 2019, albeit lesser than the Chinese in absolute numbers. The Tourism Authority of Thailand anticipates a visitation of 1.6 million Indians this year, which implies a healthy recovery.
Interestingly, airlines have started to adjust their operations to cater to this shifting paradigm. For instance, Thai Airways is currently operating 70 flights a week to India, while IndiGo has expressed plans to introduce additional frequencies to South-east Asia, corroborating the fact that the Indian market is playing a crucial role in the tourism sector’s post-pandemic rebound.
The upward trend is not just limited to airlines. Hospitality chains are also seeing a substantial boost from Indian visitors. Minor Hotels, for example, with its 45 properties and over 6,000 rooms across South-east Asia, has listed India as one of its top source markets, prompting intensified marketing efforts across India.
Despite the challenges, this surge in Indian tourists presents a promising prospect for the tourism sector in South-east Asia. For Thailand and other neighboring countries to fully leverage this opportunity, there’s a need to understand and cater to Indian tourists’ preferences in areas like food and entertainment.
As the post-pandemic world sees more Indian tourists choosing South-east Asia over traditional hotspots like Europe and the United States, this shift presents not just a lifeline for the region’s struggling tourism sector but also an exciting new chapter of growth and prosperity.
This article is based on a malaymail.com article.