India - Country Commercial Guide
Travel and Tourism

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-09-08


An overview of the tourism sector, whether for India, the United States, or any other country, first requires mention of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its unanticipated impacts on the industry worldwide.  Every sector linked to the travel and tourism industry has been adversely affected, including hospitality, airlines, tour operators, guide services, theme parks, and transportation services.  In India, the number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 percent between March and December 2020 compared to the previous year.  The number of visitors from India to the United States saw a drop of almost 78 percent in the same period.  From 2021 to 2022, international tourism around the world has been on the rise.  According to the UN World Tourism Organization, global international tourist arrivals more than doubled (+130 percent) in January 2022, compared to 2021, recording an increase of 18 million visitors.  There are signs of improvement in tourism flows between India and the United States as well.

The pandemic aside, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation, the outbound tourism market in India has been one of the fastest growing in the world over the past few years, second only to China.  Before the pandemic, the market for travel and tourism in India was expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 7.2 percent between 2016 and 2028.   

As of March 2022, India was ranked 6th in the world for the number of outbound tourists to the United States.  Of the total number of Indian visitors in March 2022, 72 percent were leisure travelers, demonstrating that the United States remains among the top aspirational travel destinations for Indians.

Overall economic growth, the large and increasingly affluent middle class, and the increased availability of air transportation have driven an increase in outbound international travel from India.   Additional interest in niche tourism sectors such as medical, wellness, and adventure tourism has also contributed to this growth.  Increased smartphone and internet penetration have contributed to an increased number of online bookings.  Hurdles still remain as the industry recovers, but there is optimism that travel and tourism numbers will continue to rebound. 

Table: Indian Travel and Tourism Sector ($ billion)







Total domestic travel spending






Total foreign inbound visitor spending







Total outbound spending






Total market size by outbound travelers (millions)






Total travelers to the United States from India (thousands)






Data Sources: World Travel and Tourism Council; The Indian Ministry of Tourism; USDOC National Travel and Tourism Office.

The five fastest growing destinations by volume for Indian outbound travel are the UAE, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Singapore.  The United States is quickly becoming a top destination for Indian travelers.  In 2019, the United States welcomed approximately 1.47 million visitors from India, a new record placing India as the 8th largest source of international arrivals to the United States.  In 2021, India ranked fifth in terms of international visitations to the United States.  Recognizing the immense potential in outbound travel from India, more than 70 National Tourist Organizations from around the world have set up local offices in India and are aggressively marketing their destinations. 

Indian tourist gross spending share in the United States is nearly double the spending of the next leading country, Australia.  In 2019, Indian travelers spent nearly $14 billion in the United States, with shopping being their top activity. Indian travelers spent $7.8 billion in the United States in 2020, as travel (and spending) fell during the pandemic.

In 2020, the United States recorded the largest travel trade surplus of $15.3 billion with China, followed by a surplus of $7.1 billion with India. While in the past many Indians preferred regional outbound travel as their first overseas tourism experience, many more Indian tourists are now considering the United States as their first “aspirational” destination.  With a significant Indian diaspora in the United States there are also increasing family, educational, and commercial reasons for Indians to consider traveling to the United States.

The U.S. Commercial Service team in India has noted an increase in demand among Indian travelers for unique experiences when they visit the United States.  Many travel agents indicate that their clients have already visited the best-known attractions in the United States and now seek new experiences when visiting the country.  These include sports and adventure packages, food and cultural festivals, and niche market activities.  Destinations that have not traditionally drawn large numbers of Indian travelers may find success in catering to the growing number of travelers seeking new experiences.

As the world’s economies recover from the pandemic, there is a rising expectation for international travel to return to normalcy, but it might take time and the growth trend may not be smooth.  Testament to this was the December 2021 and January 2022 timeframe, when signs of recovery were stymied by the Omicron variant and subsequent re-introduction of travel restrictions in several global destinations.

As 2022 progresses, an increasing number of destinations have eased or lifting travel restrictions, which has helped to unleash pent-up demand.  Airlines too are showing optimism, with U.S. carriers United Airlines and American Airlines announcing new flights between the United States and India, similar to Indian carriers like Vistara Airlines. 

In summary, India presents a significant market opportunity for U.S. travel and tourism destinations, and there is much that U.S. destination marketing organizations can do to gain market share and become destination of choice for Indian travelers.  Considering increased competition from tourism promotion organizations around the world, U.S. destinations, attractions, service providers, and tourism marketing organizations should include India in their marketing and outreach strategies.

Leading Subsectors

Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE):  MICE travel, including for corporate groups, is one of the fastest growing segments of the Indian outbound travel market.  Companies in India have realized the benefits of organizing MICE trips, which involve groups of employees attending meetings at desirable foreign destinations.  In addition, with Indian companies expanding their global footprint, business executives traveling overseas are incorporating work with leisure travel by taking their families with them on business trips.

Recognizing the immense potential in MICE travel, the U.S. Commercial Service is prioritizing the promotion of the United States as a top destination.  However, in India there continues to be a perception that MICE travel to the United States is difficult due to visa requirements, travel costs, and the distance versus destinations in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East.  To counter these perceptions, and to stimulate interest in the United States as a top choice for MICE groups, the U.S. Commercial Service, Brand USA, destination representatives, and hotel and airline representatives have made a concerted effort to provide accurate information to Indian travel agents and corporate travel planners.


The U.S. Commercial Service works closely with Brand USA to promote travel and tourism from India to the United States.  Brand USA is actively involved in organizing virtual and in-person events as the sector recovers from the pandemic.  U.S. destinations interested in participating in the programs should contact BrandUSA.

Media outlets across India publish content about U.S. destinations on an ongoing basis, including Conde Nast Traveler, Today’s Traveler, airline magazines, major magazines and newspapers, and online media outlets.  This includes industry-focused content in industry publications, as well as consumer-facing content published by a broad range of media outlets.  The U.S. Commercial Service can provide advice and assistance to U.S. destination representatives, tour operators, and other industry stakeholders on the tourism media ecosphere in India to maximize exposure and facilitate communication with specific publications. 

For more information about opportunities in this sector contact Commercial Assistant Aashima Sachdeva.