India has emerged as the largest source market for outbound travelers in Asia in 2022, surpassing China, South Korea, and Japan. The latest report published at ITB Berlin 2024 indicates an impressive year-on-year rise of 190% for Indian outbound travelers, a sharp recovery from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dubai, the United States, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore remain the top destinations for Indian travelers, with predictions for continued interest in going abroad. As of May 2023, India became the second-largest international source of tourist arrivals in the U.S. Total expenditure by Indian tourists in the U.S. stood at approximately $13 billion in 2022.
According to the State of the Travel Industry fact sheet issued by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), travel accounted for $1.2 trillion in direct spending in 2022, creating an economic footprint of $2.6 trillion. In 2022, travel supported nearly 15 million American workers and directly employed 8 million.
Overall economic growth, the large and increasingly affluent middle class, increasing amounts of disposable income and the increased availability of air transportation have driven an increase in outbound international travel from India. Additional interest in niche tourism sectors such as medical, wellness, and adventure tourism has also contributed to growth. With an increasing number of students choosing the United States as their study destination, direct and indirect destination tourism in the form of student and family travel is a segment that is also expected to see growth.
The USFCS team in India has also noted an increase in demand among Indian travelers for unique experiences when they visit the United States. Many travel agents indicate that their clients have already visited the best-known attractions in the United States and now seek new experiences when visiting the country. These include shopping, sightseeing, national parks, art galleries/museums, fine dining, small towns, and historical locations, adventure, visiting friends and family, shopping, food, and cuisine, and connecting with nature.
Indian Travel and Tourism Sector
|Total domestic travel spending ($ billion)
|Total foreign inbound visitor spending ($ billion)
|Total outbound spending ($ billion)
|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; India Brand Equity Foundation and USDOC National Travel and Tourism Office.
Recognizing the immense potential of outbound travel from India, more than 70 National Tourist Organizations (NTOs) from around the world have set up local offices in India and are aggressively marketing their destinations.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has developed the National Travel and Tourism Strategy which focuses on U.S. government efforts to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and to foster a travel and tourism sector that drives economic growth, creates good jobs, and bolsters conservation and sustainability. The National Travel and Tourism Strategy identifies inbound travel as an economic priority and sets a national goal of welcoming 90 million international visitors by 2027.
Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE): India is poised to become the world’s fastest growing source of MICE tourism, exceeding $45 billion by 2025. It is already the largest source for Dubai and Singapore.
MICE groups are considered high spenders as travel and on-ground arrangements are most often paid for by employers. Such groups mostly use high-end hotels with an average group size consisting of 30-700 pax. Typically, itineraries consist of 2-3 destinations spread across 6-7 days, with outdoor activities, soft adventure activities, gala evenings, and shopping trips.
The most popular destinations in the U.S. for MICE tourism are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Washington DC, Niagara Falls, Miami, and Orlando.
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 MICE travel to the United States is perceived to be difficult due to visa requirements, travel costs, and 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 BrandUSA to promote travel and tourism from India to the United States. The team 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.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates have taken several steps to streamline the visa application process for Indian travelers. Initiatives such as the Interview Waiver Program and the Global Entry Program have been implemented to facilitate smoother travel for eligible individuals. In addition, there are currently over 3 million Indians who have a valid 10-year U.S. visa and constitute a major share of repeat travelers.
Media outlets across India publish content about U.S. destinations on an ongoing basis. Airline magazines, travel magazines and newspapers, and online media outlets include industry-focused as well as consumer-facing content in their publications.
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.
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 the 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.
For more information about current travel trends in India, please visit Travel and Tourism Market Intelligence Report: India and contact U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Commercial Specialist Ruma Chatterjee.