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: 2019-10-13

India is now one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets in the world, second only to China. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020.  Despite the slowdown due to rupee fluctuations, the Indian outbound numbers have been growing at an average annual growth rate of 10-12 percent over the last seven years.   The market for travel and tourism in India is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 7.23 percent during 2016-2021.  

A growing, consumption-driven economy, a large and increasingly affluent middle class, and the ongoing liberalization of air transportation have contributed significantly to this growth in international outbound travel.   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 also contributed to an increased number of online bookings. 

Indian spending outside the country while traveling abroad has doubled in the past 10 years, from $7.5 billion in 2005 to nearly $16 billion in 2015.  The figures below illustrate the recent growth in this sector.

Units: $ billions (for spending categories)201






2019 (Est.)           

Total domestic travel spending






Total foreign inbound visitor spending






Total outbound spending






Total Market Size

(Outbound travelers in millions )






Total travelers to the United States from India in thousands






World Travel and Tourism Council Data Gateway:
The Indian Ministry of Tourism:
The National Travel and Tourism Office:

Recognizing this immense potential in 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.  For volume growth, the top five destinations are Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kuwait, United States and Singapore.  Australia and France are good examples of destinations that are succeeding in their promotional efforts.  For France, a key strategy has been the launch of the campaign “France Celebrates India,” which offers Indian travelers an array of travel services.  It is not surprising that even destinations like South Africa and Dubai have stepped up their efforts to boost Indian outbound numbers to their respective countries.

The United States is quickly becoming a top destination for Indian travelers. In 2018, the United States welcomed approximately 1.4 million visitors from India, a new record.  India has moved up on the list and is now one of the top 10 countries sending travelers to the United States.  Preliminary 2017-2018 Indian visitor data has shown year-over-year growth of 8.5 percent.

Regarding receipts, the United States is ahead of its rivals, receiving more than a 36 percent share of total Indian outbound tourist spending.  For perspective, Indian tourists’ gross spending share in the United States is nearly 1.5 percent times more than its closest rival, Australia, which is followed by Singapore, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom.  In 2018, Indian travelers spent nearly $15.8 billion in the United States, an increase of 7.5 percent from 2017, with shopping being their top activity.

While in the past many Indians have preferred regional outbound travel as their first overseas tourism experience, many are considering the United States as their first “aspirational” destinations to visit.  With a significant Indian diaspora in the United States, there are increasing familial, educational, and commercial reasons for Indians to consider traveling to the United States.

Additionally, Commercial Service (CS) India has noticed 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 are now desiring to experience new U.S. attractions.  These could include sports or adventure packages, food/cultural festivals, and more 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.

In summary, India provides a large opportunity for U.S. destinations, and there is much more that can be done to gain market share and become the destination of choice for Indian travelers.  Considering increased competition from tourism promotion organizations, CS India highly recommends that U.S. destinations and attractions, as well as Convention Visitors Bureaus and service providers, include India in their marketing and outreach strategies.

Leading Sub-Sectors
MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), including small intimate corporate groups, is one of the fastest growing segments of Indian outbound travel.  Companies in India are realizing the benefits reaped by their businesses from organizing MICE trips, which involve large or small groups of employees from their companies or industry meetings at desirable foreign destinations.  These MICE trips can include conferences, trade exhibitions, focused business meetings, or recreation.  In addition, with Indian corporates expanding their global footprint, business executives traveling overseas are incorporating work with pleasure by taking their families with them on business trips.

Recognizing this immense potential in MICE, Mission India promotes the United States as a top MICE destination.  However, there continue to be misperceptions among Indian corporations that MICE travel to the United States is not feasible due to concerns about visa, costs, and distance.  To counter these perceptions, and to stimulate the selection of the United States as their top choice for MICE groups, Mission India, the Visit USA Committee (VUSACOM), Brand USA, destination representatives, as well as hotel and airline representatives have made a concerted effort to provide accurate information to Indian travel agents and corporate travel planners about the options that are available to them as they make their MICE travel plans. 

The Brand USA Mission to India is planned for September 22-27, 2019, to several Indian cities. U.S. destinations interested in participating in the Mission should contact Brand USA at

SATTE (South Asia Travel and Tourism Expo) is India’s largest travel trade event, scheduled for January 8 - 10, 2020, in Greater Noida, Delhi (NCR). This show draws hundreds of travel agents and is a good venue for U.S. participants to reach out to a quality target audience. Additional information can be found at:

ITB Berlin and ITB Asia have typically drawn many key stakeholders in the Indian travel and trade sector.  Additional information can be found at and

Publicity: Conde Nast Traveler, Today’s Traveler, airline magazines, m&it India, and other Indian travel/trade-oriented publications often highlight the United States as a top destination and have shown a strong willingness to publish articles about the United States.  BrandUSA in India coordinates the content and placement of those pieces, and CS India is willing to facilitate communication with specific publications. 

For more information about opportunities in this sector contact U.S. Commercial Service Industry Specialist: Shibu Mathews at .

Web Resources
U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, National Travel and Tourism Office
Brand USA
Visit USA Committee–India Chapter  
Travel Agents Association of India
Outbound Tour Operators Association of India
Travel Agents Federation of India
The World Travel and Tourism Council
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTO) 
The Indian Ministry of Tourism