India: Travel and Tourism
A review of the market for Travel and Tourism from India to the United States from 2019 to 2021, and a look ahead on recovery from the pandemic.
Indian visitation to the United States grew from 1.12 million in 2015 to 1.5 million in 2019, and in 2018 India broke into the top ten visitation nations list for the first time. Tourism receipts from Indian visitors to the United States reached $16.5 billion in 2019, making India the fifth largest spending market.
Just 335,990 Indians traveled to the U.S. in 2020 (a decrease of 77 percent over the previous year) and 92,710 visited in the first quarter of 2021 (a decrease of 60 percent over the same period in 2020). The ongoing pandemic, the Presidential Proclamation prohibiting travel from India, and the cancellation of flights to the United States, make it difficult to predict visitation figures for the remainder of 2021. Industry sources, however, currently do not expect a return to pre-Covid aviation levels until 2024. The Travel and Tourism sector was hit hard in India itself, with an estimated 38 million people losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
Outlook for Recovery of Travel
Travel and Tourism is particularly sensitive to individual perceptions of safety and security, and Covid-19 has severely impacted the sector in that regard. The industry is slowly working towards its response and recovery mechanism and is seeking assistance in the form of economic relief (e.g., the availability of low interest loans with flexible repayment options) and the easing of travel restrictions. The sector will continue to face ongoing challenges in the form of travel restrictions, testing and vaccination requirements, and quarantines rules.
Despite these challenges, the United States has remained a destination with high travel demand. Indians want to travel to the United States, and due to the severity of the pandemic in their country do not feel endangered in doing so. In 2020, 52 percent of Indians visiting the United States were leisure travelers, demonstrating that the U.S. remains among the top aspirational travel destinations for Indians. Many Indians traveled to the U.S. to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, and travelers are circumventing the Presidential Proclamation by staying in alternate locations (e.g., Mexico) for 14 days. Additionally, the target segment of Indian travelers is expected to be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.
India is one of the few countries where new routes have been launched during the pandemic. Both American and Indian carriers have announced new flights, including:
- United Airlines began its Chicago-Delhi route in December 2020 and will launch its San Francisco to Bengaluru (Bangalore) route in October 2021.
- Air India, India’s national carrier, launched its new San Francisco to Bengaluru and Chicago to Hyderabad routes in January 2021.
- American Airlines is scheduled for its India debut in October 2021, with two new routes: New York’s JFK to New Delhi and Seattle to Bengaluru.
- Vistara Airways, one of India’s domestic airlines, has received approval for operating flights between the U.S. and India, and plans to launch a new flight between Newark and New Delhi beginning in October 2021.
Air connectivity between the two countries is expected to increase in the future based on robust two-way demand, but it may take several years to rebuild flight inventories to pre-Covid levels.
As world economies ease lockdowns and travel restrictions, there is some optimism that travelers who have been at home for many months will begin to travel again. The industry expects domestic and regional tourism to rebound first, setting the pace for increased international tourism.