Gulf can benefit from $42bn India outbound tourism
With up to 27 million outbound trips – valued at $42 billion – expected to be made by 2024, India is poised to become one of the largest and most lucrative outbound tourism markets in the world. To what extent could Indian demand benefit GCC tourism? In my opinion, there are six reasons this market represents a golden opportunity for our region.
Proximity: The Gulf is considered a short-haul destination by many Indians. Mumbai – India’s commercial hub with a population of over 17 million – is only a three-hour flight from Dubai, and even less to Muscat. This makes the GCC attractive for both leisure and tourism.
Young and growing population: Gen Z and millennials love to travel. In 2021 over half of India’s population (700 million) was under 25. As this demographic’s disposable income grows, the Gulf is likely to feature prominently on lists of target destinations.
“The rising spending power of India’s growing middle class, coupled with opportunities to stay with family and friends already living in the GCC, make trips west even more affordable”
Familiarity: There are about 8.5 million Indian nationals already working in the GCC, nearly 6 million of whom are based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It is the top source market for Dubai, which welcomed 1.4 million Indian visitors in the first 10 months of 2022 – a year-on-year rise of 116 per cent. India also accounted for 8 per cent of visitors to Saudi Arabia in 2021, surpassing Kuwait, the UAE and Egypt.
Economic growth: According to Deloitte, India’s economy is expected to grow by 6.5 per cent-6.9 per cent in 2022/23 and by 5.8 per cent -6.3 per cent in 2023/24. Its trading links with the Gulf are firmly established, with many Indian entrepreneurs having established businesses in Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In fact, India is the UAE’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade turnover totalling $68.4 billion in 2021 and a target to increase this figure to $100 billion before the end of the decade. Naturally, this will mean more business travel.
Infrastructure: The number of direct flights between India and GCC countries is considerable. Emirates alone operates over 170 weekly flights to nine Indian cities, and Gulf Air, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, flydubai and Air Arabia all run regular flights too. Cities like Dubai also benefit from stopovers from passengers en route to other destinations.
Affordability: The short travel time from India means GCC destinations are more reasonably priced than those farther afield. The rising spending power of India’s growing middle class, coupled with opportunities to stay with family and friends already living in the GCC, make trips west even more affordable.
With such huge potential lying across the ocean, it’s only natural that GCC travel and tourism professionals will look to capitalise on demand from India.
The Gulf is fortunate to have such an incredible source market on its doorstep.
* Curtis is Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market