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More Indians are traveling internationally than before

In the first three months of 2024, 97 million passengers traveled through Indian airports, a number that took an entire year to reach a decade ago

More Indians are traveling internationally than before
[Source photo: Shireen Khan/Press Insider]

More Indians are traveling internationally than ever before thanks to a burgeoning middle class, additional route capacity, and a strong desire to travel, a report said. 

In the first three months of 2024, 97 million passengers traveled through Indian airports. Just 10 years ago, the same figure would have taken a whole year to achieve, the Mastercard Economics Institute’s fifth annual report, titled “Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries,” said.

The report suggested that India’s expanding middle class is driving the travel boom as the country has already seen 97 million travelers passing through Indian airports in just the first three months of 2024.

The country’s growing affluence, with a projected 20 million new middle-class individuals and nearly 2 million high-income earners in the next five years, will create a prime market for travel experiences, according to the report.

This trend was evident in air travel data as domestic flights led the way with traffic increasing by 21%, compared to pre-pandemic levels. International travel also showed growth with an increase of 4%, as of March 2024. 

Outbound travel, particularly for luxury experiences, was a major driver of this growth. Indians increased their travel spend, reflecting their rising disposable incomes.

Despite a strong US dollar, Indian arrivals in the US were up by 59% compared to 2019, a much higher number than the overall visitor recovery rate to the US, which remained 6% below pre-pandemic levels.  

Japan was another travel hotspot, as Indian arrivals surged 53% above 2019. Just this year, roughly 50,000 Indians have already visited Japan, a number that would have taken an entire year to reach just a decade ago.

The most dramatic increase came from Vietnam, with a 248% growth in Indian travelers compared to March 2019.

Travel resurged unevenly across India, with Chennai leading the recovery. As of March 2024, Chennai became the first major city to surpass pre-pandemic passenger levels. 

Meanwhile, Bangalore’s domestic traffic has been consistently strong for a year, likely fueled by office reopenings and service sector workers.

The report predicted that India’s travel sector was poised for a broader democratization and a more inclusive travel industry, driven by the expanding middle class and increasing flight options.

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