What is the Real Reason Behind the Boom in Leisure Travel from the U.S. to India?

What is the Real Reason Behind the Boom in Leisure Travel from the U.S. to India?

India is the leading outbound leisure destination for U.S. travelers during the winter season. Flight booking data from RateGain’s World on Holiday travel insights center discloses that 29% of all outbound flight bookings from the U.S. are destined for India (for travel dates between December 2023 and February 2024). While these figures suggest that India is the favored leisure destination for Americans this winter, it prompts us to question if this assumption holds true. Let’s delve deeper into this data to uncover the factors fueling the higher outbound flight bookings to India this winter.

India is on Top for Outbound Flight Bookings - But There’s a Catch

India dominates year-end outbound travel from the U.S. for all categories of flyers, be it novice, frequent, or top-tier flyers. 30% of all international leisure travel bookings worldwide are for India as the Indian diaspora flies back for winter vacation in India.

RankTop 10 Destination Countries (Based on Flight Bookings)Share of Bookings
1India30%
2Mexico22%
3U.K.8%
4Japan7%
5Philippines6%
6Costa Rica5%
7Colombia5%
8Spain5%
9Dominican Republic5%
10Italy5%

Source: Adara, a RateGain Company

However, India doesn’t show up on the list as a top destination when we look at outbound hotel booking data from the U.S. This may be attributed to many travelers to India not booking hotels in the country, as they are headed home or visiting friends. The same holds for Colombia, Peru and Brazil. Outbound flights from the U.S. to these Latin American countries are booked in high numbers, but hotels are not.

RankTop 10 Destination Countries (Based on Hotel Bookings)Share of Bookings
1Mexico40%
2U.K.9%
3Dominican Republic9%
4France8%
5Canada7%
6Aruba6%
7Japan6%
8Spain6%
9Jamaica5%
10The Bahamas5%

Source: Adara, a RateGain Company

Why does India not appear in the list of top 10 outbound countries based on hotel bookings?

The absence of India from the above list, despite being among the top 10 in flight bookings, can be attributed to distinct travel patterns. Travelers to India often have unique accommodation preferences, such as staying with family or friends. This highlights a hidden trait about these travelers that wasn’t evident when analyzing flight booking data. Most U.S. travelers flying to India are diaspora travelers—native Indians visiting friends and family for a winter vacation. Consequently, they tend to stay with their folks rather than booking hotels.

Let’s validate this observation by examining outbound travel booking data from India.

RankTop 10 Destination Countries (Based on Flight Bookings)Share of Bookings
1USA17%
2UAE16%
3Thailand14%
4Singapore12%
5Australia11%
6Canada9%
7UK8%
8Indonesia5%
9Vietnam4%
10Sri Lanka4%

Source: Adara, a RateGain Company

The U.S. stands as the leading outbound destination for Indian leisure travelers, constituting 17% of all bookings for the winter season. However, when examining hotel booking data, it once again does not appear in the top 10 destinations.

RankTop 10 Destination Countries (Based on Hotel Bookings)Share of Bookings
1UAE27%
2Thailand19%
3Singapore12%
4Maldives10%
5USA8%
6UK7%
7France6%
8Germany4%
9Indonesia4%
10Malaysia4%

Source: Adara, a RateGain Company

What does it mean?

Most travel bookings between the U.S. and India, both for outbound and inbound travel, are primarily made by travelers from India who visit their homeland for vacations with friends and family, returning to their homes in the U.S. once the vacation concludes.

How can traveler businesses use this insight?

A clear understanding of the travel intent can help you make informed decisions. In this case, you may not want to target Indian travelers with hotel offers; instead, you might consider advertising holiday gifts for their families.

World on Holiday aims to provide you with insights that delve deeper than surface-level observations, offering a comprehensive view of your travel market and audience.

About World on Holiday

World on Holiday is an attempt to create a real-time travel-insights center to tell you simply one thing – what travelers are interested in. The insights sourced from hundreds of first-party data sources are based on actual consumer activity and are relevant for anyone who needs a quick way to understand the key macro-trends in any region.

For regular updates on who, why, and how the world is traveling, subscribe to the World on Holiday Insights Center.

About RateGain

RateGain is a global provider of SaaS solutions for travel and hospitality that works with 2800+ customers—including the Top 23 of 30 Hotel Chains, the Top 25 of 30 Online Travel Agents, and all the top car rentals including 8 Global Fortune500 companies—and 700+ partners in 100+ countries helping them accelerate revenue generation through acquisition, retention, and wallet share expansion.

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