Indian tourists in the ancient town of Hoi An.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), before the Covid-19 outbreak, India ranked 16th in the number of tourists to Vietnam and third in the average growth rate of tourists, with 27% per year, behind Thailand (46 percent) and Taiwan (29.8 percent).

Indian travelers had long stays and spent a high level of money. According to a VNAT survey in 2017, the average stay of Indian tourists was 10.6 days and  average spending $1,197 USD per person, higher than the average spending of Asian visitors to Vietnam, which was $996 USD per person.

The most popular destinations for Indian tourists were Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Ha Long, Hue, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc.

After the pandemic, thanks to Vietnam’s open-door policy, the Indian tourism market has recovered quickly. VNAT Director General Nguyen Trung Khanh said the number of Indian tourists searching for travel information has increased sharply. India is one of the 10 countries with the largest search for Vietnamese tourism information this year.

The number of Indian visitors applying for a visa to Vietnam has increased to 6,000 visas per day, said Vietnamese Ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau. Many Indians want to learn about organizing weddings and conferences in Vietnam.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Indians spent $22.9 billion traveling abroad in 2019 and the figure was estimated to reach $42 billion by 2024, $45 billion by 2025 and about $91 billion by 2030.

Notably, the majority of Indian tourists choose to travel in Southeast Asia, while only 10% choose Oceania and 20% Europe.

Among Southeast Asian countries, Thailand and Singapore attract the largest numbers of visitors from India. In 2019, Thailand welcomed 1.9 million Indian visitors, Singapore 1.4 million, Malaysia 735,000 and Indonesia 537,000, while Vietnam received only 169,000 Indian tourists.

Southeast Asian countries are competing to lure Indian tourists. The number of Indian visitors ranked second in Singapore, with 378,500 Indian travelers out of 2.96 million arrivals in Singapore by the end of August 2022. Singapore positions itself as a classy, ​​exciting destination for Indian tourists.

For Thailand, out of 4.2 million international visitors in the country in the first eight months of 2022, Indian visitors accounted for about 10%, ranking second. Thai destinations, hotels and restaurants, instead of serving Chinese or Russian tourists, are now geared towards Indian guests. 

For the end of the year, Thailand has focused on attracting Indian tourists to beaches such as Pattaya, Hua Hin and Phuket for weddings, with bookings skyrocketing from November 2022 to February 2023.

According to VNAT, in the first nine months of 2022, the total number of Indian visitors to Vietnam was about 61,300, far below 115,700 arrivals in the same period of 2019. This is modest compared to the potential of this huge market.

India is the second most populous country in the world. This is an important source of visitors for Vietnam, replacing the number of tourists from China, Russia and Japan. In 2019, the Indian market generated 26.3 million international trips. The tourism industry needs to remove bottlenecks and develop a strategy to effectively exploit this market.

Super-rich guests

India's overseas wedding market is estimated to reach more than $600 million, growing at a rate of 25-30% annually. 

According to an August 2022 macroeconomic report of HSBC Vietnam, VNAT aims to reach 5 million tourists this year and is targeting new markets such as India and the Middle East.

Realizing the untapped potential of India, Vietnam’s popular destinations such as Da Nang, Khanh Hoa, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have organized events, seminars and tourism promotions, and have opened direct flights to India. 

In early August, after the Da Nang Department of Tourism organized a program to introduce local tourism in New Delhi, India, in mid-August a group of more than 34 Indian travel companies visited Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Khanh Hoa to promote two-way tourism.

Three air carriers of Vietnam and India - Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet and Indigo - are offering dozens of air routes connecting cities of Vietnam and India, with 21 direct air routes and over 60 flights per week between Vietnam and India.

However, to explore the Indian market, challenges must be solved by the Vietnamese tourism industry and travel agencies. India, with more than 1.4 billion people, has a middle class of up to 200-300 million, who have demand for shopping and traveling. They often travel in groups. However, Indian tourists also pay attention to cultural and religious issues.

India's overseas wedding market is estimated to reach more than $600 million, growing at a rate of 25-30% annually. India's super-rich are willing to spend a lot on luxury and luxury services. For example, an Indian billionaire organized a wedding ceremony for his son at a 5-star resort on Phu Quoc Island.

However, Vietnam has only attracted a few billion-dollar weddings.

Officials of the Department of Tourism in Ho Chi Minh City said that it is necessary to have a long-term investment plan - for example, restaurants serving Indian cuisine and high-quality Halal standard cuisine. 

To serve wealthy Indian guests in Vietnam for weddings, a famous 5-star resort in the central city of Da Nang recently invested in a 1,500-room hotel project, with an Indian kitchen space. Some resorts in Khanh Hoa Province and Phu Quoc Island have designed specific products for Indian guests.

According to experts, the most important thing is VNAT’s leading role to form a community to serve Indian guests, including service providers and travel agencies specializing in this market. 

It is necessary to set common criteria because Indian customers attach great importance to price.

Besides strengthening tourism promotion in the Indian market at the national level, localities and businesses should study this market to develop services suited to the tastes of Indian guests, especially Indian restaurants or entertainment and shopping sites.

Ha Yen