The Indian tourist influx to the Gulf continues with 1.97 million visitors to Dubai in 2017, reflecting a 20 per cent jump. The increase can be attributed in part to relaxed visa restrictions for Indian passport holders, which is currently under further consideration, including the possibility of extending on-arrival visas to Indians.
Nine million Indian tourists are expected to visit Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries by 2021 according to research conducted by Colliers International. Bahrain is expected to see the biggest increase in Indian tourists, up by more than 19 per cent, and is predicted to benefit most from influx of Indian visitors over the next four years. In Bahrain, Indians are eligible for Visit-e-Visa, eliminating the need to have a physical visa stamped in their passports prior to arrival in the country. Indians have increased their footfall to other Gulf countries such as Kuwait by 17 per cent, Saudi Arabia by 12 per cent, the UAE 11 per cent and Oman 12 percent. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reports suggest the outbound Indian travel market will grow to 50 million by 2021, with a corresponding increase in the average spend per trip by Indian travellers.
There are about 65 million passport holders in India out of a population of around 1.3 billion. Nevertheless, the growth of the global travel industry is being led by Asian travellers and the Middle East region can expect to benefit, with Indian tourist arrivals expected to grow by CAGR of 7-8 per cent.
The Colliers research reveals that Indian outbound travel growth is being catalysed by the middle income households rather than the higher income group as the middle income segment is expected to grow to nearly 20 per cent (58 million) of the total Indian households by 2021, while the higher income group will represent less than 3 per cent (6.5 million).
The reverse flow is also increasing. India is attracting visitors from the GCC, which is a top source market for medical tourism, and is expected to grow as an entire industry, to US$8 billion by 2020 from the US$3.9 billion of 2016.