How Indian 'millennial' travellers are driving new trends by shunning sightseeing & fixed itineraries
It’s with an eye on this segment — the millennial independent professionals — that Tourism New Zealand zeroed in on Bollywood star Sidharth Malhotra as its new brand ambassador.
“One thing leads to another and soon I’m booking my tickets for holidays in different places around the world and sometimes in India,” says Advani, a graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York.
Advani, 32, finds herself going on a vacation at least once every six months, for experiences that range from the gastronomical to the adrenaline-filled. “I love food experiences when I travel to different countries; I like to dig into their local cuisine, often times being quite experimental about everything from fish and chips to scorpions, snakes and crocodiles,” she ventures.
Wandering FreeAdvani, who travels either solo or with a good friend, adds that she likes “visiting markets and interacting with locals at their haunts. I try not to have strict schedules and like being spontaneous, exploring the city with no concrete plans and leave my map behind,” she says.
“There have been times people have opened their homes and hosted me for a meal and gone an extra mile to ensure my wellbeing. I have made a lot of friends with fellow travellers who have visited me later at home,” she says.
Advani’s touring pattern typifies that of the millennial traveller (those in the 18-34 age bracket): the itineraries aren’t chalked in stone, the destinations are not the conventional — think Ikaria in Greece and Trieste in Italy — the resting places are more bed and breakfast inns than luxury hotels, and often the journey is more important than the destination.
Like Advani, Romita Mitra, who recently moved to Boston for higher education after quitting her job as a consultant in Delhi, too likes to mingle with the local people and pick up tips from other travellers. “I love to go on holidays with my cousins and sister. “It’s good fun and we’re all around the same age and know each other’s habits and lifestyles,” she says.
“The millennials in India are among the most important target segment for Tourism New Zealand. We categorise them as the ‘independent professionals’ to whom we highlight our adventure offerings. This group of visitors usually explores various adventure activities and experiences unique offerings such as bungy jumping, skydiving, self-drive tours, skywalk, camping and biking. Solo travel is a trend that is catching up in this segment and visitors are becoming more experiential and often looking to explore regions as opposed to sightseeing,” says Steven Dixon, regional manager, south and south east Asia, Tourism New Zealand.
It’s with an eye on this segment — the millennial independent professionals — that Tourism New Zealand zeroed in on Bollywood star Sidharth
Malhotra as its new brand ambassador. “This group has moved from only sight-seeing and fixed itineraries to experiential travel and flexible itinerary-based trips. With the announcement of Sidharth Malhotra as ambassador we have reached out to a wider audience and highlighted our best offerings in adventure including skydiving, jet boating, diving and skywalking,” adds Dixon.
Different regions of the country focus on special offerings while also giving a taste of the New Zealand lifestyle as a whole. “From adventure activities in Queenstown to Maori experiences in Northland, from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit encounters in Hamilton-Waikato to the scenic beauty in Milford Sound, New Zealand has a different experience to offer for Indian Millennial travellers,” Dixon points out.
Malhotra, a model turned Bollywood star, was scouting around for a holiday destination with plenty of adventure sports options a few months back when he found New Zealand as an ideal destination. “I wanted to go to someplace where I could indulge in adventure sports that I love. Back home we don’t have such facilities and New Zealand seemed to be the best place with well-developed facilities for adventure. And when the tourism authorities reached out to me to become their brand ambassador, it was an ideal fit,”
Malhotra told ET Magazine from Auckland, where he was to shoot some Tourism New Zealand promos.
For his part, Malhotra was quick to mix business with extreme adventure by embarking on his first ever skydive and skywalk. “I love adventure activities and have been on river rafting trips to Rishikesh with my family, but my first skydive was like nothing I had ever done before in India and gave me the biggest adrenaline kick in my life,” Malhotra said. That he was able to meet and interact with many young Indian students in New Zealand who are avid fans of Bollywood and his movies also helped him feel comfortable away from home.
According to travel operator Kuoni India, Indian millennials are changing the face of travel and tourism and their favourite destinations include Thailand, Greece, Indonesia, the US, Spain, UK, China and Japan. “There is a continuous rise in the number of millennial leisure travellers from India especially amongst the young professionals who are travelling around the globe in search of new experiences. India has about 600 million millennial travellers, twice the population of the US,” says Daniel D’souza, head of sales, India and NRI markets, tour operating, Kuoni India.
This segment is less affected by budget constraints when choosing hotels and destinations because of the rising number of double income couples, explains D’souza. “Indian millennials place more importance on quality over quantity. They are ready to spend a higher amount on luxury hotels and ultra-premium services but demand exceptional service and quality. This population segment stands out because of bold tastes,” he adds. Fashion choreographer and former Miss India Earth Shamita Singha, who now runs an event management company, is a typical example of an Indian millennial who picks vacation destinations that are off the beaten track, or popular destinations when they are off-season.
“I don’t like very touristy or commercial places. Every trip for me has been a memorable one. I like to explore a new destination every time. So each trip is always unique. I particularly enjoyed my time in Italy, chasing vineyards in Tuscany and exploring the architecture in Rome and the Vatican City,” says Singha. “When I plan a trip with my sister or just the girls, our biggest concern is to be safe so I plan it such that we pick spots that are safe for single female travellers too,” adds Singha.
And it’s not just about overseas holidays. Millennials in India are driving new trends in domestic leisure travel, too. “The typical millennial is a single professional or doubleincome-no-kids. For them travel is about new experiences and they are very tech savvy,” says Yogendra Vasupal, cofounder & chief executive, Stayzilla, an ecommerce marketplace for hotels and homestays. He adds that this segment is driving experiential vacation trends such as trekking and rafting holidays. “The budget homestays segment is also driven by these millennial travellers who like to do different things such as experiencing life at a coffee estate or spending a vacation on a farm,” adds Vasupal.
As for himself and his family — wife, Rupal Yogendra, who is the cofounder of Stayzilla, daughter (6) and son (5) — they prefer holidays that are close to nature. “We like going to a farm where we can feel nature, plant crops and connect with the earth in different ways,” he says.
IT professionals Purnendu Singh and Ekta Kamdar started a travel blog called Shadows Galore in 2010 which, today, is a treasure house of their travel stories, tips, photo essays and photography lessons. “We once spent four days in Mandu (in western Madhya Pradesh) simply cycling around places and leisurely exploring them. Another unique experience was our visit to the Sharavathy jungle in Karnataka, where we had to do a rigorous trek down to the hill’s edge to see a beautiful waterfall — tough but totally worth it,” says Kamdar.