The Indian tourism industry was one of the largest service industries in the country in terms of its contribution to GDP and foreign exchange earnings, in addition to being a diverse employment provider. The domestic spending within this sector grew significantly in recent years and was expected to reach nearly 90 percent by 2028 in comparison to international tourism. In 2019, around 2.3 billion domestic tourist visits were recorded.
It comes as no surprise that the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra was the most visited monument for domestic tourists as well as international tourists. It is followed by political monuments, like the Red Fort, or religious monuments such as the Surya-temple in Konark. When it comes to pure leisure travel, the coastal state of Goa attracted the masses. With many monuments closed and people trying to avoid crowded areas, domestic travelers are turning towards forests and mountainous regions for recreation, thereby reviving an old traveling trend on the subcontinent.
While the fertile and densely populated plains had been the political power bases for centuries, some elite groups developed a habit of spending the hot summers in more pleasant environments. Whereas the Mughal elites chose Kashmir, the British colonial administration had a soft spot for turning villages into hill stations for recreation: Shimla, Manali, or Ooty (Udhagamandalam) to name only a few. Luxury travel and wellness vacations were additional trends that had already emerged before the pandemic and were expected to intensify.
The travel service market became more professional and has diversified in recent years. Regulations of travel operators and agencies increased, the online market emerged as a major service point, and successful startups like OYO Rooms took the market by surprise. As the whole sector experienced difficulties amidst the pandemic, the government responded with funding programs as well as with tailored initiatives, like the system for assessment, awareness and training for hospitality industry (SAATHI). Rising occupancy rates in hotels across India during the festival season in late 2020 raised hopes for a quick recovery of the entire tourism sector.