Indian Terrain Nature Club has been doing brisk business ferrying small groups of tourists to India’s north east over the last four years. With the destinations being as romantic as their names, North East India is brimming with locales that are increasingly visited by millennials. This enthusiastic preference is part of a pattern that has wedged itself into domestic tourism statistics, as Gen-Y increasingly leans on emotional arbitrage to decide destinations and vacation itineraries. Identified as the arbitrage generation, Indian millennials are expert negotiators always looking for the best deal. This extends to their choice of travel destinations as well, where they are making the informed decisions to choose Indian destinations over overseas travel.
Domestic destinations have seen a boom in arrivals, growing by as much as 15%, thanks to the growing interest among millennials. Locations that were earlier patronised by backpackers, documentary makers, or film units shooting outdoor song sequences, are now witnessing footfalls grow by as much as 45% in the north east, with Digha in West Bengal seeing a threefold increase in arrivals. A whopping 91% of millennials in India prefer to be smitten by the wanderlust bug, enjoying an annual holiday in domestic destinations, with close to 71% vacationing in Indian locales twice a year. Millennials with disposable incomes, increasingly choose to cut free from stereotyped versions of the Indian tourist, choosing offbeat locations, trawling online and looking for exotic destinations, weighing the anticipated and desired overall value from the experience in true emotional arbitrage. Boasting of some of the best idyllic locales in remote corners, India offers myriad choices to the discerning tourist willing to look for off-beat locations. Exotic getaways that once jousted for attention from the pages of coffee table books are increasingly finding footfalls – a testimony to the trove of locations in India.
In what can be viewed as the typical embodiment of the desire to experience leisure travel without the fetters of a group or a companion, women are increasingly packing their bags and going solo on tourist circuits. OTAs report that the top 10 destinations have witnessed a surge in searches by solo women travellers by over 90%.
Interestingly, adventure activities have also found more numbers of takers. Millennials prefer an adrenaline high, willing to throw themselves off cliffs tethered to safety harnesses, plunging into the midst of corals, or hurtling through deserts in open jeeps; all for the sake of thrills, in typical millennial style. True to their preferences of experiences, millennials are willing to trade in their fears, and reach for the ropes of excitement. Travel preferences have changed, bringing in a refreshing angle to tours, a sea change from the beaten path of cultural and soft tours that dominated the tourist circuit.
Perhaps, one of the most captivating and popular images of the tourist circuit shared on social media is that of the Umngot Dawki river in Meghalaya, where boats appear suspended in mid-air over crystal clear transparent waters. It is this power of the social media, with growing internet penetration that has served as an important and reliable input in emotional arbitrage. Mobiles and devices have outgrown their stature as sidekicks, and morphed into influential channels of information that are increasingly relied upon by millennials when deciding on a choice.
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As India heads into 2020, destined to occupy pole position as a nation with the youngest population, the domestic tourism circuit will evolve further. Destinations will be increasingly chosen by arbitrage and future itineraries will be designed to meet the preferences of a changed demographic, dominated by millennials.