A few years back not many Indians were aware of a country called Rwanda. But last year, Indian tourist numbers to the picturesque country in central Africa grew by more than 30-fold.
From just 400 vacationers from India in 2014, the country which is less than one-tenth the size of Maharashtra, hosted 14,000 Indian tourists last year, according to its tourism department.
Rwanda is among the list of new countries that Indians are exploring. A small but growing number of Indian travellers are exploring destinations beyond Dubai, Singapore and Thailand. For instance, Romania did not maintain any data of Indian holidaymakers until 2014, but last year, the country in central Europe recorded 9,000 Indian tourist arrivals and expects the number to rise by more than 10% this year. “India is the second target tourist destination after China and recognising the potential, the Rwanda tourism department has been promoting their offerings in India in a big way,” said Joseph Kabakeza, first counsellor, deputy head of mission, high commission of the Republic of Rwanda.
Other destinations, which were considered off-beat earlier, have seen a similar growth in Indian tourists. The number of Indians heading out to Israel increased by 11% between 2014 and 2015, visitors to Bhutan increased by 17% and those to Maldives by 15%. These countries were among 50-odd foreign destinations that participated in OTM- 2016, a three-day travel fair held at Goregaon, last week.
According to industry estimates, a majority of Indian travelers prefer closer destinations like Dubai, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. In January, Singapore recorded more than a million Indian tourist arrivals and year-on-year growth of 7.4%.
“Technology, digital marketing, and social media are helping tourism boards from across the globe to connect with interested tourists in India,” said Sanjiv Agarwal, the chairman and chief executive officer at Fairfest Media Ltd, which organised the Mumbai event.“Traditionally, a majority of Indian travelers to Israel were pilgrims. But now we are getting an increasing number of leisure tourists drawn to the night life and exotic cuisines,” said Hassan Madah, director (India) with the Israel’s ministry of tourism.