Before the pandemic, most destinations did not consider Indian travellers visiting friends and/or relatives (VFR) a priority target market. This is because VFR travellers often bypass hotels to stay with family or friends.
So why are destinations now eyeing India’s VFR segment? With the air bubble arrangement, VFR is the driving demand factor for airlines to increase flights and flight frequencies from India. Pure leisure visitation is minimal. And while some business traffic has picked up, VFR is by and large the catalyst.
Post-COVID-19 recovery planning has destinations like Saudi Arabia tapping into the the VFR segment. According to Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority, India is one of the prime source markets with 5 million Indians living in Saudi Arabia.
There are major benefits to going after the VFR segment:
- VFR travellers have a strong desire to reunite with family
- They will consider other tourist locations even if they do not stay in hotels
- Shopping is a major driver for Indian travellers bringing a boost to any destination’s economy
- According to Brand USA, travelers from India spent USD16.5 billion in 2019. This accounts for 30 percent of their outbound tourism spending.
Leisure traffic from India at this point is largely travelling to Dubai and other short haul destinations like the Maldives. Dubai, of course, also has a huge segment of VFR travellers. While leisure travellers globally continue to avoid long-haul travel, India’s VFR travellers will be very important to destinations like the U.S., which has a huge Indian diaspora. Other destinations for India’s outbound VFR travellers include Canada and the U.K.