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Visa-Free Entry: Why Nations Like Thailand & Malaysia Are Wooing Indian Tourists

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

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As 2023 comes to an end, many of you must be planning your long-due vacation. If yes, then there’s good news.

Malaysia recently joined the list of a growing number of countries which allow Indian passport holders to travel to the country without a visa. ICYMI, visa is an official permit issued by the government of the country to any individual who wishes to visit for a specific period. 

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on 27 November said that Malaysia will now grant visa-free entry to Chinese and Indian citizens for up to 30 days starting 1 December.

Over 9.16 million foreign tourists landed in Malaysia between January and June this year. Of these, a whopping 283,885 were from India, news agency Reuters reported citing government data. 

The move from Malaysia comes after Sri Lanka and Thailand allowed visa-free travel for Indians for a maximum period of 30 days valid till 31 March and 10 May 2023, respectively. 

So, why are these countries wooing Indian tourists? Which countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And where are Indians even travelling to? We explain it all.

Visa-Free Entry: Why Nations Like Thailand & Malaysia Are Wooing Indian Tourists

  1. 1. Which Countries Allow Visa-Free Entry to Indians?

    If you are an Indian passport holder, here is a list of countries that you can visit without having to undergo the hassle of visa application process.

    What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

    Currently, the Indian passport allows visa-free travel to 26 countries and visa-on-arrival travel to 49 countries, whereas a visa is required to travel to 123 countries. 

    As a result of the recent announcements, India’s ranking on the global Passport Index – which is a measure of the strength of the passport in terms of travel freedom – is set to improve.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Are These Countries Allowing Visa-Free Travel for Indians? 

    Allowing visa-free travel for Indians can be seen as a move of countries – especially those which are primarily dependent on tourism – to provide an impetus to their economy after the pandemic restricted travel during 2020-2022.

    According to a report titled How India Travels by travel aggregator Booking.com and McKinsey & Company published in October this year:

    Indians spent a total of $150 billion on domestic and international travel – making them the sixth largest spender in the world. Of this, 25 percent of the expenditure was on foreign travel.

     This expenditure is projected to increase by a whopping 173 percent to $410 billion by 2030 while the share of international travel is set to increase to 35 percent, the report stated.

    What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

    “One of the primary drivers of this strong growth is the rising middle-income population. There is an expected shift in India’s income pyramid marked by an approximate 6X growth in households earning $35,000 (approx Rs 30 lakh as per today’s exchange rate) annually by 2030,” the report stated. 

    Another reason for more Southeast Asian countries to grant visa-free travel to Indian passport holders could be the elusive Schengen and US visas. The move could be a way to direct potential travellers to their countries. 

    Expand
  3. 3. How Many Indians Are Travelling Abroad?  

    According to another report titled ‘From India to the World: Unleashing the Potential of India’s Tourists’ by McKinsey & Company, released earlier this month, India is not only seeing a strong post-pandemic travel recovery, but also a growing appetite for international travel. 

    Last year, over 20 million Indians travelled abroad with tourism being the third biggest reason for doing so, Mint reported, citing data from the tourism ministry.

    Besides, nearly 8.5 million Indians have already travelled abroad in the first four months of 2023. 

    Indians made 13 million outbound trips in 2022. “If India follows China’s outbound travel trajectory (which it could, due to similarity in population size and per capita income trajectory), then Indian tourists could make 80 million to 90 million trips a year by 2040,” the report projected. 

    What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?
    The report also pointed out that India is making a much quicker recovery than most Asian countries in its foreign travel market – having already recovered 61 percent of its pre-pandemic market. 
    Expand
  4. 4. Where Are Indians Travelling To? 

    The McKinsey report published on 1 November shows that proximity is a key factor for Indians travelling abroad for leisure. As a result, 70 percent Indian travellers chose nearby destinations. 

    “With a travel time of less than four hours, and a large Indian diaspora, the Middle East is a destination of choice for around one-third of Indian travellers, closely followed by South Asian destinations,” the report stated. 

    Here is a table of the top-10 international destinations picked by Indian travellers in 2022:

    What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

    For long-haul flights, the United States and Europe emerged as the top picks of Indian travellers. Besides, Saudi Arabia is also anticipating at least two million Indian travellers this year, solidifying India's position as its largest tourism source market by 2030. To boost and capitalise on tourism and sports, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) formed a partnership with the TATA Indian Premiere League (IPL) in February this year.  

    Meanwhile, the top-10 cities visited by Indian tourists in the first half of 2023 are: 

    What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

    The report pointed out that Indian travellers are not a homogenous group – while a significant chunk of north Indian travellers prefer destinations in the US and Canada, nearly two-thirds of those from Kerala chose places in the Middle East. 

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Which Countries Allow Visa-Free Entry to Indians?

If you are an Indian passport holder, here is a list of countries that you can visit without having to undergo the hassle of visa application process.

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

Currently, the Indian passport allows visa-free travel to 26 countries and visa-on-arrival travel to 49 countries, whereas a visa is required to travel to 123 countries. 

As a result of the recent announcements, India’s ranking on the global Passport Index – which is a measure of the strength of the passport in terms of travel freedom – is set to improve.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Why Are These Countries Allowing Visa-Free Travel for Indians? 

Allowing visa-free travel for Indians can be seen as a move of countries – especially those which are primarily dependent on tourism – to provide an impetus to their economy after the pandemic restricted travel during 2020-2022.

According to a report titled How India Travels by travel aggregator Booking.com and McKinsey & Company published in October this year:

Indians spent a total of $150 billion on domestic and international travel – making them the sixth largest spender in the world. Of this, 25 percent of the expenditure was on foreign travel.

 This expenditure is projected to increase by a whopping 173 percent to $410 billion by 2030 while the share of international travel is set to increase to 35 percent, the report stated.

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

“One of the primary drivers of this strong growth is the rising middle-income population. There is an expected shift in India’s income pyramid marked by an approximate 6X growth in households earning $35,000 (approx Rs 30 lakh as per today’s exchange rate) annually by 2030,” the report stated. 

Another reason for more Southeast Asian countries to grant visa-free travel to Indian passport holders could be the elusive Schengen and US visas. The move could be a way to direct potential travellers to their countries. 

0

How Many Indians Are Travelling Abroad?  

According to another report titled ‘From India to the World: Unleashing the Potential of India’s Tourists’ by McKinsey & Company, released earlier this month, India is not only seeing a strong post-pandemic travel recovery, but also a growing appetite for international travel. 

Last year, over 20 million Indians travelled abroad with tourism being the third biggest reason for doing so, Mint reported, citing data from the tourism ministry.

Besides, nearly 8.5 million Indians have already travelled abroad in the first four months of 2023. 

Indians made 13 million outbound trips in 2022. “If India follows China’s outbound travel trajectory (which it could, due to similarity in population size and per capita income trajectory), then Indian tourists could make 80 million to 90 million trips a year by 2040,” the report projected. 

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?
The report also pointed out that India is making a much quicker recovery than most Asian countries in its foreign travel market – having already recovered 61 percent of its pre-pandemic market. 
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Where Are Indians Travelling To? 

The McKinsey report published on 1 November shows that proximity is a key factor for Indians travelling abroad for leisure. As a result, 70 percent Indian travellers chose nearby destinations. 

“With a travel time of less than four hours, and a large Indian diaspora, the Middle East is a destination of choice for around one-third of Indian travellers, closely followed by South Asian destinations,” the report stated. 

Here is a table of the top-10 international destinations picked by Indian travellers in 2022:

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

For long-haul flights, the United States and Europe emerged as the top picks of Indian travellers. Besides, Saudi Arabia is also anticipating at least two million Indian travellers this year, solidifying India's position as its largest tourism source market by 2030. To boost and capitalise on tourism and sports, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) formed a partnership with the TATA Indian Premiere League (IPL) in February this year.  

Meanwhile, the top-10 cities visited by Indian tourists in the first half of 2023 are: 

What other countries allow visa-free travel to Indians? And what are Indians' favourite destinations abroad?

The report pointed out that Indian travellers are not a homogenous group – while a significant chunk of north Indian travellers prefer destinations in the US and Canada, nearly two-thirds of those from Kerala chose places in the Middle East. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Thailand   Malaysia   Travel 

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