Finally, non-resident Indians are looking beyond a trip down nostalgia lane (read a visit to ancestral home, relatives et al and looking at exploring other sites while visiting India.
Aided by the prodding of older generation NRIs, an increasing number of second generation NRIs (mainly in the age-group of 23-24 years) are showing keen interest in discovering India.
Says Sachin Bhatia, chief marketing officer, makemytrip.com, NRIs have started taking tours beyond their hometowns.
Makemytrip was started in 2000 as a website dedicated to NRIs travelling to India. Today, 50 per cent of the websites' business comes from NRIs travelling
"An NRI comes loaded. He visits his family and goes for destination visits. More importantly, many of them are travelling across India to scout for investment opportunities," says Rajji Rai, vice-president, Travel Agents Association of India. According to him, some of these NRIs come to India as many as four times a year.
Bharat Jagasia, business head, NRI markets, Cox & Kings, though insists that a lot of them still come to India only to meet friends and relatives or to attend a marriage.
"The second generation Indians, on the other hand, are extending their visit to take, say, a week-long vacation or more to the golden triangle, which is most popular," he says. According to him, the NRI market is growing at a whopping 40
The philanthropic streak is also catching force as increasing numbers of young NRIs are partnering with NGOs to work with them on projects across India. On an average, NRIs stay back for at least 14 days.
Besides, the NRIs are increasingly spending more money on their visit to India. A typical tour being bought by an NRI on makemytrip.com costs anything between $300-500 a night, excluding the ticket.
"Apart from Rajasthan and Kerala, they are also exploring wildlife at Corbett, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore. Pilgrimages to the Char Dham circuit, Tirupathi and Shirdi are the most famous," says Bhatia.
Considering the scenario, the ministry of tourism is considering the inclusion of NRI arrivals in the country in the list of foreign tourist arrivals for the year 2006.
According to a source, in 2006, India got 4.43 million foreign tourists. This figure would rise steeply to 7.25 million if we add an estimated 2.82 million NRIs who visited India in 2006.
In 2005, there were 3.92 million foreign tourists and 2.49 million NRIs and PIOs, making it a total of 6.41 million. What was, however, publicised across the world was only 3.92 million.
To make the assessment simpler, the ministry also intends to propose a revision of the disembarkation card to the Bureau of Immigration and include NRIs and PIOs in it.