India: ‘New era’ of rising incomes & hunger for travel

By Benedict Evans |

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport handled 72.2 million passengers in 2023 (+21% yoy), according to data from ACI World. Source: Shutterstock/JeJai-Images.

Following the inaugural APTRA India Conference on 19-21 March, TRBusiness delves into India’s vibrant travel retail landscape to understand the current state of play and pinpoint emerging trends.

With premiumisation taking hold and passengers seeking new, exciting travel experiences before they leave the airport, opportunities abound to maximise spending opportunities in travel retail.

India has been named the world’s fifth largest economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2024, as measured by GDP, behind the US and China, Germany and Japan and the nation is also on track to become the world’s third largest aviation market by 2026.

With a predicted 6% annual rise in GDP through 2028, a spike in consumer demand for luxury goods, and new figures from credit rating agency ICRA showing domestic passenger volumes climbing to 154 million in 2023-24 (12m over 2019-20 levels), massive growth opportunities exist for several key industries, including DF&TR.

Notably, the country has witnessed a spate of significant investments in its travel infrastructure across roads, railways, and airports.

In her keynote address at the APTRA India Conference, Manisha Saxena, Director General of Tourism for India, pointed to 78 new airports built in the last 10 years, bringing the total number nationally to 149.

Avishek Bambii Das, CEO, Ospree Duty Free.

Ospree SPP share growing in Mumbai

Airport operator Adani Airports, which is currently overseeing the construction of Navi Mumbai International Airport, recently announced $7bn in investment to improve its current portfolio of landside developments.

Plus, passenger numbers are up across the board for several of India’s key travel hubs, according to recent reports from industry source CAPA.

With approximately 65% of the population being under 35 years of age, India is one of – if not the – biggest consumer base for young adults globally.

Speaking exclusively to TRBusiness, Avishek Bambii Das, CEO of Opsree Duty Free (formerly Mumbai Travel Retail Private Limited) said the business has made great gains in the last year alone as a result.

“Our penetration has grown significantly. Our SPP is close to 30% in Mumbai departures,” he said, adding: “Five percent growth in SPP is considered fantastic. Our passenger growth numbers are up by about 23%, and we’ve seen a tripling in passenger numbers; it’s never happened before.”

A significant factor within this impressive uptick, according to Bambii Das, has been a pivot away from the transactional towards the experiential.

“I believe in experiences; retail should be experiential, not transactional,” he stated, noting that bringing a level of excitement to otherwise standardised retail spaces has thus far resonated with a new era of travellers with more disposable income and a renewed desire to travel.

Indeed, the concept of buying less but buying better is a fundamental interplay at the heart of premiumisation trends seen in everything from alcohol to cosmetics, both globally and in India.

Commenting on the trend towards premiumisation, Surabhi Batra, Area Manager, India Sub-Continent, Travel Retail EMEAI, L’Oréal, said: “The main reason for premiumisation is affordability; the capacity to buy has increased. With so many brands entering the market, accessibility has increased as disposable income has increased.”

A ‘land of possibilities’. Jaya Singh, Mondelez World Travel Retail Managing Director, addressing delegates at the APTRA India Conference, 19-21 March.

Batra points out it wasn’t until early 2023 that L’Oréal offered its premium products within travel retail in the country.

“Now we’re launching all the private collections in Delhi, with plans to launch in Mumbai and Bangalore based solely off the strength of our Mumbai offering,” she continued. “With 20 to 25% of our total sales now coming from these collections, it proves a real strong demand in just the last couple years or so.”

For more comment and analysis on India’s travel retail market, watch out for the full report in the May Asia Pacific edition of TRBusiness, also available in print from the press racks at the forthcoming TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore.


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