When PM Narendra Modi visited the UAE in 2015, celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor was especially flown to Abu Dhabi to cook a vegetarian fare for the dinner hosted by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). ADIA controls the $800-billion sovereign wealth fund of the oil-rich Gulf country. “Star chef @SanjeevKapoor was flown in by UAE hosts for a special vegetarian menu in honour of PM @narendramodi,” former external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had tweeted then.
More recently, in 2016, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto drove Modi to a restaurant for dinner, a Mexican vegetarian fare. “In a very special gesture, President @EPN personally drives @narendramodi to a restaurant for Mexican vegetarian fare,” Swarup had tweeted along with a photo that showed the 49-year-old Nieto behind the wheel with Modi sitting beside him.
“Bonding over bean tacos! President @EPN and PM@narendramodi share a meal,” Swarup had later tweeted along with photos showing the two leaders chatting away while sitting at a table in the restaurant. The two had gone to a restaurant called Quintonil to bond over vegetarian dinner.
The PM apart, for most Indians, vegetarian food is not a matter of choice, but of tradition and societal norms. Hence, things can get a little tricky when they are travelling, especially when such journeys are all about trying out newer cuisines or traditional food made from local ingredients.
A recent survey released by leading leisure and education travel group Cox & Kings has now confirmed this. The study on ‘top vegetarian-friendly destinations and preferences of Indian vegetarian outbound travellers’ has revealed that cuisine is the most important factor while finalising a holiday. A whopping 70% of vegetarian travellers choose their destination based on accessibility to vegetarian food, whereas 30% travellers scout for a vegetarian restaurant after they have chosen a destination.
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Assurance of a vegetarian meal drives type of tour and accommodation to be chosen. Up to 71% of vegetarian travellers chose vegetarian tours over cosmopolitan tours, the reason being availability of vegetarian meals. Hotels with vegetarian restaurants are preferred by 53% of vegetarian travellers, whereas only 20% are fine with a multi-cuisine restaurant.
The survey also reveals that 85% of the younger generation between the age group of 20 to 45 years is open to ‘cosmopolitan tours’, where they are served vegetarian food, whereas a majority of travellers from the age group of 46 to 65 years necessarily opt for a group tour that assures vegetarian food.
The survey was conducted from January to March 2017 with a sample size of 5,000 respondents with age groups ranging from 20 to 65 years through Cox & Kings’ offices.
Sharing insights on the survey, Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings, says, “The demand for vegetarian outbound tours is mainly coming from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. A major share of demand for Cox & Kings’ vegetarian tours comes from these states.”
Another interesting finding shows how the length of a vacation is influenced by the type of cuisine available and the destination itself. On a shorter trip (less than five days), 77% of vegetarian travellers carry ready-to-eat pre-packaged foods like noodles, upma, etc. However, they would necessarily select a vegetarian-friendly destination if they have decided to go on a longer vacation (more than five days).
The most preferred restaurant remains one with a separate dining/kitchen area for vegetarians. The survey also points out that 76% of vegetarian travellers from the age group of 46 to 65 years insist that demarcation be done within restaurants. However, 68% of younger travellers are fine with a multi-cuisine restaurant with no separate dining area.
The travel agent’s advice emerges as the most reliable one, with 57% of respondents saying they will check with their agent while deciding on a vegetarian restaurant/destination.
Now, let’s see which destinations provide Indian travellers the best of the best in this sector. As per the survey, Dubai, the UK and Singapore top the list when it comes to the most-preferred vegetarian-friendly destinations for Indian vegetarian travellers. Other destinations preferred for holidaying are the US, Switzerland, Malaysia, Israel, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to an increase in the number of vegetarians, Indian restaurants and growing Indian population in these countries, these destinations are becoming the top choices for Indian vegetarian travellers.