Skift Take

With Indian airlines placing big bets on aircraft orders and deploying higher capacities on international routes, the global travel industry seems to be sitting up and taking note of the India outbound travel market's potential.

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India could rank among the top three markets for outbound travel in the coming years, according to Omri Morgenshtern, CEO of online travel platform Agoda said while speaking to media in India during his recent visit to the country. Indian travellers are increasingly becoming more important to many countries and will become second to China in terms of spending in Asia, he said. An earlier Skift article had reported how the time is ripe for India — which already ticks most of the boxes as a suitable candidate to take over from China as the largest travel source market — to enter the dragon’s space. In India, online travel booking is growing at a faster pace after the pandemic in comparison to other global markets, outpacing the Asia Pacific market, said Morgenshtern. The total transaction value in travel almost hit pre-Covid levels in 2022. “Since 2019, the rank of importance of Indian tourists for Thailand for example has risen from 10th to 6th. I expect it to become more important in the coming years, not only to Thailand but to many countries in APAC,” he added. Morgenshtern also sees a lot of potential for inbound tourism in India. While India’s inbound is growing slower than outbound travel, he believes it is going to see fast growth in the coming years.

Smaller Indian towns and cities have witnessed a surge in travel demand ahead of the festival of colors Holi, as per data by IPO-bound hospitality and travel technology company Oyo. “This time around, people are going back to their roots for Holi and looking for the most authentic experiences. Prayagraj clocked the highest growth (127 percent) in bookings in 2023, followed closely by Patna (126 percent) and Lucknow (125 percent). Delhi and Hyderabad also witnessed a significant increase compared to the same period last year,” an Oyo spokesperson said. People are opting to explore offbeat destinations and some are planning to go back to their hometowns for Holi celebrations, according to Oyo. The platform witnessed an average stay of about six days, which is greater as compared to the previous year’s data. “With the rising demand for travel around Holi, we at Oyo aim to provide a seamless and hassle-free experience. Further, we strive to provide travellers greater flexibility, ability to make travel decisions on their own terms, convenience, and personalization,” the spokesperson said.

Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, has inaugurated its daily direct service between Mumbai and Dammam in Saudi Arabia. The airline will deploy A320 neo aircraft for this route. Describing Dammam as a major administrative hub in Saudi Arabia and home to a large Indian diaspora, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan said that the addition of Dammam to the airline’s growing international network is in line with its goal to further strengthen its presence in the Middle East. “Dammam will be the fifth Vistara destination in the region after Dubai, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Muscat,” he said. “Integral to the Saudi Vision 2030, Dammam is a key administrative destination that is home to the largest port in the Gulf and some of the major business headquarters,” Kannan had said earlier while announcing the commencement of the flight.

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has appointed Myong-kil Yun as the new director of its India office. With plans to focus on luxury travel and special interest groups like K-pop and K-Drama fans and students visiting Korea for educational tours, Korea aims to welcome 150,000 Indian travellers in 2023 and 500,000 by the year 2026. Yun will be based in Gurugram, spearheading promotion and marketing activities in India and its neighboring countries for the next three years. Yun has been with the Korea Tourism Organization since 2004. This will be his second time working in the India market, with his first appointment being during 2013-16 when he served as the office’s deputy director. “I am excited to be back in India and look forward to working closely with trade partners and media in the region to further position South Korea as a premium overseas destination for Indian travelers. This year also marks 50 years of Korea-India diplomatic relations, so this feels like an especially good time to be back,” he said. 

Assam Tourism conducted a roadshow in Mumbai to promote the northeastern state of Assam as a film tourism and shooting destination, projecting the state’s spiritual, wildlife, river and adventure tourism potentialities. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Assam Tourism Development Corporation and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation for cross-promotion of tourism in both the states. With sustainability as one of the guiding principles, the Assam government launched a new tourism policy in November 2022. A new comprehensive website for Assam Tourism was also launched where tourists will be able to avail of various services under one roof. “We are putting a lot of effort into promoting film tourism in the state and making it the most film tourism-friendly state by facilitating shooting permissions with single-window clearances for film projects and providing necessary support to attract filmmakers,” said Jayanta Malla Baruah, Assam’s tourism minister.

British Airways (BA) has confirmed it will make more investments in its call center in India as the airline looks to upgrade customer service from the facility that employs more than 1,400 people. CallBA, the airline’s call center located in the northern state of India’s technology hub — Gurugram, provides support to customers from the U.S. and the UK through to South Asia and South West Pacific. The carrier said the call center will also operate from a new office with a modernized telephone system later this year. The investment in the customer care team at CallBA is part of the vision to continually enhance and upgrade customer service, said Calum Laming, chief customer officer of the airline. “Investing in our people and a new office in Gurugram provides for growth and a significant improvement in our tools,” he added. BA opened its first call center in India in 2006. Currently, the airline operates 56 weekly flights connecting five Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Buoyed by strong recovery in domestic passenger traffic, lower interest costs and removal of fare caps, India’s airlines industry is set to return to profitability next fiscal following a near-three-year downturn fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ratings agency Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency (ICRA) projected domestic passenger traffic growth at 8-13 percent in FY2024, post the 55-60 percent expansion in financial year 2023, to reach 145-150 million, which is much higher than the pre-Covid levels. ICRA estimated international passenger traffic for Indian carriers to witness a year-over-year growth of 10-15 percent in financial year 2024, post the 125-130 percent expansion in financial year 2023. The international passenger traffic for Indian carriers is likely to surpass the pre-Covid levels in financial year 2023 itself while exceeding the peak of financial year 2019 in financial year 2024. Over the medium term, growth in the Indian airline sector will be driven by improving airport infrastructure in addition to the government’s concerted efforts to promote regional tourism. 

Indian tech capital Bengaluru has emerged as the revenue per available room growth leader in the fourth quarter of 2022 (October-December), as per JLL’s latest Hotel Momentum India (HMI) for the fourth quarter of 2022, a quarterly hospitality sector monitor. The city recorded 111 percent growth, as compared to the fourth quarter of 2021. After Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi witnessed the highest revenue per available room growth of 105 percent and 94 percent respectively. Primarily driven by corporate travel, weddings, winter vacations and festivities, the hospitality sector continued to witness strong year-over-year growth in performance in the fourth quarter of 2022, it stated.

Expanding its footprint in India, Hilton has announced the opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Nagpur, scheduled to open in early 2026. The 135-room hotel will also feature large wedding and social event spaces. “This is our first Hilton property in Nagpur, and we are excited to introduce the DoubleTree by Hilton brand to the third-largest city of Maharashtra,” said Navjit Ahluwalia, senior vice president and country head, India, Hilton. Hilton’s presence in India currently features 24 operating hotels. 17 additional hotels are in the pipeline, including properties in Nepal and Bangladesh.

From queue management solutions for museums to an artificial intelligence-based one-stop initiative for the best travel experience, the Goa Tourism Accelerator program claimed to make startups rethink the sector with a range of innovations. A total of 13 startups working in areas of waste management, customer experience, new payment solutions, mobility and sustainability participated in the program. Jointly initiated by Goa Tourism and Start Up incubator Forum for Incubation Innovation Research and Entrepreneurship (FiiRE), the 12-week accelerator program is designed for startup founders developing solutions for future-proofing the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. Some of the innovations presented were predicting analytics and process automation for global hospitality to let hotels automate front desk operations to allow guests to have a frictionless check-in and stay experience, creating an AI-powered social blogging platform that empowers people to share and grow their knowledge easily, and helping businesses improve their customer engagement and manage queues.


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Tags: agoda, assam, bengaluru, british airways, goa tourism, hilton, india, india outbound, korea, oyo, revpar, saudi arabia, skift india report, startups, vistara

Photo credit: India could rank among the top three markets for outbound travel in the coming years, according to Agoda CEO. Danon / Adobe Stock Image

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