Realizing the potential of travel coming to and from India, airlines in the country are also making sure that they create enough capacity to match the demand.
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Indian carriers have occupied a lion’s share of international air traffic, which is more than pre-Covid times, as per data released by India’s aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). This is testament to the fact that India could rank among the top three markets for outbound travel in the coming years. Leading this expansion in market share in low-cost carrier Indigo. Passengers carried on international flights operated by Indian carriers accounted for 43.5 percent of total overseas travel in the fourth quarter of 2022, up from 39.2 percent in the corresponding period of 2019. In 2020, during the same period, the market share of Indian carriers rose to 65.3 percent, and in 2021, the share of Indian carriers in the total international passenger traffic stands at 49.6 percent. Out of the 30 Indian cities from where international passengers embark/disembark, five Indian cities accounted for approximately 70.2 percent of international passenger traffic. Delhi tops the position in the category with a share of 28.3 percent, followed by Mumbai at 19.8 percent share and Chennai at 8.5 percent share).
India showcased new destinations and niche products at ITB Berlin — Europe’s biggest travel fair that made a comeback after three years of the pandemic — to increase its share in the global tourism market. Encouraging inbound travel, the ministry of tourism has declared ‘Incredible India! Visit India Year 2023’ at the backdrop of India’s G20 Presidency to highlight unique tourism offerings of every state. Culture, heritage, adventure, and rural tourism along with niche tourism products such as cuisine, wellness, yoga, wildlife, and luxury were on display. Videos about relevant Indian tourism sectors in 2023 were also shown. Around 60 participants represented the India pavilion at the fair, including travel agents, tour operators, airlines, and hotels.
The U.S. has announced the expansion of premium processing of work authorization applications for certain categories of international students. The move is likely to benefit a large number of Indian students in the US on F-1 visa — a student visa granted to international students who wish to pursue their studies in the U.S., and covers different levels of education. The phase-wise premium processing of applications for optional practical training from international students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field or its extension started on March 6 for certain categories and from April 3 for some others. “The availability of premium processing for certain F-1 students, in addition to the ease of online filing, will streamline the immigration experience for a great many international students,” Ur M Jaddou, USCIS, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a statement.
The north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has been experiencing a record surge in tourism with 1.2 lakh visitors arriving in February 2023 alone. Over 2.5 lakh tourists have visited the valley in the first two months of this year. The tourism high mark was largely driven by local tourists after Covid restrictions were lifted early last year, as Skift reported earlier. The number of visitors visiting Kashmir in a single year reached a record 25 lakh last year, significantly more than the previous 40 years’ average. More than 1.2 lakh people travelled to Kashmir in February and 90 percent of them visited the famous Gulmarg ski resort in Kashmir which otherwise used to be empty during winter, Fazl-ul-Haseeb, director of tourism in Kashmir told Indian media. Last year, 1,63,154 tourists visited the valley during January-February. The tourist arrivals are likely to pick up with the opening of Asia’s largest Tulip garden in the summer capital of Srinagar by the end of this month.
Indian budget carrier Indigo has appointed Mark Sutch as its new chief commercial officer of Cargo International, the airline’s cargo organization. With 25 years of airline industry experience across different verticals, Mark’s most recent assignment was as chief commercial officer with CMA CGM Air Cargo based in Marseille, France. Prior to that, he was with Cathay Pacific Airways including being based for five years in Mumbai as the airline’s regional general manager for South Asia, Middle East, and Africa. He also previously ran all commercial aspects of Cathay Pacific’s cargo division in their Hong Kong head office. A British and Irish national, Mark has spent most of his career on international assignments.
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) — the coastal state’s apex travel and tourism body — has welcomed the state government’s decision to regulate water sports, which said visitors will be unhappy and head elsewhere if they are overcharged. The Goa bench of the Bombay high court recently ordered the state tourism department to introduce a “queue system” for water sports. Following the order, the department started state-run counters to regulate recreational activity. “When there is a system, it is beneficial to everyone. With this, the safety angle will also come into the picture. Safety standards will be improved once there is regulation of the activity. Pricing will be regularized,” said Nilesh Shah, president of TTAG.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has introduced a North East Discovery package, which will take passengers on a tour of India’s Northeast frontier states through a special tourist train. The Bharat Gaurav Tourist Train scheme, in line with the Indian government’s “Dekho Apna Desh” initiative, offers a 15-day journey covering Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. The train is set to depart from New Delhi’s Safdarjung Railway Station on March 21, and will cover Guwahati, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Kaziranga in Assam, Unakoti, Agartala and Udaipur in Tripura, Dimapur and Kohima in Nagaland and Shillong and Cherrapunji in Meghalaya. Offering three types of packages — 1AC (coupe), 1AC (cabin) and 2AC, the price of the trip ranges between $1268 to $1830 depending on the categories.
India-based hotel chain Sarovar Hotels & Resorts has announced the opening of Sarovar Portico Srinagar in close proximity to Srinagar International Airport. Owned by Khazir Hospitality, the group’s second hotel in the city is conveniently located at the new Airport Road, Humhama, Srinagar, 1.25 miles away from Sheikh Ul Alam international airport and approximately 5.6 miles from Srinagar Railway station. The hotel features 45 well-appointed rooms and suites, a studio apartment, suites and interconnected rooms. “Srinagar has always been an important destination within our leisure destination portfolio and we are delighted to witness our growing presence in the city. We are confident that guests will experience the distinguished Sarovar hospitality that equals the experience and beauty of the destination,” said Ajay K Bakaya, managing director of Sarovar Hotels and Resorts.
India is set to ride on the telehealth trend in medical tourism in 2023. Digital tools will continue to increase patient engagement with foreigners through instant messaging apps, telemedicine, and AI-enabled technologies — for pre-treatment diagnosis and assessment, and post-treatment follow-ups — as part of the process of digital integration in the medical value travel (MVT) chain. With $5-6 billion MVT size and 5,00,000 international patients annually, India is poised for a giant leap in the sector on the back of soaring cost of treatment in the West and the Russia-Ukraine war driving more patients for medical care to the country. In addition, the Indian government’s initiatives under the ‘Heal in India’ scheme aims to promote India’s medical facilities and infrastructure globally with plans to standardize processes and treatment packages for foreign nationals.
Direct connectivity between India and Israel is likely to resume after Saudi Arabia and Oman have allowed Israeli civilian overflights over their regions. For some destinations such as India, Australia, and Sri Lanka, the flight time will now be cut down to two-and-a-half-hours because of the new air corridor. Israeli flag carrier El Al is expected to re-launch its route to India, which was closed during the pandemic, according to the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Another Israeli airline Arkia announced plans of relaunching its routes to India’s Goa and Cochin, which were also closed in 2019. Likewise, Israir has announced its interest in opening a route that will take just around five hours to get to India.
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Photo credit: Indian carriers accounted for 43.5 percent of international air traffic Regis Duvignau / Reuters