India's curtailment of e-visas had been an impediment to grow inbound tourism in the country. Now only if the resumption of e-visas would be followed by increasing air connectivity between the two countries.
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India has restored e-visa services for the nationals of Saudi Arabia wanting to visit the country with immediate effect, the Embassy of India in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia tweeted last week. The facility which had been available for five categories of travel — e-tourist visa, e-business visa, e-medical visa, e-medical attendant visa and e-conference visa — was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. The application and payment of fees are required to be made for a minimum of four days in advance from the date of travel and wait for the approval. For online filling and submission of the application, applicants need to visit the official website — indianvisaonline.gov.in. Earlier, Saudi Arabia had announced a few exemptions for Indian nationals to obtain a visa for traveling to the country as it looks to India as a key source market for tourism, especially with Saudi’s ambition to achieve 100 million visits annually by 2030. Saudi Tourism Authority during its recent delegation visit to India, featured a range of meetings, industry round-tables and networking events followed by two roadshows in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Saudi Tourism Authority has also, commenced an official partnership with the popular cricket meet — Indian Premier League.
Indian Railways’ South Western Railway (SWR) zone’s Hubballi railway station has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest railway platform in the world, measuring 1,507 meters in length. Built at a cost of about $2.44 million, the new platform is part of remodeling of the Hubballi yard and to address the need to run additional trains in the future. Shree Siddharoodha Swamiji Hubballi station is an important junction in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Hubballi-Dharwad is included in the smart city project at a total estimated cost of $63.4 million. These efforts are expected to enhance the quality of life by creating hygienic, safe and functional public spaces and transform the town into a futuristic urban center.
The Indian hospitality industry is on its way back to profitability, with all key performance indicators such as revenue per available room (RevPAR), average daily room rate (ARR) and occupancy rate ahead of pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by credit ratings agency CareEdge. The sector’s RevPAR, which is estimated to reach $48-$50 by the end of financial year 2023, reflects marginal growth over financial year 2019 levels, thanks to the strong recovery in occupancy and average rates mainly driven by the average daily room rate, coupled with weddings and domestic leisure travel as significant contributors in financial year 2023. Leveraging India’s G-20 presidency, the Cricket World Cup, and the resumption of foreign inbound travel, along with robust domestic leisure travel, the sector’s average daily room rate should continue to inch higher in financial year 2024, the report said.
Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has approved Air India’s long-pending request to allow the airline to use a common pool of pilots for different aircraft types. A small batch of the airline’s cockpit crew can now switch between Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft on a trial basis to accommodate the growing pilot paucity. To transition from one type to the other, the pilots — some of whom fly Boeing 777s and others Boeing 787s — will receive classroom and simulator training. After that, they will be able to fly the new type for at least 150 hours, making at least 10 landings.
India is among the top six source markets for Seychelles, reaffirmed Bernadette Willemin, director general of destination marketing for Tourism Seychelles. Willemin was part of the tourism board’s delegation, which was in India recently to participate in two of the country’s largest travel trade events — South Asian Travel and Tourism Exhibition (SATTE) and Outbound Travel Mart (OTM) 2023. “As we continue to work on diversifying our offerings, India will prove to be a major accelerator, given its young population’s love for travel and Seychelles itself. We plan to invest more in India and leverage various platforms, trade shows, and media relations in the coming months,” said Willemin.
Russia will now operate more passenger flights to India, after the two countries revised their bilateral air services agreement. Under the amended agreement, Russian carriers can operate up to 64 weekly flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Amritsar and Ahmedabad. Currently, Aeroflot operates seven weekly flights to India. Indian airlines are permitted to fly to six destinations in Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to the civil aviation ministry. India has bilateral air services agreements with around 116 countries. Any designated airline of a foreign country can operate to/from a point in India if it is designated as a point of call in the agreement signed between India and the country concerned.
A tiger and a tigress were reintroduced after 27 years at Madhav National Park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in a push to revive the big cat population at the facility. Wildlife-related tourism is immensely popular in India and the number of people visiting tiger reserves has drastically risen in recent years. The tiger was transferred from Satpura National Park while the tigress was brought from Bandhavgarh National Park in the state. Three more tigers will be brought soon, said Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. “The arrival of tigers will generate employment opportunities at the local level. This will also enhance the economic prosperity of the area,” he added. The Kuno National Park in the state recently became a new home for 20 cheetahs brought from Namibia in South Africa.
India’s youngest airline Akasa Air has announced the addition of new routes from the western city of Ahmedabad, connecting it with Lucknow, Goa and Hyderabad. Effective March 15, 2023, the airline will connect Ahmedabad with double daily non-stop flights to Hyderabad as well as to Goa’s new Manohar International Airport. The airline will also operate non-stop daily flights between Bagdogra and Bengaluru from April 17. This network expansion is a significant milestone, marking the airline’s entry into the state of West Bengal which will allow it to strengthen its domestic presence in the eastern part of the country.
The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), that owns the Taj group of hotels, has announced the opening of Ginger Chandigarh, Zirakpur, a satellite town in north India. Featuring 102 rooms, a meeting area, a banquet hall and a fitness centre, the hotel is strategically located at a short distance from Chandigarh International Airport. The hotel is developed in partnership with the Dhillon Group, an industrial house in north India with presence across sectors like retail, real estate, entertainment, IT and chemicals, among others. With the addition of this hotel, IHCL will have two hotels in Chandigarh.
AirAsia India, in collaboration with aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), integrated the pilot’s flight duty logbook directly from its crew management system to the eGCA platform. The eGCA is a single window e-governance platform aimed to provide transparency, accountability and ease of doing business to its various stakeholders. This initiative will digitize operations and eliminate the need for pilots to hand-fill their flight and simulator duties carried out during their career in physical logbooks. In addition to providing accurate real-time pilot flying hours, this integration will also facilitate the timely submission of applications for pilot licensing, renewal and endorsement by eliminating multiple data validation steps.
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Photo credit: Tourist arrivals at Delhi airport. India has restored e-visa services for the nationals of Saudi Arabia.