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The greenfield airports would not just connect smaller cities to the rest of the country, but would also help popularize tourism to off-beat destinations.

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As India plans to increase connectivity to the rest of the country, the government has approved 21 greenfield airports in smaller cities. A total of 11 such airports are operational so far, the latest being the Shivamogga airport in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Since 2018, eight airports, namely Pakyong (Sikkim), Kannur (Kerala), Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Sindhudurg (Maharashtra), Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh), Orvakal (Andhra Pradesh) and Mopa (Goa) airports have been operationalized apart from Shivamogga. The government of India has formulated the greenfield policy for construction of greenfield airport, for which the state government or airport operator has to identify the site and get the feasibility study conducted for construction of airport. Greenfield projects are initiated on undeveloped ground and do not include the renovation or demolition of an existing building. There are no constraints from any previous work on the ground. The government has also granted site clearance for construction of three greenfield airports — Alwar in Rajasthan, Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. The responsibility of implementation of airport projects including funding of the projects rests with the concerned airport developer including the respective state government in case it is the project proponent. With India’s passenger traffic expected to double by 2030, International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects India to be the world’s third-largest air passenger market by 2030. In the post pandemic recovery, the civil aviation industry in India has emerged as one of the fastest-growing industries.

The U.S. embassy has processed more than two lakh visas to India so far and is aiming to process one million visas by 2023-end, according to media reports. This year, the U.S. embassy ramped up the visa process by opening its office during weekends. Besides, the embassy has also added more staff, expanded the scope of drop-box facilities, and opened up interview slots over the weekend. The U.S. Mission, which has offices in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Delhi, increased the strength of consular staff in January this year. Dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies have arrived in India to increase the processing capacity in January-March. 

India’s domestic passenger traffic in February 2023 has reported a year-on-year growth of 54 percent, which is only 4 percent lower than pre-Covid levels, according to credit rating agency ICRA. Daily departures averaged 2,967, up from 2,044 in February 2022 and 2,900 in January 2023, but down from 3,137 in February 2020. The average number of passengers per flight was 143, higher than the 139 passengers per flight in February 2022. “Domestic passenger traffic for February 2023 is estimated at 119 lakh, 54 percent higher than the domestic passenger traffic of 77 lakh in February 2022 and lower by only 4 percent, compared to pre-Covid levels,” said Suprio Banerjee, vice president and sector head of corporate ratings at ICRA. Due to the fast-paced recovery in domestic passenger traffic and improved pricing power, ICRA had recently revised its outlook on the Indian aviation industry to stable from negative.

Indian Railways has confirmed that Delhi’s Safdarjung railway station will be refurbished to operate royal tourist trains — Maharaja Express and Palace on Wheels — at a cost of $42.5 million. The redeveloped station will reportedly have a connecting concourse, modernized platform infrastructure, an office complex along with a retail facility. The number of platforms at the station will also be increased. To facilitate the movement of pedestrians, arrival and departure will be separated through elevators and escalators. Separate passenger drop-off and pedestrian plazas and passenger pick-up and pedestrian plazas have been proposed for private cars, taxis and auto rickshaws, with dedicated slots for buses.

In a bid to achieve carbon neutrality and net zero, India’s ministry of civil aviation has advised all operational brownfield airports and upcoming greenfield airports to include use of 100 percent green energy. The state governments have been advised to ensure carbon emission reduction measures. Further, tariff regulator Airports Economic Regulatory Authority has been advised to take into account the cost associated with the green energy use for airports tariff determination. The ministry has also taken steps to encourage use of sustainable aviation fuel. Most of the airports have been given the target of achieving 100 percent use of green energy by 2023 and net zero by 2030.

The north Indian state of Punjab has allocated a budget provision of $34 million for tourism and cultural affairs for 2023-24, which is 8 percent more than the previous year. The state government has reserved $13.35 million for the construction, maintenance and restoration of various monuments, while $670,000 has been allotted to develop the tourism sector as a brand and popularize the history of Punjab’s culture and heritage buildings.

A parliamentary panel has asked the Indian civil aviation ministry to cap the upper and lower levels of airfares, and ensure that predatory pricing mechanism is not adopted by airlines in the guise of “free market economy.” “A perfect balance has to be maintained between the commercial interest of the private airlines and the interest of the passengers so as to enable the private airlines to grow and at the same time the interest of passengers should also be kept in mind, so that they are not fleeced in the garb of commercialization,” the panel said. While the government plans to make air transport affordable and increase air capacity, there is no commensurate expansion of the capacity to bring in aircraft. This creates a lack of airline tickets considering the high demand and leads to increase in the prices, as per the report.

The state government of India’s western state of Maharashtra has sanctioned $7.3 million for a leopard safari park to be set up in Junnar city near Pune. Wildlife tourism is a prominent tourist activity in India, given the country’s plethora of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The leopard safari aims to unite the leopards moving in the entire leopard belt while reducing incidents of man-animal conflict at the same time. While Junnar and its neighboring areas are home to many leopards, the safari is aimed at boosting tourism and employment in the area.

New Delhi-based hotel operator Crimson Hotels has taken over the management of Darbar E Khas, a 35-room boutique hotel in Bareilly, a city in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. “The hotel will complement our existing portfolio and reinforce the strong demand for key locations thus allowing us to solidify our presence in the country. Darbar E Khas will be our midscale, value for money offering for travelers who want to experience personalized service and a homely feel,” said Sandeep Maitraya, director of Crimson Hotels.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting for tourism ministers from member countries will be held on March 17 and 18 in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi. The eight member countries include China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A joint action plan on the development of cooperation in tourism among member countries would be adopted during the meeting. This will include actions relating to promotion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization tourism brand, promotion of cultural heritage of member states in tourism, exchange of information and digital technology in tourism and promoting mutual cooperation in medical and health tourism. Founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization aims to promote economic, political, and military cooperation among its member nations.


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Tags: air traffic, airports, india, indian railways, punjab, shanghai, skift india report, tourism, u.s. visa, wildlife tourism

Photo credit: A total of 21 greenfield airports are to be set up in India. Vikas Minz

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