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It's time we spoke about the responsibility of Indian corporations towards sustainable travel.

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Indian companies have failed to set targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, according to an annual report by campaign group Transport & Environment. Globally, only 50 companies out of 322 have set targets to reduce business travel, with information technology (IT) services company Wipro paving the way in India. Wipro has achieved a 15-20 percent reduction in air travel emissions between the 2015 and 2020 period. Among all 10 Indian companies featured in the ranking report, only IT services provider Tech Mahindra reports on air travel emissions specifically. “Advancements taking place in India are mostly being led by the technology industry. We invite these technology companies to continue to work on their travel policies and demonstrate leadership to catalyze change in other industries,” said Denise Auclair, corporate travel manager at Transport & Environment. Of the companies that have targets, only four companies meet the “gold standard” of reporting air travel emissions and commitment to reducing them by 50 percent or more, by 2025 or sooner. These are Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals, Denmark), Swiss Re (finance, Switzerland), Fidelity International (finance, Britain) and ABN Amro (finance, the Netherlands).

Air India has announced a partnership with cloud-based software company Salesforce in a bid to transform customer experience. The deployment of Salesforce will allow Air India to track customer interactions across its contact center, mobile, web, chatbot, email, social media and other channels to provide a single source-of-truth of customer requests and issues, the airline said in a release. Additionally, it will give Air India’s customer-facing staff and its automated systems the ability to act on challenges proactively and track them to closure, assisted by artificial intelligence-induced technology.

Kolkata railway station will now also house a Bangladesh visa information center to guide visitors on the visa processing procedure. A sizeable population of the east Indian state of West Bengal has a strong connection with Bangladesh as thousands of Bangladeshi refugees are settled across the state. The center will be operated by DUDigital, a visa processing company, which already operates other Bangladesh visa application centers in Kolkata and Siliguri. The centers will provide a variety of services, including visa application form filing, a photo booth, passport collection and delivery. Kolkata railway station is the terminal point for two Bangladesh-bound trains — Maitree Express, which runs till the capital city Dhaka, and the Bandhan Express that goes to Khulna.

Flight operations have resumed at the Pakyong airport in India’s first fully-organic state of Sikkim. A SpiceJet plane landed at the airport with 12 passengers and then took off for Delhi with 43 passengers. Regular flight services will start on March 26, 2023 with a daily flight to Delhi for now. The flight services at the table-top airport, suspended in October last year due to operational difficulties, adversely affecting the state’s tourism industry. Prior to suspending its operations, SpiceJet used to operate daily flights to Delhi and Kolkata from Pakyong.

India-based heritage hotel chain WelcomHeritage Hotels has partnered with electric vehicle startup SunFuel Electric to install charging stations across its hotels in India. “By the year-end, we aim to successfully offer our guests responsible drivable itineraries from Delhi to our properties in Panchkula, Kasauli, Solan and Shimla. Adding to the feasibility and mindfulness of electric vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), our guests will be able to enjoy the beautiful drives up to these WelcomHeritage destinations without the anxiety and stress of access to EV charging stations,” said Abinash Manghani, chief executive officer of WelcomHeritage Hotels. Currently, travelers can drive their electric vehicles to WelcomHeritage Parv Vilas Resort & Spa in Solan, Himachal Pradesh where the charging station is operational. 

Vietnam’s national airline, Vietnam Airlines has confirmed that it will operate one flight per day between India and Vietnam from March 26, 2023. The airline will operate four flights per week on the Hanoi-New Delhi route, departing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and three flights per week on the Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)-New Delhi route, departing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This new frequency will raise the number of flights between the two countries by 30 percent compared to the current flight schedule. The airline has plans to further expand its network by launching flights to Mumbai.

India’s upcoming greenfield airportNoida International Airport — in Uttar Pradesh’s Jewar is on track to meet its 2024-end deadline to start commercial flights. The airport is being developed by Swiss company Zurich Airport, which has built nine other airports, most of which are in Latin America. “Earthwork was completed earlier this year and vertical construction has started including on the terminal building and runway,” said Christoph Schnellmann, CEO of Noida International Airport. The first phase would be spread over 1,300 hectares and is expected to be ready by the end of next year. 

Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways has appointed Salil Nath as general manager of the Indian subcontinent. Based in New Delhi, Nath will be responsible for all commercial activities across a key cluster for the Etihad network within the central region – India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Seychelles. Since joining Etihad in 2012, Nath has served as the regional sales manager of key sectors starting with Bengaluru-Hyderabad, followed by the north and east India. Prior to joining Etihad, Nath has worked with Kingfisher Airlines, part of the United Breweries Group, and a brief stint at travel management company Amex GBT, where he overlooked corporate sales and client servicing respectively. Nath takes the reins from Neerja Bhatia, who is retiring after 18 years of leading Etihad Airways in India.

One-fourth of the work on India’s first bullet train project — connecting the country’s financial capital Mumbai with Ahmedabad — is now complete. Sharing the update on Twitter, the country’s ministry of railways informed that the overall project has progressed by 26 percent. While the overall Gujarat leg of the project has completed 33 percent with the civil works having progressed around 55 percent, the overall progress of the Maharashtra leg was just 14 percent, it added. Covering 315 miles in just two hours, the high-speed train will drastically reduce travel time from the usual nine hours by bus and six hours by train. There will be 35 trains per day/one direction, running every 20 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during non-peak hours.

Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo has started three direct flights from Nashik in the western state of Maharashtra — connecting Goa, Ahmedabad and Nagpur. The routes will increase intra-state and inter-state accessibility, while promoting trade, tourism and mobility. “This move connects India’s golden triangle to a plethora of domestic and international locations through our 6E network. By enhancing accessibility to Nashik, famous for its rich history, we aim to promote commerce and tourism and boost economic growth in the region,” said Vinay Malhotra, head of global sales, IndiGo.

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Tags: air india, bangladesh, business travel, Etihad Airways, india, indigo, mumbai, salesforce, skift india report, spicejet, Vietnam Airlines, visa

Photo credit: Globally, only 50 companies out of 322 have set targets to reduce business travel. Matthew Hurst / Flickr

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