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A steep increase in air fares, prolonged visa delays, and inflation pressures must be averted to ensure the growth momentum.

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Leading operators in the Indian tours and travel sector are set to report 6-7 percent growth in operating profits in fiscal 2023, after having reported losses for the past two fiscals due to pandemic-induced travel restrictions, according to Crisil Ratings. Revenue is likely to recover 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, buoyed by strong recovery in both corporate and leisure travel segments in India and abroad. Crisil Ratings expects operating margins to sustain at these levels next fiscal, due to implementation of cost optimization and automation initiatives undertaken by travel operators commencing from the pandemic period, even as revenues are expected to pass pre-pandemic levels next fiscal. This marks a significant turnaround from operating losses of 25.8 percent and 2.7 percent in fiscals 2021 and 2022, respectively. “Rising business travel, along with increasing return-to-office and preference for face-to face meetings besides increasing consumer preference for short breaks will push revenue past pre-pandemic levels in fiscal 2024. Interestingly, preference for short holidays is seeing momentum, especially within India and Asian destinations,” said Poonam Upadhyay, Director, CRISIL Ratings. The improvement in operating performance, together with healthy liquidity and net debt free balance sheets, will help strengthen credit profiles of the players, the report said.

Around 100,300 short-term tourists from India visited Australia’s southeastern state Victoria in the year ending September 2022, as per the latest International Visitor Survey by Tourism Research Australia. The group predicted visits from India would rebound most quickly as compared to other countries post-pandemic. The figures reveal it was back to 57 percent of its pre-covid levels, the highest of any international market to Victoria, said Brendan McClements, CEO of Visit Victoria, the primary tourism body for the state. “India is a critical part of where we think the future of tourism is in Victoria. And it’s partly because Victoria also is home to Australia’s biggest Indian population. Now that the world’s opening up and things are happening, we’re very keen to reconnect with India and reconnect those people-to-people links,” McClements said during his recent visit to the country.

The Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) is lobbying for the government to issue electronic visas to travelers from India. Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco stated that government agencies must explore the provision of travel mechanisms such as the electronic visa system to make travel simpler, citing the potential of India as a key tourist source market. The tourism department reported that 58 percent of overall Indian tourists were repeat visitors, emphasizing the importance of sustaining and increasing their entry. According to the department, India has evolved from a potential market for the Philippines to a significant source of foreign visitors. Frasco conducted a high-level convergence conference with other agencies to examine visa problems and other tourism bottlenecks. 

Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo is expecting to fly 100 million passengers and is planning to have 350 aircraft in its fleet by the end of the financial year 2024, it said in a presentation. At the same time, the airline is looking to end the current fiscal with around 306 planes in the fleet with the passenger volume estimated at over 85 million. The number of destinations is expected to go up to 115, with around 10-15 destinations likely to be added in the network during the year, as against 104 in the financial year 2023. IndiGo further stated it will double in size and scale by 2030. The airline aims to boost economic growth, social cohesion and mobility in the country by developing its own model with affordable air connectivity and on-time service, among others, across the domestic and global markets.

India fell six places to number 144 in the annual passport index for 2023, from 138 a year ago. India’s mobility score fell from 71 in 2019 to 47 in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Passport Index 2023 report. The score rose to 73 in 2022 as travel restrictions were gradually lifted, but it fell back to 70 in 2023. The report said that the decline in India’s mobility score is linked to changes in the European Union’s policy. “The lack of visa-free agreements with influential blocs like the EU, or regional competitors such as India and Japan, therefore, continue to limit the strength of its passport,” the report said. The rankings are determined by the mobility score of the countries which is calculated on provisions like visa-free visit, visa on arrival, an eVisa (if used within three days) and electronic travel authorization. 

Tata Group-owned Air India has launched non-stop flights to the UK’s second-largest airport London Gatwick from the north Indian city of Amritsar and the west Indian city of Ahmedabad. Flight AI 169 from Amritsar to Gatwick will depart at 13:20 hours and will arrive in Gatwick at 17:55 hours on the same day. AI 170 will take off from Gatwick at 21:40 hours to arrive in Amritsar at 10:15 hours (local time). The inaugural flight AI171 from Ahmedabad to London Gatwick departed on time at 11:50 hours is scheduled to arrive at London Gatwick at 16:40 hours (local time). Flights to the destinations will all operate thrice-weekly, served by the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring 18 business class and 238 economy class seats. 

Bengaluru airport is set to become India’s first airport with a multi-modal transport hub that will integrate bus and metro stations, private car/taxi/cabs parking, a baggage sorting area and a retail area under one roof. Once functional, the tech city will join the likes of Zurich and Heathrow for seamless travel integration. “The multi-modal transport hub is in its advanced stages of construction and is expected to be completed soon. Sections of the facility such as a temporary parking area and drop-off area have already been completed, and are ready for operation,” a spokesperson for Bangalore International Airport, which operates the city’s Kempegowda International Airport, told the media.  

India-based online travel group MakeMyTrip is set to grow its franchise business by more than 50 percent this year to expand its reach in smaller cities and towns across India. The company started 2023 with 146 active franchisees and aims to grow to reach 220 by the end of the calendar year. “The franchise network expansion is part of our broader strategy to serve customers in the top 100+ cities of India. The franchise network will help serve those customers who may be more comfortable talking to someone they trust,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive officer at MakeMyTrip. The company aims to build a hyper-local marketing connection by leveraging its franchisee partners to build travel communities in smaller cities, the company said in a statement.  

India’s civil aviation ministry is conceptualizing to install computed tomography x-ray baggage scanners at airports whereby passengers will not be required to remove electronic items from their hand baggage during the security check. Currently, passengers have to remove and keep electronic items in a separate tray during security checks at airports. The process slows down the security check process and often results in creating long queues at security checkpoints. “It may increase time efficiency at airports and also enable ease of security check for travelers. The techno-economic feasibility study for the same is currently underway,” said VK Singh, minister of state for civil aviation.

The Central Railway zone of the Indian Railways has once again emerged as the top performer in ticket checking with a record collection of $36.4 million in financial year 2023 in fines from passengers traveling without tickets. The fines were collected on both outstations as well as suburban trains as per an official statement of the Central Railway. This is a sharp rise from last year’s collection of $26 million, which helped Central Railway become the top collector of fines among all railway zones. The Mumbai Division alone contributed over $12 million to achieve the milestone. Northern Railway took the second spot in this financial year with earnings of around $34.3 million from ticketless passengers.


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Tags: air india, aviation, baggage, bengaluru, india, indian railways, indigo, London Gatwick, makemytrip, passports, philippines, profits, skift india report, tourism, tourism australia, travel agents

Photo credit: Visits from India would rebound most quickly to Victoria as compared to other countries post-pandemic. shalender kumar / pixabay

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