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India must ease travel formalities to attract more international tourists — apart from focusing on niche areas like medical, wellness, and spiritual tourism.

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Before the pandemic, solo travelers accounted for roughly a third of hotel bookings by inbound travelers. But a push for social interaction and India’s growing reputation as a couples getaway has since led families and couples to take a majority share of inbound bookings, according to travel tech firm RateGain Travel TechnologiesIndia Inbound Travel Trends report. Family hotel bookings have increased from 4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to 10.2 percent in the first quarter of 2023. France and Spain are the top origins for families visiting India. Solo bookings have significantly declined in recent years — from 41.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to only 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2023. The report studies travelers’ behavior from nine countries, including the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Germany and France. We wonder where the inbound business travelers have gone. Here’s another startling statistic from the RateGain report: the share of female travelers visiting India from developed countries has increased to 49 percent over the past five years. While the share was a little more than 33 percent of all travelers between January and March 2018, it rose by 50 percent to occupy 49 percent of the total share of international travelers between January and March 2023.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts — a luxury brand of hospitality giant Accor — has announced the signing of a new property in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Set to open by 2025, the hotel will offer 205 rooms, including 44 suites, two restaurants, coffee shop, bar, swimming pool, fitness center and spa. Fairmont has partnered with Shekhar Resorts to launch the first Fairmont in Agra. The property will be located approximately a mile from the Taj Mahal and just a two-hour drive from the Indian capital New Delhi. The brand already operates the Fairmont Jaipur and will open additional hotels in Udaipur, Mumbai and Shimla Fagu over the next two years. 

Travel technology firm Amadeus has opened an engineering site in Pune in the west Indian state of Maharashtra that will focus on developing new technology solutions for hospitality organizations across the country. This facility will help expand Amadeus Labs’ engineering and Research and Development activities in India. “This expansion will help us to better serve our customers, by providing them with innovative solutions that create exceptional traveler experiences. Amadeus Labs Pune will play a pivotal role in driving our global R&D efforts and help us stay at the forefront of the travel technology industry in India and the Asia Pacific region,” said Mani Ganeshan, center head of Amadeus Labs Bengaluru. 

The U.S. will begin accepting petitions for H-2B visa workers — issued for temporary jobs which allow employers to hire skilled or unskilled workers — for the late second half of fiscal year 2023 under the supplemental cap temporary final rule, the federal agency for immigration services announced. Under this rule, which was announced in December last year, there are 10,000 visas limited to returning workers regardless of country of nationality, for the late second half of fiscal year 2023, that is May 15 to September 30. “The 10,000 visas made available under this allocation are limited to returning workers who were issued H-2B visas or held H-2B status in fiscal years 2020, 2021, or 2022,” the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said. 

India’s newest airline Akasa Air has partnered with travel luggage retrieval company Blue Ribbon Bags to offer customers delayed baggage protection services. The add-on service, available at a fee of $1.2 per passenger, will offer compensation of $232 per bag (up to two bags) in case the check-in bag is delayed or lost beyond 96 hours following the submission of a complaint. The service will also provide the airline’s customers with real-time status updates of the delayed bag via email and SMS and assist them in tracking and expediting the return of delayed luggage. Customers can book the service while making or managing their bookings on the airline’s website or the mobile app. The airline will refund or adjust the fee if the booking is canceled or rescheduled.

Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels has announced the signing of Zone by The Park Kasauli in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Scheduled to be operational by mid-2025, the 80-key hotel features a restaurant, bar, spa, and poolside. Its banquet can accommodate up to 500 guests. “We are looking forward to the opening of more hotels in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in the near future. The hotel aims to cater to price-conscious design-conscious travelers seeking a unique experience,” said Vikas Ahluwalia, general manager and national head of Zone by The Park Hotels. The property is a two-hour drive from Chandigarh airport and railway station, and one and a half hours drive from Shimla airport.

As the 16th season of India’s professional Twenty20 cricket league progresses, India-based budget hotel operator and aggregator Oyo offers exclusive check-in rewards to consumers who stay in their properties during the tournament along with a refer-and-win scheme. The rewards include speakers, smartwatches, earphones, and Amazon vouchers. The top 20 winners of the scheme will be rewarded with Amazon vouchers worth $122. The company also runs exciting cricket trivia questions daily on its app through a feature called Oyo-Q. Oyo expects a greater influx in demand as the tournament proceeds toward the final stages.

According to the U.S. aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), India has met aviation safety oversight standards following a comprehensive evaluation of the country’s aviation regulatory system. “Based on the positive outcomes of the assessment and follow-ups, FAA informed DGCA on April 12, 2023, that India meets the international standards for aviation safety oversight of the Chicago Convention & its Annexes and continues to retain FAA IASA Category 1 status, which was last assessed in July 2018,” read a statement from the Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Airlines of Category 1 countries are permitted to operate and expand their services to destinations in the U.S. and establish codeshare agreements with U.S. air carriers.

Thomas Cook India and its group company SOTC Travel have expanded their spiritual journeys portfolio with ready-to-book and customizable tours across India’s top preferred spiritual locales. The range features a combination of spiritual breaks with unique local experiences such as boating on the Ganges or exploring the weaver’s village in Varanasi; and outdoor adventures like white-water rafting, bungee jumping, diving, to name a few. Select tours include helicopter services and VIP visits. The companies’ consumer data reveals that its spiritual tourism segment is witnessing an uptick of 40 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, with increasing demand from India’s millennials and Gen Z.

ReWild Retreats has announced the launch of a riverfront enclave ‘Twilight in the Wilderness’, just beyond Kanakapura in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Spanning roughly 50 acres and comprising 32 estates for sale, the enclave lies between Mysore and Bengaluru. The property will also feature a 5-acre boutique riverside resort boasting roughly 20 cottages. To realize a sustainable lifestyle, a tree-lined loop with blue-green infrastructure will be established for water and vegetation. The plan will also include stroll gardens, river terraces, a vernal pool, and a riverside boulder trail and promenade. “From terraced orchards to an on-site luxury resort and managed horticulture, security, and maintenance services, the site will be shaped to showcase a rich tapestry of textures and colors, offering an abode like no other,” said Abhilash Narahari, co-founder of ReWild Retreats.

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Tags: accor, akasa air, amadeus, aviation safety, baggage handling, fairmont hotels, Federal Aviation Administration, india, oyo, skift india report, taj mahal, thomas cook, u.s. visa, visas, women travelers

Photo credit: Female travelers visiting India has increased to 49 percent. KANNELIL / Foreign tourists in Amer Fort, Jaipur KANNELIL

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