The latest predictions from WTTC not only affirm India's status as a burgeoning tourism powerhouse, but also underscore the country's immense potential in the global tourism landscape.
The Skift India Newsletter is your go-to platform for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.
India’s travel and tourism sector is poised to contribute $200 billion (Rs16.5 trillion) to the country’s economy in 2023, just 3.5 percent below 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The sector is also set to create over 1.6 million additional jobs this year, nearly restoring the employment levels lost during the Covid-19 pandemic to reach almost 39 million.
The country’s spending by domestic visitors grew 86 percent last year to reach more than $150 billion (Rs12.3 trillion), just 1 percent behind pre-pandemic levels. The sector’s gross domestic product (GDP) contribution increased by nearly 90 percent to surpass $190 billion (Rs15.6 trillion), accounting for almost 6 percent of the economy, closer to its 2019 peak of 7 percent contribution to the economy.
The sector’s resilience, growing at twice the rate of gross domestic product (GDP) not only in India but across all G20 nations, was highlighted by Julia Simpson, president and CEO of WTTC, at a media briefing on Thursday.
Last year, the biggest source markets for inbound tourism in India were Bangladesh (12 percent), U.S. (7 percent), UK (5 percent), Sri Lanka (2 percent), and France (2 percent). Listing out the most popular Indian destinations based on international arrivals, Simpson named Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad.
In a positive outlook, WTTC’s research indicates that this growth offers significant career opportunities, particularly for young people, with around one in 13 workers in India being employed in the travel and tourism sector.
According to the WTTC forecast, international visitor spend in India is expected to surpass $24 billion (Rs2 trillion), while domestic visitor spend is projected to exceed $150 billion (Rs12.6 trillion) by the end of this year.
Looking ahead, WTTC predicts that by 2033, the travel and tourism sector will contribute approximately 7 percent of India’s economy, reaching $450 billion (Rs36.8 trillion), employing over 58 million individuals, equating to one in 10 jobs in the country.
Calling visa backlogs a significant obstacle, with excessive waiting times ranging from 200 days to a year for certain destinations, Simpson spoke about investment in digital visas and biometrics, exemplified by Dubai Airport‘s “smart gates,” as a successful example of technology streamlining travel processes.
Thales to Pilot Biometric Solutions at Indian Airports
Paris-headquartered Thales Group is working with Indian airport operators to reduce the time spent by flyers at check-in counters by an estimated 30 percent. Thales’ Vice President and Country Head for India, Ashish Saraf, said the company has developed a solution so one’s face would be their boarding pass. “The DigiYatra app on your phone will allow you to register your boarding pass, and scan your face. It authenticates the face with your biometrics in Aadhar and registers yourself as a passenger enabled by DigiYatra,” he said. Thales is also collaborating with India’s civil aviation ministry, aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Indian airlines to introduce in-flight internet services.
In another development, the DigiYatra app user base has crossed the one million mark this week, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement. The app, which allows biometric boarding using facial recognition technology to establish the flier’s identity, is available at Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi, Bengaluru, Vijayawada, Hyderabad and Pune airports.
IndiGo Collaborates With Sula Vineyards
Budget carrier IndiGo has partnered with India-based winemakers Sula Vineyards and Fratelli Vineyards to offer curated holiday experiences for all its Nashik and Pune-bound customers, respectively in the western state of Maharashtra. With this collaboration, IndiGo’s passengers will get complimentary offers when they visit these vineyards and can avail discounts on stay at their estates. The offers will be accessible to passengers who book flights directly through the airline’s website or app. IndiGo’s aircraft order for 500 Airbus A320neo family planes — likely worth $50 billion — has eclipsed Air India’s 470 aircraft order made in February.
Flybig Adds Canadian Aircraft to Fleet
Regional carrier flybig has placed an order for two Canadian De Havilland aircraft, which will be deployed under India’s regional airport development program for improving underserviced air routes. The carrier signed a purchase agreement to acquire two Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft and a letter of interest to acquire 10 new DHC-6 Twin Otter Classic 300-G aircraft. “Our two Series 400 aircraft will help realize our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to connect India’s hinterland, and we are looking forward to working with De Havilland Canada on potential future acquisitions of the new Classic 300-G,” said Sanjay Mandavia, chairman and managing director of flybig.
Early last month, the airline launched a direct daily Guwahati-Dibrugarh-Guwahati flight under the Assam Tourism Development Corporation’s viability gap funding to promote intra-state air connectivity.
Go First Seeks Up to $122 Million in Additional Funds
Cash-strapped airline Go First, which is under bankruptcy protection as it tries to resume operations, has sought $122 million in additional funds at a lenders meeting on Wednesday, banking sources told news agency Reuters. Earlier, Go First had submitted a six-month revival plan to aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation under which the airline proposed to resume operations with a fleet of 26 aircraft and 152 daily flights. Lenders to the airline — Bank of Baroda, Central Bank of India, IDBI and Deutsche Bank — have an exposure of $797.38 million. Early last month, Wadia Group’s Go First had filed for voluntary insolvency blaming “faulty” Pratt & Whitney engines for the grounding of about half its fleet.
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Photo credit: Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India. Kolkata is one of the popular Indian destinations based on international arrivals. Kolkatar Chobiwala / Pexels