India's inbound tourism falls significantly short of its potential, but the G20 and Cricket World Cup may help nudge it closer to the 10-million mark.
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While India has been making its way up as a top source country for outbound travel, the country’s inbound tourism has still not been able to touch the almost 11-million foreign arrivals of 2019. According to the Ministry of Tourism, India received 6.2 million foreign tourists in 2022.
However, inbound travel to India is set to experience a 23% increase during the festive season (from September to November), according to data shared with Skift by travel technology firm RateGain.
Top Source Countries: Insights from RateGain data revealed that Australia is set to be the top source country, closely followed by U.S., Singapore, Canada and UK.
What’s Fueling the Surge?
- The hosting of the G20 in Delhi recently. Delhi and the National Capital Region experienced a 40% surge in travel demand when it hosted the G20 Summit earlier this month.
- The Cricket World Cup set to take place in the country from October 5-November 19.
The upcoming Cricket World Cup has also turned the spotlight on hotel demand and accommodation searches in the host cities.
Soaring Hotel Rates: RateGain noted that hotel demand has been soaring across cities hosting the Cricket World Cup. Ahmedabad, the host city of the much-anticipated India-Pakistan match, witnessed a staggering 308% increase in hotel prices. Dharamshala and Pune follow closely with price surges of 300% and 360% respectively. Hyderabad with a growth rate of 230% and Chennai at 220% continue the trend.
RateGain noted that travelers are also expected to extend their stay to explore host cities. Industry players such as Oyo are expected to add 500 new hotels before the tournament starts to capture this demand.
Besides hotels, the growing demand for alternative accommodations has led MakeMyTrip to expand its inventory of homestays.
And Then The Airfares: Airfares for top venues like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Kolkata have grown 40%-60% over the past year, noted RateGain. Other host cities are also seeing 20%-30% increases in flight prices. This pricing surge emphasizes the tremendous growth in travel demand.
IndiGo Launches Services to San Francisco Via Codeshare Flights with Turkish Airlines
IndiGo has announced the launch of its flights to San Francisco via Istanbul as part of a codeshare connection agreement with Turkish Airlines, the airline said in a statement.
In his interaction with Skift earlier this year, Indigo CEO Pieter Elbers had spoken at length about the codeshare arrangement with Turkey and the carrier’s decision fly to some destinations in the U.S.
U.S. Connections: The flights, effective September 25, now link to five more destinations across the U.S. IndiGo already provides connectivity to New York, Washington, Boston, and Chicago.
International Expansion: IndiGo’s own global network has grown in the last few months with flights to Central Asia (Tbilisi), Africa (Nairobi), Jakarta, Baku, Tashkent, and Almaty.
India Eyes Bigger Share in Events and Conferences Tourism Market
Inaugurating India’s largest convention center in Delhi this weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the country’s ambition to expand its presence in the global conference tourism industry, estimated to be worth $310 billion.
Skift spoke to Samit Garg, president of the Events and Entertainment Management Association, to gauge what this would mean for the country and what it would take for India to tap into this market.
“India’s ambitious plan reflects its commitment to becoming a preferred destination for international conferences, conventions, and business events. India is implementing several strategies to achieve this goal,” Garg said.
Infrastructure: India is investing heavily in developing world-class conference and convention centers in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru.
“These venues are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and technology to accommodate large-scale international events. India International Convention and Expo Centre, also known as Yashobhoomi, and Bharat Mandapam are the best examples, which are ready to showcase India in this light,” said Garg. Reportedly, over 200 events have already been planned at the newly-inaugurated convention in Delhi’s Dwarka in the next two years.
Visa and Travel Facilitation: India has introduced e-visas and simplified visa procedures for conference attendees and organizers. These measures, according to Garg, make it easier for international delegates to attend events in India.
Collaboration with Industry Stakeholders: The government is collaborating with industry stakeholders, including hotels, airlines, and event management companies, to create attractive packages and offers for conference organizers. These partnerships ensure easing logistical challenges and competitive pricing for hosting events in India, said Garg.
Global Alliances: India is forging partnerships with international organizations, associations, and conference planners to host major global events.
Promotion and Marketing: The Indian government, along with various tourism bodies, is actively promoting the country as a conference tourism destination through marketing campaigns and participation in international trade shows and exhibitions.
Sterling Holiday Resorts Expands in Gujarat With New Property in Vadodara
Thomas Cook India’s hospitality arm, Sterling Holidays has added a property within Gujarat’s largest theme park to tap into the growing meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions market.
The 63-room Sterling Aatapi Wonderland would be a significant addition to the company’s leisure portfolio, said Vikram Lalvani, managing director and CEO of Sterling Holiday Resorts.
Akasa Air Gets Government Nod to Fly to International Destinations
Akasa Air recently included a 20th aircraft to its fleet making the airline eligible to fly international operations, the carrier has received the civil aviation ministry’s nod to operate international flights.
Confirming the news, Akasa Air Founder and CEO Vinay Dube, said in a statement that the nod from the ministry would enable the airline to launch international operations before the end of this year. “We are targeting destinations within the range of a 737 MAX from India in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. We are also on track to announce a 3-digit aircraft order by the end of this year to serve the growing travel demand,” said Dube.
Speaking to Skift earlier, Dube had said that with the Boeing 737 Max in its fleet, the international routes that Akasa would be looking to explore include Middle East, tips of Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
What India’s Rule Book Says: Previously, regulators mandated that airlines must have a minimum of five years of operation on domestic routes and maintain a fleet of at least 20 aircraft to qualify for applying for international flights. However, in 2016, this requirement underwent a revision, permitting airlines to initiate international operations once they had deployed 20 aircraft or reached 20 percent of their total capacity in domestic operations, whichever criterion was higher.
However, the permission comes at a time when the carrier is facing severe turbulence due to the abrupt resignation of 43 pilots, forcing the airline to cut flights in the short-term.
Aviation Regulator’s Staff Shortage Delays Issuance of Pilot Licenses
Grappling with the shortage of staff at key positions, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation is taking at least a couple of months to issue licenses to trained pilots.
Wait Time: Pilots currently face a waiting period of several months to obtain their licenses, according to sources in the civil aviation ministry. This waiting time is expected to increase in the coming months.
Posts Lying Vacant: The Directorate of Training and Licensing, which falls under the Operations Department responsible for licensing, has a total of 129 authorized positions for assistant directors.
Regrettably, a significant portion, specifically 92 positions, or nearly 72% of the total allocation, remain vacant.
Talking about the delay in filling crucial posts, a senior official cited the hiring process as “tedious and time-consuming.”
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Photo credit: Australia, U.S., and Singapore are touted to be the largest source markets for India. Annie Spratt / Unsplash