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Sri Lanka is hoping an easier visa process will help it reach its goal of welcoming 1.5 million visitors by the end of this year.

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Under a pilot program, Sri Lanka will be issuing free tourist visas through next March to visitors from seven countries: India, China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. This initiative is part of Sri Lanka’s broader strategy to revitalize its tourism sector and achieve a target of 5 million arrivals by 2026.

Sri Lanka’s Tourism Crisis: Sri Lanka’s tourism industry endured a severe blow due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which was followed by an economic crisis last year. However, there’s a positive shift in 2023, with the country welcoming 1 million arrivals by September, the first time since 2019. The island nation is expected to conclude the year with 1.5 million arrivals.

Source Markets: India stands as the largest source of tourists, contributing 200,310 arrivals, followed by Russia with 132,300, according to the latest data from the Sri Lanka Development Authority.

Tourism Revenue: Sri Lanka’s tourism revenue for the first eight months of 2023 reached $1.3 billion, a significant increase from $833 million during the same period the previous year, as reported by the central bank.

Akasa Air’s IPO Plans

Set to start international services soon, Akasa Air, plans to go public by the end of the decade, CEO Vinay Dube told news agency PTI on Sunday.

Current Operations: Launched last year in August, Akasa Air, currently operates more than 750 weekly flights across 16 Indian destinations.

International Flights: The airline will soon start international operations as it has received flying rights for Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Doha and Kuwait.

Fleet Expansion: With a current fleet of 20 aircraft, Akasa has also placed a firm order for 76 Boeing 737 MAX aeroplanes, set to join its fleet by mid-2027.

Akasa expects to have 25 aircraft by the end of this fiscal and expects to add 15 more aircraft by the end of the next financial year. By mid-2027, the airline expects to have 76 planes.

Dube said the airline is also looking to place an order for 100-plus aircraft before the end of 2023.

He said the airline is already generating free cash from operations and is well-funded for the new aircraft order.

“’I don’t think 2027 will be possible for a listing, but the listing is something that we definitely want to do. We may have to gather a little more history before we can list. Certainly, listing or an IPO is something that we would desire.”

Dube called a listing before the end of this decade a “much more realistic goal.”

Listed Indian Carriers: At present, there are two operational scheduled carriers publicly traded on the stock exchanges – Indigo and SpiceJet. Jet Airways, which ceased operations in April 2019 due to financial difficulties, is also listed. Go First, which closed down operations earlier this year, had also been keen to list in the Indian bourses.

India Is Now US’ No 2 Overseas Visitor Source Market

India has now climbed up to be the second-largest overseas source market for the U.S. (excluding Mexico and Canada) for the period from January-July 2023, according to the latest data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office.

Numbers: Indians arrivals to the U.S. touched 972,629 tourists till July 2023, below top source market UK’s 2,101,148 arrivals.

Last Year: In 2022, India ranked sixth with 1.3 million arrivals to the U.S. and, in terms of money spent, India ranked fourth with a spend of $13.3 billion.

Visa Delays: However, visa delays continue to dog travel from India to the U.S. In spite of a significant reduction in visa wait times in March, from 600 days to less than a year, the current visa wait time is now over 500 days.

“Visa delays are the single biggest impediment to exponential growth in travel between the U.S. and India,” Adam Burke, CEO of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, told Skift during his recent visit to India.

Affirma Capital Earns Multifold Return in Partial Sale of TBO Stake

Global investor firm General Atlantic has acquired a minority stake from Affirma Capital in India-headquartered travel distribution paltform Travel Boutique Online (TBO) Tek.

Affirma Capital, a private equity fund focusing on India, South Korea, and South-east Asia, reportedly achieved a nine-fold return on invested capital with a partial exit from TBO Tek, a senior executive told Mint.

“Since our investment in 2018, we have witnessed TBO’s transformational journey to becoming one of the leading travel technology platforms globally, creating meaningful value for its shareholders along the way, as has been crystallised in Affirma Capital’s multi-fold return on investment as part of this transaction,” said Udai Dhawan, founding partner and India Head at Affirma Capital.

In 2018, Affirma Capital had invested around $42 million to acquire 46% stake in TBO Tek. Having divested around 7% stake in the company, Dhawan said, Affirma continues to retain a significant minority stake in the business.

“We see immense potential in the path ahead for TBO, including global expansion opportunities, and are excited to partner with the company to help enable the next generation of travel globally,” said Shantanu Rastogi, managing director and head of India at General Atlantic.

Agoda’s Insights for Diwali Travel

Goa, Ooty, Puducherry, Mumbai and Bengaluru are the top five domestic destinations for Indians during the fesive season, according to digital travel platform Agoda. Agoda also reported a 13% increase in searches for travel around Diwali compared to 2022.

What’s  Diwali? Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the most important and widely celebrated holiday in India. This year Diwali is being celebrated from November 10-15.

“It’s great to see the increase in domestic travel for this Diwali season. The long weekend means more people are taking advantage to travel with family and friends,” said Krishna Rathi, country director India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives at Agoda.

International Destinations and Inbound: The five most popular international destinations during this period are Bangkok, Dubai, Singapore, Pattaya, and Kuala Lumpur. During this Diwali season, Agoda has also observed an increase of tourists coming to India, with the highest number of visitors arriving from U.S., UK, Singapore, Australia, and the Netherlands.

Sarovar Opens Golden Tulip in Bhopal

Sarovar Hotels and Resorts announced the opening of a Golden Tulip in Bhopal. The 11th Golden Tulip Hotel in the Indian subcontinent, this opening signifies Sarovar Group’s interest in expanding the Golden Tulip footprint in India. 

The 62-room Golden Tulip intends to cater to the young modern traveller, Sarovar said in a release.

Sarovar Portfolio: Part of Paris headquartered hospitality firm Group Du Louvre, Sarovar Hotels manages over 100 operational hotels in over 70 destinations in India and overseas, under Sarovar Premiere, Sarovar Portico, Hometel, and Golden Tulip brands. The brands cover the 3, 4, and 5-star spectrum.

Sarovar 2023 Plans: At the beginning of the year, it had been reported that Sarovar is looking to open 10 hotels in 2023 in key pilgrimage and leisure destinations in India, including markets where it hasn’t forayed before.

South African Tourism Eyes India

South African Tourism has witnessed over 80% growth in Indian arrivals from January-July 2023 in comparison to the same period last year.

Keen to sustain the travel momentum that witnessed a significant uptick in tourist arrivals throughout the first half of the year, South African Tourism is hosting its training session “Learn South Africa 2023” in six Indian cities.

Which Cities? Aimed at equipping travel agents with the right tools to sell the destination effectively, the training session is taking place in Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Kochi, Indore and Jaipur.

India’s Ranking: India is one of the top-3 focus markets for the tourism board globally and is currently the sixth largest international source market, according to South African Tourism.

The tourism board believes that the country has a significant role to play in South Africa’s tourism landscape.

“This year we have witnessed a significant growth in tourism from India… It will be our endeavour to innovate and explore newer avenues of association by expanding such programs to tier-2 and tier-3 cities of the Indian market,” said Neliswa Nkani, hub head — Middle East, India and South-East Asia at South African Tourism.

Yatra’s Bid to Make Holidays Affordable

Yatra has tied up with banks and airline partner Indigo to launch an EMI fest for travel during the festive season. The fest allows customers to avail discounts on international and domestic airfares as well as on hotels, and holiday packages.

Yatra said that it is also offering EMI options to allow customers to go on a holiday without having to break the bank.

The EMI fest arrives at the perfect time, as Indian travelers are gearing up for the festive season and year-end adventures, said Sabina Chopra, chief operating officer corporate travel and head — industry relations at Yatra.

“This is Yatra’s way of saying bon voyage and safe travels,” Chopra said.


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Tags: agoda, asia monthly, diwali, indigo, outbound tourism, sarovar hotels, skift india report, south african tourism, sri lanka, visa, yatra

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