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While the aviation ministry confirms that there are no shortages of pilots in the country, the recent incidents of pilot casualties, including the tragic crashes and fatalities, call for better safety measures.

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While there is no shortage of pilots in the country, there is a lack of commanders for specific aircraft types, the ministry of civil aviation has said. To address this, foreign pilots are being utilized through Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization (FATA).

The government said that it has also taken several steps to establish more flying schools across the country to train greater number of commercial pilots.

Currently, there are 34 Flying Training Organizations (FTOs) in the country operating at 55 bases, providing flying training to cadets. In the current year (2023 till November), a total of 1491 Commercial Pilot Licenses (CPLs) have been issued, indicating a substantial increase compared to previous years.

Pilots deaths: The question of a pilot shortage comes after several pilot deaths, many of which have been attributed to fatigue and stress. In early 2023, a 37-year-old Air India pilot died in the airline’s Gurugram office after suffering a cardiac arrest.

In August of this year, an IndiGo pilot collapsed and died before his flight last week. News agency Reuters had reported that this pushed India’s air safety watchdog to review pilot fatigue data to see if any policy changes are required. Post the incidents, there were complaints from some Indian pilots that they are being stretched to the brink by airlines, even though they comply with regulations.

The Potential of Adventure Sports in India 

Adventure tourism is expected to contribute $800 billion as India aims for a $3 trillion tourism economy by 2047. If achieved, this will make India one of the top 10 adventure tourism destinations globally.

The tourism ministry organized the National Conference on Adventure Tourism this week in Gujarat with the aim to provide a platform to deliberate and devise strategies to make India a global adventure tourism hub.

What happened at the conference? The conference had a session that focused on the role of states in adventure tourism, with presentations from Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, MP Tourism Corporation, Ladakh, Kerala, Sikkim and Punjab — the states where topography is conducive for adventure sports.

Joint Roadmap for Growth: Achieving this growth requires a joint strategic roadmap by the central government, states, and the tourism industry, aiming for 20 million foreign tourist arrivals, $90 billion in foreign exchange.

Some Background: Earlier this year, tourism minister G Kishan Reddy said that India would focus on developing infrastructure for the adventure tourism segment.

In August this year, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to implement its Water Tourism and Adventure Sports Policy-2023 to boost tourism in the state.  The policy would be effective for 10 years and would apply to all inland, air, and water routes, dams/reservoirs, lakes, rivers, ponds, and water bodies in Uttar Pradesh, state tourism minister Jaiveer Singh said.

Air India Continues to Revamp Brand Identity

Air India commenced the implementation of its recently revealed global brand identity, initiating the transition to the new look on digital and online platforms. The rebranding efforts have commenced at Delhi and Mumbai airports.

New Identity: Air India, privatized in 2022 and now part of the Tata Group, made big strides in 2023 to make up for  years of neglect. The airline ordered a large number of aircraft for its ambitious growth plans, unveiled its new brand imagery, and showcased the planned retrofit of its existing widebodies. The airline is also preparing to induct its first A350 aircraft into service.

It also engaged the services of Indian designer Manish Malhotra to revamp the uniforms for Air India’s frontline staff, including the cabin crew, cockpit crew, ground staff, engineers, and security services.

Lounges Revamp: Air India is also working on the ground experience for the over 400,000 premium guests the airline handles. The airline has its own lounges in Delhi’s IGI Airport’s Terminal 3, which is the primary hub for Air India, as well as in New York JFK Airport’s Terminal 4.

Air India has engaged Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a hospitality interior design firm, to refurbish and rebuild the Air India lounges in Delhi and New York, as reported by Skift earlier

Half a Million Medical Tourists Visit India in 2023 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has allocated loans totaling $14.8 billion to enhance infrastructure for maintenance of medical tourism. Additionally, working capital and personal loans have been offered to companies in the tourism industry to aid their recovery post the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The provisional figures of the medical tourists that arrived in India in 2023 between January and October was 504,000. 

National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH), accredited by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, provides recognition to healthcare organizations. Hospitals accredited by NABH gain international recognition, boosting medical tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism revised the guidelines for market development assistance in November 2020 to promote domestic tourism, benefiting stakeholders, including Medical Tourist Service Providers. Financial assistance details under the assistance are as follows:

  1. 2021-22: INR 700,00
  2. 2022-23: INR. 700,000
  3. 2023-24 (till Dec 14, 2023): 600,000

Yatra Opens New Offline Store in Vadodara

Yatra Online revealed the inauguration of a new offline franchise store in Vadodara, Gujarat, through its Indian subsidiary, Yatra Online Limited.

Yatra has been on the path of expansion since early this year. In a podcast with Skift last month, Dhruv Shringi, CEO and co-founder of Yatra.com talked about timing the India IPO launch in September and how Yatra is looking at the booming travel market in the country. 

The IPO raised significant capital, with the primary issuance providing around $72 million for Yatra India to support its expansion.

Yatra is also actively looking for strategic acquisitions that complement its existing services and can be cross-sold to its large customer base.

Air India Express Expands Operations to Ayodhya Airport

Air India Express announced the commencement of services from Ayodhya International Airport, marking its 45th destination and third operational sector in Uttar Pradesh. Starting December 30, the airline will operate direct flights to Delhi and offer convenient one-stop itineraries to various destinations within India and beyond.

Current Operations in Uttar Pradesh: Currently, Air India Express operates from Lucknow and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, connecting these cities with Dubai, Sharjah, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune with direct flights.

Recently, Air India Express became the first airline to connect Surat and Dubai directly, coinciding with the inauguration of Surat Airport’s new international terminal. Air India Express currently stands as the exclusive airline offering international flights from Surat, operating five weekly flights to Sharjah. 

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Tags: adventure tourism, air india, Air India Express, indigo, medical tourism, pilot shortage, skift india report, yatra

Photo credit: India has said that it has taken several steps to establish more flying schools across the country. Digital Vision / Getty Images

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