Ease Visa Processes And Safety Issues to Boost Inbound Tourism

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India must increase investment and leverage public-private partnership models to build on its niche tourism offerings — such as medical, wellness and spiritual tourism — to attract more international tourists.

India-based online travel platform EaseMyTrip opened its first offline retail store in Patna in the north Indian state of Bihar, it announced through an exchange filing. The move is aligned with the company’s expansion plans and objective of tapping customers who prefer ‘meet and greet’ kind of an experience. The store will offer services like flight and hotel bookings, purchasing bus, train and group fare tickets, and availing holiday, cruise and charter packages, along with the add-on services of visa application and related formalities. In another development, the company has also announced its renewal of a long-term contract with travel technology provider InterGlobe Technology Quotient for seamless access to Travelport+ (1G), a travel commerce platform for booking tickets. EaseMyTrip stands to gain a sum of $12.2 million over a term of agreement which it could further utilize for its inorganic growth and global expansion. 

To incentivize overseas tourists to come to India, the government should simplify visa processes, address safety concerns of tourists coming to India, improve infrastructure, foster partnership with the private sector and leverage technology, a Nangia Andersen report said. Despite the pandemic-induced challenges, India received 6.2 million foreign tourists in 2022, with a growth rate of 307.9 percent as compared to 1.52 million in 2021. The foreign exchange earnings from tourism in the country also increased by 107 percent from $8 billion in 2021 to $16.4 billion in 2022, according to the government’s provisional estimates. Inbound tourism is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 12 percent from 2022 to 2027, driven by rising disposable incomes and growth of the middle class, according to the ‘Inbound Tourism in India – Unlocking the potential’ report, in association with industry body Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 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. Earlier this week, the Indian Association of Tour Operators had urged a rollback of the 5-20 percent tax collected at source on overseas tour packages, effective July 2023, to revive inbound tourism. The hike in tax would hit the Indian outbound tour operators hard, as travelers could bypass them and book outside the country, causing losses for both the government and operators. 

Tata Group-owned Air India has entered into an interline partnership with Vistara — a joint venture of Tata and Singapore Airlines — to enable passengers to travel between the two airline’s networks seamlessly. Under this partnership, passengers will now be able to receive their boarding passes at the first point of departure for all the travel sectors on a single ticket, and have their baggage checked-in through to their final destinations, Air India said in a statement. “Our common commitment to excellence in safety and customer service lies at the forefront of this partnership. We look forward to serving Vistara’s customers with additional travel choices to Air India destinations across the Americas, Europe, Far East, Australia, and the Middle East,” said Air India CEO Campbell Wilson.

Nights stayed in private room listings in India grew by over 80 percent in 2022 when compared to 2021, according to short-term rental company Airbnb. This increase can be attributed to the affordability and the unique stay experiences that a private room host provides, making them an attractive option for solo travelers and millennials. Earlier, Airbnb said its hosts in India collectively made over $12 million from bookings with families last year. The company has also introduced Airbnb Rooms, which will feature a Host Passport to help guests know their host before booking their stay, a Rooms category with over 1 million listings across the globe, redesigned filters and added new privacy features to enhance the overall guest experience.

Cash-strapped domestic carrier Go First‘s move to extend the suspension of flights till May 9 beyond the initial three-day period may give rivals a chance to grab market share in India’s capacity strained aviation market, analysts told Reuters. “If the suspension is prolonged, other airlines that are adding capacity would look to avail the slots vacated by Go First and grab onto the market share,” a Jefferies analyst said in a client note. Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo’s shares surged over 8 percent after Go First’s bankruptcy filing, blaming “faulty” Pratt & Whitney engines for the grounding of about half its fleet and taking lenders by surprise. The collapse of the first Indian airline since Jet Airways in 2019 comes amid fierce competition in the sector led by its largest rival IndiGo and Tata Group-owned Air India, as passenger traffic roars back after the pandemic.

Potentially IPO-bound budget hotel operator and aggregator Oyo has announced that it will double the number of properties available for the Char Dham Yatra 2023 or the pilgrimage of the four holy sites — Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. Currently, the company has 40 hotels in Rishikesh, Haridwar, Srinagar, Kedarnath, Joshimath, and Uttarkashi, which will be doubled to 80 hotels. Oyo has witnessed a 206 percent increase in bookings for the pilgrimage tour compared to the same period last year. “By doubling the number of properties available for the yatra, we want to ensure that pilgrims have access to affordable, comfortable and reliable accommodation throughout their journey,” an OYO spokesperson said. 

Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet is set to introduce its services from Agartala in the northeast Indian state of Tripura to Bangladesh’s Chittagong by the first week of June as necessary clearances for immigration and customs are expected to be approved by then, said Tripura Transport Minister Sushanta Chowdhury. This is going to be the city’s first ever international flight service. The Tripura government in August last year had requested the external affairs ministries of India and Bangladesh to provide clearance to start the Agartala-Chittagong passenger flight. It had even agreed to bear a $1.8 million viability gap funding per annum to the airlines plying on this route — under which the state government will make up for the shortfall if the flights operate at less than 50 percent of their seating capacity to ensure the routes remain viable. 

Indian hospitality company ITC Hotel Group’s Fortune Hotels has signed yet another operating agreement for a hotel in Amritsar in the north Indian state of Punjab. Expected to open in the second quarter of the financial year 2023-24, the hotel is the chain’s second property in the city. Last week, the hotel group had also signed an operating agreement for a hotel in the hill station of Khajjiar in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, set to open doors in the first quarter of 2024. The company, in an earlier release, had talked about its ambitions to expand its reach in tier-2 and tier-3 cities with its upscale to mid-market service offering for business and leisure travelers. 

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