Los Angeles Expects Indian Inbound Travel to Fully Recover by 2023

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Skift Take

Here’s a hint to destinations that say they want the Indian outbound traveler — don’t have visa processing times that last for months. But then that’s not really rocket science, right?

Even as visa delays continue to dog travel from India to the U.S., the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board is projecting full recovery for inbound travel from India by late 2023 or early 2024. In 2019, the city received 130,000 Indian tourists. Adam Burke, CEO of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board said the tourism board plans to continue to increase its investment in the market. “We’re proud to be the only U.S. destination with our own full-time office and team members in India, with our Mumbai office opening in 2019,” he told Skift during his recent visit to India.

Visa delay are the single biggest impediment to exponential growth in travel between the U.S. and India, said Burke. While the Los Angles tourism board chief applauded the U.S. State Department’s efforts to address the visa issue with a continued sense of urgency, he said there’s still work to do. “We’re encouraged by the significant progress thus far as recent data shows that visa wait times have dropped by almost 50 percent in India,” he said. This, according to him is attributable to several factors, including the state department designating India as one of its priority markets, adjudicating applications through consulates in other countries to increase processing capacity and waiving the interview requirement for travelers whose visas have expired in the last 36 months. Burke said he along with industry executives from across the country, recently met with legislators in Washington D.C. to highlight the pressing need to further reduce visa wait times.

Highlighting India’s emergence as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and the potential of the country’s tourism industry, Burke said India is already a top source market for Los Angeles, having welcomed 80,000 Indians in 2022. While continuing to focus on segments such as family travel, students, luxury travelers, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions business, Burke said exciting new categories are emerging in India, with millennial and Generation Z leading the way. This adventurous travel segment seeks immersive experiences while travelling like a local, seeking out the community’s hidden gems, including eclectic culinary offerings, adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, thriving nightlife, intimate live music venues, and shopping and fashion options.

The Jalan Kalrock Consortium that won the bid to restart grounded airline Jet Airways has announced that its CEO-designate Sanjiv Kapoor has quit the company. After Kapoor’s departure, the executive committee of the consortium will oversee his responsibilities until a replacement is in place, a company statement said. “The revival of Jet Airways is through a court approved process, which has taken more time than originally estimated by us, but needless to say Jalan Kalrock is committed to the revival of Jet Airways,” it added. The consortium also said that it is in the last leg of closing the transfer of ownership of Jet Airways, following which it would settle outstanding amounts to previous creditors as per the approved resolution plan under the insolvency process and hoped to start flight operations after that.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is looking at expanding its capacity in India by increasing the frequencies and destinations, said CEO Antonoaldo Neves during his recent visit to the country. Currently serving 10 destinations in India with 185 weekly flights, Etihad expects to drive 20 percent growth from India in the next one year, as it looks to deploy the remaining 10,000 weekly seat capacity, Neves said. This puts Etihad in a better position compared to other Middle Eastern carriers that are clamoring for more access to air traffic rights to and from India. Indian Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had earlier said that the country has no plans to increase air traffic rights for the United Arab Emirates. He instead urged domestic carriers to fly long haul and help establish new hubs. 

Tata Group-owned Air India has announced that it would be hiring more than 1,000 pilots, including captains and trainers, as the airline expands its fleet and network. The airline, which currently has more than 1,800 pilots, has placed orders for 470 aircraft with U.S. aircraft maker Boeing and European planemaker Airbus, including wide-body planes. “We are offering multiple opportunities and accelerated growth across our A320, B777, B787 and B737 fleet for captains and first officers, as well as trainers,” the airline said in an advertisement. Air India rolled out a revamped compensation structure for its pilots and cabin crew a few weeks ago, after which two pilot unions — Indian Commercial Pilots Association and Indian Pilots Guild — have rejected it on the grounds that the airline did not consult them before finalizing the new contracts.

V Vidyavathi is all set to take over as the new secretary of India’s tourism ministry. She will replace Arvind Singh whose tenure ends on May 31 upon his superannuation. The 1991-batch IAS officer is currently the director general at the Archaeological Survey of India — the Indian government agency responsible for preserving the country’s cultural heritage. In her new role, Vidyavathi will work closely with tourism minister G Kishan Reddy to promote India as a tourist destination for domestic and global markets. 

Tata Group-owned Indian Hotels Company reported its highest-ever full year consolidated revenue and a profit after tax of $122 million — a historic first for the company. In 2019-2020, the company had reported a profit after tax of $750,000. “The combined performance of the three best years for the company, which was 2006-2008 and 2017-2020, is less than the financial performance of 2022-2023,” said CEO and Managing Director Puneet Chhatwal at an earnings call on Friday. Crediting the lease portfolio for providing the company with right operating leverage, Chhatwal said the management fee business is helping drive margins in a very strong way which almost doubled to $49 million in the last year. With Taj reaching 100 hotels, and the midscale brand Ginger Hotels getting close to 100, Chhatwal said Vivanta and SeleQtions together account for almost 78 hotels and very soon this number would also go up to 100.

India-based private airport operator GMR Airports Infrastructure announced that the country’s strategic investment fund National Investment and Infrastructure Fund had invested $77.2 million in GMR Goa International Airport, a subsidiary of GMR Airports. GMR Airports had announced its financial partnership with the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund in December 2022, under which the strategic investment fund would invest in the equity capital of GMR Airports’ three airport projects — including the greenfield international airports at Mopa in India’s coastal state of Goa and Bhogapuram in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh — marking its first investment in an airport asset in India.

With almost an increase of 1,000 flights from the winter schedule of 21,941 flights per week from 110 airports, India’s summer flight schedule will witness 22,907 departures. Having reviewed passenger traffic at airports across the country, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has directed the authorities to ensure ease of travel for passengers during the coming summer season. Shah also sought additional measures at airports for passenger convenience so that they spend less time at airport gates, check-in counters, security check and immigration zones. The airlines usually post real-time data on their social media handles regarding waiting time during peak seasons and they are likely to continue to do so.

Indian low-cost carrier IndiGo is reported to have placed an order of 20 widebody aircraft for international operations, according to media reports. “IndiGo will be inducting around 15-20 widebody aircraft. The airline has been in discussions with aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing for at least one year. It is expected to place an order this year itself,” the media reported quoting a source privy to the development. IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers had earlier highlighted how delays in getting airplane deliveries from Airbus due to supply chain disruptions has been limiting its growth in some markets. The airline currently operates a fleet of Airbus 320 family aircraft alongside smaller ATR or regional transport aircraft. It also operates Boeing 777 aircraft on the New Delhi to Istanbul route which has been wet leased — leasing a plane complete with the crew needed to fly it — from Turkish Airlines to fill international capacity. 

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