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Indian tourists flew high in 2014- and how

From
destinations announcing relaxed and simplified visa regimes for Indian tourists
to airlines introducing new routes to fly them, from new destinations foraying
into the market to existing ones wooing them with engaging campaigns, 2014 indeed
was quite an eventful year for Indian outbound market.

From
destinations announcing relaxed and simplified visa regimes for Indian tourists
to airlines introducing new routes to fly them, from new destinations foraying
into the market to existing ones wooing them with engaging campaigns, 2014 indeed
was quite an eventful year for Indian outbound market.

The
world finally took into cognizance India’s expanding middle class who were
ready to spend on travelling and explore newer destinations. Exclusive
campaigns, incentive programme, dedicated trainings, to name a few came rolling
in as India concretized its claim as an important source market.

India Tourism Review looks at some of the key happenings of the year just going by.

Visa:

Single
Visa for Indian tourists to England and Ireland:
Recognizing separate visas to
travel to England and Ireland as a serious impediment
in the growth of tourist inflow, the two countries decided to issue
joint visa for Indian travelers this year.

Now visitors from India will be able to travel freely within the
Common Travel Area using either an Irish or UK visa.

Read: ‘Visitors from India will be able to travel freely within the
Common Travel Area’

Canada Tourism Commission introduces CAN+: Canada’s Citizenship
and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced the launch of the CAN Plus
program in India to make visa processing easier and quick.

This program includes three visa “Express” programs for Indian
business people, students and tourists; 10 Visa Applications Centres (VACs)
across India — a global record; and a standardized multiple-entry visa at a
reduced fee of CAD $100.

Read: Canada launches CAN+ program to expedite visa processing

French Visa within 48 hours: French Embassy in December announced that Indian tourists
will get French Visa within two days of applying in the French Consulate and
within 3 days from VFSs. Additionally, eight more VFSs were announced taking
the total number to 14 in India.

Read: Now with French Visa for Indians in 48 hours, let Parisian
love bloom

Visa Waiver for Indian tourists to Reunion Island: Reunion Island, a French administered island in
Indian Ocean abolished the provision of visa for travelers from India, given
that the bookings are done through the authorised 56 Indian Travel agents.

Read: Reunion Island authorizes 56 Indian TAs to conduct visa-free tours

Easy visa for business travellers to New Zealand: A new
agreement was signed between Immigration New Zealand (INZ), Tourism New
Zealand (TNZ) and six key travel agents which will allow Indian business
travellers to get their visa issued within three days and considerably reduce
the paperwork.

Read: New Zealand eases norms for Indian business travelers

South Africa: This year South Africa introduced in-person
biometric data collection for issuing tourist visas and unabridged birth
certificates for travelling minors which became major issues of concern across
the industry. Travel agents reported a 80-90% drop in bookings. However,
the concerned officials informed that new centers will be opened soon to meet
the requirement.

Read: Uncertainty prevails as South Africa changes its visa rules

 Aviation:

India has been recognized as one of the least penetrated markets when
it comes to aviation, but the situation may begin to look up with Government
readying itself to bring some major changes in the industry. The new Civil Aviation Minister strongly hinted that the 5/20 rule may soon be scrapped.

Also, the year was full
of flash sales and discount offers from airlines who competed against each
other to increase their market share here.

While the FAA downgrade still persists, the highlight of this
year, however, was Air India becoming a Star Alliance Member which is expected
to give its passengers seamless access to over 1,200 destinations around the
world. The airlines was allocated about Rs7000 crore in this budget. It
is expected that the airline will soon start making profits.

Also Read: Budget 2014: Aviation Industry anticipates Achche Din

As far as other domestic airlines are concerned, while Indigo
remained the only profit making airline, SpiceJet’s condition grew from bad to
worse. In order to avoid Kingfisher-like fate, the airline is trying to work up
a way to raise funds to get itself going.

Also Read: Travel agents get advisory not to book SpiceJet tickets

Jet Airways also witnessed major revamps supported by its partner
airline Etihad Airways. It announced many new flights on new routes, also connecting
many Tier- II cities. It also became the only airline to fly to Vietnam, which
is being seen as the next most sought after tourist destination.

Apart from this, Gulf Carriers continued to reign Indian sky,
eating into the market share of both Indian airlines as well as non-gulf
carriers. Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of United Arab Emirates operates
flight to about 23 cities now. Gulf Air, flydubai, Emirates also continued expanding
their operations in India, entering Tier-II and Tier-III cities.

While British Airways celebrated its 90 years of India operation,
Virgin Atlantic withdrew operations from Mumbai, one of the two cities it flew
to. Lufthansa became the latest airline to bring the superjumbo A-380 to India ,
becoming the third airline to do so after Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Besides these, while Air Seychelles started its operation on
Indian routes, Air Vietnam is soon expected to do so. A number of codeshare
agrrements were also signed between the airlines to make navigating the world easier.

Read: Navigating the world may
get easier: numerous agreements between airlines underway

However, Air Kenya and Royal Jordanian withdrew their India
operation.

Most visited Destinations:

Dubai stood out as the most visited foreign destination, while
despite the military coup Thailand attracted more than a million Indians this
year also. Singapore and other Asian countries like Mauritius and Phillipines remained popular among Indian
outbound tourists. This was also Visit Malaysia Year. 

While Western Europe still remained a favorite among well-heeled travelers,
a strong and stable rupee made the tours especially lucrative. Central Eastern
European countries also witnessed an increase in Indian tourist arrivals,
thanks to major Bollywood hits like Ek Tha Tiger and Kick being shot in these
exotic destinations.

Brand USA which has been aggressively promoting USA in Indian
market pegs the total number of Indian visitors at one million.

Major Campaigns:

Apart from hosting roadshows and FAM trips, numerous destinations also
ran exclusive campaigns to lure Indian tourists. While New Zealand and Australia
carried out a number of campaigns in order to woo Indian cricket fans for the
upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup, destinations like South Africa, France and USA
continued to bolster and promote their ongoing campaigns.

Also Read: ‘Destination NSW is developing a long term strategy for India to further develop the market’

Destinations looked beyond metropolitans to invite tourists from
other cities as well.  Brand USA this
year took their ‘Discover America’ campaign to Tier-II cities and France opened
new VFSs.

South Africa conducted Take Me To South Africa V.2 contest to
engage and encourage people to visit the country. Also, Korea and Oman tried to
create an aspirational aura around their respective destinations with their
latest brand campaigns.

New Destinations that entered Indian market:

Among the new destinations which forayed into the Indian market
were Vietnam, Croatia, China, Central Europe, Scandinavian, Latin American
countries with South Carolina becoming the latest USA destination to start its
promotion here.

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