While the New Year is beginning with some uncertainties for travel firms in India because of a recent Covid-19 surge in China and some other countries, 2022 ended on a high note for them as pent-up demand, wider air connectivity and targeted marketing campaigns boosted their business.
Overseas tourism boards, including from Australia and South Africa, have reported better-than-expected arrivals from India. With over 223,000 visitors till December 21, India emerged as the largest source market for the Maldives; it was ranked second in 2019.
In Singapore, India secured the second spot in tourist arrivals with over 600,000 visitors.
“We have witnessed over 2.5x surge in demand (versus 2021) and approximately 85% recovery versus 2019 for the Christmas/New Year festive season. There is a strong travel demand for both domestic and international destinations,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays, MICE, visa), Thomas Cook India.
SOTC Travel has seen high customer interest for visa-on-arrival/easy-and-quick visa destinations in Southeast Asia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and also emerging new destinations like Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Vietnam, president & country head (holidays) Daniel D’Souza added.
Travel from India increased significantly after resumption of direct flights in March, Turkiye Tourism Board said, with destination weddings contributing to arrivals.
Outbound travel has witnessed growth despite rupee depreciation and increase in airfares, largely led by higher crude prices and the Russia-Ukraine war. The rupee weakened over 10% in 2022 on a year-on-year basis, its worst performance since 2013.
Kale said Thomas Cook India leveraged bulk buying abilities to offer price benefits to its customers. Newer experiences such as tree housing, glamping and private villas were other growth triggers.
“Our efforts to showcase the diversity and value proposition of the destination has helped us surpass our annual target of attracting 33,910 Indian arrivals to South Africa,” said Neliswa Nkani, hub head, South African Tourism. Between January and October, South Africa received over 44,000 Indian tourists.
Australia, which hosted the T20 Cricket World Cup in October-November, also benefited from a surge in Indian arrivals. Over 28,310 Indian tourists visited Australia in October which is 98% of pre-Covid levels.
“India is well poised to be the first inbound market to recover to pre-Covid levels,” said Nishant Kashikar, country manager, Tourism Australia.
Tourism boards are now redoubling their efforts to assure Indian travellers of safety. This comes in the backdrop of Covid-19 surge in China and the Indian government’s decision to introduce mandatory RT-PCR tests for passengers from six countries.
MakeMyTrip said it is keeping a close watch on the developments. “At this point, it remains business as usual,” a spokesperson said. Others in the travel industry, however, pointed out that testing requirements will slow booking growth. Customers will be in a wait-and-watch mode, they said.
On their part tourism boards are geared up. “All businesses and tourism-related products and services are fully operational and ready for the new year. Tourism in Thailand is back to normal and there are no restrictions within the country,” Tourism Authority of Thailand said.
“Singapore remains as open as before and continues to welcome all visitors from India. Our testing facilities are widely and easily available with the highest level of efficient, fuss-free services,” said GB Srithar, regional director of Singapore Tourism Board.