Editor’s Note: Good morning, India! We are pleased to launch Skift’s India Travel Daily today. While we have continued to grow our coverage of travel coming in and from India, this newsletter is a testament to the faith that we have in the India market and its potential to be one of the biggest tourism markets in the world. World Travel and Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Research mentioned that India is expected to overtake Germany to become the world’s third most powerful travel and tourism market by 2032. We couldn’t have asked for a better time to be launching a Skift India newsletter.
If you want a one-stop shop for news pertaining to the travel, tourism, hospitality and aviation industry in the country, look no further.
Taking note of the massive delay in processing visas, the U.S. is taking steps to reduce wait times for Indians. The U.S. Consulate in Mumbai has brought in consular officers from around the world to help out with visa operations. “All hands on deck to reduce visa wait times! Our incredible team of consular officers have temporarily left their regular duties around the world, from the State Department in DC to the U.S. Consulate Naha, to help out with visa operations in Mumbai,” the consulate in Mumbai tweeted. Reducing visa delays has been a priority for the U.S. consulates in India as wait times for visitor visas are still around 614 days. The U.S. Embassy in India processed over 100,000 visa applications in January 2023, their highest total in a single month and the highest in any month since July 2019, according to media reports.
Indians spent a record $9.95 billion on foreign travel from April-December 2022, more than any full financial year. According to data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Indians spent more than $1 billion on travel in the months of November and December last year, taking the total spend on outbound travel between April and December 2022 to $9.95 billion. With this the share of travel rose to 51 percent of international spending in financial year 2023 compared to 35 percent in 2022. The spend on travel during 2021-22 was $4.16 billion, and the highest spend in travel was $7 billion before the pandemic in the 2019-2020 financial year.
South Africa tourism announced that it has witnessed over a 200 percent surge in travellers from India compared to the previous year as it welcomed nearly 50,000 Indians till November last year, significantly exceeding its goal of bringing 33,900 plus visitors at the beginning of the recovery year. In 2022, India moved up two spots to become the sixth largest international source market for driving tourism in South Africa. Providing guidance on its strategic roadmap for 2023, its tourism board is aiming to achieve a substantial increase of 72 percent, in Indian travellers over their previous year’s target. Keeping in mind the current demand, the tourism board is also eyeing an overall increase of 35 percent in travellers from the meetings, incentives conferences and exhibitions industry. The destination said that it has also witnessed 64 percent of forward bookings from the city of Mumbai for January-June 2023, the highest number of forward bookings by far.
Radisson Hotel Group has paved the way for a strong 2023 by strengthening its foothold in South Asia with the signing of 12 hotels across its brand architecture, including Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Radisson, Radisson Individuals, and its brand extension Radisson Individuals Retreats developed for the Indian market. These new hotels will collectively add over 1,000 rooms to its domestic network between 2023 and 2026. The group also announced that it has signed a strategic partnership with Ruptub Solutions to develop a pipeline of 150 hotels under the Park Inn & Suites by Radisson brand over the next decade with the first hotel to debut in Guruvayur, Kerala in the second quarter of 2024. “Tailor-made for the Indian market, the brand will deliver a warm and heartfelt hospitality experience in a modern yet familiar home-like setting,” a release stated. Nearly 80 percent of the new deals marked the group’s entry into India’s up-and-coming leisure destinations with hotels dotted across Palampur, Kasauli, Nainital, Jim Corbett, Goa, Gandhinagar, Ramnagar, Nainital, Dhanbad, Amritsar, and Chandrapur.
Hotel booking platform Oyo has said that it plans to double the number of premium hotels in India this year. It plans to support the surge in business travel by increasing its footprints across all the major business cities. Oyo’s premium hotel brands include hotels such as Townhouse Oak, Oyo Townhouse, Collection O and Capital O. “We plan to add approximately 1800 premium hotels this year,” Oyo said in release. The hospitality platform’s focus on premium hotels started in the last quarter of 2022 when it added more than 400 new premium hotels between October to December. Oyo has said the expansion will focus on key business cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai in South India, Delhi and Noida in North India, Kolkata in East India and Mumbai in West India. A report by credit rating agency ICRA says that India’s hotel room supply pipeline is expected to grow at 5-year compounded annual growth rate of 3.5-4 percent adding approximately 15,000 rooms to the pan India premium inventory of approximately 94,000 rooms in financial year 2023. As per the findings of the report, pan-India premium hotel occupancy is expected to be 68-70 percent for the financial year. Service industry is anticipated to lead the demand for business travel in the first quarter of the year 2023.
Air India has now announced that it would be recruiting over 4,200 cabin crew trainees and 900 pilots this year. The announcement comes soon after the Indian full-service carrier made a record order of 470 aircraft with Airbus and Boeing. The cabin crew, who will be recruited from around the country, will undergo a 15-week training programme, the airline said. Between May 2022 and February 2023, Air India has reportedly hired over 1,900 cabin crew. “With a sizeable aircraft order announced earlier, more flights on international and domestic networks, and re-alignment of domestic routes with AirAsia India, cabin crew will play a decisive role in shaping the present and future of the Air India group,” Sandeep Verma, Air India’s head of inflight services said, adding that the carrier is looking to step up hiring of more pilots and maintenance engineers. An earlier Skift article had quoted Air India CEO Campbell Wilson saying that the group is also investing significantly in a training academy and is in deep discussions with a number of potential partners to set up what will be one of the world’s largest training academies in India.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed positive signs of recovery for the Indian travel and tourism sector with travellers heading back to its major cities. Researched in partnership with Oxford Economics, the report highlights that shows that travel and tourism’s direct contribution to the gross domestic product, jobs and visitor spending in the Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai are all bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. The WTTC Cities Economic Impact Report shows that in 2019, the city’s travel and tourism sector contributed almost $4.4 billion to Delhi’s economy and more than $3 billion to Mumbai’s economy. But the pandemic then had a damaging effect on India’s national economy. In 2020, the contribution dropped by almost half, falling to $2.3 billion in Delhi, and more than $1.6 billion in Mumbai. Over the last two years, since the border reopened, both cities have witnessed a significant recovery. In 2022, Delhi’s sector is expected to have grown to $4 billion, while Mumbai travel and tourism’s sector is forecast to be worth just under $2.7 billion, just 10 percent below 2019 levels.
Finnair recently unveiled its refurbished business class and premium economy offering onboard, which it will start offering on its India route between New Delhi and Helsinki from March 27. The new travel class will cover all Finnair Airbus A350 and A330 long-haul aircraft. The launch of the new premium economy cabin comes as a part of Finnair’s significant $213 million investment in all long-haul aircraft to enhance the customer experience. The cabin renewal on the New Delhi route is in line with the airline’s rollout plan across Asian markets, Finnair said in a statement. comfort. “Our investment to enhance the long-haul customer experience demonstrates the continuing commitment of the airline to deliver a premium experience to our customers in India,” said Sakari Romu, general manager, Finnair.
Domestic air travel in India reached 85.7 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The association announced that the strong rebound in air travel continued in December 2022. As the Covid threat receded and passenger confidence grew, Indian airlines saw a significant improvement in domestic air travel as well as revenue. The country’s domestic revenue passenger kilometres rose 48.8 percent last year compared with 2021. More significantly, December 2022 saw air traffic falling shy of the December 2019 mark by just 3.6 percent. In 2022, Indian domestic available seat kilometres rose 30.1 percent compared with a year ago.
Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet said it has restructured its outstanding lease rental worth over $100 million to aircraft leasing firm Carlyle Aviation Partners into equity shares and convertible debentures. SpiceJet’s board of directors approved issuing fresh equity shares of $29.5 million to Carlyle Aviation, following which the aircraft leasing firm will now have over 7.5 percent stake in the Indian carrier. As a part of the proposed restructuring with Carlyle Aviation Partners, SpiceJet will also exchange its outstanding lease liabilities for an aggregate amount of $65.5 million into convertible debentures of SpiceJet subsidiary — SpiceXpress and Logistics. “This restructuring will substantially reduce the existing liabilities of the company and will help in fund raising for business operations,” the company said in a note to investors. The airline further mentioned that the board has proposed raising fresh capital of up to $303 million through eligible securities to qualified institutional buyers, pending approval from company members. Carlyle Aviation Partners is the commercial aviation investment and servicing arm of Carlyle’s $143 billion global credit platform.
The south Indian state of Kerala entered into an agreement with the United Nations Women, to boost women-friendly activities in the state’s tourism sector through training of representatives and civil organisations. A memorandum of understanding signed by PB Nooh, Kerala Tourism Director and UN Women India Representative Susan Ferguson agreed to work towards promoting gender-inclusive tourism sites in the state. UN Women would help Kerala Tourism in developing reports and material related to women-friendly tourism and their publication. “More jobs to women in key slots will not only generate employment but curtail the prevailing gender inequality,” Fergusson noted.