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Murari Mohan Jha

Murari Mohan Jha

Mohammad Sarhan - VP, India & Nepal, Emirates is hopeful of restoring its global network and ramping up operations to meet market demand.

Emirates currently operate passenger services to more than 120 destinations across 6 continents. The carrier has taken many initiatives to instill confidence among travellers. Emirates continues to work closely with local and international authorities to operate its flights safely and sustainably.

How was year 2021 for you and what are your expectations for 2022?

It may still be a turbulent time for international travel, but looking back over the past 12 months, our agile operations have enabled us to make strong progress with recovery. We restored 90 percent of our pre-pandemic network, launched a new route service to Miami, rolled out contactless technology for a smoother experience at Dubai Airport, and we recently announced plans to retrofit 105 of our aircraft fleet with the highly lauded Premium Economy Class cabin. Emirates has always been at the forefront of innovation and we look forward to continuing leading the way with world-class products and exceptional services.

Our cargo operations continue to play a crucial role with the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The air cargo carrier has in fact transported 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

Our home and hub, Dubai has also had a stellar year as it continues to safely welcome international tourists to Expo 2020. According to recent forecasts published by ICAEW – the UAE economy is expected to grow by 6.5 percent in 2022, reaching its pre-pandemic level in the first quarter.

While the Omicron variant may have some effects on international travel recovery in 2022, we still look ahead with more optimism. The aviation industry is resilient, and we are confident it will eventually bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. For now, our main priority is to continue flying our customers safely and to offering superb travel experiences in the air and on-ground.

Every country keeps on changing COVID protocol, border policies etc. How challenging these are for you?

As the situation continues to evolve, we’re managing our global operations as best we can on a daily basis. The health and safety of our customers has always been a top priority and we continue to work closely with local and international authorities to operate our flights safely and sustainably.

How many global destinations you are connecting currently and what is the plan for 2022?

We currently operate passenger services to more than 120 destinations across six continents, including a new route service to Miami, which we launched in July 2021. Looking ahead to next year, we remain committed to restoring our global network and to ramping up operations across our network to meet market demand.

What new elements/technology you have incorporated in your operations and strategy to instil confidence among travelllers?

Resorting traveler confidence is very important, and we are very proud to have introduced various measures to offer customers a peace of mind while travelling. This includes: implementing a comprehensive set of safety measures at every touchpoint of the customer journey; introducing contactless technology, including self-check-in kiosks and biometric path at Dubai Airport; revising our booking policies to offer customers generous re-booking terms,; introducing an industry-first, COVID-19 medical travel insurance; and we were also one of the first airlines to implement the IATA travel pass across our global network. The safety and wellbeing of our customers has always been a top priority, and we’ll continue to review and update our safety protocols as needed.

By when do you expect that the aviation industry getting back to pre-COVID level?

Although certain challenges remain, and recovery will continue to be patchy - we are going into 2022 with more optimism and we expect global traffic to return to pre-COVID levels by 2023 or 2024.

How important is India to you?

India is a very important market for us, and we have shared strong ties with the country since 1985. We currently serve nine points, including - Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, and Mumbai, utilising our wide-body Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. We remain committed to the country and to serving our Indian customers with unmatched travel experiences.

The third wave is on us so it seems. The statistics give us a grim picture. India has reported more than 6.3 times increase in cases in the last eight days ending (January 5th 2022). According to the Health Ministry, the case positivity rate has gone up from 0.79 per cent on December 29th, 2021 to 5.03 per cent on January 5th 2022.

This can spell bad news for the Indian outbound holiday market in the short term as we head into the summer months very soon. Every state has imposed its set of restrictions and even if the situation abates in the next few weeks the situation would not change much.

Short-haul travel will take place but long-haul travel will pause till the situation comes under control.

The world is suddenly seeing a spike in cases. The US crossed the one million daily cases a few days ago. The cases in UK are hovering around 2 lakh per day. Though this sudden spike in the number of cases have been attributed to Omicron, it does not lessen the intensity of the spread of the disease.

In this atmosphere, it will be hard to promote international travel as people do not have the will to make that foreign trip.

However, epidemiologists have suggested that this Omicron variant is not as severe as the Delta wave that took a huge toll in India. Second, they believe that this will die down in a matter of months. This is good news for the industry as they can hope to salvage the situation in the second half of the calendar year.

This difference this time is that we have in our arsenal vaccines and drugs that can protect us and this is reassuring to the vast majority of the people.

The outbound industry should now focus on short-haul and mid-haul destinations going forward as this is the only way out to salvage international travel. Destinations such as UAE, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and a few African countries have kept their doors open to the Indian outbound tourists and they should focus on these countries for the time being.

The second half of 2021 showed that it was possible to travel in a bubble with all protocols in place and it was safe. Dubai attracted over 6.5 million tourists in 2021 and this in a year when travel was down demonstrated that it can be done in a safe environment.

Travellers will wait and watch the situation and even if they get a small window of opportunity to travel they will pack their bags and head overseas it’s a wait and watch situation for everyone.

As we begin the new year it’s time to reflect on the year gone by. We recovered from the devastating second wave in June 2021 and for six months the Indian hospitality and travel industry witnessed a gradual recovery. One may call it revenge travel or pent-up demand, the result was that many stakeholders of the industry benefited from this surge in demand. Air travel did better than expected though the government had restricted capacity for some time only to loosen it at the end of the year.

A few takeaways. One is the disinvestment of Air India, which was long overdue. It has returned to the Tata empire and the travelling public are waiting in anticipation when Tatas officially takes over and revamps the entire operations both within India and internationally. Air India has its distinct advantages with landing slots across all the major international hubs and one of the best landing slots in India.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought about a shift in the way people approach travel. Customers prefer direct flights with one or no stop compared to the pre-covid days and Air India with its network in place could act as a catalyst to fuel this growth. The government is also in no hurry to restore flying rights that foreign airlines enjoyed before 2020 and this is to enable a level playing field for Indian carriers. However, the government should balance the needs of the growing travelling public and protect local carriers. It has been observed that more flights lead to a multiplier effect on the economy.

Second, the launch of Akasa Air is a welcome sign. The collapse of Jet Airways had created a void and the new airline, which has ordered 72 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, will perfectly fill the gap. Other Indian carriers such as Indigo and SpiceJet have also added capacity on the domestic network and all this points to a growing demand for air travel within the country.

On the domestic tourism front, state governments have not lost time in promoting their destinations and many of them have already announced new tourism policies to cater to the growing number of domestic tourists.

Though we have been confronted with the new Omicron variant, the state governments have adopted a proactive approach to promoting domestic tourism. Leading hotel chains such as the Indian Hotels, ITC and others have announced their expansion plans and are set to add many new properties to their existing bouquet of hotels.

Business travel had picked up in the last quarter of 2021 and the growth has been dampened a bit with the emergence of the third wave in India.

Overall, as we say, there is always a silver lining among the dark clouds.


With tourism being in doldrums due to the pandemic since March 2020, National Tourist Offices (NTOs) of countries around the world have focused on domestic tourism due to the closure of the scheduled air services globally. These NTOs have realized to change their tourism strategy to make it more suitable to counter the impact of the pandemic. Their plan included offering offbeat destinations following the global norms of physical distancing, new marketing strategy built around digital and a robust safety guideline.

India also adopted the same strategy. The Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India initiated the promotion of offbeat and lesser-known destination under its webinar series ‘Dekho Apna Desh’. These webinars created a great interest about India’s unexplored and experiential destination amongst the travelling people across the globe. 

Indian State Tourism Boards kept the momentum going by strongly backing the MoT’s vision of promoting domestic tourism. Several State Tourism departments implemented new measures and promotional campaigns to revive the tourism economy. These departments are leaving no stone unturned to encourage travellers to visit the lesser-known destinations in the country. They are creating new offbeat destinations to avoid crowding at the established destinations in order to follow the physical distancing norms.

Also, outbound travel is totally taken a backseat due to the pandemic. Hence, it offers a huge opportunity for state tourism boards to refocus and reposition their products to both high and upper middle-class travellers and retain them in the domestic market. Keeping this in focus, states have adopted new, targeted and digital marketing strategy to send a strong message to the travelling people that travelling to lesser-known destinations are relatively safe.

Developing offbeat destinations

Many states have reoriented their strategy to instill confidence among tourists. “We are developing new destinations, festivals, occasions and coming up with new ideas for drawing tourists to the state. We are developing a new destination Nada Bet in Banaskantha district on the border of India and Pakistan. This is being developed as part of ‘Seema Darshan’ project. The project offers an opportunity for travellers to see the workings of an army post on the border of India,” Hareet Shukla, Secretary - Tourism, Devasthanam Management, Civil Aviation & Pilgrimage, Govt. of Gujarat said at the recently concluded IATO convention in Gandhinagar.  He elaborated that some of the activities and sights that will interest the traveller include the retreat ceremony where the Border Security Force (BSF) jawans put up a gallant show of marching with pride to end another day of guarding the borders.

Apart from Nada Bet, Gujarat is also developing more new destinations including archaeological sites of Lothal and Dholavira. The state is also promoting Blue Flag Status Shivrajpur beach. Dholavira is recently included in the list of UNESCO sites. “We are developing a National Maritime Heritage Museum at Lothal and the Master Plan for Dholavira is also ready,” Shukla informed. The complex will be spread over 400 acres and will include Maritime Heritage Museum, light house museum, heritage theme park, maritime institute etc..

Similarly, the government is also developing Dholavira, the Harappan-era archeological site in Kutch district of Gujarat. As per the Master Plan, there will be accommodation facility, cafeteria, tourist lounge/reception center and parking.

Implementing the similar strategy, Madhya Pradesh, which has always been focused on domestic market, has also changed their preference from mass tourism to the less crowded place.

“We are mainly focusing on promoting experiential tourism on our circuits post covid.  We are developing new and unexplored destinations which have not been the focus earlier. We are promoting rural tourism around Orchha which has emerged an important pre-wedding film shoot destination. Beside this, we are also looking at promoting Vedaghat in Jabalpur. We are organizing Mandu Festival and offering a lot of activities like heritage walk, cycle tour, cultural evening, local cuisine etc to visitors. We want tourists coming to Mandu to explore Maheshwar,” Shilpa Gupta, Addl. Managing Director, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, said on the sideline of the IATO convention. She informed that MP Tourism is working on three pillars of tourism: innovation, safety and sustainability.

India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has also brought tourism under the focus sector. UP Tourism is currently working on developing new circuits offering offbeat destinations to tourists. The state tourism board is developing many new destinations in and around Varanasi and Ayodhya.

“With the coming up of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, Purvanchal will have a new identity in terms of tourism offerings. The temple was there but with the making of the corridor, tourists will have better experience. Now, 1.5 lakh tourists can visit the temple at one point of time,” Preeti Srivastava, Deputy Director, Uttar Pradesh Tourism, told. She said that the government is also developing Vindhyachal Corridor on similar lines. While the focus is on the religious tourism, the development of both these Corridors will also have spill over impact on the surrounding areas. There are a lot of beautiful, experiential, historical and cultural destinations that Purvanchal region offers, Srivastava said. “People who come to Varanasi can also go to Vindhyachal. We are developing corridor at Vindhyachal as well which offers the similar experiences.

“Buddhist travellers visiting Buddhist sites in UP can include these Corridors in their itinerary. We are developing Sonbhadra region that offers the best pre-historic sites and a great experience of eco-tourism. The infrastructure is still weak in Sonbhadra region but with Varanasi getting popular, we expect the infrastructure in this region will be developed soon, she opined.

Creating infrastructure

To develop these lesser-known destinations, there is a need of offering tourism related infrastructure in these destinations. “We offer very good road connectivity to our tourist destinations. We have increased the number of way Side Amenities (WSA) from 80 to 96 to offer convenience to road travellers,” Gupta said citing example of Hanuwantia which the MP Tourism has developed through Jal Mahotsava. Hanuwantia is gradually establishing itself as a water-based activity driven destination in the market.

MP Tourism, which offers a very lucrative heritage policy and a robust land bank, has expedited their activities to draw private investment. “We recently received 5 bids against heritage properties for their conversion into heritage hotels,” Gupta informed and added that the state’s investment policy is very friendly. “Our base price is fixed. It is Rs 5 lakhs for rural areas and Rs 10 lakhs for urban areas. The base price for our heritage properties is just Rs 1 lakh. We are looking for right bidders,” she added.

Srivastava also enumerates a number of infrastructural initiatives taken by the state government. The recently opened Kushinagar Internarial Airport is proving boon to the tourism in the region. The government is creating a strong infrastructure network in the state, she said. Also, the Vindhyachal Corridor project being built with an investment of Rs 150 crore will boost tourism in the region.

Gujarat Tourism has also announced a number of policies since the pandemic to develop destinations.  Beside our tourism policy, we recently announced heritage tourism policy and we will be coming up with a cinematic tourism policy soon. We also have guidelines for homestays and adventure sports, Shukla said.

Gujarat is well connected by air, rail and roads. “We have 19 airports of which 3 airports are managed by the state governments where we are looking for partnership with private players to develop projects in and around these airports also. We have two water aerodromes. Gujarat is the first state to start sea planes. Currently, these sea planes are not operating. We hope to start this service in the next 2-3 months. We have 42 forts, jetties and good motorable roads. The growth of tourism in Gujarat is more than national average. The number of footfalls in Gujarat is more than 6 crores which is roughly more than state’s population,” Shukla said.

Karnataka also came up with new Tourism Policy in 2020. Karnataka accorded industry status to 4–5-star hotels category.

Collectivize efforts

As per the demand of the situation, governments and private players join hands to save the industry. The business had taken a lull and they used this pandemic time to forge a stronger relationship. All associations under the umbrella of FAITH worked cohesively with the Ministry of Tourism and State Tourism Boards tried to garner as much support as they can receive. The industry managed to get some sort of support from the government. While the Govt. of India granted 5 lakh free visa with some rider and financial assistance to government recognized operators, agents and guides, state also tried their best to work hand-in-hand with private players. 

Gupta said that tour operators are their biggest stakeholders and MP Tourism is working closely with associations, operators, agents and guides. “We are in constant engagement with our stakeholder, getting their feedbacks and working on these,” she added.

Shukla was quite bullish about Gujarat hosting the IATO Annual Convention. This Convention is going to give a great fillip to the tourism in the state. “Such large-scale convention will give Gujarat Tourism a lot of ideas and feedback to further proceed. I am sure the travel trade including the agents and the operators will discover new locations in Gujarat and bring a lot of national and international tourists to the state,” Shukla said.

“We extended financial assistance to tourism stakeholders. We extended 50 per cent reduction in property tax and the waiver of fixed charges on electricity bills for April to June and 50 per cent exemption in the excise license fee. "We have a one-time grant of Rs 5,000 for tourist guides,” the representative of Karnataka Tourism, said.

These Boards are also helping to create suitable packages. "We need to make our packages activity-filled. All our events, Jal Mahotsava, Mandu Festivals offers many activities,” Gupta said. 

Going digital

With almost total absence of physical meetings, tourism department are trying to go digital for their marketing and promotions to keep in touch with the industry. Vigorous digital marketing platforms is the key to success for tourism destinations as it is the most cost-effective investment. Tourism industry is one of the sectors that have benefited the most from the internet and as a result social media has become an integral part of any central or state tourism promotion and planning.

The Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India is ready with its campaign to be launched digitally. The Ministry, after having concluded the discussion with channels, was ready for digital soft launch from January 2022 but had to delay due to the ongoing situation. The Ministry has already started digitalization of tourism industry and developed multi-layer strategy to build brand India. The focus is also on the user generated content to market India as a destination in the global market.

State Tourism Boards are also not behind and many of them are in the process of creating new digital campaigns. UP has a tourism budget of around Rs 1200 crore of which around 10 per cent is allocated for marketing and promotions. “We are focused on digital campaign. We are coming up with good campaigns post-election. The UP Tourism is making nice films that will be promoted on digital channels from April,” Srivastava informed.

Gujarat has already been famous for coining out with brilliant tourism campaigns that resulted in pushing the tourism growth. The state tourism board has already launched digital campaigns and solidifying its position on digital media. “We have been very active in utilising the social media for the promotion of the Gujarat Tourism,” Shukla said.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism, which has always released creative and eye-catching campaigns, is also focused on digital campaigns now. MP Tourism launched its digital campaign titled #SabKuchJJoDilChahe. The campaign showcases MP as a traveller’s delight. The state also launched ‘IntezaarKhatamHua’ campaign in 2020 to build the confidence and trust amongst the travellers and to keep the audience engaged during the Monsoon season by featuring the major monsoon tourism attractions of the destinations like Amarkantak, Panchmarhi, Mandu, Orchha, Tamia, Bhedaghat, National Parks. “We are moving towards digitalization by innovating and reinventing ourselves," Gupta added.


Sammy Yahia, Director of Israel Ministry of Tourism, India & Philippines talks about the importance of the India market and recent initiatives taken by Israel Tourism

The demand for outbound tourism from the Indian subcontinent will continue to increase this year.  Travellers have started to slow down and immerse themselves in the culture of the destination they are exploring, enhancing their experiences, and adopting aspects of the culture as their own, and we feel like this trend will continue to grow. 

With uncertainty still prevailing, how do you see 2022 for outbound travel? Do you foresee a significant demand from India market? Any new trend in terms of international travel?

Tourism is one of the most dynamic industries which is constantly changing. India has been a ‘must watch’ market for the world where tourism is always evolving.  In the past years, there has been an increase in demand from Indian tourists to visit short-haul destinations.  Over the years, we have noticed changes in the travel trends, with travellers becoming more selective about the destinations they visit to enhance their overall experience.

Do you foresee India still featuring amongst your top priority markets post Pandemic?

Though the pandemic has caused significant changes for many of us, the demand amongst Indians for Israel as a tourism destination remains.  We strongly believe that once the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 situation begin to ease more permanently, there will be a demand for travel to Israel.  The signing of the Abraham Accords and normalisation of ties with some of the Arab League nations as well as hosting the 70th Miss Universe Competition in Eilat last month has created more of a demand for Israel.  We plan to use all marketing tools at our disposal to promote tourism to Israel as well as a 360-advertising campaign across digital platforms, print, OOH, television etc. when we are ready to accept tourists from the Indian subcontinent again.

How are you tweaking your marketing strategy for 2022?

The travel industry has experienced many changes over the past 2 years due to the pandemic.  We have observed the changes in the travel trends among Indians through our partners and travellers, many of whom have approached us directly with queries on the opening of Israel to the Indian traveller.

We plan to continue using all marketing tools at our disposal to promote tourism to Israel, including but not limited to a 360-advertising campaign across digital platforms, print, OOH, television etc.  We will continue to host virtual meetings, webinars, presentations and interactive events with our partners to keep them upraised on the developments in Israel. 

Any new updates in terms of attractions or tourism infrastructure upgrade in the destination?

Over the last couple of years, Israel has seen many changes and updates to its tourism infrastructure.  In the next two years, new hotel brands including world renowned Nobu, Soho House, Mandarin Oriental and Six Senses are expected to open in Israel, increasing the total number of rooms popular destinations like Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea Region, the Negev and Jerusalem, to name a few. 

During the lockdown in Israel last year, many tourism sites were upgraded, and new features have been added as well.   Emmaus Trail, set against the background of the Judean Mountains and their foothills, is a new addition to the tourism portfolio.

The Israel Nature and Park Authority has collaborated with the Christian Information Centre on a pilot program where visitors can register for and attend Mass and services at 4 national parks, where pilgrims can come and pray in the open spaces.

The Tower of David Museum has also been making significant upgrades by revamping the permanent exhibition as well as building a new entrance.  One of the main objectives of these upgrades is to make the citadel accessible to disabled visitors.

Which segments of tourism will be your focus once tourism restarts? Which are the new destinations that you will be promoting

In addition to continuing our focus on building leisure travel, MICE, faith-based tours and other group travel, the Israel Ministry of Tourism office in India has increased its focus included edu-tourism, sustainable travel and LGBT segments to our focus in promoting tourism.  Edu-tourism has been a growing segment for many countries and, along with sustainable travel trends, we believe that this segment has potential to significantly contribute to tourism. 

By when do you foresee MICE and corporate travel market to bounce back?

The situation will get better gradually as the year progresses. Outbound tourism from the Indian subcontinent will continue to grow. However, I do believe it will take at least another year before outbound tourism levels equate pre-pandemic travel.  While the world is still trying to understand the full impact of COVID-19, and countries are being cautious with opening boarders and kickstarting the tourism economy, travellers have also become more selective about the destinations they will travel to and experience.

With Indians travelling abroad throughout the year for business, and Indian corporations expanding their global footprint, overseas bleisure travel has steadily increased.  MICE travel to Israel was booming at a steady pace before COVID-19, and we have seen some excellent MICE movements in the last few years.  We foresee an increase in the demand for Israel with new connectivity through Dubai, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Manama (Bahrain), which we are confident will drive the demand for outbound MICE from India to Israel.

Are you planning any trade engagement activities in India market?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the tourism team has been working hard to maintain our relationships in the market with all our partners and stakeholders by hosting webinars and virtual meetups, participating in fairs, both virtual as well as in-person, and hosting roadshows. 

Earlier this year, we participated in ITB India where we interacted with over 30 tourism stakeholders, including travel agents, operators, corporate representatives, and journalists.  Since then, IGTO India (Israel Govt. Tourist Office) has participated in the MILT Conference hosted in Mumbai and Delhi, hosted a 3-city roadshow and have diverted our focused on promoting niche segments like sustainable tourism and education tourism. 

For this year, we will continue with our engagement initiatives, both virtually as well as in person via trade fairs as well as planned roadshows.

India has always been focussed market for Indonesia since 2016. Before the pandemic, visitors from India continued to increase every year. In 2019, total visitors from India reached 657.300 and then reached 104.765 visitors in the first three months of 2020 before Covid-19 outbreaks. Sigit Witjaksono, Director of Tourism Marketing for Asia Pacific, Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia, talks on the preparation to woo international visitors, new normal and importance and strategy for India market.

With uncertainty still prevailing, how do you see 2022 for outbound travel? Do you foresee a significant demand from India market? Any new trend in terms of international travel?

Indonesia, especially Bali, has opened international flights starting October 14, 2021 for 19 countries including India. Until now, we continue to make preparations to welcome international tourists, of course, by keeping an eye on the situation where a new variant of Omicron is currently appearing.

In response to the opening of international flights, we have collaborated with Indonesian representatives abroad to carry out an awareness campaign since October 2021 to inform them that the border is open for Indian tourists. In addition, we have also contacted our partners in India to start cooperation. We received information that Indian tourists are very eager to be able to travel to Indonesia soon. Therefore, through our partners, we want to ensure that the arrival of Indian tourists is very much awaited. In that regard, we are also working on connectivity of direct and indirect flights from India to Indonesia destinations.  

The new trend in terms of international travel, the important thing is that we have to make tourists feel comfortable and safe. The new normal condition with the implementation of CHSE (cleanliness, health, safety & environmental sustainability) protocol is a must/ mandatory for future trip activities. We would like to ensure the safety and health of the people travelling as our utmost objectives. In this regard, we have done and implemented our efforts and strategy with adaptation, innovation and collaboration to achieve that goal.

Post Pandemic, do you foresee India still featuring amongst your top priority markets?

India has always been focussed market for Indonesia since 2016. Before the pandemic, visitors from India continued to increase every year. In 2019, total visitors from India reached 657.300 and then reached 104.765 visitors in the first three months of 2020 before Covid-19 outbreaks.

With this good trend, it is certain that Indian tourists will be our attention. Moreover, they really like various destinations in Indonesia, especially Bali, which is indeed their main destination if they go to Indonesia. 

The Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy/Head of the Tourism and Creative Economy Agency, Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno had also held a meeting with the Indian Ambassador to Indonesia, Manoj Kumar Bharti. During the meeting, the two of them discussed various future program plans, especially opportunities to increase cooperation in the tourism sector and the post-pandemic creative economy. The plan to reopen Bali with direct flights from India was also discussed. This confirms that India is and will still be a very important market for Indonesia.

How are you tweaking your marketing strategy for 2022?

In the opening of the international border, Bali became a pilot project for bringing international visitors to Indonesia and was then be followed up with Batam and Bintan. Safe routes, safe zones, transportation, referral hospitals, mitigation provisions already prepared. We have coordinated everything from time to time together with the relevant Ministries/Institutions (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration, National Covid-19 Task Force, etc.), provincial/district governments and related industries. 

We need to emphasize that since last year 2020, the government & people of the Republic of Indonesia in many regions/capital cities of all the provinces have been making some efforts to ensure the readiness of destinations to welcome visitors with the implementation of CHSE. The ongoing efforts in various regions in Indonesia ensure that hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, souvenir shops, etc. can create a sense of security and comfort so that Indian tourists will feel “worry-free”.

Any new updates in terms of attractions or tourism infrastructure upgrade in the destination?

Since the last year 2020, the government & people of the Republic of Indonesia in many regions/capital cities of all the provinces have been making some efforts to ensure the readiness of destinations to welcome visitors with the implementation of CHSE (cleanliness, health, safety & environmental sustainability).

The purpose of CHSE is to make sure end-to-end travel start from the arrival at the airport, hotel, accommodation, tourist attraction, and so on and up to returning back to the airport. We would like to show the world that Indonesia is ready to welcome back international tourists and keep improving the destination experiences.

Until November 2021, as many as 11,986 tourism business have been certified. This effort will also be continued this coming second semester of 2021 in many other cities all around the country, covering hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, souvenir shops, etc. so that it would, in turn, build and strengthen confidence for the tourists to visit Indonesia when the condition is possible later on.

Which segments of tourism will be your focus once tourism restarts? Which are the new destinations that you will be promoting?

Bali, Bintan, and Batam will be a pilot project of preparing to bring international visitors to Indonesia. We will continue to promote Bali because Bali remains the main destination for Indian visitors. As many as 40% of Indian visitors come to Bali for weddings and honeymoons, this is what we will continue to work on as well as other potential segments for adventure, leisure and so on.

By when do you foresee MICE and corporate travel market to bounce back?

For the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) Segment, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has made a guidebook/guideline on health protocols (CHSE) for the implementation of MICE activities. The guidebook received appreciation at the international event Bali Democracy Forum in December 2020. When travel resumes, hopefully, international MICE events and activities in Indonesia can be carried out and run safely according to health protocols. 

Indonesia's chairmanship/presidency in the G20 has started from December 1, 2021, until November 2022, then continues with the Chair of Indonesia in ASEAN in 2023. This is an opportunity for Indonesia to show the readiness of Bali and various other destinations, especially the 5 Super Priority Destinations, which will become the venue for the various series of G20 and ASEAN meetings.

 Are you planning any trade engagement activities in India market?

We are pleased to participate at South Asia's Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) as "Partner Country" on 16 s/d 18 February 2021 to showcase Indonesian destinations and new experiences at Indonesian Pavilion at SATTE 2022.

Anything you would like to add?

In our participation in SATTE 2022, We would like to show the world that Indonesia is ready to welcome back international tourists and keep improving the destination experiences with #IndonesiaCare. And we are sure that Indian tourists are looking forward to visiting the land of the Gods, Bali, which is their favourite destination. Be prepared, because #itstimeforBali.

With Air Mauritius reinstating flights between India and Mauritius, under the air bubble agreement, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) sees an increased urge amongst Indian travellers to visit Mauritius. Arvind Bundhun, Director, MTPA, shares his view on growing tourism ties between India and Mauritius.

With uncertainty still prevailing, how do you see 2022 for outbound travel? Do you foresee a significant demand from India market? Any new trend in terms of international travel?

Mauritius is very well protected against the import of Covid-19. Our public health protocols are widely regarded as best-practice, and we have an extremely high vaccination rate, with over 89 per cent of the adult population already vaccinated and now booster doses are also being administered to the vaccinated population. Tourism employees were prioritised for vaccination, which means that visitors are welcomed and serviced exclusively by vaccinated staff, so we are positive about Tourism in 2022.

Over the last few months, we observed increased optimism and confidence amongst Indian tourists towards our country. With Air Mauritius reinstating flights to Mauritius, under the air bubble agreement, we can see an increased urge amongst Indian travellers to visit our country. We are now also getting more strategic partners showing interest to engage with us in the promotion of Mauritius tourism sector.

The coronavirus crisis has moved the world towards responsible, sustainable, socially innovative tourism, and greater personal interaction with the locals and their culture is the new trend.

Post Pandemic, do you foresee India still featuring amongst your top priority markets?

People are getting upset for not being able to travel for the last 2 years and are eager to travel. The rapid inoculation drive in Mauritius and India, majority of the population are vaccinated and protected against Covid 19, On the other hand, while, discussing with all our trade partners in India, we found out that a significant section of Indians are eager to travel to Mauritius. Hence, we are quite optimistic of revival of substantial tourist footfalls in Mauritius and will remain amongst our top priority lists.

How are you tweaking your marketing strategy for 2022?

There is currently limited information available on the severity of the new variant Omicron, however, MTPA will continue promoting the destination with a focus on digital platforms and social media alongwith with other platforms to reach the target group and maintain our presence in the mind of the travellers. There is also an advertising plan, B2B generated joint campaigns and campaigns with airlines in place which we had to put on hold due to the pandemic.

Any new updates in terms of attractions or tourism infrastructure upgrade in the destination?

The Splash N Fun Leisure Park:  A thrilling and exclusive water themed park over 30 arpents (12 Ha) of land on the east coast of Mauritius near Belle Mare public beach. Tastefully themed and designed with its sensational water slides and entertainment rides, heaven like pools, 1 food court, 4 food kiosks and 1 restaurant offering excellent cuisine, it is an answer to those looking for fun, water, action, sensation and relaxation.

Odysseo Oceanarium Mauritius: The first oceanarium in Mauritius. It’s a journey in an aquatic world full of wonder. The aquarium contains 45 tanks that hold a total of 2 million litres of water and are home to 3,500 aquatic animals. Odysseo Mauritius is a place of discovery, education, and awareness.

Besides, many properties in Mauritius have undergone refurbishment and are welcoming guests to their refreshed offerings.

Which segments of tourism will be your focus once tourism restarts? Which are the new destinations that you will be promoting?

Mauritius has long been known as a honeymoon destination. But we have a lot more to offer — affordable luxury, MICE including weddings, adventure sports, international-level golf courses, filming facilities and more. MTPA is promoting the island to welcome all segments of tourists...Leisure, Fits, MICE including Weddings, Honeymooners, Wellness, Golf, Solo travellers, Millennials, Production houses etc.

By when do you foresee MICE and corporate travel market to bounce back?

Historically, it has been noticed that MICE and business travels are more unpredictable and slower to recover than leisure travel after any disruptions to travel patterns. However, we have been receiving many enquiries for MICE groups including destination weddings, film shoots, golfers etc. since we have opened the border which makes us more optimistic and expect the MICE market to bounce back very soon.

Are you planning any trade engagement activities in India market?

To increase the level of engagement with the Trade, MTPA is planning to conduct virtual roadshows and workshops.  As Mauritius has opened the border, MTPA plans for conducting more familiarisation trips for tour operators, MICE agents, wedding planners, golfers, film and television production houses and media. MTPA has already organised a travel agents Fam trip in November 2021 MTPA also has plans to participate in trade fairs like SATTEE while observing guidelines laid out from time to time by both the Governments.

Turkey witnessed a good tourism season in 2021 compared to other countries despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to a very proactive approach adopted by the Turkish government that has been well supported by the industry stakeholders. The country expects a better tourism season in 2022. Firat Sunel, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to India, shares his perspective on India – Turkey tourism ties.

Turkey has been witnessing doubling of international tourist arrivals month after month welcoming 15.9 million foreign visitors during Jan-Aug 2021. What is the trend from India?

2019 was most successful year for Turkish tourism in terms of the number of international arrivals. In 2019, our destination hosted 2.3 lakh Indian tourists, with an increase of 55% in comparison with 2018. This number was a record for us in India. With the resumption of direct flights between our countries both the number of Indian tourists visiting to Turkey and Turkish tourists visiting to India will grow significantly in a short while. However, nowadays we also witness huge demand for our destination in India as well.

Indian citizens can travel to Turkey via Dubai or Qatar. We also try to facilitate the process for Indian visitors as much as we can. In this regard, I would like to underline the fact that our visa departments have been operating in full capacity in India. Besides e-visa scheme for Indian citizens is still valid. Indian citizen who has a valid Schengen, UK or US visa can apply for Turkish e visa online.

By when do you expect the arrivals to come back on 2019 level?

We expect to host around 25 million international visitors by the end of 2021. With the help of successful vaccination campaign both in Turkey and other countries we expect to reach 2019 numbers by 2022 or 2023.

There is a lot of confusion on approval of vaccines for travel globally. What is Turkey’s stance on Indian travelers?

I am very pleased to declare that, as of September 4th fully vaccinated travellers from India will no longer be subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine rule in Turkey. The vaccines that have been approved by WHO or Turkish Government are covered under this exemption. In addition to WHO approved vaccines, the vaccines approved by Turkish Government arePzifer Biontech, Sputnik V and Sinovac. Indian traveller must be taken the second dose (if Johnson&Johnson one dose is sufficient) at least 14 days prior to the date of travel. For Indian travellers who are vaccinated with Covishield will also be exempted from quarantine.

I also believe that, once Covaxin gets a nod from WHO, travellers vaccinated with Covaxin will also be able tovisit Turkey as the people who have been vaccinated with Covishield. The fully vaccinated travellers are also required to submit their negative PCR test report taken 72 hours before departure in order to exempt the quarantine. Nonvaccinated travelers are required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 10 days in a hotel or a location mentioned in the declaration. Children below 12 years old are exempted from the vaccination and negative PCR test rule.

What is Turkey’s policy for non-vaccinated travelers?

Non vaccinated travellers coming from India is subjected to mandatory quarantine for 10 days in a hotel or a location mentioned in the declaration.

How do you see air services getting started between Turkey and India?

Currently, there are no direct flights between India and Turkey, but travellers can travel via transit destinations. We are in close collaboration with relevant authorities about the resumption of direct flights. I believe that direct flights between our countries will resume in a short while.

How are bilateral ties between India and Turkey shaping up?

Friendly ties between Turkey and India have their roots in history. There are strong cultural bonds between Turkish and Indian Peoples. Both countries share similar values and ideals and commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, pluralism, open society, and sustainable development. They strive to strengthen international peace and stability.

Turkey and India have undergone an immense social, political, and economic transformation since the end of theCold War. Today, both Turkey and India are rising powers.

Turkey considers India as a friendly country taking firm steps forward to be a global power with its growing economy, huge market, military power, outstanding knowledge in space technology and informatics, rich human resources, and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage.

We closely follow and appreciate the rapid progress of India. Turkey is determined to develop its relations with India in every possible field. We deem that there is mutual will to enhance bilateral relations.

Our bilateral relations have a huge potential to develop and benefit both sides as relations at social and economic levels are already flourishing. We welcome the increasing trend in people to people contacts and business sector cooperation while looking forward to further developing our relations.

Anything more you would like to add from your side…

I would like to mention Safe Tourism Certification Program which has been at the heart of safety protocols of our tourism industry by the mid of 2020. As known, Turkey is one of the first countries in the World to introduce the Safe Tourism Certificate Program for the tourism industry.

This certificate covers a broad range of measures including transportation, accommodation, health condition of employees of the facilities and passengers. Granted by the international certification institutions, this system ensures the safety of the visitors, both domestic and international.

Thanks to the Safe Tourism Certificate Program the number of international visitors was more than 15 million in 2020 and we also aim to reach 25 million international visitors by the end of 2021.

Syed Junaid Altaf, MD, Empyrean Skyview Projects, opines that Patnitop is going to emerge as the most happening tourism destination in the country in the next few years. Excerpts from interview:

How has this region, in UT J&K and Patnitop in particular, grown as a leisure destination over the past two years? How has it been for Skyview by Empyrean so far?

Whilst the entire nation was shaken with the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 followed by the lethal second wave in 2021, Patnitop and Skyview by Empyrean also felt the fluctuations hitting tourism for the second time.

Now, as the Covid situation seems to have somewhat normalized with infections down to less than 2% of the peak — the highest daily average reported in May this year and citizens getting vaccinated, people are heading out, we are expecting a local tourism boom.

The local and national movement in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir has seen a growth chart in the last six months. Flights to Jammu from metropolitan cities have increased as well as flights from major cities have resumed.

Railways are also playing a big role in increasing numbers to Katra. On the local movement, Patnitop has seen the highest hotel occupancy in the month of July over the last few years. We have seen footfalls increasing substantially in the last three months and we are hoping to touch 400 guests per day by the year's end.

Skyview by Empyrean offers adventure activities like Zigzag Zipline and Magic Carpet and hiking & mountain biking. We have recently introduced Skyview World, Sanget Valley for those who want to stay longer with us.

Skyview by Empyrean has also been certified by SGS on COVID-19 compliance and we take every necessary step to ensure our guests are in a safe and sanitized environment. We are expecting a good response at Skyview by Empyrean in the coming months.

Do you plan to tap the religious tourists to your destination for leisure? What is your strategy?

Yes, of course, pilgrims to Katra are a major source of our business. Post Covid, religious tourism in Katra has seen week on week growth and is now receiving over 15,000 pilgrims daily, during Navratras this year.

We have opened a sales office in Katra to tap the market and our sales team is working with tour operators and hotels to promote Skyview by Empyrean.

We would like to be the pivot and create a religious circuit in and around Patnitop for guests to visit ancient temples such as Naag Mandir in Padora Chowk, Sudh Mahadev, Shiv Khori and also the Krimchi Temples close to Udhampur.

With domestic tourism opening full-fledged, will your main target segment be domestic or are you also focusing on inbound, if so, which would be the source markets?


Now, we are focusing largely on the domestic market; as international travel opens, we shall target inbound tourists, especially those markets such as US, UK, Europe, and the Middle East.

Do you see demand for luxury tourism in Patnitop?

We did see a huge potential in this area when we set up this project as it is less explored, but it requires better facilities and infrastructure. We have started the ball rolling with our luxury resort having a private Gondola. The market will soon have leading Indian and International chains coming in with upmarket accommodation and services as we have seen happening in Katra. We would like to be the central asset in Patnitop and we believe, the most happening tourism destination in the country in the next few years.

You have launched luxury accommodation at Patnitop, how has been the occupancy and ARRs for the property? Do you plan to expand further?

We have had an overwhelming response to our luxury stays since we opened a few weeks ago. The resort since launch has experienced almost 100% occupancy on weekends and we are confident that we shall command an average rate of Rs 10,000 by the end of this financial year, ending March 2022.

Just when the heavily battered outbound travel industry was looking forward to green shoots to emerge, the news that the Omicron virus has made an appearance has shattered their hopes. South Africa, one of the most sought-after destinations for Indians faced the brunt as countries started shutting their doors on the Southern African states. Slowly but steadily the Omicron virus has made its appearance in over three dozen countries around the world and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has termed the decision by countries to stop flights to South Africa as unfortunate.

However, this has not stopped countries from formulating their policies to keep people out either through stringent testing or making post-arrival conditions rigid thereby making the entire holiday experience unpalatable.

The Indian government has also suspended the regular international flights that were scheduled to begin from December 15, 2021 and this has put paid to many Indians who despite the risks involved were willing to holiday overseas. In a sense, the demand was more in the form of revenge tourism.

Overseas leisure and corporate travel that had picked up over the last few months are slowing reducing as companies want to play safe and keep their employees safe.

UK and USA have introduced stringent conditions for travel, and this makes travelling overseas a cumbersome experience. However, destinations such as UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Maldives to name a handful of them are still welcoming Indian tourists. All these economies depend on tourism for their growth and if tourism does not take off, it will create hardships for their people. These are pragmatic policies and should be welcome.

One major short-haul market that’s still out of bounds for Indians is South East Asia. The countries in this region, namely, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and to a certain extent Australia and New Zealand (though not in South East Asia), have closed their doors to tourism. It is rather unfortunate as the destinations that Indians can travel have shrunk since the pandemic has begun.

Outbound tour operators who have started bookings now face an uncertain future. It has been noted that tour operators are no longer attracting staff as no one wants to enter this industry as the uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 variants have made people fearful and they do not want to risk their careers.

This is a sign of bad times as before the pandemic the Indian outbound tourism was one of the fastest-growing sectors in India and Indians were travelling in large numbers. The outbound industry is on its knees and the emergence of the Omicron virus has hit the nail in the coffin.

We hope this blows over quickly and we emerge to see light at the end of the tunnel. 



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