This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
The Magazine On The Business Of Travel. Like It?
Portugal is a strong player in the global MICE industry, with great air linkages from the UK, Europe's major cities, and South and North America, as well as some of the top tourism DMCs and event experts. Excerpts from the interview:
Considering the current circumstances, how do you see the overall tourism scenario unfolding for tourism in Portugal in 2022? How was the year 2021 for Portugal?
Portugal, with one of the highest immunization rates, is opening up taking into consideration all the necessary measures to keep population and visitors safe. The "Clean & Safe" seal was created for hotels, restaurants, and tourism-related businesses to take extra safety and hygienic precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and "other ailments." There is no requirement of isolation for international travellers visiting Portugal. For the Indian market, as of now only essential travel is allowed which also includes Business travel. We are eagerly waiting for travel to open for the Indian market
2021 started well for Visit Portugal. Preliminary results for 2021: overnight stays grew by 45.2% vis-à-vis 2020 but decreased by 46.6% compared to 2019 (December 2021 source, INE). We are taking solid steps towards recovery.
How did you use the pandemic period to create awareness about Portugal tourism in India?
We were and continue to be present in our efforts to promote Portugal tourism in India. Despite the epidemic and constraints, we were able to raise awareness of the country among most of our trade partners by having constant conversations, building up closer relationships. We conducted online destination presentations, online meetings, broadcasted newsletter to trade and spread awareness on Portugal through social media platforms. We are taking all necessary steps and will continue to do so.
Despite the travel restrictions, we were also able to commit to our goal to start showcasing Portugal as a great destination for Indian weddings. We completed a successful India wedding planner inspection visit from India to Portugal. More than 50 hotels and venues inspected across mainland Portugal, and we are already seeing positive results.
Do you still foresee demand from India market? Any new trend in terms of international travel due to the pandemic?
2022 will be a more exploratory year, travel will become an essential part of self-care. Undiscovered territory, health tourism and sustainable tourism will become increasingly significant. Portugal has a clear strategy in place towards become the most sustainable destination by 2027 and signed the “Glasgow Declaration On Climate Action In Tourism”.
I foresee a great demand from Indian market because we have been engaging with Indian the travel trade, showing the potential of our destination to Indian visitors from beaches, nature, golf, a diverse range of contrasting landscapes, as well as the country's history and culture, food and wines, cycling and hiking certified trails, all activities that we believe are very appealing considered the Indian visitor that will definitely be looking for more immersive and genuine experiences, engaging with local communities.
What is your marketing and promotional strategy for India this year? What new digital promotional strategy you adopted to minimize the absence of physical activities?
Even in the face of adversity, we maintained contact with trade partners to raise knowledge and expertise about the country. Even though India is still closed in relation to Portugal, we gave knowledge of the country to roughly 3300 travel agents in 2020-2021. Providing the trade experts with tools and expertise about Portugal continuous to be part of our strategy. Our primary purpose is to disseminate knowledge about the country to our partners and stakeholders. We will be attending an ITB India online event and would appreciate the opportunity to speak with India's major trade partners and media. We're also working on an online eLearning curriculum to educate and certify our trade partners about the destination. We anticipate a very successful year ahead of us. India is a very important market for Portugal, and we wish to develop our tourism links with the country.
You also launched some digital campaign like ‘Can’t Skip’ series, ‘Time to Be’ etc. globally. How was the response from India market?
The film “Can’t skip us, Can’t skip Portugal” is an integral part of the Portuguese tourist promotional campaign. We did see a great response through it. Over 1.8 million people in over 90 countries have joined the #CantSkipHope initiative. It's also been translated into +12 languages, with the majority of the translations being done by people who wished to spread the word about this uplifting message.
Which segments of tourism will be your focus once tourism restarts?
Portugal is a destination that may be visited all year. Every age group will find something to enjoy in the country. The country's history and culture, as well as its gastronomy and wines, are all major draws, as are the beaches, nature, golf, diverse landscapes and above all, the Portuguese people.We are seeing an increase in solo traveler segment and solo female potential tourists enquiries regarding the destination from India. We are a land of romance, hence looking at wedding & MICE tourism along with the leisure.
Are you planning any trade engagement activities in India market?
Yes, we are highly enthusiastic and eager to engage in trade-related activities in India. India is a very important market to us, with enormous potential. To begin, we will be certifying travel agents’ experts on Portugal via our elearning course, we will also be attending the ITB India and looking forward to engaging with the Indian travel trade sector. In addition, trade partners will be made aware of the destination through online destination presentations, I will be travelling across India for travel trade networking events. Until then, planning exciting webinars series. There are a lot of activities in the pipeline, and we are looking forward to continuing working on the same.
IHG Hotels in India continued to progress with its growth plans in 2021 by strengthening their footprint and portfolio in the country.
“We opened Holiday Inn Zirakhpur Chandigarh and Holiday Inn Goa Candolim, signed Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Jalandhar to expand in the Punjab region and debuted Holiday Inn Express in Jaipur. In addition, we announced the debut of our world-renowned extended stay brand, Staybridge Suites in India with signing of Staybridge Suites Bengaluru Thanisandra. We also launched our first Six Senses hotel in India in Rajasthan and have seen a great response for the hotel,” Sudeep Jain, Managing Director, SWA, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said.
In 2022, Jain expects to continue the growth momentum across key markets in India. “While our mainstream portfolio continues to drive growth in line with market demands, we also see huge demand opportunity for our global brands such as Regent, Kimpton, voco and the recently launched Vignette Collection. These will be launched at the right time with the right partners, at the right location,” Jain said adding that with leading brands, a resilient business model, strong cost controls and access to a healthy level of liquidity, our future trajectory looks promising, and we are optimistic of business recovery.
Commenting on the business performance, he said that given the Covid-19 situation in India continued to vary throughout 2021, the business was mixed with lows during the second wave of the pandemic and significant recovery once the situation stabilized. “Effective roll out of the vaccine and easing of travel restrictions have helped in return of consumer confidence and hotels across our portfolio register a noteworthy increase in bookings and occupancies across key destinations. Initiatives such as IHG clean promise and use of advanced technology for minimal contact across our operations added to consumer confidence. In fact, our business performance has been strong in Q4 2021, with occupancies in some cases reaching above 2019 levels. Although the rates are still slightly reduced, we have witnessed a substantial surge in overall GOP and in some cases, we have hit record revenues,” he added.
On domestic demand, Jain said that the Indian market has always been driven by domestic tourism, however, with restrictions on international movement during the pandemic, domestic travel has gained even more traction. Quick weekend getaways, staycations and intercity vacations have emerged as key trends as travellers increasingly look for a break from their routines. “We have been well-poised to capitalize on this market demand. We have run targeted marketing campaigns and promotions across different regions to cater to consumer needs and will continue to do so. In 2022, we are looking at stronger recovery as we expect domestic travel demand to continue to rise and corporate travel demand to return towards the second half of the year,” he said.
Suba Group of Hotels, which recently acquired 1589 Hotels, is aiming to aiming to expand further and target 3000 rooms by 2023 in India and overseas. The Group currently operates brands such as Click Hotels by Suba, 1589 Hotels, GenX, RNB, and RNB Select. However, the plan is to bring all hotels under ‘Click’ brand. “Our main brand is Suba, our family brand. We have Click brand which is a 3-star budget hotel. Going forward, we will consolidate and bring all these brands under ‘Click’”, Mansur Mehta, Managing Director, Suba Group of Hotels, said.
Explaining further, he said that the world ‘Click’ is same in most of the languages whether it is Arabic and Spanish. “Click is always click. You can't translate this word. So, we want to consolidate all brands into Click Hotel,” he added.
Talking on the expansion, Mehta said that the group is aiming to expand all over India. “We plan to reach to South, Northeast India and East. We are also expanding in Nepal. We have hotels in Dubai as well,” Mehta said adding that Africa is also on the radar in the long run. The Group is currently focused in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan and a little bit of North India. We want to have a pan India presence, he informed.
The Group’s hotel is performing well. There has been some hiccups on and off due to the various waves of the pandemic. “Overall, we are gradually heading back to normal. 2022 is going to be a good year for the Indian hospitality industry as things should get back to normal by March 2022,” he said adding that all studies point out towards the end of the pandemic, and we are very soon approaching to herd immunity. The industry should come back to 2019 level by third or fourth quarter of this year, he hoped.
As people has been almost locked in home, there is a pent-up demand. “If everything goes well, normalcy will come by March end. There will a school vacation time, budget time for corporate. Hence, we are expecting a good revival,” he opined.
He said that after every covid wave leisure market picked up. “Hotels started charging exorbitant rate at leisure destination. Religious tourism is also going to pick up but business travel may take a bit longer, he said.
Talking about the performance of his hotels, he said that Suba Group’s hotels at leisure destinations broke all the records in December 2021. Our hotels performance in Dubai was bumper as room rates have gone up by 100% due to the tourist season (Oct-March) and Expo 2020. Our hotel in Nepal also performed well due to wedding as it is located at the border and we have booking for a lot of weddings from Bihar and Eastern UP,” he informed.
India has vaccinated over 52 per cent of its eligible population and vaccination for adolescents have begun. The Omicron variant has subsided and according to government data, the third wave will subside very soon. Economic activity has resumed with most of the state governments relaxing restrictions. These developments in itself give people the confidence to travel. Domestic travel has been buoyant. This is the time to tap the vast outbound travel market.
Outbound travel has the potential to transform the industry. In India, travel and tourism contributes over 10 per cent to the GDP and this also supports employment of millions. To put it in perspective, according to GlobalData, outbound trips from India fell from 27 million in 2019 to just seven million in 2020. From 2009 to 2019 tourism increased by 143 per cent from 11 million travelers to 27 million. In a post-pandemic era, there is no reason why India cannot build on these figures, with projections showing a full recovery in 2024 and record numbers in 2025 for outbound travellers reaching 28.5 million.
Overseas destinations desperate to restart their tourism economies have opened up. Countries are opening up despite surge in Covid-19 numbers as we are also vaccinating citizens at record numbers. We have now learnt to manage the Covid-19 situation better with new medications and therapies in play.
The government should now play its part in restarting this engine of growth. We should allow opening up of our skies to all airlines as affordability is the key. If one looks at the boom period of 2009-19, it was on the back of reasonable international air fares. This has to come back. We should allow more flights as this will spur economic activity. People will travel only if they find it affordable as we have been reeling under the economic hardships of the last two years and we need to travel.
The industry on the other hand should also play a constructive role and offer affordable holidays with flexible cancellation policies. Airlines and hotels should also follow suit. There are reports that tour operators and travel agents are readying for the forthcoming outbound season as they feel that this is the opportune time to restart their business. There are a number of travel and tourism trade shows lined up in the coming months. Our very own SATTE 2022 has got encouraging response so far and this indicates that the stake holders are confident that we may make up for the loss of the last two years. Even if we achieve half of what we achieved in the summer of 2019, it’s a good sign.
Overall, the sentiments are positive, and we hope that the season turns out to be good for all the stakeholders in the outbound business.
The Union Budget was a mixed bag for the hospitality and travel industry. The hospitality sector had reasons to cheer as the government has extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) up to March 2023 with a further addition in outlay to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore. This will benefit the hotel industry as it would help them tide over the immediate crisis.
The government emphasis on improving road infrastructure is expected to increase connectivity and also speed up access to remote areas, something that will benefit the travel industry in the long run.
However, the tour operators and travel agents have been disappointed as they did not receive any concessions. The airline industry also was ignored in the budget.
However, now that the budget is behind us, we should now focus on opening up of inbound tourism as that’s the best sop that the industry will cheer as we look at recouping the losses incurred. The good news is that the Omicron wave is ebbing in India.
The world over, governments have relaxed quarantine rules for inbound travellers and it’s no longer mandatory. However, the Government of India had issued a directive in January this year mandating a seven-day quarantine for those coming from at-risk countries. These include most of the European countries and some from Africa. These are the destinations from where we get most of our inbound traffic and this is a deterrent for those intending to holiday in India. This should be scrapped and like all countries, we should insist on a 48–72-hour negative RT-PCR test report along with vaccination confirmation. This will help ease movement.
Second, we should do away with the Air Bubble Arrangement that we have with countries and open doors to all commercial flights. This is being done in Europe, USA and Middle East. This will make air travel less expensive and also boost travel.
Third, the government should restart e-visas that were suspended for a few countries as this will ease travel restrictions. We should also encourage tourism from neighbouring countries which are a short flight away from India.
With restrictions easing in India and as people emerge from the third wave with less sickness and fatalities, the need of the hour is to resume normal activities.
What can give the industry confidence is that many of the listed entities namely, Indian Hotels, EIH Ltd, IndiGo and the like have posted profitable third quarter results, and this indicates that people have started travelling once again. Corporate travel has also gone up. IndiGo has stated that they have almost restored flight capacity to pre-covid levels. This is a welcome sign and gives confidence to the industry.
However, we should continue to follow Covid appropriate behaviour and as an industry keep advising tourists that it’s the need of the hour.
So, instead of thinking of what the budget has it in for us we should be back in business.
Hahn Air has appointed Kirsten Rehmann as new CEO. Rehmann has been part of the corporate management since 2012 alongside the owners and founders of Hahn Air, Hans Nolte and Nico Gormsen.
She is now taking sole responsibility for the company’s affairs while Nolte and Gormsen remain closely connected to Hahn Air in their role as owners. In the future, Rehmann will direct Hahn Air’s global business, all corporate affairs as well as operational and strategic planning.
Rehmann joined Hahn Air in 2003 when the company was four years into its existence. Starting as a Sales and Marketing Executive, she quickly advanced within the company and became instrumental in driving the successful expansion of the Hahn Air ticketing business. Over the years, she held various roles in different departments of Hahn Air and acted first as Director of Airlines Business Group and later as Chief Commercial Officer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sign up for the T3 Newsletter