Even though people around the world seem eager to travel again after two years of Covid-induced constraints, tour operators and travel agencies, who cater to inbound foreign tourists in India, are still quite concerned, reported The Economic Times.
Despite the fact that India began regular commercial international flights in March this year, industry insiders do not anticipate a positive year-end season for foreign visitor arrivals given the existing demand.
According to industry experts, the government’s lack of global marketing and advertising, entry restrictions associated with Covid-19 protocols, expensive flights, and the absence of e-visas for important markets like the UK and Canada are among the reasons for lower foreign arrivals.
Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), said that he does not expect foreign visitors to surpass 35 per cent of pre-Covid levels till March 31. While talking to The Economic Times, he said, “This is because of high hotel rates and airfares and no e visas for UK and Canada. China is not there at all so there is no business from China and Hong Kong. There is not much traffic from Russia as per Russian tour operators.”
Travel Agents Association of India’s (TAAI) President Jyoti Mayal said that people are coming to meet friends and family, but overseas leisure travel is not picking up. She added, “There are challenges linked to promotions and marketing. The UK and Canada were among the largest markets for us. We don’t have e visas for these markets. People plan months in advance and this season is going to go slow.”
According to the data released this week by the tourism ministry, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in India during 2021 fell to 1.52 million due to Covid-linked curbs, compared to 2.74 million in 2020, dropping by 45 per cent. However, NRI arrivals and foreign exchange earnings grew during the same period. In 2019, India welcomed 10.93 million international tourists. It was the last full year before movement and commercial operations were restricted. The numbers dropped by 75 per cent in 2020.
Rajeev Kohli, joint MD of Creative Travel, said while tourists are travelling like never before, and the tourism industry across the world has been ‘burning midnight oil’ to lure tourists back, India has not been prepared.
“There are some tourists coming in. It’s not zero. But, my friends in the West are understaffed with the amount of business coming in. In India, we knew we will be opening one day, but we have done no marketing and promotions. Why will tourists come? Our competitive markets are aggressively using media and advertising to attract tourists. Look at Egypt, Turkey. They can’t cope up with the demand,” he told ET. He further added, “October is the traditional start of the high season but there has been no marketing. Everywhere our executives go, be it the US or Spain, they don’t see the demand for India. People have already made plans for early next year. Tourism is expensive everywhere in the world. But, that can’t be an excuse. Airlines are full for certain destinations despite high airfares. Look at Singapore, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Australia and the way they are doing promotions.”
Tapas Banerjee, managing director of Trinetra Tours, said he has been in the trade for 37 years, but the uncertainty that the inbound tourism segment is currently facing is ‘scary’.
Meanwhile, Kohli said it’s hard to revive the business with no support. “We are simply asking for promotions for the country. India is made up of small and medium enterprises. Only a handful of travel companies are medium to large. The small entrepreneurs have no line of sight,” he said.