New Inbound season may disappoint: fears the industry

Business prospect in the new inbound season does not look very promising as many global economies
are faring worse this year and travellers are less enthusiastic to travel long-haul destinations.

Every year India’s travel & tourism industry of the country looks forward to the arrival of the inbound tourism season in the country, and so is it doing this year, but the business sentiment in the industry is currently subdued to some extent. Traditional enthusiasm for the new inbound season is missing. Speaking about the business prospect in the new inbound tourism season in the country, Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel India said that this season definitely looks a bit soft.

“International economies are faring a lot worse this year and that is diverting consumer attention from long-haul travel. My feedback from colleagues in the industry and some hoteliers is that although there is business, there is no increase and in fact some pockets are showing either stagnancy or a decrease,” said Kohli.

Arun Anand, Managing Director of Midtown Travels is also not very positive about the new inbound season. Sharing his anticipation of the new season, Anand said, “The business for the coming high season is not looking good despite the fact that both the USD & EURO are very strong at the moment.’ He expressed hope that the business will pick up from November to at least the level of the last winter.

It seems that government’s initiatives to promote tourism in the country are being counteracted by external factors, such as economic recession prevailing in many countries. In fact, many voices in the industry also feel that the government has not done enough to attract foreign tourist arrivals, particularly on marketing front. E- Tourist Visa facility launched last year in November 2014, originally named as Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), has not made much difference as far as growth in the tourist arrivals is concerned, although e-Tourist Visa facility is now available to nationals of 113 countries, and the government intends to take this number to 150 by end of this financial year. The lack of growth in arrival figure is also being attributed to the fact that although the government launched e-visa visa facility with much gusto, the government so far has not been effectively communicate to the nationals of the countries which are eligible for e-visas. Ideally both, the government and private sector should have aggressively communicated the availability of e-visa in eligible overseas markets. It is possible that recent bureaucratic changes in the MoT would have disrupted its focus on the overseas marketing efforts. Although our PM Narendra Modi keeps talking about tourism wherever he goes, the MoT under his government is unable to walk his talk.

North American countries like the US and Canada, and Middle East countries are expected to fare comparatively better, as their economies are bouncing back, and recovery looks sustainable.

Kohli believes that the North America may perform a bit better. “We had high hopes from South America, but the economy there is in poor condition and it has reversed their trends from last year,” says Kohli. According to Anand, the American, the Middle East and South Asian markets is expected to do better than the last winter season.

Commenting on the growing list of India’s evisa eligible countries, and how much it will impact the foreign tourist arrivals in the inbound season, Kohli, “It is most certainly helpful and a step in the right direction, however the problem is that in many countries people do not know about the system.” He further said that the existing Visa processing agents who were appointed in certain markets are playing games and misleading people in trying to make them apply the traditional way so that they can make money. “We need to promote the system more aggressively in our key source markets,” said Kohli.

Kohli’s sentiment is shared by many in the industry. Agreeing with what Kohli said, Anand stated that the e-tourist visa facility is very good but it has to be advertised in each country. “India Tourism can take a lead and with India promotional advertisements, they can highlight this etourist visa facility also,” said Anand.
Expressing the widely shared view in the industry, Anand said, “At the moment, we have not started marketing the e-tourist visa facility in these countries. Yes, the numbers can increase a lot and this can be a game changer for India,” added Anand.”

The need of the hour is that the government needs to do more to promote tourism in the country and as far as increasing foreign tourist arrivals in the new inbound tourism season is concerned, the government should undertake 360 degree marketing blitzkrieg in overseas market.

According to Kohli, we need to promote the advantages of selling India to the global tour operator market. “We need to talk about our safety. We need to express our USPs. We are being far too quiet. We are more or less absent when it comes to marketing and promotion when compared to our global competitors.”

As a tourist destination, India definitely has a wide range of products, slowly and gradually tourism infrastructure is also improving in the country, but the country has been slow, inconsistent and ill-quipped to promote its tourism products. India’s tourism potentials are poorly represented and marketed in the overseas markets. The marketing infrastructure required to market such as huge and varied destination is lacking in the overseas markets. Even at places the India Tourism has its offices, the marketing efforts have been less than impressive.

Anand laments that the country lacks promotional efforts in a lot of countries and we need to step this up. Wherever, there are no India Tourist offices, we should take the help of Indian Embassies/Consulates to promote India. You must have seen that smaller countries are doing more promotions as compared to us and they are reaping the benefits.

“We are a beautiful country offering lovely destination but we have not marketed ourselves well. If we do so, sky is the limit,” said Rajesh Puri, VP, Lords Hotels.

The industry believes that benefits of introduction of e-Tourist Visa is being undermined by the several unfriendly introduction of biometrics.

Subhash Goyal IATO’s President has lamented many a time on different platforms that requirement of biometric for the regular tourists visa is discouraging tourists as biometric process makes visa process costlier, complicated and lengthy for tourists. Goyal is of the view that all kinds of visa should have biometrics only on arrival at the airports.

Currently the e-Tourist visa application cannot be submitted earlier than 34 days from the date of arrival in India. The e-visa is valid for 30 days only and entry is also limited to single point. The industry feels that the duration for applying e-visa should be increased and entry should be allowed through multiple points. So the government must address these issues on urgent basis to get maximum of this season.

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