NTOs are upbeat about 2023, to focus on sustainability

National Tourism Offices (NTOs) operating in India came out of their most challenging times in 2022, the year which also saw the resumption of international scheduled flights from the country, paving the way for the resumption of normal international travel. Many NTOs resumed their promotional activities in the country last year to attract Indian travellers post-Covid-19.

Looking back at 2022

The last year was fairly better for NTOs as compared to the previous two years which were witness to havoc and disruptions. In 2022, destinations like Germany, New Zealand, South Africa and others started welcoming tourists from the Indian market.

In fact, destinations like Germany witnessed a surge in Indian arrivals in 2022, which saw an overall increase in foreign visitors to Germany. Indian visitors to Germany grew by about 300 per cent until October 2022. “Recent figures have revealed the number of travellers from India to Germany between January and October 2022 were more than doubled compared to the same period last year. This suggests that Germany’s ongoing campaigns focusing on nature and sustainability are hitting the mark and driving the post-pandemic recovery,” said Romit Theophilus, Director, German National Tourist Office (GNTO) in India.

Besides the border reopening and relaxation in restrictions, targeted campaigning by GNTB led to a rebound in Indian travel to Germany last year. “We are very pleased with the way Indian travellers are increasingly looking at Germany as an all-year-round destination that has something for every member of the family,” said Theophilus.

In Europe, destinations such as New Zealand also started to see the return of visitors in 2022, as Gregg Wafelbakker of Tourism New Zealand informed. Wafelbakker, Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager for Asia, said that “While the numbers are promising, at 57% of pre-covid levels, we are expecting the return of visitation to be gradual.”

It is not only the European destinations that saw a rebound in travel from India, destinations like South Africa also saw a comeback in 2022 with Indians showing great interest in the destination. “Enquiries for South Africa from Indian business, as well as leisure travellers, have multiplied since the launch of our recovery campaign More&More in the first quarter of 2022,” informed Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism.

SA Tourism was quite active in the Indian market last year. Following its More & More campaign, SA Tourism held a 4-city Roadshow in India. Besides, the tourism board hosted Indian travel media to INDABA 2022, participated in SATTE 2022 and launched an exclusive India airfare campaign in partnership with Air Seychelles, in July.

Due to its active promotional engagement last year, South Africa received excellent responses from Indian travellers in 2022. “We started the year by outlining a strategic roadmap which helped us garner a 64% year-on-year increase in Indian visitors. Last year we surpassed our target of attracting 33,910 Indian arrivals,” said Nkani.

On the whole, 2022 was a year of recovery in India for many NTOs. The last year was a good year for Indonesia, as well, which is one of the leading destinations for Indians. “Indian visitors to Indonesia in 2022 are ranked 5th in Indonesia inbound and ranked 2nd in Bali, this condition is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for our tourism industries and provides a good starting point in the upcoming post-pandemic global travel,” said R. Wisnu Sindhutrisno, Director of Tourism Marketing for Asia Pacific Region, Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

Expectations from 2023

Leaving their pandemic-inflicted blow and woes behind, NTOs are quite upbeat about the New Year and expect to build on the gains made last year. Sharing his optimism, Theophilus said, “In the wake of the tourism sector emerging from its most challenging years, Indian tourists are increasingly looking at Germany as a preferred destination.” Theophilus informed that many German cities have recently shared exciting news about the openings of new hotels and venues, as well as great events that await visitors in 2023 and beyond.

Hailing Germany’s uniqueness as a destination, Theophilus  said, “Germany has always been one of the most popular destinations, but what makes the country a unique destination  is its world-famous “Gemütlichkeit”, great connectivity, proximity to nature, cosmopolitan outlook and traditions for hospitality and foremost the country’s excellent infrastructure.”

As for expectations from the New Year, optimism prevails across NTOs. Close to Germany, New Zealand is another resilient destination riding high on the New Year optimism. Tourism New Zealand will continue to focus on pushing hard in key markets including India to accelerate tourism recovery. “We will continue using our new 100% Pure New Zealand global campaign ‘If You Seek’, to attract high-quality visitors to New Zealand,” informed Wafelbakker.

Like their European counterparts, South African Tourism is also sanguine about prospects in the New Year. “As we see an upswing in enquiries for South Africa, we anticipate a large number of footfalls from India in 2023,” said Nkani.

Talking about their plans for the New Year, Nkani said, “In 2023, we will continue to engage with our travel trade partners to boost Indian tourist arrivals to South Africa.”

Like last year, this year too, SA Tourism will keep engaging with the Indian travel trade through interactive webinars, SATTE, multi-city roadshows and other programmes, with an aim to showcase its new offerings. The board will also continue to focus on upskilling and reskilling the travel trade to help them sell South Africa in the best possible way to the new-age Indian consumers.

India is one of the largest source markets for South Africa. India remains at the core of South African Tourism’s global strategy and holds much promise. It is worth mentioning that India has gone from being South Africa’s 8th largest international market post-pandemic to now being the 6th largest one, and “we are confident of further climbing up the ranks in terms of footfalls,” says Nkani.

Regarding expectations from the New Year, Sindhutrisno of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy said that 40% of Indian tourist visit Bali for weddings and honeymoons and hopefully this segment will continue to grow.  “Meanwhile we will also offer various exotic, luxurious Indonesian destinations and taylor-made exclusive travel packages in Bali, Lombok, Labuan Bajo and Yogyakarta, designated for the Indian rich and famous,” added Sindhutrisno.

Focus on sustainability in 2023

Many destinations in the New Year plan to focus on enhancing their sustainability credentials. For example, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) aims to strengthen Germany’s position the world over as a sustainable travel destination, this year. As Theophilus informed, “Main goal of the GNTB is to strengthen Germany’s global position as a sustainable travel destination. Efforts of the GNTB along with its India office are to draw the interest of potential Indian vacationers to Germany’s natural landscapes and sustainable vacation experiences in the rural regions.

Underlining the importance of sustainable tourism, Theophilus said that tourism can cushion the consequences of crises and help revive the economy. “Commercial aspects aside, tourism time and again has proven that it helps to forge cultural bonds and promotes understanding among nations. As the catastrophic floods and severe storms of recent years have shown, climate change also has an impact on tourism. That is why responsible tourism always takes economic, environmental, and social factors into account,” said Theophilus.

One of the European countries focusing markedly on sustainability is New Zealand. As Wafelbakker of Tourism New Zealand said, “As the tourism recovery gets underway, the focus will be around re-thinking travel experiences. This entails prioritizing the well-being of people and the environment, from local communities to enterprises, under a common vision for a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable industry.”  Continuing further, Wafelbakker said, “The regenerative tourism is a trend that is continuing momentum across New Zealand where tourism operators are redefining sustainable tourism.”

Hotels in New Zealand are committing to environmental sustainability by implementing several sustainable initiatives like disconnecting themselves from the national power grid.

“Tourism operators are providing trailblazing transformative, regenerative travel experiences throughout New Zealand with their eco-conscious offerings aimed at giving back to their local regions,” said Wafelbakker, adding that the industry is undertaking a range of initiatives such as commitment to carbon zero, sustainable experiences and the development of carbon-neutral travel itineraries.

Exemplary as it is, the government of In New Zealand and the country’s tourism industry are working in full synergy to support New Zealand’s sustainability goals. “As international visitors return and we look to the future, there is work being undertaken by the government of New Zealand and the country’s tourism industry to ensure that the tourism system supports New Zealand’s sustainability and climate change goals,” concluded Wafelbakker.

It is not only the European destinations that are prioritising sustainability, even destinations such as South Africa are promoting sustainable tourism following the growing trend of sustainability. As Nkani informed, “We are taking conscious efforts, in collaboration with our province partners, towards promoting sustainable and rural tourism, with an aim to give back to the local communities and local economy.”  In the New Year, with its customized and personalized itineraries, “we are looking at mobilising niche communities like biking groups, runners, and golfers,” to promote sustainable tourism, informed Nkani.

Needless to say, the growing focus on sustainable tourism worldwide post-pandemic is admirable and holds immense promise for tourism, the environment and society.

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