India sees seeds of German return

Tourists doing a boat tour on the Varanasi River in Uttar Pradesh, India

India tour operators have noted tentative signs of improvement in German inbound tourism, following a decline in recent years as global negative coverage of the rape cases in India affected the destination’s image and deterred some German tourists from visiting.

A K Ravichandran, Frankfurt-based associate vice president-tours (sales) of Mercury Travels, explained: “The German market was more sensitive (than other European countries) because women in Germany are often the decision makers for their family holidays.”

Tourists doing a boat tour on the Varanasi River in Uttar Pradesh, India

A positive sign that Ravichandran observes is the “slight improvement in FIT bookings from Germany, especially from the wellness segment”.

Sharing similar observations, Indo Asia Tours deputy general manager Lalit Atrish said: “We are seeing around five to seven per cent more enquiries from the German market, and we expect a full recovery of the market in one to two years time.”

Likewise, Cox & Kings’ general manager destination management Sunil Verma is recording some 10 per cent more queries from the Germany.

But amid signs of recovery, German travellers are displaying a greater concern for costs though.

Atrish added: “Germans used to stay at four-star hotels at the least, but now they are going for three- or even two-star hotels. German revenues are now lower even though the passenger numbers remain the same. They are becoming more value-conscious than other markets like the Americans or Australians.”

Mercury Travels’ Germany-based tours manager, Hans Köhler, thinks a lot more can be done to improve India’s image among international tourists.

“India suffers from a lack of information and awareness in Germany. Following the negative publicity, there should had been a marketing blitz on the authorities’ part in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, instead of TV advertisements on India given to just CNN and BBC,” he remarked.

As well, India’s rigid visa policies with cumbersome requirements remain a perennial challenge for travel agents selling the country to the European markets.

“We can’t expect an increase in tourism to India if visa issues persist,” said Köhler. “It’s shameful India’s getting just around 220,000 Germans each year when Thailand’s getting at least 10 times more.”

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