DESPITE setting a target of 10 million international arrivals by 2015, India’s inbound market has so far failed to live up to expectations.
The country received 6.29 million overseas arrivals in 2011, an 8.5 per cent hike over 2010. However, the rate of growth was lower than the 11 per cent registered in 2010/2009.
The economic slowdown in European source markets and India’s lack of infrastructure to justify the relatively high product and service prices have been blamed for the dampened rate of growth.
Ratanpreet Kaur, travel counsellor of Holidays of India, a subsidiary of Kuoni Travel Group India’s SOTC, said: “Usually at this time we are deluged with requests, but this year it is surprisingly dry from our European and British clients. We expect it may pick up in April, but one cannot be sure”.
Rajat Sawhney, managing director of New Delhi’s Rave Travels & Tours, said: “We must create new value-for-money products like luxury train journeys, Buddhist pilgrimage routes, soft adventure options and round-the-year destinations to sustain the ambitious growth that India is looking at.”
Meanwhile, Asian markets have been providing a welcome respite for companies like Le Passage to India. Kumar Gumar, head of sales-Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia of its inbound division Go India Journeys, said business from the three South-east Asian countries had grown steadily due to the increasing number of air connections in the last year or so.
“Singapore has seen 10 to 15 per cent growth, Malaysia, 15 to 20 per cent, and Indonesia is picking up,” he said.
Gumar was also hopeful of Garuda’s impending launch of services from Denpasar to New Delhi this year, adding that he was planning to develop pilgrimage tours to cater to the large number of Hindus living in Bali.
Vietnam’s Lac Hong Voyages executive director, Jonathan Tran, has also found it easier to sell India as a leisure destination ever since Vietnam entered the visa-on-arrival scheme last year.
According to Tran, Lac Hong Voyages handled around 500 Vietnamese travellers to India in 2011, and it intends to promote new areas such as the south and east this year. He added that one hindrance to selling more Indian holidays was the mandatory two-month gap between visits.
Additional reporting by Grace Chiang