By James Mathew
Tour operators say impact on tourist arrivals from UAE to India after the decision to grant visa on arrival to its citizens will be known only after July-August, the holiday season in the Gulf
India is expected to see a 10 to 15 percent increase in foreign tourist arrivals this December – New Year festival season, a silver lining for the country amidst growing fears about deepening economic slowdown in the country with several sectors facing demand slow down.
Tour operators and hotels and resorts across leading tourist destinations in India such as Goa, Kerala and Delhi have said they are seeing 10 percent and above increase in bookings already compared to the 2017 level.
Tour operators said the relatively weak rupee is expected to add to the increase in foreign tourist arrivals, especially from UK, Europe and the US.
Last year was extremely bad year for tourism in India, with devastating floods in Kerala and severe pollution in Delhi and neighbouring states, leading to large number of foreign tourists skipping their India visit plans.
“This year is looking much better in terms of both actual bookings and enquiries,” Pronab Sarkar, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), told Arabian Business.
Tourist arrivals in India have seen a 26 percent jump in October this year to 944,233 from 750,514 in the previous month, according to the latest data.
“With the reduction in visa fee and GST (goods and services tax), we expect a good increase in foreign tourist arrivals this Christmas-New Year season,” Sarkar added.
Tourist operators and hotels in Kerala and Goa also expressed similar optimism on tourist arrivals this season.
“We have already seen a 10-15 percent rise in bookings from November onwards compared to the 2017 season, and we expect this to rise further for the next 1-2 months,” Rajesh Pillai, General Manager with Kochi-based Intersight Tours & Travels, told Arabian Business.
Leading resorts and hotels in Goa also reported improved occupancy this season.
“For these two months – December and January – we have seen a growth of 25 percent in bookings by guests from UK alone,” Guitry Velho, General Manager with Goa-based Heritage Village Resort and Spa, told Arabian Business.
“December for us is also higher in terms of charters arrivals,” Velho added. Goa witnesses foreign tourist arrivals by chartered flights in scores during Christmas-New Year.
Tourist operators said though there could be increase in tourist arrivals from the Middle East also in the current festival season, the impact on the recent decision to grant visa on arrival to UAE citizens will be known only after July-August, the holiday season in the Gulf during school holidays.
The uptick in tourist arrivals has brought back cheers among airlines, hotels and resorts and other travel and tourism related sectors, leading to a spurt in hotel tariffs and airfares – both in domestic and international sectors.
A roundtrip Delhi-Dubai ticket is currently priced in the range of $377-$685 for travel during the second half this month till early January, depending on the airline and duration between bookings and travel dates.
Travel industry sources said this is significantly higher than the prices last year during the corresponding period, despite a spurt in airfare in the India-Gulf route when the now grounded Jet Airways started cancelling several flights in this sector.