Tourism Breaking News

AAI invites bids for operation of services under UDAN 3.1

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) have issued a notice inviting bids to operate as many as 30 routes under Round 3.1 of the UDAN regional connectivity scheme. AAI and MoCA decided to consider an additional bidding round under UDAN 3.0 to include priority/cancelled/crucial routes which have not been covered under UDAN Scheme so far. Routes available under round 3.1 includes routes connecting unserved, underserved airports and unserved routes connecting served airports. Bids have been invited for routes such as Guwahati-Tezpur, Guwahati-Passighat, Port Blair-Hutbay/Havelock/Neil Island, Raipur-Bilaspur, Patna-Hazaribagh, Hazaribagh-Kolkata, Hissar-Chandigarh, Hissar-Jammu, Kargil-Leh/Jammu, Srinagar-Thoise and Rewa-Jhansi/Bhopal among many other routes. For the first time, the centre has also bid out routes for Lakshadweep islands including Agatti-Mincoy and Agatti-Kavaratti. According to the notice, airlines opting to bid for these new routes shall not receive any “exclusivity of operation” right as is given to airlines under previous UDAN routes coupled with any additional concession apart from funds through viable gap funding. The government has invited bids till February 22, 2019 after which it shall award the routes to airlines on February 27, 2019. It has set a deadline of six months for the airlines to commence operations on such routes from the date of award to the airline. Centre, on January 25, released 235 routes that were awarded under third phase of the scheme. Certain routes, however, were yet to be finalised in consultation with state governments and were withheld by the ministry  

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VFS Global witnesses 22 per cent increase in visa applications from India

VFS Global has witnessed a 22 per cent increase in visa applications from India over a two-year period and processed 5.28 million applications. This was an overall increase of 13 per cent in visa applications observed since 2017 with Tier II cities recording significant increases in 2018. Globally, it saw a 16 per cent increase in the number of visa applications processed in all countries of operation around the world. South Asia emerged as the top source market for foreign travel, with most number of visa applications recorded for this region. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group Chief Operating Officer – Middle East, South Asia, and China, VFS Global, says, “With the year-on-year increase in visa applications from India, it is evident that foreign travel is no longer the domain of a privileged few. A large part of this growth comes from the smaller cities – more Indians from these cities are travelling abroad than ever before, and are keen to explore even off-beat destinations. There is a greater comfort with visa application process as well today – the anxiety that people used to associate with the process has been significantly eased with options like personalised assistance, doorstep services and document upload assistance being offered at every step.” Visa application counts in the major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru grew consistently. Significant growth in visa application counts were witnessed in some other metros, such as Ahmedabad (32% growth in 2018) and Pune (20% growth in 2018). Steep year-on-year growth in count was recorded in Tier II cities, such as Jalandhar (66%), Chandigarh (54%), Pondicherry (43%), and Goa (45%).    

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Over 300 delegates from 28 countries attend PATA adventure travel in Rishikesh

  Around 300 delegates from 28 countries attended PATA Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference and Mart 2019 (PATA ATRTCM) in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. The event, organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and hosted by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board, brought together international experts at the forefront of the adventure travel industry from both the private and public sectors to discuss issues and opportunities in travel and tourism. Delegates heard from a diverse line-up of speakers at the one-day conference on the theme ‘Rejuvenate Your Soul Through Travel’. The thought leaders, innovators and pioneers, who are shaping the emerging landscape of the adventure travel and responsible tourism industry, examined various conference topics that covered ‘Rejuvenating Your Soul Through Travel’, ‘Storytelling to Sell Travel on Instagram’, ‘Using Sustainability to Future-Proof Our Destination’, ‘Trends to India’, ‘Creating Experiences that are Regenerative’, ‘Marketing to the New Adventure Travellers’, ‘Tourism as a Tool for Rejuvenation’, ‘A Special Story of Indian Rejuvenation’ and ‘Sustaining our Souls: Vision-Driven Leadership in Adventure Tourism’. The conference was opened by Dilip Jawalkar, IAS, Secretary Tourism, Religious Affairs and Culture Department, Government of Uttarakhand; Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism; Yogendra Tripathi, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, and Satpal Maharaj, Minister of Tourism, Uttarakhand. Dr Mario Hardy, CEO, PATA noted, “The event aims to be a catalyst for generating new ideas and improving collaboration between public and private sector organisations. By bringing together such a dynamic and diverse group of speakers, we hoped to highlight the need to discuss, analyse and share various ideas with both the public and private sector in planning, building and promoting a responsible travel and tourism industry.” The B2B mart welcomed 47 seller organisations from 10 destinations and 44 buyer organisations …

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‘eVisa On Arrival’ service goes live from February 14 for seamless entry into Thailand

The new eVisa On Arrival (eVOA) service that will enable a faster and convenient arrival into Thailand for travellers from India and 20 other countries, has become available for applicants from February 14, 2019. The eVOA service offers travellers a whole new experience when entering the country at the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueng airports in Bangkok, as well as at Phuket and Chiang Mai airports. The service is part of the Government of Thailand’s initiative to promote tourism, and has been developed by the Immigration Bureau of Royal Thai Police and VFS Global. Of the over 1.5 million Indians who visited Thailand in 2018, over 900,000 used the old, time consuming Visa On Arrival service at Thailand airports. Commenting on the new eVOA service, Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, Commissioner of Immigration Bureau, said, “With the eVOA service, we are proud to offer a new age digital solution which enhance the overall experience for the modern-day traveller who seeks to visit Thailand from 21 countries across the globe. In our cooperation with VFS Global, we aim to effectively meet the objective of increasing tourism to the country through this solution especially taking into consideration the all-important security aspect that allows pre-check of travellers prior the arrival.” The new eVOA service offers travellers the conveniences of avoiding long queues, and eliminates the need to fill up application forms on arrival and arrange for paper documentation or local currency which travellers find challenging after a long flight. If there is an urgent visa requirement to travel to Thailand, travellers can also avail online the Express eVOA service for quicker processing. Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global Group, said, “I am delighted that the …

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International tourist arrivals hit 1.4 billion in 2018, two years ahead of forecast: UNWTO

International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) worldwide increased 6 per cent in 2018 to 1.4 billion, based on data reported by destinations around the world, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Given the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years, the 1.4 billion mark has been reached two years ahead of UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010. 2018 consolidates the very strong results of 2017 (+7%) and is the second strongest year since 2010. Middle East (+10%) and Africa (+7%) led growth, while arrivals to Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both +6%) increased in line with the world average. The Americas saw growth of 3%. Overall results were driven by a favourable economic environment and strong outbound demand from major source markets. Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts a growth of 3% to 4% in international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2019, more in line with the historical growth trends.  

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GoAir CEO Cornelis Vrieswijk quits; Jeh Wadia to be interim chief

Cornelis Vrieswijk, Chief Executive Officer, GoAir has resigned from the post within nine months, citing personal matters. The airline said Jeh Wadia, Managing Director, will be discharging the additional responsibilities of the CEO, till it finds a successor to Vrieswijk. The Dutch national joined GoAir only last June after the departure of Wolfgang Prock-Schauer in December 2017. “At the nominations and remunerations committee meeting held by the board recently, Vrieswijk expressed his desire to relocate to Amsterdam since his family was not wishing to settle down in Mumbai,” the company said in a statement. Vrieswijk has over 25 years experience in the aviation and travel industries with stints at Thomas Cook Group and Transavia Airlines. Source: PTI

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Ebix acquires 80% stake in travel technology provider Zillious

Ebix has announced that one of its subsidiaries in India has acquired an 80 per cent controlling stake in India-based Zillious Solutions. Zillious is an on-demand SaaS travel technology solution with market leadership in the corporate travel segment in India. The Zillious Exchange processes over 8 million travel bookings annually, which conducting Gross Merchandise value of approximately $1.4 billion per annum. Ebix is funding the transaction in cash, using its internal cash reserves. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to Ebix earnings immediately. Robin Raina, President and CEO, Ebix Chairman of the Board, said, “Ebix has a successful track history of two decades in terms of providing non-aligned technology solutions, with Ebix bullet proofing its clients from data privacy or data sharing or any alignment concerns. We have been in the business of setting up technology airports to power transactions, without taking any sides for decades now. Thus, this acquisition was a natural one for us as it allowed us to do the same in India’s fast-growing travel industry.” Ebix intends to keep Zillious as a non-aligned technology platform, that it intends to promote internationally in key markets like the Middle East, US and Asia besides further establishing it as a pure-play on-demand travel technology exchange within India. Towards that extent, Ebix has retained both the Promoter founders of Zillious – Harsh Azad and Rohit Gaddi along with all their domain intensive staff, while empowering them to continue to lead Zillious in its mission of non-aligned technology play. Accordingly, the Zillious platform will continued to be offered to the entire travel industry with a glass wall protection for the client base.  

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Cabinet approves India-Saudi Arabia MoU to strengthen tourism ties

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism. The main objectives of the MoU are to exchange information and expertise in legislations in the tourism development, hotels, resorts and tourist accommodation facilities, tourism data and statistics, exhibition events and other tourism activities in States of the Parties, tourism development, planning and investment; introduce tourism investment opportunities available in the States of the Parties; encourage mutual tourism investment in tourism projects; encourage organising joint tourism events; participate in exhibitions, conferences and seminars held in the States of the Parties thus contributing to tourism development and crystalising a joint tourism vision. India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a strong diplomatic and long economic relationship. Saudi Arabia is one of the potential tourist generating market for India from Middle East. The signing of MoU with Saudi Arabia will be instrumental in increasing arrival from this source market.

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Former Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani reappointed Air India CMD

Former Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani has been reappointed Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India. Lohani headed the carrier from August 2017 to September 2017 when he was moved to the Railway Board as the chairman, from where he retired in December 2018. It was during his tenure that Air India made its first operating profit of ₹105 crore in FY17 since the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India in 2007. Touted as the ‘Turnaround specialist’, Lohani’s appointment will be crucial after Air India’s failed divestment attempt last year. This year, the government has already decided to transfer over Rs 29,000 crore of AI’s huge Rs 55,000 debt to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), along with the airline’s assets like real-estate and other subsidiaries of Air India. Lohani succeeds the 1985-batch Karnataka cadre IAS Pradeep Singh Kharola, who earlier this month was appointed as the Civil Aviation Secretary following the superannuation of RN Choubey. Source: PTI

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Mumbai airport’s on-time performance grows by 12 per cent

GVK Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the company that manages Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), recorded an increase of 12 per cent in the average on-time performance (OTP) of the last seven months. Mumbai Airport informed about the increase in On-Time Performance (OTP) of aircraft flying in and out of Mumbai. MIAL has undertaken several initiatives, along with the stakeholders to improve the OTP. As part of the initiatives, MIAL started measuring the time taken for carrying out each activity by the airline with a view towards optimising the aircraft turn-around time. These activities  covered AME establishing contact with the pilot, connection of aerobridge to the aircraft, passenger boarding and de-boarding, catering loading and un-loading, aircraft fueling, aircraft cleaning, etc. Thereafter, a critical path analysis of the activities was prepared to arrive at “minimum time required” for the aircraft turn-around. This was shared with the respective airlines, to enable the airlines understand the areas where there was scope of improvement to reduce the overall time taken for the aircraft turnaround. On completion of five years of operation of T2, the terminal has accounted for 25 per cent growth in Air Traffic Movement since 2014 and has reduced Runway Occupancy Time (ROT) from 65 seconds then to 47-49 seconds now.    

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