Amid rising diplomatic tensions, India has now slipped to the fifth position for tourist arrivals into Maldives in January, with just over 13,000 visitors, as per the latest data from the Maldives tourism ministry. Russia claimed the top spot for inbound arrivals in the Maldives in January, followed by Italy, China, and the UK.
Between January 9-29, a little less than 11,000 Indian tourists visited the Maldives, a decline attributed to the #BoycottMaldives movement in India, fueled by a diplomatic dispute.
This movement was triggered by accusations from Indians, claiming that Maldivian politicians made derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The controversy originated from a social media dispute following Modi’s visit to the Lakshadweep islands, where he shared picturesque images on social media platform X.
At the beginning of 2024, India ranked as the third-largest source market for Maldives, holding a 7.6% market share. In 2023, it stood as he largest tourism source market for the island nation, contributing over 11% to the total of 1.8 million tourism arrivals.
In the previous year, Maldives welcomed 209,198 Indian arrivals, narrowly surpassing Russia’s 209,146 arrivals.
In the aftermath of the dispute, online travel agency EaseMyTrip declared the suspension of all flight bookings to the Maldives, a move characterized by its Co-Founder and CEO, Prashant Pitti, as an act of “solidarity with the nation.”
Reports on social media had suggested cancellations of over 8000 hotel bookings and more than 2500 flight tickets by Indians to Maldives.
South Korea Eyes 200,000 Indian Visitors in 2024
South Korea is looking to attract 200,000 Indian visitors this year. Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has said it has planned numerous engagement activities for the year and is marking its presence at travel trade shows in India.
According to KTO, the country received 120,000 Indian tourists in 2023. The number of Indian tourists visiting Korea had peaked at 195000 in 2016.
“With a record-breaking 20 million foreign visitors on our horizon for 2024, India holds a special place in Korea’s strategic outreach. Building on last year’s incredible success of 120,000 Indian visitors, we are setting an ambitious goal of welcoming 200,000 travelers from the country this year,” said Myong Kil Yun, regional director, India & SAARC Countries, KTO.
Recognizing the immense potential of the Indian outbound traveler, KTO said it would be running marketing promotions, familiarization trips (FAM trips), digital marketing campaigns, multi-city roadshows and active participation in prominent industry events.
As part of its marketing plans for 2023, South Korea was rewarding travel agents with $30 per passenger and support for simple and hassle-free tour visas for the period between June and December 2023.
U.S. Firm to Construct 100-Room Resort in Ayodhya
U.S. real estate firm Anjali Investment has finalized an agreement for the construction of a 100-room resort in Ayodhya. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Ramesh Nangurnoori, this venture aims to provide top-tier amenities for tourists and guests, while contributing to the growth of tourism in the region.
According to a report by brokerage firm Jeffries, the anticipated $10 billion redevelopment in Ayodhya, which encompasses the establishment of a new airport, upgraded railway station, township, and enhanced road connectivity, has the potential to draw in more than 50 million tourists annually.
The burgeoning tourism of the city is expected to generate new job opportunities for the local population. Emphasising the strategic importance of investing in Ayodhya’s hospitality sector, Nangurnoori pointed to the substantial tourism potential following the consecration of the Ram temple.
With the identification of the land already in place and the memorandum of understanding signed with Uttar Pradesh Tourism, the construction work is slated to commence soon, according to a press release from the chief minister’s office.
Jaiveer Singh, the tourism and culture minister, highlighted the rapid development of Uttar Pradesh in the tourism sector. The state, currently leading in domestic tourism, is actively working to attract more foreign tourists through concerted efforts.
Ayodhya presently has 17 hotels comprising 590 rooms, with an additional 73 hotels in various stages of development, 40 of which are already under construction. Hotel companies, like Indian Hotels Company, Marriott, Wyndham and ITC are actively investing in the region.
In a recent development, Oyo said it would be opening 65 hotels and homes in Ayodhya, aligning with the expected increase in tourism.
SpiceJet’s Fund Infusion
Having secured over INR 9 billion ($108 million) in funding this month, Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet is gearing up for a strategic focus on fleet modernization and cost-cutting measures.
An internal communication to senior staff this week revealed the airline’s substantial bank balance, exceeding INR 9 billion, which includes an INR 1.6 billion ($20 million) instalment obtained through the government’s Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS).
Plagued with challenges for some time now, the carrier has received approximately INR 10 billion ($120 million) under the ECLGS, with the latest instalment coming after Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh injected funds into the airline. Of the INR 5 billion ($60 million) fund infusion announced last year, Singh has contributed INR 2 billion.
In the past three months, SpiceJet has accumulated a total of more than INR 11 billion ($130 million) in funds. The recent announcement mentioned that the first tranche of INR 7.5 billion ($90 million) has been received as part of the total INR 22.5 billion ($270 million) to be raised through the issuance of securities on a preferential basis.
The airline’s priorities include fleet upgrades, improved on-time performance, and the implementation of cost-cutting measures to streamline operations. Currently operating around 40 planes, SpiceJet is eyeing further fund-raising to bolster its financial position.
The airline has also expressed interest in bidding for bankrupt Go First. In 2023, SpiceJet flew around 8. 4 million passengers, holding a domestic market share of 5.5%.
However, the airline has encountered challenges, including legal issues. Earlier this month, the civil aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) imposed a fine of INR 3 million ($36,000) on SpiceJet for lapses in rostering pilots during operations in low visibility conditions.
Hilton Hotels Highlights Budget Expectations
Hilton Hotels anticipates that the Union Budget, slated for February 1, will feature policies that can significantly boost growth in the hospitality sector. One crucial aspect is a tax reform, specifically a substantial reduction in the goods and services tax (GST) rate for hotels, according to Zubin Saxena, Senior Vice President and Country Head, India, for Hilton.
Saxena emphasized that such a tax change would not only align with global standards but would also position Indian hotels competitively against destinations like Thailand and Singapore.
There’s also is a strong expectation for the hospitality sector to receive industry-wide infrastructure status. According to Saxena, granting infrastructure status brings tangible benefits such as lower utility tariffs, reduced property tax, improved financial access, and a more favorable business environment.
Hilton Hotels is also looking forward to measures that facilitate ease of doing business, offering economic incentives and subsidies to support sectoral growth. As one of the largest employment generators, the sector plays a pivotal role in driving sustainable economic growth nationwide, he said. “Clear and decisive policy announcements from the government are essential to strengthen these strides, ensuring consistent and dynamic growth in the industry,” he said.
Pride Hotels Opens Second Property in Gangtok
Pride Hotels Group is expanding its presence in the Himalayan capital city of Gangtok with the announcement of its second venture, Biznotel by Pride Gangtok. Scheduled to open in March 2024, the group said the hotel is designed to cater to both business and leisure guests.
The 60-key property would be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to facilitate business meetings or events, the group said in a release.
“Having already established a benchmark in leisure hospitality with our first property in the city, we now aim to provide a comprehensive experience for both leisure and business travelers with BIznotel by Pride Gangtok.” Atul Upadhyay, executive vice president of Pride Hotels Group, said.
Currently operating around 56 locations nationwide, Pride Hotels Group has an extensive list of upcoming destinations, including Daman, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Agra, Jabalpur, Bharuch, Nainital, Jim Corbett, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Lucknow, Varanasi, Rajkot, Kanpur, Neemrana, Mysore, Gurugram, Aurangabad, Halol, Yavatmal, Greater Noida, Motera (Ahmedabad), Lonavala, Veraval, Amritsar, and more.