Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Dec 15, 2003
Logistics - Airlines
More `swadeshi' flights for the SAARC-bound
New Delhi , Dec. 14
WILL the twin decisions of the Union Cabinet to allow scheduled private sector airlines to operate to the six SAARC nations and designated airlines of the 10-member Asean bloc to fly into the country bring any real benefit to India?
Opinion on these two issues is vertically split . While there is unison among industry participants, including the chief executive officers (CEOs) of travel-related companies, on the benefits of the two decisions, there is a section of industry watchers that is cautioning against the decision to open the airwaves to the SAARC region.
Hailing the Cabinet decisions, the Chairman, STIC, Mr Subhash Goyal, said the move would facilitate the travel of more Buddhist tourists from the Asean region. "There are some 27 million Buddhists in the region. With more flights from the region, more Buddhist pilgrims and tourists will be able to come to India. Besides, the move will also facilitate more travel by Indians staying in the region," Mr Goyal told Business Line.
Echoing similar sentiments, the Chief Executive Officer, Kuoni Travel Group, Mr Ranjit Malkani, felt that the Cabinet decision would act as a "catalyst" in increasing outbound leisure and business travel from the Indian market.
"It is most likely that outbound tourism will benefit immensely from this move and, in comparison to inbound travel, surpass the rise in number of passengers and hence, bring about a rise in revenues," Mr Malkani said.
Similarly, Mr Rajeev Nangia, Manager (India), Sri Lanka Tourism, felt that the decision to augment air seats between India and Sri Lanka could result in an increase in tourist arrivals from India to the island nation to reach the levels that are seen in Singapore or Thailand.
However, industry watchers also call for caution against the manner in which the Government plans to open the SAARC market for private domestic sector airlines.
"There are several procedural problems in opening the air waves to SAARC. There is the issue of visa, as also the issue of connectivity provided by surface transport to some of the countries in the region which should be considered before opening up," industry watchers said.
Besides, there are several routes in the region, including the Kolkata-Dhaka sector, on which the volume of outbound traffic is around 44 per cent, while the inbound traffic is less than 28 per cent. However, some sectors like Delhi-Kathmandu are recording heavy passengers loads with flights reporting loads of around 80 per cent on the flight from India and around 95 per cent on the return direction.
Despite the fact that there are various sections for and against the Cabinet decision, one thing is certain. Not only will the Indian air traveller soon have more `swadeshi choices' to pick from when travelling to the SAARC region, passengers from the Asean region also may find it easier to travel not only to the four metro cities but also to the different parts of the country.
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