As one U.S. supplier who took part in the just-concluded 2016 edition of SATTE (South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange), held Jan. 29-31 in New Delhi, India told us: “It seems like all the forces are aligned.” Indeed, all the markers for a strong and growing market seem to be in place for a strong Indian market in the near-term future. From reports on and off the exhibit floor, as well as news accounts online, the following points provide a profile of the trade show, the current economic environment in India and their meaning for U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs.
—Overall, the number of exhibitors at SATTE was up, from about 640 two years ago to 750 this year. From the USA, there were more exhibitors, too. New to the show were Colorado, Grand Canyon West and some U.S.-based receptive tour operators, such as Maxim Tours and 7M Tours from Orlando, Florida, and TeamAmerica, which has offices in New York City and Florida
—The number of buyers from India was up over last year—especially from the sizable MICE sector in the country—and included a large number of new regional travel agencies who are working to expand their product knowledge about the USA were in evidence.
—The U.S. embassy in India indicated that it expects to issue 1.3 million visas to Indian visitors this year—that’s up from a little more than a million in 2015 and just less than 900,000 in 2014.
—U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma has become a popular promoter of the USA; the son of educators who moved from India to the USA, Verma, a graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., is closely followed by the news media in India. He made his second appearance this year at SATTE—following a visit last year just days after he was sworn in as ambassador.
—New destinations for Indian buyers—or destinations that seemed to generate new or additional interest—include include Miami, and San Francisco and U.S. national parks. Meanwhile, Nevada, which has had a presence at SATTE in previous years, had on hand Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who used the occasion to announce that the state was opening an office in New Delhi.
—The consensus among delegates was that airline traffic out of India seems to be strong. The increased lift by the UAE air carriers—Etihad and Emirates—combined with low fuel prices, are keeping airfare pricing to the USA competitive.
—Among major operators Thomas Cook India—it is the acknowledged leading operator in the country—is moving all services to a digital and online mode; it will no longer be printing brochures. Its FIT office has relocated next to Kuoni India (which was acquired last year by the same financial group that owns Thomas Cook India) which will disappear as a brand, and will be replaced by SOTC, which will have separate product and contracting. (See article in the Jan. 28, 2016 issue of the Inbound Report.) Meanwhile, TUI India will expand its services to include escorted tours in 2017.
—TUI India will expand its services to include escorted tours in 2017.
—Trends? The growth of the FIT market in India is fueling strong interest in attractions, and anything new, “hip,” and trendy—65 percent of the nation’s population is under 35 years of age …The travel agents have had to step up their game as internet-savvy Indian consumers research product, then walk into agencies saying, “I want this (specific product).”
—The Economy? The nation’s economy seems to be in good condition (it’s grown more than 7 percent a year since 2004) and the rupee’s standing vs. the dollar seems relatively stable ($0.0147 this year vs. $0.0151 at the time of last year’s SATTE—down just 2.6 percent).