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ITTFA Comment on… Focus on… India

India represents one of the most exciting and fastest growing markets in the world for both outbound and inbound tourism, and this is reflected in the success of SATTE Openworld, the biggest travel and tourism exhibition in south Asia.

SATTE Openworld – held each April in Delhi – was one of the first exhibitions outside Europe to join ITTFA (International Tourism Trade Fairs Association) when it broadened its horizons beyond Europe. First held in 1994 but only starting to focus on outbound tourism in 2005, SATTE experienced a 40% increase in exhibitors in 2007 (to 540), attracting 225 international buyers from 34 countries plus 500 Indian buyers and 1,500 day visitors from the trade.

Although SATTE focuses on India, it also embraces neighbouring countries in south Asia. A large number of small exhibitors come to the show from throughout India, including 12 boutique hotels, five home stays, and 22 smaller guest-houses of 10-12 rooms which exhibited for the first time in 2007.

Chief coordinator Navin Berry says: “SATTE Openworld focuses on overall development of the travel trade, and is open for all segments of the global travel and tourism industry. We are exploring an Openworld where we want to provide a pan-industry business platform, not just for the inbound sector but also for outbound.”

The huge growth in India’s outbound market represents a major opportunity for the travel and tourism industry worldwide. At 8.3 million travellers in 2006 the outbound market was nearly twice the size of the inbound visitor total to India, which reached 4.3 million. The figure could reach 10 million by 2008.

Singapore, the UK, Dubai, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Malaysia are the top destinations for Indian travellers, with the increase driven by the emerging middle class and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) economic growth of 9% per annum.
India is estimated to have a middle class population of about 300 million out of a one billion total, and there has also been huge growth in domestic travel as low-cost airlines have revolutionised travel patterns.

According to SATTE, beach holidays, spa vacations and safaris are particularly popular with Indians. There are virtually no controls on spending, with internationally valid credit cards becoming widespread.

India’s inbound tourism industry is still under-performing, but it has recovered strongly since the downturn after 9.11 and fears about the SARS virus disappeared. Record inbound growth of 26% was achieved in 2004, the main tourism source markets being the UK (about 650,000), the US (620,000), Canada (156,000), France (151,000) and Sri Lanka (137,000).

The government is spending more on tourism promotion with its Incredible India campaign, but infrastructure growth has not kept pace and India can be regarded as expensive.

Growth is also inhibited by the visa requirement affecting many nationalities, but a more liberal international aviation environment has allowed more airlines to fly to India. Virgin Atlantic, BMI and Jet Airways have joined Air India and British Airways on routes from the UK.

Despite some constraints on inbound tourism, there is no doubt that India represents a huge opportunity both outbound and inbound. SATTE Openworld in 2008 is expected to grow even faster.

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