India may get more British tourists

Tuesday, 27 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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LONDON: The Indian tourism industry is expected to receive many more British tourists following New Delhi's decision to scrap the surcharge on holidaymakers and encourage charter flights.

This will bring down the cost of a holiday in India by hundreds of pounds, trade analysts say.

One tour operator predicted that prices would fall by an average of 200 pounds per person and in some cases by as much as 600 pounds. The reductions mainly apply to holidays that include charter flights.

Previously, India required charter passengers to spend up to $350 on hotels and services during their stay, adding about 200 pounds to package prices.

The introduction of several charter flights from Britain to key Indian cities next winter is expected to increase the choice of holidays and lower prices further.

Budget travellers and backpackers, who were particularly hard hit, have the most to gain.

A spokesman for the Taj Group of Hotels, which has 45 properties across the subcontinent, said the changes would transform India's tourist industry by introducing competition.

Subhash Thaker, vice-president of sales and marketing, predicted that this would lead to lower prices for charter services and scheduled airlines such as Air-India.

"It's the biggest development in India's tourism," he added. "The time has come for us, and this will be the decade of India."

The India Tourist Office here welcomed the changes, saying they would give an important boost to the country's tourism appeal.

Said Vivek Angra, an Indian official for Britain and Ireland: "It is a very significant development since we previously had problems with flight availability and prices. This will open up the country and make prices comparable with other destinations."

Several tour operators, including Somak Holidays, Kuoni and Travelpack, are planning to add charter flights from Gatwick to New Delhi and to Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

Ash Sofat, chief executive of Somak, said of the ruling: "This is fairly revolutionary for 2004, and in the future will open up the market."

The company expects to cut the price of a one-week Golden Triangle tour from 649 to 449 pounds and offer seven nights in Goa from 399 pounds.

Sofat predicted that some holidays in the run-up to Christmas could cost 600 pounds less than during the same period last year.

Sue Biggs, managing director of Kuoni, said bookings to India for this year had picked up significantly.

"We are looking forward to real growth and we see the flights to New Delhi making a big difference because it is such a good point for onward connections."
Source: IANS
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