‘India key growth market for Airbnb as it aims to reach 1bn global users’

Aug 16, 2018 0

By Rituraj Baruah 

New Delhi/Colombo– For online hospitality services platform Airbnb, the Indian market is of strategic importance as the company targets a global user-base of one billion by 2028 from the current 300 million, according to a company official.

“India is one of the key growth markets for us. It is also a strategic priority for the company…and teams across our global offices are working to create a lot of tools for India,” Amanpreet Bajaj,
Airbnb’s Country Manager for India and Sri Lanka, told IANS.

Bajaj said that that the online service provider would continue to invest in the medium to long term in the Indian market and so far it provides services for around 100 cities in the country with over 35,000 properties.

He further said: “At a global scale, we want a billion people to have used Airbnb by 2028. If this number has to go from 300 million to 1 billion, you can’t keep India out. India will contribute very heavily in this.”

In the process of providing services in the country, the official said partnerships with tourism and other government departments play a major role. The company has tie-ups with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation and the North East Tourism Development Council.

“…Our partnerships with state governments are in the direction to make sure that there is an Airbnb for everyone in the remotest part of India,” Bajaj said, adding that the firm also has a partnership with the National Commission of Women for “creating more women entrepreneurs.”

Bajaj said the company had a target of creating 50,000 hospitality entrepreneurs by 2020 in India out of which it wants at least 15,000 to be women. In the process of creating entrepreneurs in the travel and hospitality segment, the company’s “Experiences” platform would play a major role, he said.

The specialised platform offers tourists local experiences such as adventure sports, cuisines, visit to small-scale industries including handicrafts among others in collaboration of local hosts and people having expertise in a particular craft, the company said.

The platform was launched in 2016 with 500 experiences across 12 cities globally and now the platform offers over 15,000 experiences in over 800 cities, Bajaj said.

The online platform last week announced a partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to provide tourists with local and traditional experiences in the country through the “Airbnb Experiences” platform.

Talking about the scope of the “experiences” platform in India, Bajaj said the service has been launched in Delhi and Goa so far and the response has been positive.

“Because Goa and Delhi were big markets in terms of Airbnb anyways, so we wanted to provide experiential services as well,” Bajaj said.

In Goa the company started with 20-22 experiences around a month and a half back and now it has increased to 40, and in Delhi, it provides around 50-60 experiences, he said.

Regarding competition in the hospitality market and coming in of more players in the alternative accommodation segment, Bajaj was of the opinion that more players in the segment would only create more options for travellers and eventually benefit the industry.

“Till the time we are creating options for consumers, everyone in the industry will benefit.” (IANS)

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Sri Lankan tourist police told to learn Hindi

Aug 13, 2018 0

Colombo– Sri Lanka’s Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara on Monday said 25 new police posts will be set up covering all main the tourist spots across the country for visitors’ security. And police personnel have been asked to learn Hindi.

The decision was taken after discussions with the Chairman and senior officials of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Xinhua news agency quoted Jayasundara as saying.

He said a new uniform would be introduced to the Tourist Police Division.

In a few years, the tourism sector was expected to become the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. Therefore, ensuring safety of the foreigners visiting Sri Lanka will be a top priority for the police force, Jayasundara said.

“Officers of the Tourist Police Division should pay special attention to language training. In addition to English, they should also learn widely used international languages such as Chinese, Hindi and French,” Jayasundara said.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, once heavily scarred by a 30-year ethnic conflict, has become one of the leading industries after it was dubbed one of the world’s greatest tourist hot spots by several international publications. (IANS)

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SpiceJet launches complimentary IFE system

Aug 13, 2018 0

New Delhi– Budget passenger carrier SpiceJet has become the first Indian low cost airline to launch a complimentary in-flight entertainment system.

According to the company, “SpicEngage”, a complimentary in-flight entertainment system allows flyers to access a range of entertainment content at no extra charge.

“Unlike traditional in-flight entertainment systems, flyers can easily access SpicEngage on their hand-held devices by following a few easy steps,”

“The system is currently available aboard all SpiceJet’s domestic and international flights.” (IANS)

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India’s June domestic air traffic up 18%: IATA

Aug 10, 2018 0

New Delhi– India’s domestic air passenger traffic grew in double digits for the 46th consecutive month in June, a global airline association said on Friday.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India’s domestic air passenger volume measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) was the highest among major aviation markets like Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and the US.

As per the data, India’s domestic RPK in the month under review rose by 17.6 per cent in June compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.

On a sequential basis, the growth has gone up from May’s rise of 16.6 per cent.

“The Indian domestic market continues to lead the way, with year-on-year growth of 17.6 per cent in June; its 46th consecutive month of double-digit growth, fast closing in on the four year milestone which would be a substantial achievement,” IATA said in its global passenger traffic results for June 2018.

“China’s growth performance this month wasn’t far behind that of India, with domestic RPKs up 15.3 per cent on their level of a year ago.”

India’s domestic passenger traffic growth was followed by that of China at 15.3 per cent and Russian Federation at 6 per cent.

In terms of capacity, India’s domestic available seat kilometres (ASK) — which measures available passenger capacity — climbed higher by 17 per cent in June, followed by that of China’s 16.3 per cent growth and Brazil’s 8 per cent. (IANS)

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DGCA to obtain report on de-boarding of Indian family in UK

Aug 9, 2018 0

New Delhi– Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has directed the aviation regulator to obtain a detailed report from British Airways over an alleged incident of an Indian passenger and his family being asked to de-board the airline’s flight in the UK.

“I have directed the DGCA to obtain detailed report from British Airways on the issue,” Prabhu tweeted.

The development comes after an Indian passenger, identified as A.P. Pathak a Joint Secretary level officer in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, complained that he and his family were discriminated against on racial lines.

The alleged incident took place on July 23, when the family was travelling from London to Berlin on a British Airways flight.

Pathak has also informed the Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj about the incident.

“After the security announcement was made my wife tied my child to the window seat but he started crying as he was feeling awkward and was a little hungry,” he told a news channel.

“Crew member shouted at my child and said I will throw you and your family out of the window.”

According to Pathak, another Indian family seated behind them “who tried to console the child” was also asked to de-board.

“The plane returned to the airport and the security personnel threatened us, “If you don’t come out, we will handcuff you. We were thrown out of the airport.”

“I have contacted my lawyers in India and London, he is working on it. If we don’t get an apology from the British Airways, and the compensation for the same we will sue British Airways.”

“It was totally a racist behaviour.”

On its part, the airline said that the alleged incident is under investigation.

“We are investigating the complaint and will liaise with our customer,” the airline said in a statement on Thursday.

“It is a safety requirement for all airlines that passengers are seated and have their seat belt fastened for take-off.” (IANS)

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Airbnb ties up with Sri Lankan tourism board to provide local experiences

Aug 9, 2018 0

By Rituraj Baruah

Colombo– Global hospitality services provider Airbnb has signed-up with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) to provide tourists with local and traditional experiences in the country through the “Airbnb Experiences” platform.

On Thursday, the global hospitality services provider signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SLTDA.

Travellers can choose from more than 40 “Airbnb Experiences” in Sri Lanka designed and led by local experts, Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb’s Country Manager for India and Sri Lanka said at the MoU signing event.

“Our Sri Lankan hosts offer a wide range of experiences, from heritage trails in Galle to surfing experiences in Mirissa, and adventure walks in Sri Lanka’s national parks to discovering the best local food spots in Colombo,” Bajaj said.

The experiences on offer would include local cuisines, water sports, walk around heritage monuments and tours of wildlife sanctuaries among others, all arranged by local people who are partners with Airbnb.

The company further said, under its “Social Impact” category of experience, it would facilitate tourists experiences such as visit to a traditional small scale industry such as a handloom industry, adding that Airbnb would charge any commission on such experiences.

“We are excited to work with Airbnb to promote experiences in Sri Lanka and we are of the view that an engagement of this nature would be of great value to the tourism industry of Sri Lanka,” Kavan Ratnayaka, Chairman, SLTDA.

Airbnb’s APAC Head of Strategic Partnerships, Thao Nguyen said: “Through the partnership announced today, we’re excited to work with the Sri Lankan government to promote tourism that is local, authentic and sustainable.”

The “Airbnb Experiences” platform was launched in 2016 with 500 experiences across 12 cities globally and now the platform offers over 15,000 experiences in over 800 cities, Bajaj said. In India, he said, the platform has been launched in Delhi and Goa so far.

“By the end of this year, we will have expanded into at least a thousand around the world,” he added. (IANS)

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Delhi Ring Railway to soon see steam-hauled service to attract tourists

Feb 12, 2018 0

By Arun Kumar Das

New Delhi– Steam locomotives will be chugging along on all hill railways across the country — besides charting out a new course on the Delhi Ring Railway — as the Railways pushes the idea of reviving the glory of its steam heritage.

With the successful operation of a steam-hauled train on the Palanpur-Jogindernagar section of Kangra Valley Railway, all five hill railways now have steam loco services to attract tourists.

Kangra Valley Railway, which is on the tentative list of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites, witnessed the revived steam loco operation recently after more than 20 years. The regular steam loco operation is expected to boost tourism in Himachal Pradesh.

While Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Nilgiri Mountain Railway have regular steam locos services, the Kalka-Shimla Railway and Matheran Hill Railway are equipped to conduct chartered services on tourist demand.

But the big thrust will be seen in the capital’s long-neglected — and once-popular — Ring Railway, that has fallen by the wayside as the city expanded rapidly.

“It is a big revival of steam locomotives in Indian Railways, and our aim is to have regular steam loco operations in all hill railways — and also in the long-awaited Delhi Ring Railway route,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with rail heritage.

With the advent of diesel and electric locomotives, steam engines were phased out in 1995 by the Railways.

Though there was a move to run a steam locomotive on the Delhi Ring Railway during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, this did not materialise for various reasons.

However, the state-run transporter is now actively working on reviving the service to showcase its heritage, bring back the romance of steam engines and promote tourism. The task has been assigned to Northern Railway.

The existing 34 km-long ring railway, which runs parallel to the Ring Road, passes through several prominent places of Delhi like Chanakyapuri, Safdarjung and Sarojini Nagar and is expected to attract large numbers of tourists and rail enthusiasts interested in steam locos.

As per the plan, the train, comprising four heritage coaches with a steam locomotive, would start from Safdarjung station and travel to Anand Vihar, Old Yamuna Bridge, Old Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin station before returning to Safdarjung.

Tourists will be able to visit the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, National Rail Museum, the historic Old Yamuna Bridge, Humayun’s tomb and rail buildings such as Old Delhi station, Kashmere Gate and Baroda House by using the service.

“The landscape along the proposed route will be beautified, besides other necessary arrangements to make it operational. The fare structure and timings are yet to be decided,” the official said.

“Two options are being considered: A round trip or a hop-on-hop-off ticket,” the official added.

At present, there are very few steam locos across the world that are still in working condition. (IANS)

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Police in tourism areas should be armed: Goa Deputy Speaker

Dec 14, 2017 0

Panaji– Goa Deputy Speaker Michael Loboon Thursday demanded that in light of increasing crimes and armed robberies in the state’s coastal belt, police personnel should be provided with arms while patrolling in tourist-frequented areas.

Lobo, of the BJP, also told the assembly, that Bangladeshi nationals were allegedly living illegally in his assembly constituency of Calangute, home to three of the most popular beaches, and that they posed a security risk.

“Policemen should be armed with guns when they are posted in tourism areas.

“In 2012, when you (Parrikar) were Chief Minister, police were patrolling with guns and why are they now with only lathis?” Lobo said.

The BJP MLA also said that last week, when armed robbers struck a bank in Parra village, located in his constituency, police arrived on the scene without weapons.

He also said that proliferation of unverified migrant labour, had led to an increase in crimes in the coastal state.

“In my constituency at Agarwado, around 800 migrants stay. I don’t think even 10 percent may have tenant verification. Some are even Bangladeshi,” he said.

Goa attracts more than six million tourists every year. (IANS)

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Hyderabad airport to begin work on second terminal from February

Nov 17, 2017 0

Hyderabad– The work on the second terminal at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here will begin in February-March next year, said the airport operator.

GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) plans to take up expansion at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore.

With the expansion, which is likely to be completed in two to two-and-half years, the airport will handle 25 million passengers per annum.

GHIAL CEO S.G.K. Kishore told reporters here on Friday that if the traffic grows, the overall capacity can be increased to 34-35 million and the expansion including second runway can extend to five years.

He said they were waiting for approval from the regulator to start the expansion, which will be funded in a debt-equity ratio of 70:30.

Kishore said there would be no fresh equity requirement from the promoters or the government as the company will raise the funds from its internal accruals and bonds.

It recently raised $350 million through a bond offer.

He was confident that the airport will continue to see a growth of 15 to 20 per cent. The passenger traffic during current financial year is expected to be about 18 million, against 16 million in the last fiscal.

One fourth of the passenger traffic is international, growing around 9 per cent while the domestic passenger traffic is growing around 20 per cent.

Kuwait’s low-budget airline Jazeera Airways, which launched Kuwait-Hyderabad daily flights from Friday, became the 20th airline to operate services to Hyderabad Airport. These airlines including four domestic are making 400 movements a day, connecting Hyderabad to 57 destinations.

GHIAL is in talks with some more airlines, especially European carriers and some long haul Indian carriers to fly to Europe. “Our focus is on Europe because apart from British Airlines we do not have any European carrier directly connecting to Hyderabad,” he said.

The operator is in talks with Lufthansa and KLM to bring them back to Hyderabad. These carriers Ahad stopped flights to Hyderabad few years ago.

Kishore said they would also focus on unserved destinations in South East Asia like Indonesia and also on more wide-bodied aircrafts. (IANS)

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34% more Indian tourists visited Israel in 2017

Nov 14, 2017 0

Mumbai– A record 34 per cent more Indian tourists visited Israel between January-October this year compared to the same period in 2016, an official said here on Tuesday.

According to data released by the Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT), October 2017 alone witnessed a phenomenal 58 per cent growth of Indian arrivals to Israel compared to the same month last year.

Israel witnessed a whopping three million tourist arrivals this year, including 49,000 from India who visited Israel till October.

“This has been the best year of incoming tourist arrivals for Israel and India continues to be an important contributor for us. Tourism is an important component of the Israeli economy and since the beginning of 2017, it has brought in $4.1 billion,” said IMOT India Director Hassan Madah.

In 2016, 45,000 Indians visited Israel. The IMOT hopes the figure will climb to 60,000 by December 2017 end, Madah said.

Israel Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin recently greeted the three-millionth tourist Ioana Isac and her partner Mihai Georgescu of Romania with a festive ceremony at the airport, they were escorted to a waiting limousine by the Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi for a dream holiday prepared for them.

It included a surprise visit paid by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who met the excited couple and took them on a private tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, starting with the Tower of David Museum to the ancient fort, that traces its foundations back to the Second Temple Period in the first century BC.

The Ministry of Tourism is now working with several airlines to increase their flights and seat capacity into Israel, designing several reforms to increase supply in the tourism industry and reduce the vacationing costs, offer increased assistance for constructing new hotels and offer international entrepreneurs opportunities to build hotels in that country. (IANS)

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