In a move aimed at boosting tourism and the economy, Indonesia is exploring the possibility of offering visa-free entry to Indians along with 19 other countries, including the U.S., China, Australia, South Korea, Germany, Britain, and France.
If the plan goes through, Indonesia would join Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand in providing visa-free entries to Indians. Vietnam is also said to be mulling granting visa-free entry to India and other nations.
Reports suggest that the list of countries eligible for visa-free entry will likely be finalized within the next month. The government is actively exploring this option to achieve its economic and tourism-related objectives.
Surge in Foreign Arrivals: In 2019, Indonesia welcomed over 16 million foreign visitors. In the current year (January to October), there has been a significant increase in foreign arrivals, totaling 9.49 million visitors — a remarkable 124% surge compared to the corresponding period in 2022.
Global Trends: Following a global trend, Indonesia’s move aligns with similar visa waiver initiatives in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, targeting visitors from China and India. In September, Indonesia introduced a golden visa program to attract foreign individuals and corporate investors.
What is the Golden Visa Program? The golden visa program offers a residence permit lasting between five and 10 years. To qualify for a 5-year visa, individuals must establish a company valued at $2.5 million. For a 10-year visa, a $5 million investment is required. Corporate investors aiming for five-year visas need to invest $25 million, with the investment doubling to $50 million for a 10-year visa.
Accelerated Hiring Expected in Hospitality and Tourism Sector
The Indian hospitality and tourism sector is anticipated to witness increased hiring following robust growth, particularly in domestic travels. The Hotel Association of India (HAI) projects the hotel industry’s direct contribution to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) to reach $1 trillion by 2047, indicating a minimum 25% rise in workforce demand.
GDP Contribution: HAI stated that the hotel industry’s direct contribution to India’s GDP reaching USD 1 trillion by 2047 is a “significant milestone.” The expected growth is poised to create employment opportunities across diverse skill sets, benefiting millions of individuals.
Expected Hiring Trends: HAI expects a minimum 25% increase in workforce demand in the hospitality industry and allied sectors. The demand for adjacent industries, such as travel, aviation, ticket booking, travel guides, and consultants is also estimated to increase by 15-18%
Cover Genius and Via.com Partner for ‘Cancel For Any Reason’
CoverGenius, an India-based “insurtech” company, has announced a partnership with India-based Via.com, a subsidiary of Ebix. The collaboration aims to provide travelers with “Cancel For Any Reason” protection, addressing a protection gap observed globally, where four out of 10 airfare bookings lack refund protection.
Details of the Partnership: CoverGenius will integrate its distribution platform, XCover, with Via.com to introduce embedded travel protection in Indonesia. Research commissioned by Cover Genius and conducted by Momentive.ai reveals a consumer preference for convenient embedded protection offers.
What it offers: By incorporating XCover protection into their itineraries, travelers can safeguard every aspect of their journey, covering illness, public transport disruptions, and extreme weather. The assurance of a refund in case of missing a departure for any reason adds an extra layer of freedom for travelers.
In 2023 Indians Preferred Tried-and-Tested Destinations: Agoda
As the year concludes, digital travel platform Agoda disclosed the top destinations for Indian travelers in 2023. New Delhi and NCR maintain its status as the most-booked domestic destinations, while Bangkok surpasses Dubai as the preferred international spot.
- New Delhi and NCR
The rankings with the most booked destinations on Agoda underscore a distinct inclination among Indians for tried-and-tested destinations, showcasing a preference for all-time favorites that have lots to offer to any type of traveler no matter how frequently they are visited.
Travel Trends: Krishna Rathi, Agoda country director for India, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, notes the inclination toward established destinations, reflecting a preference for reliable favorites. Additionally, the growth in search numbers for domestic, inbound, and outbound travel is evident. Visa-free travel announcements by countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia contributed to increased interest.
There was an overall 26% search spike from Indians following Thailand’s visa-free entry announcement. At the end of October, Thailand allowed Indians to enter without a visa. Agoda’s data revealed a 28% rise in Indian travelers searching for trips to Thailand compared to the previous 10 days before the visa-free announcement.
Aves Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands Open to Tourists
The union territory administration of Andaman and Nicobar has decided to open Aves Island, also known as Coconut Island, for travelers. Located in the North and Middle Andaman district, the uninhabited island with lush green coconut plantations is set to become an accessible destination for tourists.
Attractions and Activities: Close to Mayabunder town, Aves Island boasts of live and dead coral flat beds, a coconut plantation, and a pristine 2-km coastline.
Development Plans: The administration proposes a five-star eco-tourism resort on Aves Island through a public-private partnership. A land parcel of 2.75 hectares will be leased to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation for the project’s development under the design-build-finance-operate-transfer basis.
To further boost tourism, a Project Information Memorandum outlines the holistic development of 14 more tourist places, including Lalaji Bay beach at Long Island, Ross-Smith Island, and Shaheed Dweep across North Andaman, Middle Andaman, and South Andaman.
FCM Travel Appoints Oyo’s Sunny Sodhi as India Managing Director
FCM, the main large corporate division of Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG), has named Sunny Sodhi as managing director of FCM Travel India.
Background: He is a professional with experience in establishing businesses and achieving growth.
Previous Roles: With over 26 years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry, Sodhi in his recent role served at as the chief operating officer for Oyo’s luxury and upscale business and the head of sales for India and Southeast Asia. Before Oyo, he was the chief operating officer for Yatra for Business (Corporate Travel), a vertical he built from the ground up. Additionally, he worked as the head of industry relations for Yatra.com.
Sodhi has also worked at HRG and CWT India in various business, sales, and client management roles. Beyond his corporate roles, he actively supports the startup ecosystem in the country.
Delhi Government Plans WhatsApp-Based Bus Ticketing System
The Delhi government is set to introduce a WhatsApp-based bus ticketing system in the national capital, similar to the existing system for the Delhi Metro. The digital ticketing system is being developed for both Delhi Transport Corporation and cluster buses.
Taking inspiration from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which already has a WhatsApp-based ticketing system, the Transport Department aims to implement a similar solution for bus commuters. The DMRC’s WhatsApp ticketing service was initiated in May and later expanded to cover all corridors, including the Gurugram Rapid Metro.
How it Works in Delhi Metro: To purchase Delhi Metro tickets via WhatsApp, passengers simply need to send a message with the text ‘Hi’ to +91 9650855800 and scan the QR code from their smartphones. Currently, ticket cancellations are not permitted in the WhatsApp-based ticketing system. A marginal convenience fee is applied to transactions made through credit or debit cards. However, UPI-based transactions do not incur any convenience fee.
This government plans to replicate the entire model as it is for the buses as well.