Visa Waiver Sparks Travel Interest for Thailand: India Report



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Skift Take

Interest in Thailand has spiked, following a wider Southeast Asia visa-waiver trend, easing restrictions for Indian travelers.

Travel searches by Indian travelers for Thailand have spiked. Online travel agency Agoda’s search data for the peak December travel period shows recent visa policy changes have impacted travel preferences and top destination choices for Indian travelers.   

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. 

Malaysia is the newest country to join Thailand and Sri Lanka in offering visa-free entry to Indians. Malaysia recorded 9.16 million tourist arrivals between January and June this year, with 498,540 from China and 283,885 from India, according to government data. That compares with 1.5 million arrivals from China and 354,486 from India in 2019, before the pandemic. 

Vietnam is also mulling its visa restrictions to offer visa-free entry for Indians. 

Agoda Travel Insights for December  

The online travel agency shared the following insights related to searches done between October 1 and November 21, with check-ins scheduled for December 24th or 25th: 

Top 5 International Destinations for Christmas:

  1. Bangkok
  2. London
  3. Singapore
  4. Toronto
  5. Dubai

Top 5 Domestic Destinations for a Festive Retreat:

  1. Goa.
  2. Pondicherry
  3. Ooty
  4. Munnar.
  5. New Delhi and NCR

Top Five Markets Planning Travel to India:

  1. USA
  2. Singapore
  3. Japan
  4. UK
  5. Australia

Top Five Destinations in India:

  1. New Delhi and NCR
  2. Mumbai
  3. Goa
  4. Chennai
  5. Jaipur

IndiGo unveils AI Chat Assistant

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by fleet size and domestic market share, has unveiled its new chatbot 6Eskai, which uses the latest GPT-4 technology.

AI Airline Assistance: IndiGo’s digital team said it worked with Microsoft to develop the chatbot to improve customer service through web and mobile ticket booking in 10 languages. 

6Eskai Capabilities: The soft launch of 6Eskai showed a 75% decrease in the workload of customer service agents by handling additional tasks like applying discounts and completing web check-ins. The chatbot guides users through IndiGo’s booking process using natural language and is equipped to understand both typed and spoken instructions.

Yatra Online and Aramco Asia Announce Asia-Pacific Business Travel Partnership

Yatra Online Limited, headquartered in India, has partnered with Aramco Asia India, a subsidiary of Aramco, to manage the company’s corporate travel. 

Yatra Online is set to optimize Aramco Asia’s travel logistics and employee booking experiences through its travel management technology and network. The partnership will include Aramco’s subsidiary offices in India, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Australia. 

Yatra’s Expansion Plans: The online travel agency recently launched its initial public offering (IPO) on September 15. CEO and co-founder Dhruv Shringi, in conversation with Skift, explained the company plans to use these funds to advance its growth and capabilities in the corporate travel sector.

Go First Given 90-Day Extension to Secure Investors

GoFirst airline, grounded for six months with little progress in resuming operations, has been granted a 90-day extension by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), ending next year, February 4.

The carrier, struggling with employee departures and low investor confidence, must find potential investors within three months to avoid liquidation following the unsuccessful initial 180-day resolution period.

Go First initially filed for bankruptcy protection in May. The airline owes its creditors INR 65.21 billion ($782.6 million). Central Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, IDBI Bank and Deutsche Bank are among the airline’s creditors.

Jindal Power, one of the few companies that expressed interest in taking over Go First, decided to wait to follow through with its bid.

Darjeeling to Levy Daily Tourist Tax – Report

Darjeeling municipality is looking to levy a “tourist tax” for visitors, much to the ire of local hoteliers. 

The Darjeeling municipality has outsourced the collection of the daily INR20 ($0.25) tax per visitor above the age of five, through a tender process, the municipality’s chairman Dipendra Thakuri confirmed to the Telegraph. It is expected to start as soon as Monday, December 4. 

The report further quoted unnamed hoteliers, claiming the municipality plans to implement the tax without a proper consultation process. They additionally state previous attempts to impose the tax failed due to non-compliance from the hospitality sector, as key stakeholders.

The quoted hoteliers suggest the tax should be collected at entry points to Darjeeling, as is standard practice at tourist destinations like Gulmarg and Nainital.  



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