PHUKET (eTN) – The growth of India’s economy has been accompanied by the emergence of an new middle class in the country. Some 40 to 50 million people strong, this middle class is now the target of all countries around the world. “Following the partition of India in 1947, people during decades only thought of saving money for better days. However, the empowerment of an affluent young generation has dramatically changed consumption habits. Younger Indians want now to spend their mone,y and travel is definitely part of this consumption boom,” explained Phuket Rajji Rai, president of TAAI, Travel Agents Association of India, the oldest body of this type on the subcontinent.
Between September 23 and 27, some 1,200 Indian nationals (800 TAAI members, 300 spouses and accompanying people, and 100 VIPs) met in Phuket, Southern Thailand, to discuss the evolution of India’s travel industry. But also to (re)discover the Kingdom’s number one resort destination, an opportunity that Thailand did not want to miss. “We see huge potential for development for the Indian market. We found as a good sign that this year the market continues to grow despite the political troubles we experienced earlier in the year. This is indeed a promising sign for the future. We currently receive over 650,000 Indian travelers annually, but we are confident to reach very soon one million Indian visitors,” said Suraphon Svetasreni, governor of TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand), who specifically flew from Bangkok on Saturday to greet TAAI members.
According to the governor, TAT and its partners in Phuket invested some 8 million Baht [US$260,000] to help organize the event. “It is worth the investment as we welcomed 1,200 people for five days. And both TAAI and TAT see high potential in youth tourism, health tourism, weddings, and honeymoons, as well as golf. Weddings are a huge business in India as between 200 and 500 people can come up to a week and can spend up to US$500,000. So far in the first half of the year, we already organized 50 large wedding ceremonies, translating into some 10,000 visitors,” described Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, TAT director in New Delhi. For Mr. Svetasreni, there is also a good potential for destinations such as Krabi, Nakhon Sri Tammarat, or Songkhla province to attract more Indian travelers.
For Rajji Rai, any destination hosting TAAI’s annual meeting has seen in return a growth in arrivals from India. “Imagine over 2,500 of our members promoting your destination all around the country. We organized our annual meeting last year in Dubai, which then experienced in return a growth of 8 percent in total Indian arrivals. This was quite an achievement in a year of recession!” explained Mr. Rai. “I can predict that numbers will continue to grow. Thailand is an ideal long weekend destination for Indian travelers and is increasingly popular due to this wonderful sense of service of Thai people, who know what the sense of hospitality is,” he added.
TAAI is not only just about a conference. Thailand can also expect a strong interest in India’s tourism business, which could invest massively into Thailand. According to TAAI, chains like luxury hotel chains such as Leela or Taj are to set foot into the country; the same with airline leaders who are looking to expand their business into Thailand. Kingfisher, Jet Airways, or low-fare airline, Spicejet, representatives could soon add more flights, especially those serving Phuket. This could, at least, be the most visible consequence of TAAI’s presence on the southern resort island. “Phuket lacks flight connections to India and this should be an absolute priority if TAT wants to attract more travelers from India to the South,” told Rajji Rai. This wish might turn into reality very quickly.