FITUR 2024: Destinations afar or near look to tap India

Mexico to Maldives, Panama to Romania set to target Indian visitors
2024-01-31
/
/ New Delhi
FITUR 2024
FITUR 2024: Destinations afar or near look to tap India

The fair attracted over 9,000 exhibitors from over 152 countries from all over the world

At the Spanish tourism fair FITUR 2024, which concluded on Sunday with a record turnout, a large number of destinations from around the world say they want to attract Indian visitors, with many seeking to make a debut within this year in the rapidly growing Indian outbound tourism market.
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The 44th edition of Feria Internacional de Turismo (FITUR), the Spanish International Tourism Fair in Madrid ended on Sunday surpassing its forecast of 150,000 attendees with a total of 153,000 professional visitors, representing a rise of 12 pc over the turnout last year.

The fair attracted over 9,000 exhibitors from over 152 countries from all over the world, including 96 official national exhibitors, that set up their stalls in 9 pavillions at Feria de Madrid fair ground in the Spanish capital.

For most destinations present at the tourism fair, India was one of the key countries that either was already their focus or key market or the one where they would begin prospection, many as early as within the next few months.

Miguel Torruco Marques

Miguel Torruco Marques

One of these countries that is seriously looking at the Indian market is Mexico. Miguel Torruco Marques, Secretary of Tourism of Federal Mexican Government says that Mexico recovered very rapidly from the pandemic, mainly due to the policies of the President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who decided to keep the country open throughout the pandemic and as a result, across almost every single parameter Mexico finds itself in a much better position now than before the pandemic outbreak.

Going forward, Mexico is on the verge of launching many new infrastructure and tourism products like the Mayan Train which traverses about 1500 km through the country, letting visitors enjoy over 170 major tourism attractions, including Mexico’s rich heritage and nature. Marques says that with these products, Mexico is now looking to engage with new source markets.

‘‘This year we are going to be visiting Istanbul, and besides that, we’re going to make a special visit to India because we are going to start to promote the segment, the wedding segment and the MICE segment. Both of them are very important for us in the Indian market marketing, and that’s what the Indian tourists want to do,’’ Marques tells India Outbound.

‘‘I know that the Indian people like to organise big weddings and we have seen an increase in demand for these experiences in southern and central Mexico. So, the Tren Maya (Mayan Train) will pass by different places that there will answer to the needs and aspirations of the Indian travellers,’’ Marques adds.

Though Mexico is by far the largest central American nation to start looking at Indian market seriously, but it is hardly the only one. Several of its neighbours or countries in the vicinity, too, are now looking at India, preparing their strategies for entering the market. 

First steps by Jamaica in India 

Edmund Bartlett

Edmund Bartlett

Across the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is another destination that has almost packed its bags to head on its first exploration of the Indian market. Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says that India has emerged as a key priority market for Jamaica and it was in this context that Jamaica invited Indian travel trade and travel media for the first time ever to participate in the Jamaican travel fair, JAPEX 2023, held in Montego Bay last September.

“Since JAPEX, we have had very positive feedback about the potential of Jamaica as a destination for Indian travellers, especially in the luxury and destination wedding segments. It is in order to develop the Indian market that Jamaican Tourism Board will participate in an Indian travel trade fair in February for the first time,’’ Bartlett tells India Outbound.

Panama: Banking on good connectivity

Fernando Fondevilla

Fernando Fondevilla

Beyond Jamaica and Mexico, there are other countries from the Latin American region that are keen to explore India, even if tentatively. Having consolidated its presence in the traditional markets in North America and Europe, Panama is now banking on its extremely good connectivity with the world as a key starting point for exploring new markets like India, says Fernando Fondevilla, CEO, Visit Panama.

“In the case of India. I would say that the two, probably the two airlines that could best connect the market with Panama and that can be our vehicle to help us promote that Panama in India. One is Turkish Airlines and the other is Air France-KLM. So, Turkish has recently added capacity and now they have twice daily flights from Istanbul to Panama City and Air France-KLM operate daily flights from Paris and Amsterdam. Besides, there also American carriers like United Airlines which fly daily into Panama City. All of these airlines have good network partners in India. So, these airlines can be our vehicles for developing the Indian market,’’ Fondevilla tells India Outbound.

Colombia: Appeal of natural beauty 

Arturo Bravo

Arturo Bravo

Situated south of Panama in South America, Colombia is another off-beat tourist destination that is rapidly emerging on the global tourism map. Colombian Vice Minister of Tourism Arturo Bravo says that the destination has recovered smartly from the pandemic, clocking 5.7 million visitors in 2023, with the traditional markets like the United States, Europe and Mexico, besides its neighbours in South America.

Bravo adds that Colombia is promoting its natural beauty and diversity as a key tourist magnet. “We have six regions which are like six different countries because Colombia is on the equator and you can go from the from the snow to a beach in just four hours. Plus, you have all the biodiversity on earth. You have the Amazon on one side, you have Pacific on the one on the other side at a very short distance. Then you have all the Caribbean and all this beautiful countryside also in the middle. So we have so we have six countries in one which you can very, very small and you can travel you know very easily and enjoy from the beach to the Amazon to the Pacific,’’ Bravo tells India Outbound.

Bravo adds that Colombia is keen to attract Indian tourists, but is handicapped by lack of direct flights. “We are focussed on 14 markets right now. We want to focus more on India, but we are not focussing yet because we don’t have a direct flight,’’ Bravo adds.

Roaming in Romania

Lucian Rus

Lucian Rus

Half-way home from South America, Romania in Central Europe is another destination excited about its prospects in the Indian market. Secretary of State with the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism of Romania Lucian Rus says visitors should come to Romania because it is a continent within a country. We have the Black Sea, we have mountains, the Carpathians, we have the plains, we have everything. We have also we have winter, a powerful winter with ski resorts. We have also summer with the delta of Danube, which is unique in the world,’’ Rus tells India Outbound.

Rus says that in terms of emerging markets, Romania has been working on South Korea, Japan and China, but he is looking to add India soon on that list. 

‘‘We hope that India will be in the top soon and we hope to find a solution to to have the best collaboration and to find the best solution to bring the Indian people in Romania and to discover Romania,’’ Rus adds.

He says that he is planning a visit to India very soon to discuss both business and tourism ties and he is keen to start activities with the Indian travel trade and media this year to start promoting Romania in India. The Romanian push in India is also timely since the country will join the Schengen Visa zone from March 31, which should help Indian travellers coming to Schengen zone add Romania to their itinerary.

Maldives to focus on longer stays by Indian visitors

Mohamed Bassam Adam

Mohamed Bassam Adam

Right next door from India is another destination that is keen to strengthen its presence in the market which has been one of its top markets for the past few years, notably since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Even at the height of the pandemic, the archipelago of Maldives topped the charts on Indian social media platforms as numerous celebrities, mainly film stars, chose to head to the idyllic isles to wait out the lockdowns.

Mohamed Bassam Adam, who has recently been appointed Deputy Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, which is the national tourism board of Maldives, is an old India hand. He says that Maldives achieved its target of 1.8 million visitors in 2023 and the country is targetting 2 million visitors in the current year, though the Maldivian tourism industry players are confident of reaching even the 3 million mark.

Adam says that India is a priority market for Maldives and he hopes to drive growth in the market by not just getting more Indians to travel to Maldives, but also spend more time in the country. ‘‘In terms of India, what we have noticed is India did generate a large number of tourists, the Maldives. But when we did the research, it did not reflect too much in our revenues because the number of nights spent by Indian visitors are less. Currently, the average is 3-4 nights and we need to hit at least 7 nights,’’ Adam tells India Outbound.

Adam adds that Maldives will try to focus on the niche segments of high-end or luxury tourism and Bollywood in India in order to develop the Indian market going ahead. Besides India, Maldives is also looking to grow the traffic from its traditional markets of Western Europe, Russia, Asia Pacific and notably China, with the likely introduction of direct flights from these countries.

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