Scope for retailing in air travel widens

Mumbai, April 28 | Updated: Apr 29 2006, 05:30am hrs
Opportunities are emerging across the travel industry for retailing in travel with major retail chains like Pantaloon and Shoppers Stop eyeing the space.

Travel and tourism needs a retail push, according to industry experts who were speaking at the Second India and Middle East Aviation & Tourism Investor summit being held here.

Leading tour operator TUI Le Passage managing director Arjun Sharma says, We have over 3,500 retail outlets overseas and there is a need for such outlets in India also. While plain vanilla products can be sold over the travel portals, consumers still need to touch and feel some of the other products.

With foreign countries wooing the Indian traveller and even city states like Berlin setting up their representatives in India, there is a strong need for retail travel. Over the last 10 years, Lufthansa, Air France, British Airways and other international airlines have found that the route between India and overseas destinations are among the most profitable routes as compared to other countries.

With so much latent demand in the country, its time that travel companies took a quantum leap of faith in India, says travel portal founder and CEO Deep Kalra who sells over 2000 airline tickets every day.

However, inbound tourism is also on a high growth path. But TUI Le Passage, which handled 60,000 inbound tourists last year, had to refuse 10,000 tourists between November 2005 and February this year due to non-availability of hotel rooms.

There will be a gap of at least 60,000 rooms in the next three years. On the other hand, about 35,000 are being added.

We have only paid lip service to the tourism market. Low cost carriers have shown the way and there is a need to take the initiative forward by adding more capacity. Not more than 2% of the tourists who come to Goa manage to see the Taj Mahal. So far, hoteliers are playing safe and investing only in the metros, Mr Sharma said.