Indians flew like never before in 2016, creating record highs not just for domestic but also international travel. While 10 crore people flew domestically last year, as reported by TOI on January 18, over 5 crore are expected to have flown in and out of the country .
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), almost 4 crore people flew to and from India between January and September 2016. Each of the three quarters -January to March, April to June, and July to September -recorded nearly 1.3 crore international travellers, and according to travel industry estimates, October-December registered similar, if not higher, figures. This suggests the total for last year is going to be well over 5.2 crore, up about 9-10% from 2015, when the figure stood at 4.8 crore. Government data for international travel in 2016 is expected by late February .
“Demonetisation was announced on the night of November 8 after which people were allowed to use old notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 to buy air tickets from airline counters at airports. That led to frenzied buying of air tickets, including for international travel, and people from abroad who had booked to fly to India in winter did not cancel their trips due to high cancellation charges. So there is no way that international travel to and from India dropped post-demoneti sation. It would remain over the quarterly average of 1.3 crore seen in 2016,“ said a senior official of an airline.
The expansion of e-visas for nationals of 161countries in 2016 -up from 43 countries in 2014 -has led to sharp increase in inbound with this figure rising to almost 11 lakh in 2016 from previous year's figure of 4.4 lakh. Travel portal Yatra COO Sharat Dhall said: “International airfares in 2016 were significantly lower than those in the previous year and airlines offered amazing deals. (See box) Apart from this, visitors had access to budget and shared accommodation. As a result, we saw a significant jump in international bookings last year.“
Aviation minister Jayant Sinha said all the three drivers for travel -visiting friends and family; vacationing and business -are very strong currently due to a booming economy . “Due to these factors, both domestic and international travel are growing very fast. International air travel will grow rapidly as unlike domestic travel where one has option of taking rail or road route, going abroad means taking a flight. Also we are working on strengthening the network between Indian and foreign shores that will give a further impetus to international travel,“ Sinha said.