Outbound charters for Indians demanded

| 26 November 2001 22:12 IST

Thomas Cook, a world-wide service for leisure travel and tourism, has urged Indian government to liberalise airline charter market by allowing outbound package tourists – the Indians.

"It has tremendous potential as around four million Indians travel abroad every year", informs Stephan Pichler, chairman and CEO of the Thomas Cook.

Having begun charter operations for Goa from several European countries this year, Pichler during his maiden visit to the tourist state said the charter tourism could develop in leaps and bounds if the Government of India accepted the proposal.

Stating that 52 per cent of these Indians visit European countries, the CEO of the leading European firm assures to make the best brands available for charter travel, besides comfortable package deals to facilitate the Indian traveller.

Thomas Cook-operated charters start flying down to Goa by mid-October till May, mainly from the UK, on a 14-day package tour. As most of the Indians travel between April to July, further liberalisation of charter tourism could make it possible to fly down every day, claims Pichler.

However, to grow the hospitality industry further, Pichler also insists on sustainable development and sustainable quality, besides maintaining ecological balance and increasing bed capacity, especially in the coastal belt for beach tourism.

To shift its focus from UK, Thomas Cook has taken initiative in restarting a Condor flight from Germany, almost after a decade. He plans to now diversify to Germany, France and Holland while also getting upmarket spending tourists to Goa.

"Besides this, we are also negotiating with the railway authorities for a sliver triangle of Mumbai, Goa and Aurangabad and special package tour to Konkan belt from Mumbai", informs Ashwini Kakkar, the CEO of Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

India is one of the three strategic markets Thomas Cook is targeting now after Europe, as Pichler appears to be quite impressed with the diverse culture of one of the biggest Asian country, which could be developed as a rich tourist market world-wide.

Though he admits that recession along with the 11 September tragedy has hit the hospitality industry, Pichler however also claims that the slowdown is not yet visible in Asia and South Africa as it is in the US and Egypt.

He however declines to comment on the scene from January onwards. "Regaining confidence of the traveller will definitely take time", he states, while admitting that the demand is still unsteady.

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