India's business air travel revolution
Business air travel has an indispensable role to play in the global economy by allowing multinational corporations to maintain key networks and corporate relationships, as well as target growth in potential new marketplaces around the world.
India represents just one of the emerging markets where business travel is now seeing a meteoric rise. As the country’s multi-national corporations become increasingly globalised, the frequency of the business travel is increasing rapidly.
The profile of India’s business travel community is remarkably young compared to some other countries – with around a third of the country’s population aged between 20-39. There is also a significant rise in the number of female business travellers flying – a market which barely existed a few years ago.
A key industry report released earlier this month further supports the growing importance of India’s travelling elite. In a joint research study released this month, Expedia and Egencia analysed the behaviour and preferences among travellers around the world – revealing that Indian travellers are most likely to splurge while away on business trips.
It’s therefore no wonder that destinations around the world are now courting Indian corporations for incentive travel events, conferences and exhibitions. From upgrading hotel rooms to booking top restaurants, Indian air travellers have shown themselves to be more than happy to part with their money.
However, there are still several barriers which still impede India’s business travel sector. While major hubs like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are well connected internationally, flight services and airport investment elsewhere is more limited and still needs to improve.
Alongside infrastructure constraints, visas are another major hurdle for Indian travellers. There are currently only 51 countries an Indian passport holder can travel to visa-free.
Earlier this year, the UK government caused further outrage by suggesting Indian citizens should be placed on its proposed “visa bond” pilot programme – requiring visitors from countries deemed “high-risk” to pay a £3000 deposit before entering the country.
However, even with these potential hurdles, the business travel sector is still gathering pace.
According to Shailendra Seth, director of Chapman Freeborn India, in addition to business class seats on scheduled flights, aircraft charter demand is also growing significantly in India.
With India embarking on large infrastructure projects and expanding its manufacturing base, this niche market is expected to become increasingly important in the future. It will also be supported by the growth of the country’s middle class and the entrepreneurial nature of Indian businesses.
Shailendra says: “Whether it’s a commercial aircraft for group travel or a private jet for executives, chartering is increasingly seen as the way to go. Indian corporations have a growing importance internationally and time-saving business travel is a key ingredient in their future expansion.”
In common with Indian travellers’ willingness to spend extra on hotel rooms and services while away on business trips, corporations and executives are now seeing the benefits of avoiding lengthy airport queues and heavily congested terminals.
In addition to choosing their own flight times and itineraries, air charter is also playing an important role in making India’s regional business centres more accessible.
By bypassing limited scheduled flight services, today’s business traveller can visit smaller regional airports with greater ease – helping to connect Tier-II cities like Surat, Pune and Jaipur to the global economy.