China’s reopening may be the big story in travel, but no one should take
their eyes off India, said two aviation industry experts.
a webinar earlier this week, in which travel data and insight
specialist OAG asked whether China is the key to unlocking global
travel, much of the discussion focused on India’s potential as an
outbound travel leader, driven by strong economic forecasts and the
stirring of Air India as an aviation giant.
“India is the hottest market in the world right now,” said John
Grant, OAG’s chief analyst. “It’s very buoyant compared to other markets
around the world.
India is the hottest market in the world right now. It’s very buoyant compared to other markets around the world.
“The strong economy pre-Covid is picking up again, the rebirth of Air
India under a new CEO [ex SIA Group executive Campbell Wilson] and big
aircraft orders are very exciting for India,” Grant added.
consultant Willy Boulter, most recently chief commercial officer at
India’s Indigo airline, said China’s GDP growth was tailing off coming
out of the pandemic while India’s GDP growth of 8%-9% was likely to be
sustained over the next few years.
“That GDP growth should translate into 15%-16% air traffic growth, at least domestically,” he said.
Boulter recalled during his time working at Cathay Pacific it had
surprised many of his colleagues that Air India had not grasped the
opportunity to become a hub for traffic between Asia and Europe and had
allowed Emirates to take that business.
“It appears that under new owners, Tata, Air India will begin to address that situation,” Boulter added.
Grant and Boulter agreed it will take 12 to 18 months for the China
outbound market to reach pre-Covid peaks. Slowing the recovery is a
cautious approach by airlines to restore capacity into China, and
decisions by several countries to maintain Covid measures for incoming
There is also a huge backlog of some 54 million passports which would have been issued in China during Covid.
Added to this, airlines are being challenged to quickly restore
scheduled services to China when mothballed planes are still being
brought back from the desert.
“There’s no big rush to restore capacity to China,” Grant said.
“Japan and South Korea are still very nervous about letting Chinese
travellers into the country. There will be a ripple effect with
Southeast Asia first to see the return of Chinese travellers, who will
make choices based on destinations which offer the fewest restrictions.”