Vietnam-India aviation links are set for a big boost with the launch of 3 new direct flight routes by Vietjet Air in May this year.
This is a big jump considering that the very first direct flights between the two countries were launched just last November, when Indian budget carrier Indigo flew its maiden flights to Hanoi and HCMC from the eastern Indian city of Calcutta. A month later, Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet Air opened direct flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to New Delhi, the Indian capital.
For decades, airlines of both countries had disregarded the other market despite frequent mention of the need to launch direct flights. That the number of direct flight routes is rising to seven in just six months indicates the strong potential for boosting tourism links between Vietnam and India.
Vietjet Air said Thursday it will launch Hanoi-Mumbai and Da Nang-New Delhi routes on May 14 with respective frequencies of three and five flights a week. A day later, the first flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai, India’s second most populous city and the country’s financial and commercial center, will take off with a frequency of four flights a week.
Vietnam’s ambassador to India, Pham Sanh Chau, said that long flight times, inconvenient routes and high costs have been major factors in few Indian tourists traveling to Vietnam. “The launch of direct flights is a great opportunity to promote bilateral tourism in the context of Vietnam looking for ways to reduce heavy dependence on Chinese tourists.”
The number of Indian visitors to Vietnam has witnessed a steady growth over the past years from 19.9 percent year-on-year in 2015 to 30 percent in 2018 and 28 percent in 2019, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
India too has become a popular travel choice for Vietnamese tourists. Last year the number of Vietnamese traveling topped 31,000, up 32 percent from a year earlier.
India, known for monuments like the Taj Mahal, considered a world wonder, is also home to famous Buddhist temples, including the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment, making it a favored spiritual destination for many Vietnamese. India is also a leading destination for medical tours.
Vietnam first allowed foreign tourists to apply for a visa online in February 2017, starting with 40 countries including China, South Korea and the U.S. In December that year six more were added to the list, including Australia and India.
India is one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets in the world with around 25 million Indians traveling abroad every year now. The World Tourism Organization has forecast that the number of Indian tourists going abroad will reach about 50 million by 2020.
The number of Indians visiting Vietnam, however, is dwarfed by the number of visitors from countries like China and South Korea. Just 169,000 Indians visited Vietnam last year while China and South Korea were Vietnam’s two biggest feeder markets, sending 5.8 million and 4.2 million visitors.