India’s biggest airline adds new flights to Middle East as demand grows

NEW DELHI (Agencies): The Middle East is becoming the destination of choice for growing numbers of Indian travelers, travel agents from the South Asian nation said on Wednesday after India’s largest airline IndiGo recently added new flights to the region. 

IndiGo, which controls about 58 percent of India’s domestic market, launched two new direct flights last Friday connecting Ahmedabad with Jeddah and Abu Dhabi. 

The carrier said it aims to “expand travel connections and fortify ties between India and the Middle East.” 

“As part of our commitment to enhancing accessibility and bridging India with international markets, we are thrilled to announce the commencement of flights between Ahmedabad and two prominent Middle Eastern cities, Abu Dhabi as well as Jeddah,” IndiGo head of global sales, Vinay Malhotra, said in a statement. 

“These new routes will not only offer travelers increased choices for vacations and business, but also facilitate trade, particularly from Ahmedabad, known for its robust textile industry,” he said.

“IndiGo is extremely pleased to enhance flight connectivity between India and the UAE as well as the KSA.”

The Middle East has increasingly become the choice destination for many Indian travelers, travel agents said. 

“Since 2020 there has been a jump in the number of people going toward the Middle East countries, and the main reason is business and tourism,” Rajeev Chhajer, of Ahmedabad-based RC Events India, told Arab News.

Some Indians in Gujarat state, where Ahmedabad is located, also prefer to go to cities such as Dubai due to its relative proximity and because “the destination offers a good experience,” said tour operator Ajay Modi. 

Manish Sharma, director of Ahmedabad-based Akshar Travels, echoed a similar sentiment. 

“Middle East countries now know that tourism is one way of keeping the economy moving. That’s why these countries are opening themselves and allowing Indians to explore the region. Indians are going not only for tourism but also business,” Sharma told Arab News. 

Real estate is prospering, and Indians are going to explore the area for businesses and jobs, he added. “Plus, the region is closer to us and very friendly.”

Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have also been heavily promoting their tourist attractions, such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, prompting airlines to add more flights serving these routes.  

“Considering Jeddah and Abu Dhabi as bustling tourism destinations, people are yearning to explore more than ever before. In light of this sentiment, and in an endeavor to enhance international connectivity and to meet the surging demand for air travel, this kind of expansion was the need of the hour,” Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India, told Arab News. 

“Both KSA and UAE have rolled out a string of new projects and campaigns giving greater visibility that is wooing the Indian traveler. Patrons can now experience the benchmark hospitality and unparalleled service in these places.”

Major players in India’s tourism industry have previously said Saudi Arabia will become a big new destination for Indian travelers, with visitor numbers from the South Asian country expected to double this year. 

The Saudi Tourism Authority held a series of promotion programs in India in February, which has further piqued the interest of Indian travelers, said Abhishek Sharma, who is based in the city of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. 

“Recently Saudi came to promote tourism in India and this has an appeal among the people,” he told Arab News. 

Sharma said tourism growth in the Kingdom can be linked to its “liberal visa policy” and the “new openness of Saudi Arabia.”