With China and India forging a closer partnership, tour operators are excited about the fast development of the China-India tourism market.
According to statistics of the Indian government, 250,000 Chinese visited India in 2017 while about 800,000 Indians visited China, said STIC Travel Group Chairman Subhash Goyal, adding "we as a company have explored and are trying to create a lot of awareness of the tourism potential of China."
Established in 1973 in New Delhi, the STIC has become one of the largest travel groups in India, representing about 20 of the world's best travel, aviation, tourism, cruise and hotel brands exclusively in the country.
India officially started providing E-Travel Visas to Chinese nationals in 2015, aiming to attract Chinese visitors by offering convenience for those who are willing to travel, visit or conduct business in India. As of February 2018, Chinese use of the e-visa ranks sixth in India, according to Goyal.
"This is a very small percentage of the total number of Chinese visiting India," Goyal said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
He said he expected "e-visa utilization from China would be in the top 2-3 positions" but only if some problems could be resolved, including the e-visa payment that works only during standard Indian office hours.
The STIC started cooperating with Air China, China's state-owned flag carrier, as early as 2002 when the two companies signed the All India Passenger Sales Agreement. Meanwhile, the company has been handling other Star Alliance members, such as United Airlines of the United States, Ethiopian Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines.
"The advantage with Air China is that China and India are two of the world's most populated countries and also China is one of the fastest developing countries in the world," Goyal said.
Benefiting from business expansion of Air China in India, the STIC's profit has increased in recent years.
"With the launch of its Mumbai operations (in 2015), Air China was the No.4 airline, operating on the ex-Mumbai to China route. Today, Air China has grown to No.2 in the same category, which is a testimony of its growth and progress in India," Goyal said.
Talking about cooperation in the future, Goyal said he saw tremendous opportunities between India and China "for the simple reason that China has become the factory of the world and India is the back office."
Researches suggest that in the next five years, the annual growth rate of the aviation markets in China and India is expected to reach 8.8 percent.
"I hope that one day there will be an open sky between our two countries and Air China will be flying to major India cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Cochin with daily and double daily operations," Goyal said.
"I also feel that Indian carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spicejet and Vistara Airlines etc. should fly all major cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou," he added.