Under the flagship regional air connectivity UDAN scheme, the Civil Aviation Ministry has given wings to tourism from Hampi to Gangtok.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has been focusing on expanding UDAN to boost India’s tourism sector by connecting popular tourist spots by flights, for which it is working with the tourism ministry.
Unlocking Tourist Destinations
According to the Indian Express, Hampi in Karnataka, Sikkim’s Gangtok, Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand and Himachal’s Shimla are among tourist destinations that have been connected under the UDAN scheme to bring neglected and underserved airports on the country’s aviation map.
Ballari, classified as an underserved airport under the scheme, has connectivity through the Vidyanagar airport.
In September, 2017, TruJet commenced the flight from Hyderabad to Vidyanagar while its flight connecting the town to Bengaluru started on 1 March, last year.
Belagaum, 270 km away from Hampi was the closest airport before Vidyanagar, which is about 40 km from it.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) data for March 2018 stated that the Bengaluru-Vidyanagar-Bengaluru route witnessed 2,820 passengers. While around 28,677 passengers flew from the route between March-November 2018.
The data showed the demand potential for air connectivity at tourist spots in the country, even if not all the passengers may have taken the flights under the UDAN scheme or translated into footfalls at Hampi.
The easier access to the state of Sikkim was unlocked for tourists through Pakyong when SpiceJet connected Pakyong to Kolkata and Guwahati in October 2018.
Earlier, tourists had to fly to Bagdogra to reach Sikkim’s capital Gangtok followed by a 5-6 hour road journey.
The Kolkata-Pakyong-Kolkata route saw 4,790 passengers during October and November, DGCA data revealed.
When UDAN Reached Shimla
Similar to Pakyong, the UDAN scheme has also connected the difficult terrain of Himachal Pradesh’s capital Shimla.
Now dysfunctional Kingfisher Airlines was the sole carrier before the UDAN scheme which was in operations until 2012 in Shimla.
Although both the airline and the airport wrapped up operations at around the same time, but Shimla became the first airport to be connected under the scheme in April 2017.
The distance between Shimla and Delhi is around 360 km by road. The Delhi-Shimla-Delhi route witnessed over 14,000 passengers on UDAN flights between April and September, last year.
Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, operates four flights a week from Delhi to Shimla, translating into a passenger load factor of nearly 88%.
UDAN has also connected Uttarakhand’s Pantnagar and Pithoragarh to Dehradun.
The Uttarakhand government data showed that in 2017, Pithoragarh district saw approximately 2,44,000 tourists, while the Uddham Singh Nagar district (where Pantnagar is located) saw 1,40,794 tourists.
Pithoragarh was connected to Dehradun and Pantnagar by helicopter operator Heritage Aviation on 17 January, while Alliance Air started the Dehradun-Pantnagar route on 4 January.
UDAN Scheme Promoting Tourism
According to a report, nearly 11 lakh passengers have flown in the first 20 months of the scheme when airlines started over 120 air routes to 37 unserved and underserved airports.
The third version of UDAN that is in the final stages of implementation listed 60 tourism routes including Bikaner-Jaisalmer-Jodhpur-Udaipur, Ahmedabad-Bhuj-Porbandar-Rajkot among others.