Recently, PM Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated the new Integrated Terminal Building of Veer Savarkar International Airport, Port Blair. The news has given a new lease of life to the destination, believes the travel industry, which is optimistic about getting more tourists in the coming months, owing to increased connectivity.
Constructed at a cost of around `7,100 milliion, the new Integrated Terminal Building of Veer Savarkar International Airport will handle five million passengers every year. Strategic location, double-insulated roofing system, parking space are some of the key features of the new shell-shaped terminal building, aiming to boost air traffic and enhance tourism in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Milestone for industry
Praising the airport authorities for their efforts, Mohammad H Jadwet, Chairman, IATO Andaman & Nicobar Chapter, said that the new airport is a milestone for tourism development of the islands. “Andaman & Nicobar Islands is 1,000-2,000 kilometre away from the mainland, the only way to reach there is by air, so the airport infrastructure is critical to the development of tourism,” he said. “With this terminal building, the capacity to handle aircraft and passengers has become five times more,” he added.
Agreeing with Jadwet, Sanat Kaul, former Chief Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said that the new terminal is ‘really nice’ and provides bigger capacity. However, he suggested to start international flights to and from the new airport. “Unless the authorities start international flights to these islands from nearby destinations like Phuket, Bangkok, and Singapore, it would not make much difference,” he said.
Jadwet said that Andaman & Nicobar is closer to places like Bangkok, Singapore, Phuket, and Malaysia than to mainland India. “International connectivity will go a long way in promoting inbound tourism, where A&N lacks a lot. On an average, of the half a million who visit the islands, hardly 25,000-30,000 are foreigners. So, this is a very big gap we need to fill and that it will bring valuable foreign exchange to the country,” he said.
Subhash Goyal, Founder Chairman, Stic Travel Group, said that by building an international airport and not allowing flights is like giving someone best automatic gun, but no ammunition. “Port Blair has some beautiful hotel accommodations like Taj, CGH group, ITC, and Sarovar. International travellers will have a really good experience staying here, provided we have direct flights from the islands, as taking halts and changing flights is a tiring task,” he said.
Lack of marketing
However, the destination needs better marketing. “Unfortunately, from the tourism point of view, we have not exploited or marketed the destination well,” Goyal said.
The PM expressed confidence that the development work being done in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will further strengthen the entire region.