Within Asia, India is the fastest growing tourists source market for Holland in percentage terms. But it is on a small base. Now with the prospects of robust direct connectivity, Holland Tourism is confident of raidly expanding its Indian footfall base.

135When you catch up with Dutch ambassador in India Alphonsus Stoelinga, the chances are he would surprise you in many ways. His informal demeanor is quite striking which gets further amplified by his ability to carry the conversation in Hindi to a considerable extent beyond the mere exchange of ‘Namaste’ (“I am taking lessons in Hindi,” he tells you). Last month, when TourismFirst caught up with him on the sidelines of the Jet Airways press conference to announce Amsterdam as its new European hub, Dutch ambassador’s enthusiasm had probably touched its crescendo considering the business and tourism implications of the direct flight path between India and Holland. “This is a great initiative which will bring the two countries much closer,” Stoelinga told TourismFirst. The presence of NBTC Holland Marketing chief Jos Vranken on the occasion further reinforced the point that Jet’s arrival at Amsterdam is being perceived as that critical catalyst to augment the tourism exchange between the two countries, particularly in terms of giving a decisive push to Indian arrivals, a segment which has been rising steadily in the recent years. 

Dutch Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga himself seems to be a great believer of the theory that in the present day national economic management, tourism has a much larger role to play. “I had once told Indian prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi that tourism should be a major focus area for India. Imagine if the present 8 million inbound is converted to 15 million. How much of economic benefits it will bring,” he recalled. Stoelinga’s firm belief that tourism could be a driving force of a happening economy well stems from the performance of Holland Tourism. The country is much smaller than Delhi/NCR in terms of total size. But last year it had registered a foreign arrival figure of around 14 million. The tourism industry in Holland accounts for 5.4 percent of the national GDP and around 10 percent of the total employment in the country. Apart from scenic beauty, the country in terms of its traditional assets is known for its world famous castles and museums (e.g., Van Gogh museum). In South Holland lies the Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden which is visited by nearly a million tourists every year. In terms of foreign tourists footfall, the scene is dominated by European travelers. “Germany accounts for a hefty share of our foreign tourists arrival, last year the figure was 4.2 million. On an overall basis, 80 percent of our arrivals is from other European countries. In non-Europe category, the US and China are the leaders,” Jos Vranken, Managing Director, NBTC Holland Marketing told TourismFirst.

However, with a figure of around 95,000 arrivals from India, Holland Tourism has begun to look at the country as major potential source market. “We do recognize the tremendous growth in the India outbound segment. It is registering an annual growth of 12 percent which practically means the volume would double every seven years,” observed Alphonsus Stoelinga. According to Vranken, even as China leads the pack from Asia as the source destination (about 2,75,000 Chinese tourists visited Holland last year), India is recording the highest growth in percentage terms though on a low base. According to Dutch ambassador’s guesstimate, while business travelers and leisure tourists account for nearly 40 percent each, the remaining 20 percent of traffic from India primarily comprise students arriving in Holland for different vocational courses.

Amidst this scenario, the facility of direct air linkage spearheaded by Jet Airways has come as a shot in the arm for Holland tourism promising further enhancement in Indian traffic. “After this service was announced, we have seen 20 percent increase in visa requests. You can well imagine how could the scene change after the daily direct connectivity to Holland becomes a regular service. In my reckoning, we will register 30 percent jump in Indian arrivals this year and there could well be 15 percent kind of growth trajectory in the medium run,” Dutch Ambassador underlined. And to ensure footfall augmentation from India (the target for this year is around 1,25,000), NBTC Holland Marketing confirmed upping the promotional ante in the key Indian cities – something which it has been reluctant to do in the past due to absence of direct connectivity. According to Vranken, NBTC Holland Marketing is contemplating a joint destination marketing campaign wherein Jet Airways and Schiphol Amsterdam airport will also participate. “ This campaign may begin in the next few weeks. Apart from this, we are also planning an aggressive travel trade marketing campaign. All this would obviously entail enhancing the promotional budget for the Indian market,” informed Vranken. The NBTC Holland Marketing chief further stressed that in the near run, Holland Tourism will have a segment specific approach to attract more visitors from India. “Family market, luxury travellers, weeding and honeymoon segment and MICE traffic will be our special focus. Our wedding offerings are becoming very popular with the unique natural settings comprising the gardens, windmills and panoramic landscape. We would definitely tap this segment in a big way,” said Vranken.