UK turning into tourist hub for wealthy middle class Indians

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London, July 5 : With the explosion of India's wealthy middle class and air travel growth, there has been a three fold increase in the number of Indian tourists holidaying in Britain over the past ten years.

And the venues, which are responsible for the large turnout, are the Hindu temple in Neasden, Selfridges in Oxford Street and the confectionery section of Fortnum and Mason.

Such is the influx that tourist chiefs now view India as the most important developing market over the next decade - and a strong reason to redefinehe shape of British tourism.

Elliott Frisby, a spokesman for VisitBritain, said that the number of Indian visitors had grown by about 170 per cent between 1993 and 2007.

"In ten years' time, if the growth rates stay the same, this could be one of our biggest markets," Times Online quoted Frisby, as saying.

In response to the market's growth potential, the tourism authorities are spending more money than ever on advertising, marketing and campaigning in India.

This year London will host India's largest travel agents' convention, the first time that it has been held outside Asia.

The interest comes at a time when US visitors, traditionally the most important, are in decline. Although 3.5 million Americans travelled to Britain last year, the largest number from any country, this figure marked a 7.9per cent reduction on 2006.

James Bidwell, chief executive of Visit London, the capital's official visitor body, said: "The US is a very mature market and those markets tend to get into very slow decline. However, we are facing currency issues, a highly competitive and fragmented market, and we are facing a credit crunch. That will make it decline even faster. We are looking across the globe for new opportunities."

With a huge population that is only just beginning to travel regularly outside Asia, India is the obvious choice.

Visitor numbers rose from 205,000 to 367,000 in 2006 and are expected to increase at a greater rate.

Although the total number of Indian visitors is still small in comparison with the number from the United States, tourist bodies believe that the growth trend will continue and Indian tourists may overtake their American counterparts.

ANI

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