Washington Business Journal by Rebecca Cooper
Dulles International Airport will receive the Washington region's first direct flights to and from India this summer, connecting the two capital cities and targeting a growing international visitor market.
Air India, owned by the Indian government, will launch nonstop, round-trip flights from Dulles to New Delhi three times weekly starting in July. It is the fifth U.S. city the airline will fly to directly, after Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Newark, New Jersey.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was on hand at Dulles on Friday to mark the occasion, saying he met with Air India executives to discuss the proposal during his November 2015 trade and marketing mission to the South Asian country.
“Today, we celebrate a new bridge between India and the capital region, showing that Virginia will continue to be open and welcoming to all international travelers,” said the Democratic governor.
He has proposed a $1.25 million, three-year state incentive package beginning in fiscal 2018 to support the new flight, while the District said it will chip in $250,000 this year to help Destination D.C. market it.
India has become an increasingly important visitor market for Greater Washington, one likely to be bolstered by a direct flight. Of the 2 million overseas visitors who came to the District proper in 2015 — the most recent year data is available — 80,000 of them were from India, ranking it sixth among incoming tourists to D.C., according to Destination D.C.'s latest report. That number has risen sharply in the past few years: In 2013, India ranked ninth on that list.
Destination D.C. officials, including CEO Elliott Ferguson, just went on a trade mission to India last fall in order to bolster tourism opportunities from the South Asian nation to the District.
“Destination DC is thrilled about the new direct flight on Air India because India is a market that’s growing rapidly for us," Ferguson said in an email. "Now that there’s direct capital-to-capital service, we expect to build on the positive momentum, and will be supporting the new flight through annual sales missions and direct marketing promotions in partnership with Air India.”
Broaden that to Greater Washington, and 122,000 visitors came from India, a 25 percent increase from the prior year, making it the capital region's fourth largest overseas market, according to the governor's office. That figure is expected to double by 2025.
In all, the governor's office estimated that the direct flights will bring in another 30,000 tourists and and business travelers from India and generate $30 million in annual economic impact for the Washington region.