Everybody loves to travel, Right? Even you too might be planning your next trip. But planning a trip can sometimes be a very difficult task. So in such situations travel companies or travel websites can be used to ease your task.
India ranks amongst the topmost tourist destinations in the world. Diverse culture, thousands of tourist attractions, excellent connectivity to every continent and well-developed tourism infrastructure attracts millions of domestic and foreign tourists to explore more about this country.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals to India during July 2017 amounted to 788,000. In 2016, India’s tourism industry directly contributed around US$ 71.7 billion to the country’s economy, and this figure was forecasted to rise to 148.2 billion by 2027.
The number of domestic tourists- or Indians who travelled within the country stands between five and seven million, though this figure cannot be verified due to several parameters involved.
History of India’s Travel Companies
History of India’s travel companies is rather interesting. The first major travel ‘arranger’ to open on the Indian subcontinent was British-owned Cox & Kings.
This company was started in 1758. Rapid colonization of the Indian subcontinent and the need for people to travel due to industrialization saw more companies enter this lucrative business. Today, India has is home to some of the largest travel companies of the world.
List of Top 20 Travel Companies in India
India has several leading travel companies. Here we list those that have an online presence. Additionally, some also have brick-and-mortar offices across India and abroad.
1. Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation
Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) ranks as India’s topmost travel company. It is a subsidiary of Indian Railways- the world’s fourth largest railway network. IRCTC also ranks as the eighth topmost employer in the world.
IRCTC issues nearly two million passenger tickets daily through its web portal as well as counters at every railway station. You can also book hotel accommodation, air tickets and sight-seeing tours through the IRCTC portal.
Additionally, IRCTC has its own package tours for Indian and foreign destinations. IRCTC offers something unique: holidays on special trains such as Maharajas Express and others that allow tourists to experience the opulence of royals of yesteryears.
Indian Railways, the parent company has train services to Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh with rail connectivity expected to cover Bhutan, Thailand and Myanmar in coming years.
2. Cox & Kings Ltd
Cox & Kings is the longest established travel company in the world that began in 1758. It began primarily as a travel arranger for British troops arriving in the Indian subcontinent.
The company played a major role during World War-I and World War-II by transporting Indian soldiers to various battlefields in Europe and Asia.
Cox & Kings is one of the few companies of the vintage that continues to flourish till date and one of kind in the travel segment. Based in Mumbai, Cox & Kings has a network of offices in several metro cities of India.
Additionally, this travel company has offices in various foreign countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and North America. According to the company’s website, Cox & King Ltd has over 5,000 employees.
3. Thomas Cook (India) Ltd
Thomas Cook (India) Ltd was established in India in 1881. Thomas Cook has an extremely interesting history. It began as a social reform venture that was aimed at helping people to overcome alcoholism problem by educating people through travel.
The founder, Thomas Cook floated an idea of giving people their first experience of train travel. On July 5, 1841, around 500 passengers travelled some 12 miles from Leicester and Loughborough and back.
Thomas Cook began experimenting excursion idea with other destinations and soon found popularity. The company soon ventured into tours within Europe, eventually extending them across the world, including India. Today, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd is an integrated travel services provider in this country.
4. Balmer Lawrie Travel & Vacations
Today an Indian government enterprise, Balmer Lawrie Travel & Vacations traces its history back to 1867. It is a subsidiary of Balmer Lawrie & Co Ltd, a company launched in Kolkata in 1867 by two Scotsmen.
Balmer Lawrie Travel & Vacation is India’s first travel company to acquire certification by International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The company has offices in 19 cities of India. Balmer Lawrie Travel & Vacation primarily handles travel requirements of Central and state government departments as well as Public Sector Undertaking (PSUs).
It’s solid reputation and excellent service makes it the travel company of choice for the private corporate sector too.
MakeMyTrip is primarily an online portal and ranks among pioneers of India’s Internet-based travel agencies. The company’s website claims it held a 47 percent share of the online travel market, quoting a 2013 survey.
“With dedicated 24×7 customer support and offices in 20 cities across India and two international offices in New York and San Francisco in addition to several franchise locations, MakeMyTrip is, whenever and wherever,” the website adds.
MakeMyTrip offers airline, railway and bus tickets for destinations in India and abroad. You can also book a holiday package within India or to any foreign destination online at fairly economical rates Using makemytrip Coupons.
Special services such as meet-and-assist at the destination, airport-hotel transfers and sightseeing trips are available through MakeMyTrip. In 2017, it merged with ibibo, a global travel company based in Gurgaon in India’s Haryana state.
Yatra is another travel agency that has a major presence online. The company claims that over four million foreign and domestic travellers have availed its services since foundation on 2006.
Yatra also has a mobile app that makes it possible for people to book any travel related service while on the move and at short notice. Yatra’s services include domestic and international air ticketing, hotel bookings, home-stays, holiday packages, bus ticketing, rail ticketing, activities and ancillary services.
“With over 61,000 hotels contracted in over 1,100 cities across India, we are India’s largest platform for domestic hotels,” says Yatra’s website.
Cleartrip is also a major online travel company from India that operates with three offices in this country and one in the Spread across three fully-functional offices in India and one in the Middle East.
Thanks to its Middle East operations, it is the preferred agency among business and leisure travellers to the Arabian Gulf states.
Cleartrip also ranks among the pioneer’s of India’s online travel business. Its website features blogs and other interesting articles about various destinations and trends in travel and tourism industry worldwide.
8. International Travel House
International Travel House is a division of India’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) major, ITC Ltd. ITH is also the first listed travel company in India. It offers the full range of travel services and has offices in 17 cities.
ITH services include corporate travel, air ticketing, car rental, destination management services, leisure holidays, MICE, hotel travel counters and foreign exchange.
“ITH is a leader in the corporate travel segment in India. The ITH car rental division alone manages a fleet of approximately 1,000 vehicles. It also a partner in the network alliance of GlobalStar Travel Management, which is a worldwide travel management company owned and managed by local entrepreneurs.
It has over 85 market leading enterprises, representing over US$14 billion in sales in 74 countries, thereby extending the ITH reach to almost all the major travel destinations of the world. The ITH network consisting of 26 Travel Offices and 15 Hotel Travel Counters,” states the company website
9. Jet Airways
Jet Airways is the sole survivor from India’s private airline industry which began in the early 1990s. Today, it ranks as the topmost Full-Service Carrier of India, operating flights across the country with its formidable fleet of turbo-prop and jet aircraft.
Additionally, Jet Airway also has scheduled flights to countless foreign destinations.
Though primarily an airline company, Jet Airways in recent years has tied-up with various travel services companies across the world to offer holiday packages, sightseeing tours, hotel accommodation, car rentals, airport-hotel transfers, dining experiences, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) packages and lots more to customers around the world.
10. Air Asia
Air Asia India is a division of the Kuala Lumpur based eponymous airline. Air Asia ranks among the topmost Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) of the world.
In addition to offering flights within India, the airline also operates air services connecting incoming and outbound passengers to several destinations in the Far East and Australia.
Additionally, Air Asia offers holiday packages, sightseeing tours, car rentals, hotel accommodations and other travel related services through its website.
Air Asia ranks as topmost travel companies for leisure and business travellers between India and the Far East, thanks to its formidable presence in that region.
11. India Healthcare Tourism
Little known India Healthcare Tourism is a unique venture launched by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India Healthcare Tourism operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Ayush, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Service Exports Promotion Council, also a Central government department. India Healthcare Tourism allows victims of various diseases to seek medical treatment in this country.
Unlike a travel agency, IHCT does not charge any commissions: it works on the concept of promoting excellent healthcare services in India to foreigners.
Through the IHCT website, foreigners can directly contact almost every reputed hospital in India for everything ranging from relief from stress, body care and beauty therapies to serious medical conditions like cancer and cardiac diseases.
These can be availed from Allopathic, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Unani healthcare service providers in India. IHTC website also provides links where foreign patients can seek visa for medical treatment in India.
Additionally, it contains a directory of airlines and other service providers essential for medical tourism.
12. Flying Fox
Flying Fox is India’s only zip-tour company and meets the international standard EN15567:2015.
“A zip line tour is a unique and exhilarating aerial journey between hill forts and ridge tops, during which you fly down a series of ultra-strong steel cables, attached by a harness and pulley,” explains the company website.
Here’s what the company says: “We test to destruction samples of all components we use to demonstrate a minimum safety factor of three, meaning everything is at least three times stronger than it needs to be.
All our safety equipment is imported from Petzl, France. Our zip wires are checked daily by our instructors, quarterly by senior management, and yearly by an international third party, who also inspects our operations and instructor training.
Every customer receives a verbal safety brief, a comprehensive demonstration, as well as a practice and assessment session on a mini zip. During the zipping itself, you are supervised 100 percent of the time by our trained instructors.”
13. Adventure Nation
Adventure Nation is the travel agency for daredevils. Instead of regular leisure packages, Adventure Nation offers trekking, mountaineering and similar activities for tourists.
The company is a joint venture between Yatra.com and Snow Leopard Adventures. “We are a community of adventure and outdoor enthusiasts and professionals completely dedicated to meeting the needs of people wanting to travel for adventure and nature.
Based out of Gurgaon, Adventure Nation is a one-stop-solution for people who want to meet other outdoors folks through Tribes, want to learn from the Gurus, find great adventures or participate in events,” says the company website.
14. SOTC Travel Ltd
Established in 1949, SOTC Travel Limited is a ‘step-down’ subsidiary of Fairfax Financial Holdings Group. It is now held by Thomas Cook (India) Limited (TCIL).
“SOTC India is a leading travel and tourism company active across various travel segments including leisure travel, MICE and business tours.
SOTC website claims, it has provided package tours to Indian travellers around the world for nearly seven decades. “SOTC strives to make holidays a priority for every Indian. ‘We are for holidays’ and we want Indians to prioritize their holidays,” it adds.
redBus is India’s indigenous startup that was launched with the unique idea of providing guaranteed reservations of seats on buses. The company was founded in 2006, in Bangalore, India and is now owned by India’s travel major, ibibo Group.
“ redBus has revolutionized the online bus ticket booking industry by bringing together over 2,300 bus operators covering over 100,000 routes across countries.
With its mobile app downloaded by over 7.5 million loyal customers, redBus is the largest community of bus travellers in the world,” claims it’s website.
redBus has operations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore as well as Colombia and Peru.
16. Ibibo Group
ibibo Group is India’s largest online travel group with integrated travel properties including Goibibo.com, redBus.in, YourBus vehicle tracking application and the recently launched car-sharing app, ibibo Ryde.
The company also holds a 51 percent stake in Travel boutique where it holds a 51 percent stake in the leading Business-To-Busines online travel platform.
“The company’s mission is to organize the transportation and accommodation industry and connect it with the travelers.
More than three million unique users transact with ibibo properties every month making ibibo the biggest travel company in India.
ibibo Group was founded by Ashish Kashyap and the company also owns a minority stake in Naspers’ global payments business, PayU Global,” states its corporate website.
17. East India Travel Co
Established in the year 2000, East India Travel Co is the pioneer of mass tourism to India’s North Eastern states that remain underexplored till date.
The company offers package and individual tours to domestic and foreign tourists to states including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
Entry to certain parts of these states is barred for Indians as well as foreign nationals on grounds of national security and to ensure the safety of travellers.
However, East India Travel Co has managed to get some of these restrictions waived by the Indian government to open hitherto unexplored regions of the country to tourists.
Additionally, East India Travel Co also operates tours to neighbouring Bhutan and select destinations in West Bengal. It is the largest and most reputed travel company in North East India and is based in Guwahati, Assam.
18. Goa Tourism
India’s tiniest state, Goa ranks is ranked third topmost destination in the world by TripAdvisor Travel Choice in the ‘sun-and-sand’ category. In 2016, some 700,000 foreign tourists arrived in Goa on scheduled and chartered flights, road and rail.
From October 2016 to March 2017, more than a quarter million foreign tourists arrived in Goa. The number of domestic tourists who arrived in Goa during this period is estimated between two and three million.
Goa Tourism is an autonomous body that operates under the state government. Goa Tourism handles the bulk of inbound tourists by offering hotel accommodation at its own as well as other properties in the state.
The department also has sightseeing tours and provides a variety of travel-related services to domestic and foreign travelers in the country.
19. Kerala Tourism
Kerala Tourism is an autonomous department that functions under the Kerala state government. It now plays a key role in attracting tourists not only to Kerala but for the entire nation.
Kerala Tourism offers unmatched services such as arranging visa-on-arrival for foreign tourists of various nationalities who wish to experience the state as well as other parts of India.
Kerala Tourism has teamed up with private operators to provide excellent holiday packages that include stays in boathouses on backwaters and rivers of the state.
It promotes medical tourism to India by highlighting benefits of Ayurveda and the state’s state-of-the-art healthcare facilities. You can book everything from visas to hotels and exotic getaways through Kerala Tourism.
20. Rajasthan Tourism
Indians and foreigners who wish to get a firsthand look at the splendor of Maharajas and their lifestyles are offered the opportunity by Rajasthan Tourism, an autonomous division of the Rajasthan state government.
In collaboration with Indian Railways, tourists get the opportunity to experience life as kings and queens on two special trains, ‘Palace on Wheels’ and ‘Heritage Palace on Wheels’.
Additionally, Rajasthan Tourism offers domestic and foreign tourists to hire an aircraft to tour the state. You can also book desert and wildlife safaris or avail of regular sightseeing packages that covers religious shrines, palaces, forts and cities of the state.
Special packages can also be booked for festivals and fairs of Rajasthan. The portal provides a host of travel services.
In recent years, India has permitted citizens of some 165 countries to avail of electronic visa facilities to visit this country.
This e-visa is available in three categories: tourism, business and medical treatment. Applications for Indian e-visa have to be made at least four days to four months prior to arrival in this country. E-visas are valid for entry through 25 airports in India and four seaports.
However, foreign nationals are permitted to depart India from any international exit point in this country.
To promote tourism to India, the government permits foreigners to avail of two e-visas per the calendar year, each offering a maximum stay of 60 days. E-visas cannot be extended.
State-owned Air India and almost every private airline in the country are increasing the number of domestic and foreign destinations served.
This is augmented by an increase in the number of airports being upgraded to international status in the country.
India Brand Equity Foundation Report
A report by India Brand Equity Foundation of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry provides some interesting highlights about future prospects of the country’s travel and tourism sector.
This report speaks about growth witnessed by the travel and hospitality sector in previous years and future projections.
India’s travel sector is set to boom as newer entrants expected to join the fray in coming years. World Travel and Tourism Council pegs India at No-7 as the most popular destination globally.
A press release by WTTC states, India’s travel and tourism sector employed some 40.3 million people accounting for 9.3 percent of the total jobs in this country.
In 2016, foreign travellers to India spent US$22.8 billion. These figures are expected to grow exponentially as India looks at moving upwards as the most favoured tourist destination of the world.
Travel companies in India will play a major role towards this endeavour. The Indian government is also eying public-private partnerships to assist local and foreign travel companies to attract more tourists to this land.