Lakshadweep, renowned for its beauty, is currently suffering from a significant downturn in its aviation sector, as reflected in the latest data from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Despite the recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aimed at reinvigorating interest, the region’s aviation landscape is marred by challenges that warrant a closer look.
The Agatti island airport, acting as the vital gateway to Lakshadweep, recorded a mere 1,080 aircraft movements between April and November 2023, marking an eight-year low. This sharp decline, particularly when juxtaposed with previous years, underscores potential impediments for airlines operating in and around the archipelago. A primary culprit in this decline is the stark lack of direct connectivity, with only Alliance Air currently providing a daily flight to Agatti. This limited air link not only discourages potential travellers but also underscores the critical role that robust direct air connectivity plays in shaping a destination’s attractiveness.
The absence of effective promotion and awareness compounds the challenges for Lakshadweep’s aviation sector. Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India, highlights the detrimental impact of inadequate promotion and cumbersome permit requirements, hindering Lakshadweep from carving its niche on the tourism map. The lack of visibility presents a considerable hurdle for airlines looking to expand their operations in the region.
Amidst these challenges, a glimmer of hope arises from the proposed development of a new airport at Minicoy Island. Envisioned as a comprehensive solution to existing issues, this initiative seeks to enhance connectivity, stimulate tourism, and fortify surveillance capabilities for defence forces. However, its success hinges on overcoming the prevalent infrastructural limitations in the archipelago.
Jay Bhatia, vice-president of the association, emphasizes the inadequacy of Lakshadweep’s current infrastructure, encompassing both flight operations and accommodation facilities, to handle a surge in tourist numbers. This poses a significant hurdle for airlines contemplating increased operations in the region. While the government’s commitment to boosting tourism is commendable, industry stakeholders eagerly anticipate tangible improvements in infrastructure and facilities.
As the aviation industry navigates these challenges, the future of Lakshadweep’s aviation sector hangs in the balance. The success of the proposed airport at Minicoy and concerted efforts to address connectivity and infrastructure issues will be pivotal in determining whether Lakshadweep can emerge as a thriving aviation hub. Collaboration among stakeholders, including the government, airlines, and local authorities, is imperative to chart a course towards realizing the full potential of Lakshadweep’s aviation industry.