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Shayan Mallick

Shayan Mallick

India needs to take forward ‘Holiday in India’, on the lines of, ‘Make in India’ as a strategy and not as a marketing campaign

 

Tourism’s impact on a destination’s social and economic areas are massive. It contributes around 10 per cent to global GDP and over 9 per cent is job creation. In India it is in the region of 6 per cent to GDP and about 5.5 per cent to jobs. This can change substantially and at a faster rate if the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign can sincerely be imbibed in tourism as well. Developing destinations with innovative new ideas and right tourism infrastructure and then effectively marketing it is the key to the promotion of tourism and Make in India can further expedite the pace of change.

Tourism in India has definitely grown, and grown in absolute numbers. If India was hovering at just over 2 million foreign arrivals at the turn of the millennium, it has today grown to close to 9 million tourists. But given the vast opportunity to grow India’s tourism pie in the global arena, share of India of it has remained abysmally low at just about 0.68 per cent and not even 1 per cent which is what the current tourism dispensation at Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has set as target.

Domestic Tourism that is widely believed to be India’s tourism mainstay has recorded impressive growth year-on-year with a little over 220 Million annual domestic travels in the year 2000 now expected to be nearing 1.6 billion by the end of 2016. On the domestic air travel front, Indian carriers flew nearly 100 million passengers in 2016 according to available DGCA numbers. India emerged as the stand-out performer topping the chart globally for the second year in a row in domestic air travel growth with a record 23.3 per cent increase in domestic air travel demand in 2016, which is twice that of neighbouring China. However, here again, if we compare the numbers with a market as developed as United States, the number of annual domestic travel in India is just about 0.08 per person per year against 2.5 in the US, that is around 32 times less! Once again, it clearly is indicative of the impending growth in the domestic air travel demand in India in the coming years.

Can ‘Make in India’ play the role of that catalyst in unleashing and spurring the growth? There is indeed optimism. However there is also, at the same time, need to create that conducive environment, especially on the policy front in order to develop an enabling environment that’s suitable for Make in India and tourism to be effectively imbibed together.

SATTE 2017 Business Session on ‘Make in India and Tourism’ was roundly discussed by a distinguished panel that included Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani; N Srivastava, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, Gujarat Tourism; Mahmud Shah, Director, Kashmir Tourism and Aashish Gupta, CEO, FAITH. The session was moderated by Subhash Goyal, Member, NTAC and Immediate Past President, India Association of Tour Operators.

 

Holidays in India: Infra Thrust

An interesting development on imbibing ‘Make in India’ into ‘Tourism’ recently has been that industry federation FAITH that represents ten national travel, tourism and hospitality associations, has proposed the concept of ‘Holidays in India’ that it says is on the lines of ‘Make in India.’ There are many sensible suggestion that FAITH has argued to garner government attention towards ‘Holidays in India.’

So what is ‘Holidays in India?’ It is essentially a set of suggestions aimed at not only growth in tourism and destination development but interestingly it also takes up issue of stemming the flow of Indian money to foreign shores through outbound travel.

FAITH’s first key recommendation is ‘developing massive demand centres’ for growth in tourism. The current tourism that is happening in India can only take so much growth. Whereas the country requires a radical jump in numbers. The Winter Olympics that Sochi played host to a few years ago has forever changed the profile of this nondescript Russian town and had catapulted it to the centre stage of winter sports in the world. When Shanghai Disneyland opened within four months it got 10 million tourists. ‘Holidays in India’ proposes that the government set-up five such mega tourism zones in North, South, East, West and North East in partnership with states on the PPP basis.

The latest budget has seemed to attention to this industry suggestion. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s remark in his budget speech on tourism as “a great economic multiplier and of economic importance” and announcing five special tourism zones is indicative of that.

According to Lohani, “Make in India and tourism is all about creating and developing new destinations. We have to create new destinations. Besides, Make in India and tourism is also about handicraft, textiles, gift items and souvenirs etc.,” he says.

Sharing experience from his stint at Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Lohani informs of many destinations that M P Tourism developed and put them on state’s tourism map. Destinations like Tawa, Bargi, Indira Sagar, all large water reservoirs that tend to naturally attract visitors given the availability of right infrastructure, were developed as part of this initiative and are becoming increasingly popular tourism spots with visitors with each passing year. If these destinations have already begun to pick up, initiatives like sair-sapata in Bhopal also has woken up the local population to city’ heritage and tourism attractions, he adds.

Outlining various state initiatives to promote tourism N Srivastava, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, Gujarat Tourism, emphasises the need to develop the right tourism infrastructure to boost tourism. He informs the state has received over 180 applications, thanks to states tourism friendly investment policy, totalling more than Rs 8,500 crore in investment opportunity in the state’s tourism sector. “Hotels, restaurants, a large number of theme parks, among others have been covered in this. Government is all out for promotion of tourism in the state. In fact, because of all these measures, the increase in tourism in the state is 17 per cent across domestic and international arrivals put together,” Srivastava said.

The effect of developing the right infrastructure in order to boost tourism is telling for Gulmarg particularly for winter sports tourism activities here after the Gondolas started ferrying people to this ski resort, catapulting the destination today as one of the major attraction for holiday makers. “We were the first to import the Gondola technology in the state of J&K, building at the time world’s highest Gondola. Off late, we are taking this to other destinations as well,” informs Mahmud Shah, Director, Kashmir Tourism, while outline the benefit of the developing right infrastructure in order to develop destinations’ tourism profile.

Vast tulip gardens have greatly added to the destination appeal of countries like Holland and enchanted and attracted visitors from across the world during the tulip bloom. J&K has also recently experimented with expanding its Tulip Garden. J&K has the largest Tulip Garden of the country and the number of such gardens is set to increase amidst a host of initiatives by the state like taking tulip plantation to destinations like Gulmarg and Pahalgam and also working towards reducing its reliance on imported tulip germ plasm and developing its own supply of the tulip cells.

Other initiative where the state tourism department wants to focus under ‘Make in India’ scheme is to focus on promoting J&K cuisines, particularly its heritage of forest food that it’s promoting since last year and, as Shah says, has generated good interest among the locals as well as people from outside the state.

Film shooting is another segment that the state tourism is keen to promote in the state where it sees opportunity with its Europe like surrounding, spectacular landscape from Kashmir to Ladakh and single window clearance system to make it easy for the film shoots to take place in the state.

 

Infra & Industry status for hotels

‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Industry’ recognition to hotels has been a key industry demand. Hotel is a very big infrastructure sector. Currently, hotels do not get recognised as infrastructure sector by the Government, baring for those above the capex of Rs 250 crore by the RBI.

“China has 2.5 million hotel rooms and they get 60 million (foreign) tourists. India has 0.2 million hotel rooms and gets 8 million (foreign) tourists. There is a direct co-relation. Besides, each hotel rooms generate one direct and three indirect jobs. Look at the economic potential. It needs to be recognised as a (infrastructure) sector and RBI needs to recognise hotel capex 25 crore and above as infrastructure,” Gupta reveals.

Industry status to hotels can be other major catalyst in spurring growth in hotel development under ‘Make in India’ initiative and in turn help overall tourism growth. It was pointed that every state likes to talk about the fact that they have given the industry status to hotels but very few state actually gave industry status to this sector.

 

Tax incentives & GST

Gupta says, “Why give people money to support their food and livelihood. Why not give them jobs. Our recommendation is give people direct tax incentive for holidaying in India, like every 50,000 rupees spent on domestic holidaying get exempted of tax.” This is aimed at generating massive demand of travel that in turn will create millions of new job opportunity and new demand of hotel and other tourism related infrastructure.

“If people do their MICE conferences within India, give them 200 per cent of their expenses that they incur. That is, if a company spends one crore in India give them a tax exemption worth two crore. Do you know US$20 billion go out of India (in tourism) out of which US$ 8 billion is on MICE. Imagine the amount of money which can stay back in India,” he further argues.

A long time in the making, GST has been hailed a key game changer for tourism. However for that to happen there is need for the Government to keep a tourism friendly GST. “Wherever GST has been introduced in the world, the GST rate for tourism has been kept half of the standard rate,” Gupta stresses while advocating for a lower GST rate.

 

How to make it happen

FAITH CEO also argued for the tourism to be included in the concurrent list. “As in GST that will herald an era of one-country one-tax in India, similarly we need one-country one-state one-tourism tourism philosophy. Unfortunately, tourism is not even defined in the constitution. Concurrent is probably the way forward,” he opines.

On the demand front, it was argued to develop strategic source market focus which in turn will further catalyse ‘Make in India’ for tourism. India gets 70 per cent of its tourists from long-haul destinations. Whereas worldwide wherever tourism has succeeded 80 per cent of tourism happen within the region, within 3 hours flying time be it ASEAN, Shenegen NAFTA region. For India tourism to grow, the country needs to focus on the ASEAN region which is nearby and the most strategic market that India should develop.

Airports activation was another point that was put in the spotlight. Industry’s long pending demand to activate many dormant and remote airports in far-flung areas like Hill states and elsewhere has finally begun to show signs of change with the government recent schemes on regional and remote connectivity. However, the onus is on the airports to approach the state, whereas industry feels that it should have been the other way round.

What will go a long way in making it happen for India tourism is tourism related sensitisation that will not only help putting greater spotlight because of its socio-economic benefits but can also clear the misgivings about tourism being an elitist activity. Tourism industry, under the leadership of FAITH, along with NITI Aayog has undertaken a tourism sensitisation programme right to the doorsteps of the Prime Minister where they are working on a 15 year demand planning for tourism.

 

In Conclusion

Gupta says that if ‘Holiday in India’, on the lines of ‘Make in India’, is taken forward as a strategy and not as a marketing campaign then currently tourism that gets 2 per cent of GDP goes up to 4.5 per cent of GDP. “Tourism currently has five percent of employment; it goes to 11 per cent as against the global standard which is 10 per cent. China is currently at 9.9 per cent. Tourism’s overall employment currently is four and half crore which will become 13 crore. Holiday in India is the strategy to be followed,” Gupta says suggesting for policy makers and industry alike.

Further, the need to innovate and new ideas of product and destination development was emphasised vigorously. Srivastava said that tourism department are today very interested in exploring new avenues and innovations for growth of tourism in their state. “Starting cruise tourism in Gujarat and making best use of our coastal areas as well new innovative products like using aircraft body or train coaches for restaurants etc. or using inland waterways like Narmada reservoir for inland cruise tourism. Many things can be still done and there is lot of scope,” he said while talking about some new ideas and initiatives that his department is currently working on.

In summation, the Air India CMD once again stressed that Make in India and tourism is all about innovations. “The problem with our working is not about lack of ideas. It is all about converting that idea into physical reality. That is the name of the game. That is the most complicated part,” he says while concluding.

A journey of almost a quarter of century and 24 edition of the event, SATTE has emerged as the subcontinent largest and foremost and the only international travel show that both the exhibitors and buyers from across the world participate to showcase as well as shop for the diverse global travel and tourism products and services in this part of the world. Spread over an area of 18,000 square meters, SATTE 2017 recorded its biggest ever event attracting over 850 exhibitors from across the world, 35 countries and 25 Indian states as well as buyers from over 50 countries and thousands of those who came from different parts of India to shop for various domestic and international tourism products.

Addressing the delegates at SATTE 2017 inaugural function, Michael Duck, Executive Vice President, UBM Asia said, “India is one of the largest and fastest growing travel markets. And it has been the constant endeavour of UBM India to provide a platform for the inbound, domestic and also outbound segments thus meeting the larger industry needs of India. Being the only composite travel and tourism show in this part of the world, SATTE provides a platform for domestic and international buyers and professionals from across the travel, tourism and hospitality domain.”

SATTE’s buyer programme has been well supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Acknowledging the same, Duck said, “We are proud to partner with Ministry of Tourism, Government of India; Make in India initiative of the Government of India and all major travel and tourism associations in India, State Tourism Board and National Tourism Offices.”

Over the years SATTE has actively supported various industry led initiatives in the travel and tourism arena. The inaugural function also served as the platform for the UNWTO secretary to reinforce his message on the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 (IYSTD 2017).’

In his video message to the SATTE delegates on IYSTD 2017, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai said, “It is a unique opportunity to promote better future and better life for all of us. And it comes at a critical moment for all of us. Over one year ago the world leaders agreed upon 17 Sustainable Development Goals to guide our developments until 2030. My dear friends, tourism builds peace and understanding, social inclusion and better livelihood for all of us. Tourism generates jobs and opportunities, grows our GDP, our trade and our exports. Tourism can help to preserve our world’s rich natural and culture diversity and heritage. The International Year is a golden opportunity to promote this, and celebrate the transformational power of tourism.”

Congratulating the 24th edition of SATTE and UBM for successfully organising the event year after year, Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (I/C), Government of India, made an impassioned plea to promote ‘India, the land of spirituality and divinity’. “We have taken initiatives that now connect almost 160 countries through e-visa facility. It is a vision of our government to take tourism to the new heights. We are taking care of our infrastructure through Ministry of Roads and Transport. The country has 7,500 km of coastline, beautiful four weathers, 73 per cent of the Himalayas, and more, but need help from friends in the travel industry to promote the destination,” the Minister said. He also spoke of the new regional connectivity scheme where 50 more airports in the tier II and tier III cities of the country are being brought on the air travel network.

 

SATTE has played significant role in the growth and development of destinations. Malaysia that has been participating in SATTE for the many years now has seen India emerge as its 6th largest source market and is now vying to break the one-million India arrival mark this year. Speaking at the inauguration, Datuk Seri Mohammad Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia said, “I am pleased to see that SATTE has grown from strength to strength over the last two decades. Our delegation from Malaysian Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Tourism Malaysia and member of the Malaysian travel and trade fraternity are excited to be part of this wonderful event.

“India has long been viewed as a very important market for Malaysia. I always believe that close cultural ties between India and Malaysia with long history and cultural affinity can reach even greater heights through tourism. India is the sixth top tourist generating market for us. And this year we hope to achieve as much as one million arrivals from India. A lofty ambition, but one which is achievable with the full support of our partners here,” Aziz said.

Acknowledging SATTE growing stature on the global tourism arena, Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said, “I am happy to note that SATTE 2017 is being represented by more exhibitors and participant than previous years. With over 850 exhibitors and participants from more than 35 countries and more than 25 Indian states, SATTE has certainly emerged as an internationally known platform for the domestic and international buyers. The outcome of SATTE 2017 will also provide necessary inputs to formulate new policy or to make mid-course correction in our policy. Ministry of Tourism has always been supportive of SATTE and SATTE 2017 is completely in sync with every initiative take by the ministry to increase India’s share in the global tourism market. I hope SATTE will continue to highlight the diversity of Indian tourism to all its participants and hope this edition will turn out to be the best edition ever.”

Zutshi also congratulated UBM for introducing the start-up pavilion for the first time and also congratulated the winners of the first SATTE Awards. The Tourism Secretary further highlighted the impressive double digit growth last year, e-Tourist Visa, cruise related initiatives, impressive growth on the domestic tourism front and infrastructure related initiatives, among others.

While congratulation UBM India for successfully organising the 24th edition of SATTE this year, Junichi Kumada, Senior Officer, Regional Programme for Asia and the Pacific, UNWTO, said that India as a destination has never ceased to excite him any less every time that he has been here. “Every time that I visit India, I am more and more impressed by its unique beauty and culture that is unparalleld in the world. The lovely people, delicious India cuisines, heritage sites, thousand years of history,” he said. 

Kumada highlighted the continued growth in international travel, and particularly impressive growth in arrival in South Asia. “Despite well known global challenges, international tourism continued to grow reaffirming its importance to economic growth and job creation in an increasing number of countries. In 2016, 1.24 billion tourists crossed international borders, four per cent more than 2015. Asia and Pacific led the growth seeing 8.4 per cent growth in international arrivals that translate into 303 million tourists in 2016, 24 million more than 2015. South Asia increased by 9.4 per cent. Asia and the Pacific is coming to be seen as new centre of gravity of growth in global travel. UNWTO maintains that this region will maintain above average growth of five to six per cent in 2017,” he informed.

Kumada also outlined UNWTO’s three key priority areas for the global tourist sector, namely promoting safe, secure and seamless travel; enhancing the role of technology and innovation in tourism and embracing the sustainable agenda in tourism.

Also speaking at the event, Subhash Goyal, Member, NTAC, said, “SATTE has come a long way. When SATTE was established 24 years ago, its main purpose was to bring India to the world, otherwise we were going to ITB and WTM. It brought buyers and sellers from all over the world and the small Indian tour operators who were not able to afford going to ITB and WTM can have B2B meeting within India. Today, SATTE has come of age. This is the biggest show that is taking place on the Indian subcontinent. We really need to support it. From South Asia and South East Asia, let SATTE be the biggest Asian show,” he urged the industry and stakeholders.

Earlier, addressing dignitaries in his opening remarks at SATTE 2017 inaugural function, Yogesh Mudra, Managing Director, UBM India said, “We are proud to organise the 24th edition of SATTE supported by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, all major travel and tourism associations in India, State Tourism Boards, National Tourism Offices from across the world, hotels, airlines, cruise liners, theme parks and others.”

Mudras pointed that SATTE in its scope has always been a catalyst in driving business in this sector. “It is a comprehensive show in the tourism industry with participation from states, international tourism boards, hospitality companies, DMCs, OTAs and other tourism products as well. Also, there are a few countries participating in the fare for the first time. This year we are glad to host a bigger show with more than 850 exhibitors from over 35 countries. Altogether, we have exhibitors and buyers from over 50 countries,” he informed.

Mudras further that taking cognizance of the growing travel business, SATTE 2017 provides a unique pavilion for start-ups in travel business to showcase their offerings. Besides, three day of conferences with pertinent panel discussion lined up over the three business days. He also expressed excitement on the first edition of SATTE Awards this year. The SATTE 2017 Awards attracted as many as 270 entries in 18 categories in the first year itself.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency of the UK, waited for 21 years to debut at SATTE. And when it finally did at the 21st edition of the event late last month, the NTO made the most of the occasion. Not only was VisitBritain one of the most visible exhibitors in the venue through its extensive use of hoardings and shuttle bus branding, it also entered into a strategic alliance with top travel associations of India like Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI). 

The NTO signed and supported the signing of a series of MoUs between the key travel associations of India and those from the UK. The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) signed separate MoUs with TAAI and TAFI represented by their President Iqbal Mulla and Vice President Praveen Chugh respectively. Karan Anand represented ETOA as the Relationship Head. The third MoU was signed between UKinbound and Outbound Tour Operator Association of India (OTOAI) represented by Ashley Jones, Board Member and Guldeep Singh Sahni respectively.

Primarily aimed at boosting Indian arrivals in the UK, the move is expected to facilitate better co-ordination, product development, education, etc. between the industry stakeholders of the two countries. The signing of MoUs were witnessed by Sir James Bevan KCMG, British High Commissioner to India and Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive, VisitBritain at the VisitBritain stand at SATTE New Delhi.

Commenting on the announcement, Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive, VisitBritain said, “As per our latest data, VisitBritain is more than likely to surpass its ambition to attract 425,000 visits from India by 2016 - worth GBP 380 million in annual visitor spend. The Indian travellers visiting Britain last year were not deterred by the falling value of the rupee against the pound, which closed around Rs.100-level for the first time in history in August 2013. India is one of the priority markets for VisitBritain and we are committed to strengthening the links between the British and Indian travel and tourism industries. This strategic engagement between the two trade associations is aimed at closer collaboration to significantly benefit the travel industries of the UK and India.”

Sir James Bevan KCMG, British High Commissioner to India stated, “Well over one million Britons and Indians travel between our two countries every year. This is the lifeblood of the unique relationship between our two peoples. The 9 per cent growth notched in the number of Indian tourists to the UK in 2013 shows that this relationship is growing from strength to strength. I am delighted to see the enthusiasm of the British and Indian tourism industries to take this to the next stage and offer my full support to their efforts.”

With India being accorded a priority market status by the UK Government, the NTO is keen to build better visibility in India. The MoUs also come as an acknowledgment of the role that the Indian travel industry plays in outbound travel.

“Another reason why we are here is the importance of the travel industry as a partner in building the value of tourism to Britain. Our data shows that a good 80 per cent of the visits from India to the UK are booked through travel trade. So we and our suppliers are very keen to do business with the Indian travel industry. This is the first time that we have come to SATTE and we have a large delegation of suppliers with us,” Dawe had said at the opening ceremony a day before.

The UK witnessed 9 per cent growth in visitors number from India to the UK in first nine months of 2013, reaching a record arrival of 306,000 and GBP 349 million in spending.

In the words of Runjuan Tongrut, Director, New Delhi Office, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), ‘Book a golf holiday tour in Thailand and you will know why Thailand has emerged as one of the leading golfing destinations in the world’. Today, Thailand attracts close to 600,000 golfers from across the world every year to its 200-odd golf courses.

Tongrut particularly highlighted that golfing mixed with wellness and meditation has been extremely successful. The concept has been very well received. Meditation is a great way to develop concentration which is very important for golfers, she opined. Besides, the Thai caddies do not just assist with golfing. “When you are really tired they can give you a massage, and if you are new to golf they can even show you how to hit the ball. All of this, combined with value-for-money deals and the famous Thai hospitality, makes for an unbeatable combination,” she insisted.

According to Tongrut, Thailand’s golfing source markets are equally diverse with golfers thronging right from the Scandinavian countries, to France, the UK, Japan, Korea, China and the ASEAN region. She pointed beautifully designed and high standard golf courses, professional caddies, Thai hospitality, and value-for-money, as some of Thailand’s golfing USPs.

Thailand has continued to be the most popular overseas holiday destination amongst the Indian travellers in the last three years, evolving from a mere ‘sun and sand’ destination a few years ago, to a destination that can cater to all kinds of travellers, including family holiday makers, MICE and more niche segments such as wedding and celebrations, honeymoons, and golfing retreats. Riding on its focussed and aggressive marketing strategies in India, Thailand has overtaken one destination after another, emerging as the number one outbound destination for Indian travellers in 2011.

Sharing details on TAT’s golfing related marketing initiatives in India, Tongrut informed, “The first thing that we do is invite Indian golfers to tee off in Thailand and experience Thailand as a golfing destination first-hand. We join hands with golf clubs all over India to promote golfing in Thailand to their members. We also organise Golfing exhibitions. This is backed by online and offline advertising campaigns to further build awareness on Thailand as a golfing destination.”

TAT is also working very closely with travel trade in India to promote golf in Thailand. The destination also organises familiarisation tours for golf media and travel agents specialising in golf packages and tours. Furthermore, TAT participates at the Asian Golf Exhibition, an annual event, to showcase its various golfing activities and products.

One of the most sought after openings in its category in the previous decade, the iconic Atlantis The Palm is fast catching the imagination of Indian travellers. Atlantis, since opening in September 2008, has grown from being a hotel to a destination and an experience in itself. Speaking to T3 on the sidelines of the recent concluded South Asia’s biggest travel show SATTE, Kyp Charalambous, Director of International Sales, Atlantis, The Palm, informed that, over the last five years, India has been contributing 10 per cent of the property’s overall business.

From a growth perspective, in 2013, India was Atlantis’ largest growth market, ascending at a rate of 22 per cent over the previous year. “Looking ahead in 2014, our goal is to drive not just more volume, but also more revenue out of the Indian market. We really want to get the luxury and suites products across to the Indian market,” he stated.

As a property, Atlantis, The Palm average 86 per cent in room occupancy, which for a five star luxury beach product is rather high. “Therefore, looking ahead, we need to ensure to maintain and even grow the occupancy. But we ultimately want the spend in the resort to grow as well. Our goal is to try and encourage our Indian guests to stay longer. Many of our guests come for an average of about two nights. We want our Indian guest to stay four to five nights because we believe that there is so much to see and do across Atlantis that one or two nights is just not enough,” said Charalambous.

Today, India ranks among the top six markets for the property. Charalambous attributes the growth to a combination of sales, marketing and PR plans executed through its representation office in India. “We are a very trade friendly resort. We value the business from our trade partners phenomenally. Besides, we spend a lot of time in sales trip and roadshows around India. We will continue to support the trade partners in future through co-op marketing and initiatives such as incentive campaign,” he said.

Participation at SATTE is part of Atlantis, The Palm’s annual strategy to work with the travel trade in the region. Speaking about how the event helps the property grow its business, Charalambous stated that, over the years, SATTE has become an institution in the travel industry. “This is the fifth year that we have come to SATTE. And having expanded the show to Mumbai as well gives us opportunity to not only penetrate the Delhi market but also to target Mumbai market. Overall we find the show very beneficial as it is a great platform to meet our partners and discuss business with them,” he concluded.

Maldives, an archipelago of 1190 islands with a unique geography, is eyeing direct air connectivity with Delhi in order to boost tourist arrival into the country. The island nation is expected to start with a charter service from Maldives Male airport to Delhi in the next couple of months. If the response garnered is positive, Maldives will replace the charter service with direct scheduled services in due course. This information was revealed by Deputy Tourism Minister of Maldives Hussain Lirar at the presentation made recently in Delhi on the sidelines of SATTE 2014.

Maldives aims to boost its share of tourism from the world’s fastest growing tourism source market, which is currently at a paltry 3 per cent of its total international visits. This is despite the fact that Maldives is located in close proximity to India. Maldives received 33,000 Indian visitors in 2013. The destination registered a record year receiving 1.1 million international tourists in 2013. China is Maldives’ single largest source market, whereas European tourists form a bulk of the international tourist arrivals. India currently ranks as the ninth largest source market.

Maldives is currently only connected with Kerala, operating between Male and the state capital Trivandrum. With tourism as the backbone of its economy, Maldives hopes to diversify its tourism products and offerings all across the archipelago, which is hitherto largely concentrated in and around Male. Lirar further informed that the country is moving full swing to develop new tourism infrastructure in order to diversify its offering to international tourists and also create opportunities in the North and South of the country.

Maldives has identified about ten islands where it wants to create new lodging facilities. The tendering process for the same will begin soon, an area of interest, he opined, for potential Indian investors. He informed that the airports are already in place in these areas to support other tourism infrastructure developments and investments.

The 4th Tourism Master Plan of Maldives encourages regional development of tourism. Some of the new airports in the country will act as hubs of regional development, he said, while inviting Indian investors to look at the opportunities.
 
Also speaking on the occasion, High Commissioner of Maldives to India, Mohamed Naseer informed that the Maldives will organise two tourism road shows in India this year, as well as some cultural events. Aimed at promoting the romantic side of Maldives in order to attract honeymooners, Lirar also highlighted Maldives as a unique destination with a one island one resort concept, therefore offering total privacy.

The Island nation is also a sought after destination with for diving enthusiasts. The destinations not only offer plethora of water base activities but also has some very unique tourism attractions such as an underwater spa and an underwater club.

Bulgaria, which has enjoyed increasing interest from the Indian outbound market, is now set to focus on MICE groups this year, revealed Stefan Ionkov, Head of Commercial and economic Office at the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria, in an interview with T3 on the sidelines of SATTE. According to him, while trade and media FAM trips continue to be the NTO’s marketing priority in 2014, the NTO also plans to organise FAM trips for the corporates this year, in a bid to showcase the destination to the key decision makers.

“Bulgaria has all the right infrastructure and activities to grow its MICE arrivals from India. By hosting corporates, we want to give them the first-hand experience of how Bulgaria can accommodate the travel requirements of Indian MICE visitors by highlighting Bulgarian nightlife, shopping, day time activities, Indian cuisine options and Golf courses, in addition to the available MICE facilities. I am sure when the final customers experiences these, they will send their groups to Bulgaria,” Ionkov added.

The other market segments that the NTO is eyeing include FIT, honeymooners and leisure travellers. The NTO has also taken initiatives to bring the Bulgarian suppliers in contact with the Indian buyers.

“We organised a few familiarisation trips in 2013 for the Indian travel fraternity and media and they were very successful. Within just six to seven months of our marketing efforts, we were able to get several MICE groups from India. No other tourism board has achieved initial results in such a short time. This is also a proof of how attractive Bulgaria is for Indian MICE visitors,” said.

Crediting the SATTE platform he added that Bulgaria wants to develop this as a continuous and sustainable effort so that we can create a good number of outbound tourists to Bulgaria. He also informed that several confirmed bookings, including those of groups, have been received at SATTE. Ionkov also expects to get some charters to Bulgaria this year.

Albeit small in numbers, the NTO has witnessed continuous growth in arrivals from India in the last few years. Bulgaria received 3,000 Indians in 2011, which grew to 4,000 in 2012 and 5,000 in 2013. The country receives seven million tourists annually that contribute 13 per cent to the Bulgarian GDP, making tourism one of its key economic activities.

Realising the fact that brand value will be the major differentiator in the hospitality marketplace in the coming years, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts is gearing up for a major image makeover as the company enters its 20th year of formation. The two decade old Sarovar Hotels, a leading hotel player in India today with an international presence (Sarovar has hotels in Kenya and Tanzania), will soon embark on a major brand building exercise that Anil Madhok, Managing Director of Sarovar Hotels & Resorts said that the company has not taken before.

Speaking on the side lines of the first Global Hospitality Conclave that took place recently, Madhok said, “We have reached a level where we need to invest in brand building in a big way. We have not really undertaken a concerted brand building exercise so far unlike Carlson or other such hotel companies with a global presence and well established brands. In the coming financial year we would focus on brand building in a major way,” he revealed.

Madhok further informed that the company is close to finalising its blueprint and is meeting agencies in order to formulate a holistic brand campaign that it has not undertaken so far. “We are meeting a few agencies over the next few days who will make their presentation and offer their inputs. This is not going to be a six or twelve months programme. We are looking at a powerful brand building exercise that we can undertake over the next three to five years,” he added.

Emerging as the largest home grown hotel management company and being counted amongst the top three hotel companies in the India, Madhok, while talking about portfolio development, feels that signing new hotel properties for Sarovar is not really a challenge today. However, the company must be geared to deliver on its promise.

However, he also added, “Last year we added three to four properties. In between we opened more than 15 properties in two consecutive years and that really put huge pressure. Today, if we go from 60 to 85 properties we can handle it but if we go higher than that, obviously we need to build infrastructure.”

India and Africa will remain Sarovar’s key focus markets and the hotel company is not looking at growth in other markets. Also, the company will be solely focussed on the asset light strategy to drive its future growth.

Sarovar currently has about 60 operating properties across India, including Chandigarh, Indore and Roorkee that it owns. It will add another of its own property at Chennai, where the work is expected to begin soon.

Realising the fact that brand value will be the major differentiator in the hospitality marketplace in the coming years, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts is gearing up for a major image makeover as the company enters its 20th year of formation. The two decade old Sarovar Hotels, a leading hotel player in India today with an international presence (Sarovar has hotels in Kenya and Tanzania), will soon embark on a major brand building exercise that Anil Madhok, Managing Director of Sarovar Hotels & Resorts said that the company has not taken before.

Speaking on the side lines of the first Global Hospitality Conclave that took place recently, Madhok said, “We have reached a level where we need to invest in brand building in a big way. We have not really undertaken a concerted brand building exercise so far unlike Carlson or other such hotel companies with a global presence and well established brands. In the coming financial year we would focus on brand building in a major way,” he revealed.

Madhok further informed that the company is close to finalising its blueprint and is meeting agencies in order to formulate a holistic brand campaign that it has not undertaken so far. “We are meeting a few agencies over the next few days who will make their presentation and offer their inputs. This is not going to be a six or twelve months programme. We are looking at a powerful brand building exercise that we can undertake over the next three to five years,” he added.

Emerging as the largest home grown hotel management company and being counted amongst the top three hotel companies in the India, Madhok, while talking about portfolio development, feels that signing new hotel properties for Sarovar is not really a challenge today. However, the company must be geared to deliver on its promise.

However, he also added, “Last year we added three to four properties. In between we opened more than 15 properties in two consecutive years and that really put huge pressure. Today, if we go from 60 to 85 properties we can handle it but if we go higher than that, obviously we need to build infrastructure.”

India and Africa will remain Sarovar’s key focus markets and the hotel company is not looking at growth in other markets. Also, the company will be solely focussed on the asset light strategy to drive its future growth.

Sarovar currently has about 60 operating properties across India, including Chandigarh, Indore and Roorkee that it owns. It will add another of its own property at Chennai, where the work is expected to begin soon.

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