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Murari Mohan Jha

Murari Mohan Jha

Radisson Hotel Group has appointed Saurabh Prakash as its new Vice President, Commercial, Asia Pacific. Based at the company’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore, Saurabh is a member of the Asia Pacific executive committee and will oversee all aspects of the region’s commercial activities, including sales, revenue optimization, distribution, marketing and loyalty.  Prior to this role, he was General Manager & Vice President, Asia Pacific, with TSA Solutions, a leading hospitality consultancy and solutions provider, in Singapore.

OYO is betting big on the Indian hotel market by partnering with hotels and real estate assets with large inventory portfolio consisting of 100+ rooms under its Franchisee and Management contracts. In the coming years, it aspires to have 10,000+ rooms as a part of its large-asset category and establish market leadership in the space while ensuring great services for customers and highest yield for asset owners. Currently, OYO has already partnered with 12 such hotels and is managing them across markets including Delhi, Goa, Bengaluru, Tirupati, Hyderabad, Noida, Vrindavan and Patna.

Commenting on the milestone, Maninder Gulati, Chief Strategy Officer, OYO said, “This excitement we are witnessing in the large 100+ rooms property space post establishing our market leadership with 75,000 keys in boutique and small assets is a testament of the strong and trusted brand we have created with our asset partners and customers.”

In the past year, Oyo on-boarded over 10+ such hotels with inventory ranging from 100-200 rooms and another 10+ hotels having over 80 rooms. “With similar additions in the coming months, we’ll continue to expand our large hotel portfolio and dominance over India’s hotel market while ensuring high yield for our partners. We are upbeat about our India story and plan to go deeper into our existing markets while adding 50+ cities to the network  and capturing a 5% share of India's hotel market by 2018-end," Gulati said.

Ctrip.com International has entered into a memorandum of understanding regarding its partnership with AccorHotels. The partnership will allow Ctrip’s over 300 million registered users to access and enjoy personalized experiences from AccorHotels’ global brands portfolio, ranging from internationally acclaimed luxury brands -including Raffles, Sofitel Legend, Fairmont, SO/, Sofitel, onefinestay, MGallery by Sofitel, Pullman, Swissôtel and 25hours Hotels- as well as the popular midscale brands Novotel, Mercure, Mama Shelter and Adagio- to the much-prized economy brands including JO&JOE, ibis, ibis Styles, ibis budget and the regional brands Grand Mercure, The Sebel and hotelF1.

AccorHotels operates 4,300 hotels and 10,000 private homes in 100 countries. The MOU is a milestone for both companies to embark on a deeper cooperation which will greatly enhance the growing Chinese travelers’ journey  globally. The partnership will focus on four strategic pillars, including highlighting AccorHotels accredited hotels more prominently, building a flagship store for AccorHotels, joint development of loyalty programs and cooperation on IT.

“We are very excited to be deepening our partnership with AccorHotels. With the ever growing number of outbound Chinese travellers, we are always looking for ways to provide better services for our customers and with the deepened AccorHotels relationship, we are able to offer magnified experiences and property choices,” said Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip. “With the diverse range of hotels offered by AccorHotels, Ctrip customers will have access to a vast majority of its hotels globally.”

“We are pleased to take the partnership with Ctrip to the next level, and proud to be a priviledged hospitality partner of Ctrip, ” said Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO, AccorHotels. “Our role is to provide hospitality expertise to all segments of the market. We want to offer Chinese guests our knowhow and service skills in order to become their preferred hospitality group.  AccorHotels will also launch its own program to train and certify at least 250 hotels by 2020 on Chinese Optimum Standards. These properties will be trained to answer major Chinese guests’ expectations, aligned with our strong ambition on this market.”

“As China’s preeminent travel agency, Ctrip, with its over 300 million registered users is definitely a strategic partner of AccorHotels in the region,” concludes Sebastien Bazin.

The partnership between Ctrip and AccorHotels marks a step in Ctrip’s continuous efforts to provide cost-effective, convenient, high-quality and seamless travel experiences on its various platforms. Ctrip will continue to pursue ways to provide members with dedicated experiences and better services to become a one-stop travel shop, and invite more global partners to be featured on Ctrip platforms.

Uttarakhand Tourism is taking a slew of new initiatives to establish the state as a global tourism destination. “We need to understand our strengths and weaknesses. We have to have changed mindset towards tourism. We have diverse tourism products and we need to highlight positive things,” Satpal Mahraj, Tourism Minister of Uttarakhand, said recently in New Delhi.

Outlining initiatives taken by his Government, Maharaj said that his ministry is working towards making the state as a destination for winter, adventure, culinary, tribal and religious tourism. “We want to develop winter tourism as our objective is to establish Uttarakhand as winter tourism destination. We want to develop a skiing complex in Auli and have requested Union Government to support financially. We want our own people to stay in India and do not travel to Europe for skiing,” he informed and added that the government is also promoting adventure and culinary tourism in the state.

Detailing on tribal tourism, the Minister said that the government is coming out with a new policy for homestay facilities in villages to offer tribal and rural experiences to visitors. As part of the strategy, the government plans to facilitate homestay facilities in tribal villages besides developing trekking routes. “We are also promoting tribal tourism. We have a vibrant tribal culture and each tribe has its own way of life, fairs, ethnic traditions and folklore. We are focusing to introduce such facilities because most tribal communities inhabit remote mountainous areas and valleys along the India-China border,” Maharaj said.

Uttrakhand also offers immense potential for birdwatchers. “The state offers a lot of potential for bird watching. We have migratory birds from Russia  to Mansarovar,” he said adding that there is a need to have proper infrastructure in place to promote overall tourism in the state. “As we are not able to develop proper transportation infrastructure due to environmental policy, we have requested Prime Minister to change the name of Prime Minister Rural Road Scheme to Prime Minister Rural Connectivity Scheme. Under this, we can use ropeway to connect those places which cannot be connected with roads,” Maharaj suggested. He also stated that helicopter services should be promoted to connect destinations in hilly states. “We are going to expand helicopter service in the state. We will use it for heli-skiing as well,” he said. The state tourism ministry is also promoting religious tourism. “We are developing Devi Circuit, Shaiv Circuit, Vaishnav Circuit, Nagraj Circuit and Mahabharata Circuit,” he informed. He also said that tourism in the state is attracting a lot of private investment.

He informed that the state received 22.55 lakh pilgrims for char dham, 1,000 for Mansarovar yatra, 415 for Adi Kailash apart from 2.5 crores other pilgrims. 

The Scandinavian Tourist Board (STB) is expecting an accelerated growth from India market with Air India’s direct connectivity between Delhi and Stockholm and Copenhagen. “We have witnessed a robust growth year on year from India. We are now trying to improve the quality of products. All our partners realized that Indians are now willing to consume the best of the products provided we offer them. We have seen increase in tourism on self drive and honeymooners.  The region currently receives around 350,000 rooms nights in a year from India and it is probably going to grow with an average 10 per cent,” Mohit Batra, India Representative, STB said on the sidelines of a roadshow in New Delhi. The Tourism Board of Denmark, Norway and Sweden attended the roadshow.

According to him, Air India’s direct service to the region is further going to push the numbers. “The feedback is that Air India has been running close to full flights. A large number of companies already contracted with Air India for summer season and that will bring higher numbers. For example, MakeMyTrip had five departures this year and the next year they are looking at 20,” he said.

With direct connectivity, Denmark, which received 82,000 room nights last year from India reflecting a growth of 11 per cent, has launched five different signature routes with each routes offering five to seven days itineraries. “Generally visitors come and visit Copenhagen but we have so much to offer. The numbers from India is slightly on lower side due to demonetisation here and the hotels in Copenhagen are fully booked this year. We are working on this and 20 per cent more hotel rooms coming up in the next 2 years,” said Flemming Bruhn, Director, Visit Denmark.

Sweden is also eyeing a big growth from India. "We have received an 18 per cent increase in the number of Indian tourists this year. We have got 176,000 visitors from India last year. It is increasing every year and month. We have registered a 35 per cent increase in tourism in August this year compared to the corresponding month last year," Rutth Dolla, Project Manager-India, Visit Sweden, said explaining that Air India has literally bridged both the psychological and the distance gap between India and Scandinavia. “Psychologically, people feel that Sweden is too far from India. In reality, Sweden is closer than London, and takes lesser flying time,” she added.

Norway has also been witnessing a double digit growth in Indian arrivals. “We do not know exactly the number but around 22-25,000 Indian visited last year. Most of the trip by Indians to Northern Europe is 10-12 days and half of the days are in Norway. We see a lot of Indians coming to Norway in shoulder seasons and winters. It is definitely a growing market for us,” said Kristian B Jorgensen, Adm. Director/CEO, Fjord Norway, opined.

Talking about the promotional activities, Batra said that STB India Office has been very active on social media. “We have around 45,000 followers on social media, facebook and instagram. We also launched a website and we will see more such initiatives in future,” he added. 

Minor Hotels, a hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of 157 hotels and resorts in 24 countries, is all set to open three new-build hotels in Qatar in spring 2018 under its Tivoli and Oaks brands. The three properties are owned by Katara Hospitality, a globally recognised hospitality owner, developer and operator.

Launching in April, Tivoli Al Najada Doha Hotel is in the final stages of development in the centre of the Qatari capital. Facilities in the five-storey property will include 151 guest rooms and suites, a selection of dining options, a fitness centre, a swimming pool and a business centre, with guest rooms on the upper floors offering a panoramic view of the Doha skyline including West Bay. Tivoli Al Najada will also offer an impressive ballroom, designed to host elegant social occasions and corporate meetings and events, with a capacity of 250 guests.

Oaks Hotels & Resorts will make its debut in Qatar with Oaks Al Najada Doha, also set to open its doors in April 2018. The 100 serviced apartments have been tastefully designed to reinvent the conventional residential concepts of compound and high-rise accommodations. Tivoli Al Najada is located alongside Oaks Al Najada and both are part of the same new development in central Doha.

Souq Al Wakra Hotel Qatar by Tivoli is a new 101-key five-star near Hamad International Airport.

Dillip Rajakarier, CEO Minor Hotels, commented, “The Middle East is a key growth market for Minor Hotels and we are delighted to be opening two new Tivoli hotels and debuting the Oaks brand in Qatar. We are delivering on our promise when we acquired Tivoli last year to grow the brand within Minor Hotels’ footprint and for sure we will see the brand grow further. Qatar will be the second GCC country for Oaks and there is also opportunity to further grow this brand.”

Mayfair Hotels & Resorts, which currently operates 10 hotels, is going ahead with its expansion plan. “We have four hotels in pipeline once each in Kalimpong, Siliguri, Kolkata and Raipur. While the Kalimpong property is opening in January 2018, we have acquired land for the remaining three properties. In Kolkata, we are coming up with a 256- room hotel. We will be investing around Rs 500 crores on these four properties,” Souvagya Mohapatra, Executive Director, Mayfair Hotels & Resorts, said.

Replying to a question over the number of hotels under the group banner by 2023, he said that the company will have around 17-18 hotels. “We may go for a hotel in Paradeep and one big convention hotel in Bhubaneswar. Most of our properties are resorts and we are looking at lesser key properties. We aim to invest Rs 600-700 crores on developing new hotels,” he said.

The group witnesses around 68 per cent occupancy across all its property. “Mayfair Gangtok is doing the highest occupancy. The business of Bhuvaneswar hotel is mainly driven by the Convention centre. We have been getting a lot of conventions and conferences. We work in close coordination with other hotels in the city,” he said and added that Bhubaneswar is going to host a medical conference of around 5,000 doctors in November. Currently, the group enjoys 60 per cent of its business from the leisure and remaining from the business segment. Almost 30 per cent of our room occupancy for the Bhubaneswar hotel is coming from MICE segment.” He opined that one needs to have three to four hotels in different cities in east India to have a good business.

Talking about the emerging tourism scenario in the state, Mohapatra said that private players are working closely with the government. “We participate in national and international travel events together. Our collective objective is to promote Odisha as a tourism destination. Recently AirAsia has stated international service from Bhubaneswar. So, we are expecting more international business in coming months,” he added.

Mayfair aims to become the established national chain hotels in coming years. “We are not looking at any tie up with international hotel chains. Our sales strategy is in place. Currently, we are focused on markets in eastern India but also looking to tap the potential of Tier-II cities,” he informed.

In order to strengthen its image as a tourism destination in the global market, the Ministry of Tourism recently launched Incredible India2.0 campaign, an upgraded version of Incredible India campaign. Incredible India 2.0 Campaign marks a shift from the present generic promotions being undertaken across the world, to market specific promotional plans and product specific creatives, with greater focus on digital presence and social media.

Replying to a question over the need of a fresh campaign, Alphons Kannanthanam, Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism, said that the Ministry is of the opinion that 2.0 campaign is apt. “We were thinking on those lines and decided to continue with Incredible India as it is a dynamic campaign,” the Minister said.

Rashmi Verma, Secretary Tourism, Govt of India, said that the campaign will be devised as per the demand and need of the source markets. “The campaign will focus on adventure from where there is a good potential for adventure segment. The ministry will run market-specific campaigns on it in different countries through local and electronic channels as well as digital media. Every source market will have different elements in the campaign to make it more appropriate,” she said.

Both Alphons and Verma spoke on the sidelines of a press meet to inaugurate the Prayatan Parv. Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said that that the objective of the programme is to draw focus on the benefits of tourism, showcasing the cultural diversity of the country and reinforcing the principle of ‘Tourism for All’. He added that Paryatan Parv has three main components: Dekho Apna Desh , Tourism for All  and Tourism & Governance. "We want to tell our countrymen that before going abroad, do try to find India. India has incredible hotspots which must be visited," the Minister said.  The Parv has been organized with the active support of as many as 19 Central ministries.

While Dekho Apna Desh aims to encourage Indians to visit India, Tourism for All will see tourism events being organized at sites across all states in the country. Tourism & Governance will focus on Skill Development, Innovation, inducting ex-servicemen as service providers for taxi operation, developing Rural Tourism in locations near established destinations, community sensitisation workshops on Homestay and B&B opportunities.

Speaking on the occasion, Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, said Paryatan Parv is basically a celebration of tourism and it will be about bringing tourism at the centre stage in those 21 days. “The campaign will revolve around elements like tourism for all, which means not just for international tourists but also people within the country, making tourism everybody’s business, and not just confining it to hotels and tour operators,” he added.

Renu Basu, Global Vice President (Sales) spoke to T3 on the need of launching the mission,emerging business segments and sales strategy to tap these segments.

Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris recently organised its first Sales Mission in Delhi and Mumbai. The Taj group has 82 hotels in India and 16 internationally with the combination of resorts, palaces, hotels and safaris.

What is the objective of the sales Mission?

We have decided to have a sales mission from this year because our hotels are growing. The objective of the Mission is really to get all our customers and hotels under one roof. The hotels are represented by the General Managers and all the Directors of Sales and Marketing. This way all our valued partners like DMCs, travel agencies and event management agencies get a chance to meet the people on the property and educate themselves what the offerings are and also transact any business that they may have though we do a lot of central contracting. It is always nicer to meet, engage and build relationship for hotel managers under one roof. 

Do you think that you should have started your Mission earlier?

We have not really delayed it. We have a different approach towards the business. This is just reinforcing our existing process. So, in our sales and marketing set up, we have a group of people who do manage very strong relationships with trade partners. They are going and visiting them in their offices. Moreover, we have our travel awards every alternate year to boost the relationship. We also participate in lot of other international trade fairs. The Sales Mission is only in Delhi and Mumbai because these are biggest source markets for the company for all segments of the business. Delhi is the biggest market for travel trade business. We also introduced some of our new properties like the recently opened Taj Amritsar and Taj Theog Resort and Spa Shimla which will be launching soon.

Which are the emerging segments and market in India for the hotel industry?

There is a huge opportunity related to domestic travel in India. While there is a large volume of business lying from all over India, there is a niche within that which is a high end market within Indians having developed great taste for high end products especially for Palaces and Safaris which is based in all cities. Other very important market for every hotel brand is the wedding market. Taj sees a great opportunity there. We are getting a big share in the wedding segment. The other huge opportunity we do see in India is the multi generational travel and milestone travel.

Pune is the very important market from corporate point because of the economic activity there. I also do see a lot of potential in Gujarat in Ahmadabad, Vadodara and other business cities.

What is the contribution of rooms and F&B in your overall business?

60 per cent of our revenue comes from rooms and 40 per cent from F&B.

What is contribution of your overseas hotels in the total revenue?

The contribution of travelers going from India to our overseas hotels is very good. There is a huge contribution from the Indian market to our overseas hotels in London, Dubai, New York and Maldives. People do find affiliation bond with the Taj group. Taj is the preferred choice for Indian outbound. We have dedicated sales team for every segments. In our leisure segments, we have two different teams – one is for international and one is for domestic. Our inbound has been from last 60 years and domestic from last 20 years. We have deicated

How would you explain trends in sales growth for Taj in last 3-4 years?

 

Its been atleast 8 per cent growth. Last two years is much better than 3 years prior. We had growth but industry was not growing. Industry in terms of hotel’s growth was 5 per cent and for Taj it has been 8 per cent. The industry is looking very buoyant in corporate market having a good impact on inbound as well as on domestic travel. We do see that demand is growing. Last fiscal, demand grew by 6.2 per cent and supply by 3.6 per cent.

With the number of Indian travelling to Central and Eastern Europe is expected to grow by 60 per cent by 2021, CzechTourism has geared up to have a major share of the pie. Czech Tourist Authority recently organized a 3 city roadshow : New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai in India to showcase their diverse tourism products and create awareness among Indian travel trade. “Indian market offers huge potential for us. The growth in Indian arrivals has been in double digit figure in last few years. We expect similar growth in the next 2-3 years if overall scenario remains good,” Monika Palatková, Managing Director of Czech Tourist Authority – CzechTourism, said.

Czech received 16-17,000 Indians in 2010 and the number continued to grow to 50,000 in 2015 and 66,500 in 2016. The first half of 2017 has already seen around 79, 400 Indians travelling to Czech, according to data shared by Turkish Airlines India office. The growth in arrivals is also attributed to ease of visa process. “This visa facilitation process has been started already and we have 16 Visa Application Centre. We are also exploring possibility of direct flight connectivity between India and Czech,” she added.

Replying to a question over Czech tourism industry preparedness for the India market, she said that CzechTourism is facilitating the private players with all information. “We are fine tuning our portfolio according to Indian market’s demand and need. This is why we opened our office this year with VFS Global. We have been working closely with VFS Global in India since the end of 2016 and it has proven to be successful in establishing the Czech Republic as a tourist destination in India. On this occasion, I am pleased to announce the expansion of our cooperation into another strategic region, the Middle East,” she said and added that Czech Tourist Authority is going to continue its presence in India. “It is right time to restart again our efforts aggressively.” CzechTourism had left Indian market in 2011 after having a presence for 4-5 years.   

Talking about the target segment, she said that Czech is looking at those segments of travelers who are interested in history, culture, gastronomy and experiences. “We are also looking to tap the strength of the Bollywood.

Speaking on the occasion, Milan Hovorka, Ambassador of the Czech Republic in India said: "I congratulate CzechTourism on opening an office in India. Permanent presence in one of the world's fastest growing outbound market has been for a long time supported by me. VFS Global is a reliable partner in the visa area and I am convinced that the partnership of CzechTourism with this company will lead to a further increase of interest about the Czech Republic," he said.

Talking about the diverse offerings to India market, Azan Khambatta, Head, Czech Tourism India, said : ‘We are now focused on focused on creating awareness about new regions, products and experiences to the Indian market. The central promotional theme of Czech Tourism in 2017 has been Baroque. In 2018, Czech Republic is celebrating 100 years of the establishment of the independent country and our focus will be monuments, places and traditions,” he said and added that Czech Tourism India Office will continue to have strong relationship with Indian travel trade. “In future, we will also come out with a training module for the travel trade,” he added. 

 

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