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Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

In a bid to further attract tourism to the Provence region, Atout France recently organised its 14th edition of Rendez-vous en France in Marseille. The annual showcase welcomed 915 tour operators and 35 international journalists from across 73 countries; to not only showcase the new French products and attraction but also the culture, attractions, gastronomy, etc of the Provence Region which still has potential to grow further. The delegation included a large contingent of 32 Travel Agents and Tour operators from India, which is today one of the most important markets for France.

Speaking about the event Sheetal Munshaw Director-India, Atout France said, “We have got 32 travel agents and tour operators, majority from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Ahmadabad. We choose the cities based on the potential and we have seen a major growth in these cities. Mumbai is our key market in terms of number of visas applied, followed by Delhi, and Bangalore. Chennai is now gaining a lot more of prominence after the opening of the Jet airways flight. Ahmadabad is an extension of Mumbai and has contributed about 18 per cent of the outbound overall.”

The destination organised pre and post fam trips to showcase the unexplored regions to the tour operators. In 2019, the destinations in the trade show's 13 partner regions received 560 prescribers on 60 familiarisation trips The Provence, Alpes and Côte d'Azur regions alone are running 26 programmes. India market has now matured over the years and travellers are looking for unique experiences.

Munshaw said, “More Indians are now looking at offbeat destinations in France. This year in the pre tour of Rendezvous, travel trade selected very new destinations. This is a clear indication of where Indians are looking to travel. These regions have a lot of potential. Paris still remains the undisputed leader as far as India goes. We have south of France, Cote d’Azur, Rhone Alps, Occitanie, Northern France are definitely picking up from India market. We have also seen a lot of growth in the FIT in the last couple of years. We have groups which gives us stability. In terms of FITs growth is phenomenal and also they have longer stays and that helps us to showcase multiple regions and experiences.”

France has a vision to reach the 100 million visitor numbers by 2020, and India has been one of the important markets in their strategy. The destination has witnessed positive growth from India over the last five years.

Speaking about India Munshaw said, “India is a priority market for France. Globally all destination knows that Asia Pacific is the region from where the growth will come. India has been important for us and we have deployed more staff in India as well and increase the budgets. 2018 has been a very good year when we look at the stats of the airport arrivals and also the visa stats. Our official figures are not yet out as we release them in the summers. The trend is very positive and once again we are set to witness growth this year. We have seen a positive growth from the last five years. In terms of spending pattern, the FITs are high spenders and have longer length of stay. The quality of travellers from India has also improved a lot. We see this through the evolution of taste in travellers. Indians are looking at boutique properties, apartments, Relais & Châteaux. We see that travellers are evolving a lot.”

Travel & Tourism and the hospitality segment today contribute close to 9.8 per cent of the employment. This is one sector which can be the solution to one of India’s major challenges of job creation.

Speaking in a session about ‘Transforming India’, at the HICSA 2019, Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog said, “It is not possible for India to grow without jobs. To achieve high growth for jobs, the answer lies in the travel and hospitality segment. The travel and tourism sector is one of the major creators of jobs in India it accounts for close to 40 million jobs. It accounts for 9.8 per cent of jobs in India direct and indirect. Therefore, travel and tourism is what the politician of India needs to create jobs. We are amidst an election where everybody wants jobs. The travel and tourism industry does everything, but talks about creation of jobs. The focus of this industry must be that it is the biggest creator of jobs in India.”

Further speaking about how India is changing when it comes to development of tourism related policies and infrastructure, he added, “We have opened up the e-Visa regime, with over 150 countries. We have opened up the islands for tourism. We are creating the biggest convention centre to open up the MICE market. We are redoing the entire Pragati maidan (the convention centre in New Delhi). Post election, we will push for opening more than 100 tourism trains. This sector provides the answer to the biggest challenges, challenge to grow with equity, jobs.”

The Government has taken a slew of steps to strengthen the infrastructure in the country. “India is creating world class infrastructure. The only country who is doing 100 smart cities, 50 metros, high speed trains. We are doing 36 km of urban roads, 170 kms of rural roads per day. We are pushing the limits,” he said.

Over the last five years, India has undergone major reforms and changes which have made the country much easier for doing business. “Today, India is growing at about 7.5 per cent per annum. The challenge for India is to grow at much higher rate, which is necessary. 72 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 32, the average age of India is 29. It is the youngest country in the world, and the population will get younger and younger till 2042,” he added.

He suggested that India needs to follow certain steps to grow from 7.5 per cent to around 10 per cent. “Firstly, India was a very complex, complicated and difficult place to do business. But in the last 5 years, doing business in India has been made easy and simple. The government scrapped a set of rules and regulations, procedures, 1300 laws have been removed. We have digitised every single department of the Government. India has now jumped 65 positions in the world rank in ‘Ease of doing Business’. We are confident that next year we will jump more positions and our target is to reach the top 25 in the next two years. We made the states to come up with ease of doing business and we started naming and shaming the states. The first year Gujarat came number 1, next year Andhra Pradesh beat Gujarat, and next Telengana came first. This competition has helped us develop these states. The good thing is Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh which are mineral rich states in India had radical reforms and came fourth and fifth. Business in India needs to be easy and simple so that we can give freedom to the investors and India can only grow when private sector will truly flourish.”

Sarovar Hotels & Resorts’ aggressive growth continues with the hotel group announcing the signing of a new hotel in Indore,Madhya Pradesh. One of the fastest growing hotel chains in India with over 80 operational hotels across 50 destinations in India and Africa, the group has signed Sarovar Portico with 88 rooms including suites in Indore.

Anil Madhok, Executive Chairman, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts said, “We are focusing on our expansion plans and the signing of new hotel is a consolidation of our strategic effort to expand the presence of our brands to newer destinations, hitherto unrepresented. With business as well as leisure travel continuing on a spiral growth to this region, we aim to meet the demand for quality accommodation over the coming years. Through our distinctively recognised brands, our effort is to formally establish our hotel brands offering value for money and superior facilities and services to our discerning travellers.”

Gaining popularity in the last couple of years, Ireland recently witnessed a double digit growth from the India market. In 2017, the destination welcomed 38,000 travellers from India.

Speaking about the growth in India market Siobhan McManamy, Director of Markets, Tourism Ireland said, “We witnessed 38,000 Indian visitors in 2017 and we think that will increase by 15-20 per cent in 2018, as we are waiting for the final numbers. We expect a similar double digit growth in 2019 as well. India is a very important market for us and is growing very fast.”

The British-Irish Visa Scheme has also played a key role in the increased visitor numbers to Ireland. Also, this scheme will be beneficial during the upcoming Cricket World Cup which is set to happen in UK.

McManamy added, “The UK Northern Ireland joint visa scheme has been great and we have seen a lot of growth. We are also seeing tour operators putting a lot of Ireland only itineraries now. One of the tour operators recently launched an 11 days Ireland only programme which is really great for us. The length of stay and spending has increased from the India market. Cricket is getting very popular in Ireland. We think that people who will attend the world cup will spend a few days in Ireland as well either before or after. It’s just a short flight so we look for an increase in numbers during the World Cup.”

The destination recently organised its sales mission in India to promote new attractions and offerings. One of the new offerings for the India market is the popular Guinness Storehouse tour. Speaking about the experience Paul Carty, Managing Director, Guinness Storehouse said, “We have a tour which takes about two hours and we take travellers around the building and the tour is very informative. We also teach the history and the heritage of the family. We also have restaurants in the building, where we also teach how to pair beer with food. We are Ireland’s number one tourist attraction with a footfall of 1.7 million visitors last year. We hope to welcome many more Indians for our tours.”

Also, in the recent years Ireland has gained popularity as a film shooting destination. “The Game of Thrones, Star wars was filmed in Ireland, we have had two Bollywood productions as well previously and we would love to have more. Film Ireland looks after the film shootings in Ireland and they provide some attractive incentives for film makers to shoot here. We are seeing a lot of interests from producers. We have iconic and historic locations to offer for any kind of Bollywood movies,” McManamy added.

Ireland is also now looking to promote festival tourism on a larger scale. “Halloween is a festival from Ireland, so we are planning and developing this in a big way. We will have the festival whole month around November and in various sites. Over the next five years we want to make it a really world renowned festival and want to attract travellers specifically to celebrate Halloween in Ireland. St. Patrick is our current big celebration and apart from Dublin this year we will have big celebrations in five other cities as well,” McManamy added. 

La Vallée Village, luxury shopping outlet in Paris, has witnessed a double digit growth from the India market in the last couple of years. It is looking to attract the high end travellers from the India market along with FITs, families, corporate and MICE travellers.

“Indian market is now ranking in top 20 amongst all nationalities at the Vallée Village. We have more than 175 nationalities coming into the Village. Since last 4-5 years, we have seen a double digit growth from the Indian market. In 2018, we had a growth of 40 per cent from the India. We know the potential is huge, regarding the population of India and their interest for shopping for the brands and this is the reason we keep investing in promoting in the India market. For us, the most important to understand in the India market was to reach the right audience. Since, we target the FITs, corporate and some of the MICE groups, we see people sending huge money. In our Village, people can save a lot of money while shopping the big brands,” Patrick Allais, Business Development Manager, La Vallée Village said.

The Village is aggressively looking at the MICE and offers discounts and other services. “In India, MICE activity is very dynamic. Every year we see Indian companies sending huge groups as big as 600 travellers visiting Paris. MICE groups need one or half day for shopping. This segment is important as they are high spending. In our villages except from the prices and experiences we offer, we provide extra services like VIP cards and more discounts. For the MICE group and corporate we have special offer which we call MICE offer, where approximately 45 brands give extra offers on the reduced prices. We can also make personalised signages and customised offers for MICE groups. We can arrange for meet and greet for groups. We work a lot with MICE from many countries. South East Asia, China and India are very strong MICE markets for us,” Allais said.

The Village has introduced more boutiques and also various F&B offerings and offers over 120 shopping boutiques and various vegetarian options for the India market. “Inside the Village, every month we have new boutiques coming. We have all the iconic brands with new brands as well. We have introduced one brand specifically for Skiing. In India skiing is getting more popular. We hope n the coming years we have an extension of the Village. We now have 120 boutiques in the Village. Since we sell experience, F&B becomes a very important aspect for us. In the Village, we have different options right from fast food to fine dine. We also have an ample of option for vegetarian travellers,” Allais added. 

Cruising as a segment has witnessed a significant growth from the India market in the last couple of years. Continuing the trend, MSC Cruises has witnessed a 40 per cent growth from India market. MSC has in the recent years sailed a couple of times to the Indian shores, which will further increase with the growing demand.

On the sidelines of MSC Bellissima’s christening ceremony, Angelo Capurro, Executive Commercial Director, MSC Cruises said, “The growth from emerging markets and especially India market is very important for us. We have seen a 40 per cent growth year to date compared to last year. This year is really good for us and with products like MSC Bellissima, we will further see growth. We will deploy more ships to the Far East that will pass through India waters. Also, considering the huge growth we are coming with luxury ships which will be small with very different itinerary. We are looking aggressively at the India market to further enhance guest experience. We do a lot in terms of f&b for the Indian travellers. When we have groups we design completely different f&b for them.”

In terms of trends, Indians are now looking for novel itineraries. MSC Cruises is popular for its Mediterranean sailings, now Indians are also booking on their North European sailings which are premium category products.

Kunal Sampat, General Manager-India, MSC Cruises said, “In 2018 as compared to 2017, we have seen a double digit growth from India market. We are very excited to see the growth in our North Europe sailings. Mediterranean is very popular as we are the only cruise liner having year round sailings in this region. North Europe is a premium product and witnessing significant growth in this region has been encouraging. India has always been a value seeking market and not a price sensitive market. More than 80 per cent of our business are Balcony and above category and Yacht Clubs. This shows that there is a demand for luxury from India market. This is a trend which will further grow.”

Also, the group has witnessed a significant rise in the bookings from the Tier II & III cities. MICE has been one of their core business apart from the family groups and celebrations segment from India.

Sampat said that West and Northern region has always witnessed an upper hand in terms of growth, but Gujarat, Punjab has now become major markets. He further added, “However East and South India markets are still slow and needs to pickup. Tier II cities has always been the strength in India. We are closely working with the B2B market and we get a lot of travellers from the smaller cities. The Tier II & III cities are the game changer.”

Speaking about the segments, he said, “We see a good growth in the MICE segment. Along with MICE, ad hoc family groups are growing. We regularly get such enquiries and conversions happening in this segment, like booking for a 25 cabins together. MICE business for MSC is around 30 to 35 per cent and this year we expect it to grow. We would prefer to cater to the weddings segment, but the challenge is that people want to do weddings on cruise but they like to do in destinations which are in flying time of 4-5 hours maximum. Our sailings are mainly in Europe and even visa has its own challenges. So, Far East as a destination attracts more weddings on cruise as compared to Europe.”

Mauritius, which currently attracts less than 100,000 travellers from India, is looking to reach the 120,000 milestone by 2020. The destination is promoting itself aggressively in the India market but still needs to develop the connectivity. Currently Air Mauritius is the only airline that flies to India.

Recently Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, Minister of Tourism, Mauritius visited India to attend SATTE 2019 and also meet with Indian counterparts. Speaking about the target and connectivity issues he said, “We are targeting to reach 120,000 by 2020, as of now we haven’t reached 100,000. We are interested in developing the air connectivity. We are in talk with Jet Airways and SpiceJet and are open to any other Indian airline which is looking to provide a direct connectivity to Mauritius. Currently, there is a codeshare between Air Mauritius and Air India, but the only airline flying is Air Mauritius. We believe that there is so much potential in this market that we need to develop it. The only way to develop this market is to have better connectivity. The Air services agreement between both the nations provide for more carriers from India to Mauritius. We are looking at a lot of cities in India to connect. One of the problems that the Indian companies have is their fleet does not allows them to fly to Mauritius. SpiceJet has the aircraft to fly from South of India.”

Today the Indian outbound is growing rapidly and every destination is looking for a slice of the pie. Minister Gayan said that the destinations should look at a South- South Cooperation in the tourism segment.

He further said, “The way tourism has developed, everybody from India is now looking at western destinations to travel. We want to have a South-South cooperation in the tourism segment. We already look at this cooperation in terms of trade but want to get it to tourism as well.”

The destination is also looking to introduce new tourism products. He said, “We are also working on bringing the sovereignty of Chagos Archipelago. Once we get this we can open a whole new world of tourism.  Also there is a lot of religious tourism happening in Mauritius. A lot of Indians are travelling for business and professional purposes, we want more tourism.”

Mauritius is also now looking to develop the cruise tourism segment. The destination is looking for smaller vessels which can carry 500-1000 passengers.

Minister Gayan said, “We already have cruise tourism plans, we are trying to identify a vessel which can carry anywhere around 500-1000 passengers and can do the Indian Ocean. We are trying to identify any such vessel. We want to develop this segment. This is a big segment with a lot of tourism potential. We are open for business and investments for tourism in Mauritius.

The nation is also looking out to revive film tourism from India. The destination is offering rebates as high as 40 per cent. Also the destination has attractive incentive schemes for big Indian weddings.

Speaking about the segments Gayan added, “We have a very attractive rebate scheme for film tourism and we are in touch with the production houses. We are looking to attract film tourism. In the past Bollywood has shot a lot of films, we want them once again. We are also now developing the technical assistance. We will also develop post production facilities. The government reimburses 40% of the cost incurred by production units in Mauritius which has become a major draw by now.”

Travelport has announced that it has renewed its long-standing, successful partnership with BCD Travel. With this new agreement, Travelport Digital will continue to collaborate on BCD Travel’s digital traveller engagement solution, TripSource, making it the preferred way to manage all aspects of business travel. TripSource allows travelers to shop and book air, hotel and car, and to evolve the next generation of self-service corporate travel experience.

Since 2013, Travelport has been a key digital partner for BCD Travel, one of the largest TMCs in the world. As a trusted technology partner, Travelport Digital has collaborated with BCD Travel to develop the award winning TripSource platform. The collaboration allowed BCD to vastly expand upon TripSource’s early iteration as an itinerary management app to produce a popular destination for shopping, booking, policy guidance and self-service trip management. TripSource now offers a cutting-edge user experience that drives the best purchasing decisions, allows users to book and manage travel and helps travelers to stay organised.

Will Pinnell, Vice President, Product Strategy, BCD Travel said, “We’re delighted to continue our relationship with Travelport, who share our mission to deliver a simple, digital, adaptive and global experience for travellers. Our longstanding alliance offers us immense value as we strive to lead the corporate travel industry in innovation that translates into tangible value for businesses and a superior experience for their travellers.”

Julie O’Sullivan, Head of Digital, Business Travel, Travelport Digital said, “As a key partner for the TripSource platform since its early stages, we’re thrilled to continue to support its future growth with our technology solutions. This renewal is yet another example of our commitment to enabling our partners to continue providing the very best digital experiences for today’s mobile-first global travellers.”

According to the Travelport 2018 Global Digital Traveller Survey of 16,000 travellers from 25 countries, mobile remains crucial, and travellers want a consolidated experience. They also want technology to continue to simplify and enhance the travel experience. TripSource uses real-time messaging capabilities to provide travel updates such as flight delays, gate changes, risk alerts and policy reminders as well as company specific information that helps travellers have a seamless, well-informed experience.

Known for the world famous Machu Picchu, Peru is now promoting itself as all-round destination in India market. As per the trends, earlier travellers used to combine multiple destinations during travel to South America. Now, travellers are looking to explore more offerings in Peru.

Speaking about the growth from India market, Luis M Cabello, Economic and Commercial Counselor of Embassy of Peru in India, said, “The commercial office of Peru in India started its activities in 2014. That year we didn’t have more than 4,000 Indian travellers to Peru. Now, we have close to 8,000 Indian travellers going to Peru. We are growing by close to 22 per cent every year in India. Peru has something for all type of travellers. Earlier, the trend was that part of the India market preferred to go to a lot of countries at one trip, most popular circuit being Brazil, Argentina and Peru; sometimes Brazil, Argentina, Chile or Ecuador. It was a combination, now that situation has changed and many Indians are looking at Peru as a solo destination. We have everything to offer.”

Peru is now looking to promote destinations beyond Machu Picchu. The destination has a lot of offer such as culture, wildlife, adventure, nightlife, etc.. “Every Indian traveller wants to visit Machu Picchu. Now we are promoting beyond Machu Picchu. Our capital Lima has a lot of offer where one can stay for three nights to enjoy our culture as well as nightlife. We also have adventure offerings in Lima. Also Amazonian rainforests are a big attraction in Peru. Also Indians like to visit the Nazca lines. We also have a lot of trekking tracks, nature and wildlife. This year our slogan is the ‘Richest country in the world’, as we have everything for everyone,” Cabello said.

In Asia, China, South Korea and Japan are already established markets for Peru. The destination sees a lot of potential in developing India as one of the major source markets. “China, South Korea, Japan are big markets for Peru from Asia. Indian travellers are now growing rapidly; India has a lot more potential. In the years to come India will be one of our top consumer and supplier. We are doing a lot of online promotions. We have a good number of followers on social media. We are going to do some G2B meetings. We prefer to go to companies that are really interested in our destination and we are ready to do a lot of partnership with tour operators,” he added.

In terms of segments, Peru is not only looking for niche travellers but also the mid-market segment. “Peru is a new experience for Indian travellers. Peru is not expensive; the cost of living is moderate. We cater to all segments of travellers budget travellers to high end. We have a lot of luxury offerings in Peru as well, like we have one of the oldest restaurants in the world in Peru, which is a experience in itself,” Cabello added.

Destination Canada, Canada's national tourism organisation to promote tourism, is all set to welcome close to 280,000 Indian travellers in 2018. In 2017, the destination had witnessed 18 per cent growth with 254,000 Indians travelling to Canada.

Speaking about the growth, Carl Vaz, CEO & Strategy Director, Destination Canada, India GSA said, “Canada is a long-haul destination for Indians, which is why we only look at the upmarket leisure segment and the luxury segment from India market. We are not in the competitive set of the mass destinations. We are more into the luxury and the high end markets. In 2017, we welcomed 254,000 Indians from January to December with a growth rate of 18 per cent. In 2018, we hope to close the year with around 280,000 which will again give us a double digit growth.”

Indian tourists spend on an average close to $1,500 per trip to Canada. The most common trip purpose for Indian travellers to Canada is to visit friends and family in 2017 and this segment was up an estimated 45 per cent over 2016.

Destination Canada has signed an MoU with the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) to conduct knowledge sessions at 10 destinations including; Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Indore, Jaipur and New Delhi.

Throwing light on India strategy, Vaz said, “We have signed a MoU with TAAI in India to organise 10 city roadshow in India. Though this tie up, we intend on training or acclimatising around 700 TAAI members. In Mumbai alone, we had over 120 members. We have also tied up with UBM which organise SATTE exhibition to organise a four series webinars, we have already completed three of them, and these were very successful.”

According to report published on the Government of Canada website, Canada is set to expand its biometrics collection program and is now taking steps to prepare for December 31, 2018, when nationals from countries in Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas will need to give their biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) when applying for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or for permanent residence. Even India will be included under this phase.

Speaking about the new biometric introduction Vaz, “We will be training and sensitising the travel trade in the end of this year and January.”

The destination is now looking to promote winter tourism in India and also promote the destination during the popular Indian festivals. “The passenger traffic to Canada goes up in May to July. As a strategy, we are now marketing the festival season including, Diwali, Durga Puja, and other Indian festivals. We have also started marketing the winter wonderland concept in India which is the Christmas, New Year as well as January and February. This covers the honeymoon segment and the snow skiing segment,” Vaz said.

The destination is also coming up with a MICE strategy for the India market. He said, “We have a subsidiary division for MICE and we are in the process of formulating a strategy for India and will be announced next year.”

 

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