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Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

In a new development, Mumbai will soon get water taxi connections between the Gateway of India and various destinations within the city. The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has issued tenders and is looking forward to open a few routes in the coming months.

Speaking about the plan, Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) said, “We are trying to launch water taxi service from Gateway of India to various other parts like, Kanhoji Angre Island, Karanja, JNPT, New Airport in Navi Mumbai, Nerul, Vashi, and Belapur. The plan has been prepared; we have invited tenders for people to start water taxis. If we get good water taxis which does not need much depth, these taxis can go up to Thane. Some of the water taxis will start in 3-4 months.”

Acknowledging Mumbai as one of the major cruise hubs in the country, MbPT has taken several steps to further attract cruiselines to the Indian waters and focussed on developing world-class infrastructure to develop cruise tourism.

“Around three years ago, a high level committee was setup by Govt of India, consisting of Secretary of Shipping and Tourism ministries. A Task Force was setup to prepare a roadmap to develop the cruise sector in the country. The committee through IPA engaged a consultant called Bermello Ajamil & Partners. They gave a roadmap which mentioned that we need to upgrade infrastructure. Mumbai will be the centre to all the cruise development. Ports namely Kochi, New Mangalore, Goa and Chennai joined Mumbai and we took a number of decisions such as infrastructure upgradation. We need to take a lot of measures to change behaviour of our regulatory department. New SOPs has been developed for immigration, customs, ports, health department, so that there is ease of business. It was also mentioned that the port cost was very high, so we decided to subsidise the cost. Mumbai almost decreased the costs to half and some ports decreased it one third.”

The cruising industry had earlier also raised issues of high taxation by Indian ports. MbPT has reduced its taxes along with various other subsidies. In 2019-20, Mumbai port is set to welcome 206 ship callings, which has been a significant growth.

Speaking about the new terminal and ship callings Bhatia said, “Mumbai ports removed ousting charges and berth reservation. We upgraded our existing cruise terminal and now we are going for a huge cruise terminal building which will get completed by June. We have also come out with a tender on PPP for operator of the terminal on lines of the airports. We also are doing some action of dredging side to attract more cruises. We have interacted with Costa Cruise who have started home porting and has been successful. We also took steps to reduce other taxes. Even Jalesh started home porting, this year NCL is set to homeport. In 2017-18, we got around 44 ships calling in Mumbai and in 2018-19, we got around 106 ships. In 2019-20, around 206 have been lined up, which is a quantum jump in terms of callings.”

Also Mumbai Port is soon set to develop a new Marina for Yachts. An Italian consulting firm has been appointed for developing the Marina. “A new Marina is set to come, we have engaged an Italian consulting company for the Marina model. In next two months we will be introducing a tender under PPP for the Marina and to handle 300 yachts under the Marina,” Bhatia added.

My Value Travel (MVT), a B2B travel company, recently organised its first MVT Mega Awards 2019 onboard Jalesh Cruises. The two night sailing witnessed close to 200 participants including 110 top performing travel agents from 40 cities in India. The event also had a delegation of 14 hotels, two activity company, and one theme park from Mauritius and seven hotels from Maldives.

Speaking about the event, Deepak Agarwal, Managing Director, My Value Travel said, “We were looking to do an out-of-box event worthwhile for our stakeholders. We have travel agents, hotels, and media here for the first MVT Mega Awards. We decided to host a networking event and awards on Jalesh Cruise as it would be an industry first event. Our partners from Mauritius and Maldives are extremely happy and positive about the event. We have selected 110 top performing agent partners from 40 cities in India. We have a total of 14 hotels from Mauritius and seven from Maldives and 2 activities and 1 theme park from Mauritius. This event has now set a benchmark in the industry. We will surely do a much larger and better event next year for all our partners.”

The group which pre-dominantly focused on Mauritius for around 20 years has witnessed significant success with 70 agents in 2009 to 7000 in 2019. The company has further added Maldives and Bali to its portfolio which is still at a nascent stage.

Explaining the rationale of organising the award, Agarwal said that a lot of people know our brand and not the team as we have been a faceless company all these while. “We have been in the market for around 20 years with majorly promoting Mauritius. With the cut throat competition in B2B market, there was never a budget for us in terms of marketing. We have grown from 70 agents in 2009 to 7248 agents in 2019 across India. This journey has happened without a single sales person anywhere in the country. In 2018, we decided to grow by adding Maldives and Bali. We will now look to go beyond these 7000 agents,” he explained.

The group is now looking to expand its team across India to further add more agents. Also, MVT is now looking to further add experiential destinations to its portfolio. “Our online package booking system is one-of-its-kind. We are not looking to be physically present with offices in any city in India. We will hire people in all major cities and will also look to add more destinations. We are now looking at experiential destinations. Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will be our next three destinations. Our online system has the capability of doing 10 city customised package at one click. Our agents can book these through our dynamic website,” he informed.

The year 2019 has been a sluggish year for the tourism industry. The elections and the slowdown in the economy have impacted travel and tourism industry. However, MVT has witnessed steady growth without any major dip in the first half of the year.

“From the industry perspective, the year has been very bad due to the slowdown in the economy. For us, we currently have three destinations in our portfolio; Mauritius has been the mainstay for us in the last 20 years. We added Maldives in April 2018 and Bali in March 2019. For Mauritius, we have seen a steady growth in 2019 similar to previous year. For Maldives, the momentum has picked up and we are growing faster. Most of the properties see us as the number one partner in India already. For Bali, which has just started we are on a cruise mode now,” he said.

Kamat Group of Hotels, is looking on expanding its portfolio in India. The group currently operates hotels under its brand ‘The Orchid’ in Mumbai and Pune, ‘Fort JadhavGadh’ in Pune, Lotus Resorts in Konark, Goa and Murud-Harnai, and Mahodadhi Palace in Puri.

Speaking about the expansion plans, Vishal Kamat, CEO, Kamat Group of Hotels said, “Soon, we will have an Orchid Hotel in Bhubaneswar and also various other locations. We are in talks with a few people. We are looking at steady expansion. We don’t have a pipeline of 100’s of hotels, but we will majorly look at guest satisfaction first. A lot of hotels are interested in tying up with us. We are more bullish on lease; we are also interested in management. Today, there are a lot of players in the management space. We don’t look at operating a very small property; it becomes a challenge for us. We have a lot of backend automation and systems which are not affordable under a certain scale. Also, we are further looking at resorts under the Lotus brand. This brand can comfortably be developed in the 40 room property in the upper mid market segment. We want to develop these resorts near water bodies like river, lake, beach, etc.” The Group is looking at taking over existing hotels in Delhi, Maharashtra and Odisha.

The group has witnessed a good growth in 2018 and is looking ahead with a positive approach. The start of the year was a bit turbulent for the hospitality industry. “The initial start of 2019 was not so good for the hospitality industry due to the elections and the Jet Airways crisis. Tourism and business suffered not only locally but globally. First quarter was affected. The previous year was good and the year forward looks very positive. This was just a temporary phase. We as a group adapted to the changing climate and we find ourselves in a very good position,” Kamat added.

The group operates the first-of-its-kind fort property in Maharashtra named, ‘Fort JadhavGadh’. Today, a lot of states are looking to offer subsidies and incentives to develop heritage properties in those destinations. Speaking about further plans into the heritage segment he said, “In normal hotels we are giving hospitality, in Heritage hotels we are delivering an experience. In business hotel we cater warm convenience, whereas there we have to give memories. So the functioning of both segments is extremely different. Our take on heritage is very limited; it is a very difficult, high capex, personalized kind of product. We are neither bullish on it nor pessimistic on it. If we get a right opportunity and see profitability, we would like to do it. Fort JadhavGadh is a fantastic location and has become a destination on its own. It took a lot of effort to reach this level. Moreover we wanted to showcase our Marathi culture, as most of the heritage is Rajasthani culture. Maharashtra has the maximum number of forts, yet there is no fort property except Rajasthan.”

Kamat group has been one of the pioneers in promoting sustainable hospitality concept. The group is further focusing to make all properties sustainable and also inspire other hospitality chains. “We were determined to promote sustainability. We created sustainable model and established a path for others. Our tagline ‘Friendly eco friendly’ is not trademarked, we want others to follow. Small initiatives which we have done have made us sustainable and it helps in conserving the environment. In orchid we had a STP even before BMC made it a law. We were always ahead of the time in what the world needs,” he added.

Mauritius Tourism has witnessed a stagnant growth from Jan to Aug, 2019 compared to previous year with 52,550 Indian arrivals. The destination has witnessed a slowdown in the MICE segment from India market.

“The growth has been flat for Mauritius Tourism this year. There have been various reasons for this stagnant growth: the airfares have been very high and there has been a slowdown in the economy. There has been a big hit to sectors like real estate and auto sector which further impacts many sectors. MICE groups from all these sectors have disappeared. MICE tourism from India to Mauritius has taken a big hit. FIT is still growing and has done well,” Vivek Anand, Country Manager-India, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA), said,

The issue of air connectivity will be eased as Air Mauritius is introducing the third flight from New Delhi in November 2019. Moreover, the airline has also lowered the air fare. MTPA has also announced attractive incentive schemes to reinstate the MICE segment.

“In terms of strategy to further spur demands, Air Mauritius has reduced the air fares for some time. They are also augmenting the supply by introducing its third flight from New Delhi. We are also promoting Golf Tourism in a big way. Golf is a very big segment for us and we are seeing growth for this segment from India market. We have come up with a lot of attractive MICE incentives. We offer VAT refund for a group of more than 100 travellers staying for over three days in Mauritius. The VAT in Mauritius is 15 per cent, which is a good amount.”

Mauritius has also been promoting the weddings and the luxury segment in India for the last few years. The destination has seen a steady growth in luxury segment from India.  “We have also promoted the weddings segment in India for a while now. The growth in this segment is once again stagnant due to similar reasons like high air fares, availability of seats. Also, fewer big weddings are happening in India now due to the slowdown in the economy. We have also been promoting the HNI segment and luxury segment for the last five years. This segment has been steadily growing. The Golf tourism is also a part of this segment which will further increase luxury tourist numbers,” Anand said.

One infrastructure front, Mauritius is set to witness more accommodation options with new properties set to open as well as metro connectivity.

“We are promoting all the activities and products in the India market. We showcase our classic products which can be customised to suit the travellers. We have some activities for every segment. We are now getting a lot of new hotels which will provide various new accommodation options. We also have some villas for rent, which is on a smaller scale. Also, in the beginning of October the first line of the metro will start in Mauritius. This will further provide ease of connectivity,” he informed. 

The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) witnessed consistent performance from its portfolio in India and international markets. The group recently organised its third Sales Mission in Mumbai. This year, 59 IHCL properties participated in the event and interacted with partners in Mumbai.

Speaking about the performance of international hotels, Renu Basu, Senior Vice President- Global Sales & Marketing, IHCL said, “In the first quarter, all our international properties performed extremely well. There was a huge demand from India. The Cricket world cup and Wimbledon season boosted our London property. India is a very important source market for most of our international property.”

This year, the roadshow included five international properties including hotels from Sri Lanka, Dubai, Kathmandu, Bhutan, and Langkawi.

“We got an excellent response in last couple of roadshows from customers and hotels. We decided to continue with this format. This year we introduced a lot more interactions and presentations, to strengthen our product awareness. We have launched a lot of hotels which we have promoted through this annual showcase. We have also introduced the Ama Plantation Trails, which we promoted through the event. This year we had 59 properties participating in the event including international properties. In terms of international we have five from Sri Lanka, Dubai, Kathmandu, Bhutan, and Langkawi. India is a very important source market for all these properties,” Basu said.

Last year, IHCL, introduced the SeleQtions brand, these are collection of hotels which have their individual identity. “We launched the SeleQtions brand a few months ago, currently we have 12 hotels. Under this brand we have taken all our hotels which have its own brand equity in their name and are present in key markets. We have properties like Blue Diamond in Pune, President Hotel in Mumbai, The Savoy Ooty, Cidade de Goa. We believe in let these hotels stand out for what they are known as. In January we will launch the Connaught in Delhi under SeleQtions brand,” she informed.

The group has also revamped the brand ‘Ginger’ as a lean luxury and are focusing aggressively to expand this brand. “Our customers always demanded for a hotel in the hills and mountains, so recently we launched two properties in Theog, Himachal Pradesh and Rishikesh. We have also launched Taj Aravali Resort in November last year. We also launched Taj Hotel and Convention centre in Agra; this will offer options for the MICE segment. Ginger is definitely an important focus of our company. We have revisited the concept into lean luxury in the hospitality. It is a great product for the metro markets with an attractive price point. The new design of the hotel is a radical shift from the earlier style. Currently we operate 47 hotels under the Ginger brand, we just launched hotels in Dwarka, Sanand, Noida,” she said.

IHCL is also aggressively focusing on the MICE and weddings segment. The group has witnessed a growth of around 23-24 per cent in the MICE segment compared to previous year. “In 2018-19, we saw a 23-24 per cent growth in terms of MICE compared to the previous year. We have excellent MICE hotels and also infrastructure for weddings. Weddings are a very important segment for us, we have seven palace properties and around five cater to this segment,” she revealed.

Tourism Australia has welcomed 367,000 travellers from India for the year ending May 2019 with a growth of 11 per cent over the previous. India is now the eight largest inbound markets in terms of arrivals for Australia. In May 2019, the destination has welcomed 40,600 travellers form in India with a 6.6 per cent growth which is the highest in any given months.

“India is one of the most important markets for us. We want to continue to grow in this market. Also we want to further connect the aviation and tourism relationship between both the nations. They year 2020 is very important for us as t coincides with the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup, in conjunction with them we are trying to attract more visitors to Australia and we want travelers to go beyond the popular destinations in Australia,” Bob East, Chairman, Tourism Australia, said.

In 2020, Australia is set to host the ICC T20 World Cup, which will be a mega event to draw tourist footfall. The destination has appointed five Indian agencies for selling the match tickets.

Speaking about the plans, Sam Watson, General Manager-Government Relations & Host Cities, ICC T20 World Cup 2020 said, “We are very grateful that Tourism Australia is supporting us to attract more visitors. We want to build a significant attendance from India. It is the first time that we are hosting the T20 World Cup. We will have 68 matches played across 13 venues. Last time, during the Cricket World Cup, we welcomed around 100,000 fans from across the globe, this time we want more numbers. We have appointed 19 tour agents including five agents in India to sell tickets. In India, we have Bharat Army, Game World, Sport World, Fanatic, and Cutting Edge. The packages will be out soon.”

Australia recently organized the 17th edition of its annual trade event, Australia Marketplace India in Kochi. A delegation of 77 Australian Companies participated in the show with 20 new suppliers interacting with 95 Indian buyers.

Speaking about the event, East added, “India is currently one of the fastest growing markets for us and we look to further boost these numbers. Events like Australia Marketplace India provide a fantastic platform for the Australian suppliers to network and do business with the Indian buyers. This gives our industry a chance to capitalize on the potential of India market and ensure increased visitation from this market.”

Earlier, the destination was looking to connect Perth directly to India, which would boost inbound arrivals to the destination. Australia also introduced a campaign, ‘Undiscover Australia’ and also Signature Tours to boost tourism to little known destinations.

“Perth has a lot of new hotels and infrastructure and also we will be hosting a few ICC T20 matches at the new stadium in Perth as well. This destination is now getting a lot more access, we are looking to further connect this market. During the world cup, it will not be a peak travel season, so domestic connections will be easier to book. In terms of new connectivity between India and Perth, we will look at accelerating the Governmental Policies,” East said.

Speaking further about the Signature experiences, Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager-India, Tourism Australia said, “The states in Australia are growing faster than the popular destinations now. The Signature Tours has witnessed a good steady growth. We have also added Cultural experiences this year. During this Australia Marketplace India we have participation of seven states out of the eight and also a lot of new products which shows these states are witnessing growth from this market.”

In the last decade, cruising as a segment has picked up steam in India market. Princess Cruises, one of the premium international cruise lines, has witnessed a sustainable growth in India over past decade. The cruise line has also witnessed that as the market is maturing there has been a constant demand for mid and long haul cruising.

Speaking about the current scenario of the Indian cruising segment, Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals, representative of Princess Cruises in India, said, “Cruise Tourism is probably one of the only segments in travel which has demonstrated consistent growth over last two decades and 2019 was no different. Princess Cruises has had sustainable growth in India over past decade and in 2019 despite the General Elections, which coincided with the summer vacations and affected the travel plans of families, we saw a surge of booking & conversions soon after the election results were declared and have had a busy July & August, which is normally off-season for long haul cruise destinations. We still have another four months to go and we feel that our reservations books are going to be pretty full.”

In the last couple of years, typical Indian cruise travellers selected shorter cruises from mostly the Asian and European homeports. With travellers becoming more matured, cruisers are now looking for more unique itineraries.

Saxena added, “Other than the short-haul popular cruising destinations like Singapore & Dubai, there is a growing demand for mid & long haul destinations like Japan, Australia, Norway, Panama Canal & Antarctica. We strongly feel that over the next five years, while the traditional popular destinations like Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mediterranean would continue to grow, there would be fast pace growth in the newer cruising destinations which would be inspired by a rich mix of onboard premium cruising experiences plus itineraries with varied & exotic port contents.”

To further personalise the experience of travellers, Princess Cruises has introduced Ocean Medallion Vacation. This feature will be now available in most all the larger vessels.

Speaking about the new product Saxena said, “Princess Cruises is always at a forefront of new developments and the latest in this is the Ocean Medallion Vacation. Ocean Medallion is like your Personal Concierge onboard Princess Cruises – Princess Cruises has surpassed the highest level of service & personalisation which could be achieved on a large scale on their luxury cruise ships with the introduction of Ocean Medallion Vacations. Available on most of the large ships of Princess Cruises, this first-of-its-kind wearable device elevates every moment before, during and after your Ocean Medallion Vacation. From on-demand food and drinks, interactive gaming, custom entertainment and smart navigation, Medallion makes cruising simpler, and more personal and enjoyable than ever.”

Presently, the entire business of Princess Cruises in India is done through the B2B channels. Speaking about the relevance of the travel trade industry, he further said, “This is a very relevant question – B2B or B2C – in such fast changing market scenario and where everything is decided by the click of a button on the net, there seems to be a very thin line with regards to differential between the two. Our 100 per cent bookings are currently coming through B2B channels except for friends & relatives bookings. We continue to push the passengers back to agencies in case we are approached directly as the agent is able to provide other services too. Traditionally, our strategy has been to use the marketing dollars to reach the consumers and have the fulfilment done through the travel agents but if we need to tweak this strategy to remain relevant, we would keep our options open.”

 

International tourist arrivals in Asia and the Pacific grew six per cent in 2017 to reach 323 million, according to a report by UNWTO/GTERC Asia Tourism Trends. The report further states that Asia and the Pacific has played a defining role in the recent expansion of tourism, accounting for 37 per cent of the world’s international tourism expenditure and nearly one-fourth of global arrivals. Between 2000 and 2017, the region has seen an average seven per cent increase per year in international arrivals, the fastest growth amongst all world regions.

Almost  half  of  all  international  tourist  arrivals  in  Asia  and  the  Pacific  were  recorded  in  North-East  Asian  destinations  in  2017  (160  million  arrivals),  while  37 per cent  were recorded in South-East Asia (120 million), eight per cent in South Asia (27 million) and five per cent in Oceania (17 million).

A rapid economic growth coupled with rising air connectivity, travel facilitation and large infrastructure projects have boosted international travel in the region. This has had a large impact on Asian destinations’ tourism earnings, which have steadily increased from 17 per cent of the world total in 2000 to 29 per cent in 2017, equivalent to US$ 390 billion in tourism receipts, the report says. The region expects to achieve a total of 535 million tourist arrivals by 2030, 30 percent of world total.

According to Mastercard Asia Pacific Destination Index 2017, tourism made up 8.5 percent of Asia Pacific’s GDP and 8.7 percent of its total employment in 2016. In absolute terms this translates to US$2.06 trillion and 156.6 million jobs in 2016, making Asia Pacific’s tourism industry the largest in the world by GDP contribution and employment.

With two of the major outbound tourism giants present in the region namely, China and India, Asia Pacific is the region to watch out for the future tourism growth. By 2030, China and India will dominate both in terms of traveller numbers in the region and in total expenditure. Today, a lot of destinations in the APAC region also understand the benefits of the tourism sector and are opening up to welcome the world.

Current Scenario

The entire region is currently witnessing a similar kind of boom with some countries being far more advanced in the curve. At present, there are a lot of emerging economies in the region and most of them are now prepared to realise the potential of tourism. According to available reports, in 2011, Asia Pacific’s middle class consisted of around 700 million people which will increase to 2.1 billion by 2030 with most of the growth coming from India, China and Indonesia. This will cause a sea change in the distribution of middle-class expenditure globally as large numbers of people cross the $5,000 a year household income threshold, therefore creating a significant increase in discretionary spending.

Talking about the current tourism situation in the region, Arzan Khambatta, Head of Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO) India, states, “Asia Pacific has become one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world with tremendous GDP growth rate, increase in the middle-class population and rise in the per capita disposable income. These factors have helped in growing the tourism industry on the whole. The travel marketers are also working constantly to cope up with the existing market by using innovative new ways and approaches to meet up with the demands and expectations of the consumers who are highly influenced with the growing awareness through various means of social media.”

Various trends picked up in the Asia Pacific region in recent years offering a newer model to world. One of the key factors for this significant increase in tourism in the region is the rise of Low Cost Carriers (LCCs). Today, even small unexplored destinations are connected with major cities, which were once difficult to access. This topped up with sharing economy has created an excellent value proposition and has increased the number of travel. India is no stranger to these changing scenarios.

“The millennials are embracing the sharing economy model introduced by Airbnb and Uber. The value seeking Indian traveller doesn’t really mind travelling on a LCC - a segment that is today dominating the Indian domestic aviation industry. We’ve observed that the first generation of Indian families (our parents) took their first international holiday at the age of 55. The second generation (we) embarked on our first outbound sojourn at the age of 25 whereas the third generation (our kids) are enjoying their first overseas vacation at the age of five. As India has a youthful demography, young India is travelling at a much younger age, and this is the primary driver of the Indian outbound travel market,” Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager – India & Gulf, Tourism Australia informs.

India as a source market

With Indian outbound expected to touch 28 million marks, India is expected to fuel the tourism growth across the region. Today, the Indian outbound is growing with 9.5 per cent annually (Economic Survey 2019) and most of the international destinations are looking to harness this potential. Within the region, India has been in the top 10 source markets for most of the major destinations.

The Mastercard Asia Pacific Destination Index 2017 ranks Bangkok, the capital of Thailand,  as top city in terms of international overnights arrivals. “India is one of our key markets which is evolving every year as the Indian travellers are now opening up to travel differently. The new age travelers are seeking adventurous and experiential modes of vacationing and Thailand as a destination can cater different arrays of activities and experiences to choose from. India is now one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets in the world, second only to China,” Cholada Siddhivarn, Director, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mumbai, informs and says that arrivals from India in 2018 up by 12.84 per cent to 1.596 million. The preliminary statistic from January-July, 2019 has shown the growth of +22.7 percent in number of Indian visitors (approximately 1,127,000 visitors) to Thailand over the same period as last year. India is currently holding the 6th position in the ranking of primary source markets for Thailand,” Siddhivarn reveals.

Japan currently contributes to fourth highest number of total nights and the fourth highest expenditure to Asia Pacific. Although the contribution of Japanese market to India is low but the growth rate is quite high. Japan witnessed 14.6 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals with 1.54 lakh travellers visiting the country in 2018. Keeping up with this growth trajectory, Japan has already witnessed a 14.3 per cent increase in the period of January to July 2019 with 106,200 Indian visitors to Japan in comparison to 92,937 during the same period in 2018. “Last year, 1.5 lakh Indian travelers visited Japan. India is a huge Nation; people are now travelling more than ever. So we now want to grow the Indian arrivals in Japan. We are doing a lot of B2B and B2C promotions in India. This year we will also organize five familiarization trips to Japan. We are also promoting new itineraries in India market. From India we witnessed a 14.6 per cent growth. From January to July we witnessed a 14.3 per cent growth from India market. We witness an average 15 per cent growth year on year, but we need to increase these numbers,” Yusuke Yamamoto, Executive Director- India, Japan National Tourist Office, says.

Another important destination, Australia attracted 9.3 million short-term international visitors in the year ending December 2018, according to data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Countries in the region accounted for 11 of its top 15 tourism markets, and 5.7 million sightseers in 2018. The number of arrivals from these 11 markets has grown by 8.5 per cent per year over the past five years and now accounts for 61 per cent of total overseas tourist arrivals in Australia. India has also been emerging as a major growth market for Australia.

“India has always been a priority market for Australia. In fact, it is one of our fastest growing inbound markets with five consecutive years of double-digit growth. The total Indian visitor arrivals to Australia for the year ended May 2019 were 367,000, which is an increase of 11 percent relative to the same period the previous year. This makes India the 8th largest inbound market for us. We have also registered approximately Rs 8,300 crores in spends by Indian visitors for the year ended March 2019, thereby recording a 12 per cent increase over the previous year. This makes India the 6th largest source market for us in terms of expenditure,” adds Kashikar.

Tweaking marketing strategy

Today, as travelers are looking for more than mere sightseeing, destinations are striving to create story and experiences to woo arrivals. “Macao’s tagline is ‘Experience Macao your own style’ and it truly lives to this tagline. Given the geographical location, Macao is not only easily accessible but also offers a plethora of unique experiences. Macao has something to offer for everyone who visits the city,” Khambatta says adding that MGTO plans to reach out to newer cities in 2019 and expanding its reach in tier 2 and 3 cities. “We are expecting an increase in MICE movement as Macao is a visa free destination ideal for MICE. With excellent air connectivity, world class hotels and availability of Indian food, Macao is a perfect destination to conduct corporate events. We are also focused on consumers and conducted several activities that help us reach our direct target audience,” Khambatta adds.

Japan Tourism is now promoting beyond its traditional and popular itinerary in India. As per the new marketing strategy, the destination is focused to promote MICE and weddings segment in India market. Speaking about the new strategy for India market, Yamamoto says, “In India, we promote the golden route, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. This is a very popular route for Indians. We are also promoting the Alpine route in the India market. A lot of Indian travelers are looking for such experiences. We are also promoting the Hokkaido and Tohoku in India market.  Indians are also looking out for the Bullet Train experience, as it is comfortable and easily accessible. Indian travelers visit a lot of destination. MICE is a very big market for us, especially Mumbai is a major market for MICE. A lot of companies plan to go for MICE to Japan, we focus on the incentive segment. We are also focused on the destination weddings segment. Today a lot of Indians are organizing their weddings abroad, in Japan we not only have mountains but also beaches which are untouched. Last March, we took wedding planners from India to showcase our destination. We also organized a seminar for wedding planners in July, which witnessed a good response.” 

Expanding product basket

Today, destinations keep constantly upgrading so as to offer something new to the travelers. With the ICC T20 World Cup happening in Australia in 2020, the destination is confident in attracting Indian fans during the event. Also, Australia has introduced a whole array of new attractions.

 “We are constantly coming out with new experiences, and enhancing already existing ones, keeping in mind the evolving needs of our travellers. Today, the high value traveller is seeking travel destinations that deliver unique and authentic experiences which tap into their passion points. To fulfil this need, we have curated outstanding tourism experiences within a variety of niche areas and special interest categories. Branded as ‘Signature Experiences of Australia’, this program offers the finest elements such as luxury lodges, premium wineries, guided walks, fishing adventures, wildlife journeys, golf holidays, cultural attractions, and Aboriginal guided experiences, along with a peak into Australia’s friendly and relaxed culture. In addition to this, Indian travellers visiting Australia for the ICC T20 World Cup can also look forward to curated experiences and special packages so that they can explore the best of what Australia has to offer along with the next big event in cricket,” Kashikar adds.

 Another destination which is very keen on attracting the repeat clientele is Thailand.  India has been one of the major markets for the destination over the years, now Thailand is looking to promote unexplored destinations which will in turn help in boosting the economy of local provinces. “Thailand is one such destination which most Indian outbound travelers have visited and is on the wish-list of travelers who are planning an international trip in the recent future. However, the most visited and anticipated places in Thailand are Bangkok, Phuket and Krabi. It is essential to educate and introduce the consumers on what the country beholds for tourists beyond these above mentioned places. Thus, TAT is aggressively promoting the less explored destinations across its North (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai), East (Trat, Chantaburi, Ko Chang,Rayong), Northeast (Khao Yai)  and Central (Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi,) regions,” Siddhivarn says.

Macao being a comparatively smaller destination, the island focuses on enhancing the experience through various festivals and celebrations. “Macao is set to reach newer heights this year.  2019 will be dedicated to the 20th year anniversary celebrations of the establishment of Macao SAR. Art Macao is a mega international and cultural art festival that begun in June and will culminate in October this year. Art Macao will feature a total of 41 events held at 55 locations, offering new cultural experience for tourists visiting Macao,” Khambatta adds.

Thailand – based Akaryn Hotel Group is expecting a good growth from India market. “India is very important to us, as it is one of the few markets that is currently developing and expanding with a growing middle class and more spending power. I see it as a possible replacement market for China, which is struggling due to its trade war with the US. Historically, Thailand has good ties with India - lots of our citizens have Indian heritage. It is a strong market for weddings, friends and family travel, and Bangkok is a favourite short shopping destination for many well-heeled Indians,” Anchalika Kijkanakorn, Managing Director, Akaryn Hotel Group said.

The group is also looking for small and mid-sized MICE events as well as weddings. “Our hotels and resorts are small and intimate. The largest has 148 rooms but with no conference facilities, so we focus on intimate executive meetings, top management get-togethers and brainstorming retreats. We do lots of weddings; three to four days with 100-plus guests. We can’t do 500-600 guests, but I think that Indian weddings are getting smaller and more intimate nowadays,” she informed.

The year 2019 has been slow for the Thai hospitality industry compared to previous years. Also, Vietnam is emerging as a competition for Thailand with new increased inventory.  “The 2019 low season has not been good for arrivals, due to the warm summer in Europe, the strong Thai baht and the trade war between the US and China. Vietnam is also emerging as a strong competitor with lots of new room supply coming through. I think however, that Thailand will remain strong and will bounce back. We have excellent infrastructure and many great offers, and this is a good time to visit while hotel rates are low - and likely to remain low into high season,” Kijkanakorn added.

The Group is also set to open its first hotel outside Thailand in Vietnam and Indonesia. The group currently operates six hotels in Thailand namely; Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga, Thailand, Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, Thailand, akyra Manor Chiang Mai, Thailand, akyra Beach Club Phuket, Thailand, akyra Thonglor Bangkok, Thailand, akyra TAS Sukhumvit Bangkok, Thailand.

In the coming months, two of the group’s much loved hotel concepts will make their international debuts. Aleenta will be introduced to Bali, Indonesia’s “Island of the Gods”, and akyra, the trend-setting boutique brand, will arrive in Hoi An, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed port town in central Vietnam,” Anchalika Kijkanakorn, Managing Director, Akaryn Hotel Group said.

Aiming to empower the travel agents, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) recently organised a series of knowledge conclaves. The association organised these conclaves in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Indore.

“The TAAI Conclave in Mumbai has been a huge success. We had over 175 delegates from the agencies in the Western India. It’s a huge success after New Delhi did well. The conclave is aimed at supporting travel companies, review their business models, understand their trends and update themselves with the new happenings of the travel and tourism industry. We are looking to encourage our members to evolve,” Sunil Kumar, President, TAAI said.

The conclave witnessed eminent speakers disusing various key topics which also addressed major industry challenges. “The speakers are not merely consultants, but they are from the industry and most of the speakers are ones who have successfully led large travel organisations. When they share experiences and interaction takes place, that mutual learning makes the conclave a rewarding experience,” he added.

Also, TAAI is soon set to announce its 66th Convention & Exhibition date and venue. The Association is most likely set to organise this year’s convention in Mauritius. “We are now working on the annual convention. We will soon get some responses. Hopefully, we are looking at an airline partner who can carry 500-600 delegates at a very industry price. We have a couple of destinations in mind; Mauritius is shortlisted to be one of the key destinations. But then they are ready to support us, but the other part is we arriving into Mauritius.”

The travel industry is not excited with the Annual Budget. The industry was further looking for more announcements which were missing. “The industry is not happy with the Union Budget. It clearly reflects that the Government is not considering travel as a priority. The industry must get recognised and acknowledged by the Government as an important revenue earner. It is a large and growing industry.”

Apart from the conclave, TAAI has also organised various roadshows for destinations. The association has recently signed an agreement with Destination Canada for a series of roadshow. “We have been successful in doing roadshows for destinations. We have done it for Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Destination Canada, Turkey, Malaysia, etc. The advantage of doing a roadshow with TAAI is, when we organise we get an audience who are majorly the owners or key decision makers. In the other roadshows, there is more of frontline staff.”

 

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