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The Israel Ministry of Tourism is all set to invest INR three Crores in the India market on a new digital campaign to further increase tourism footfalls from this nation. Starting off this month, the campaign will witness various social media and online media promotions, apart from broadcast and print media promotions. In 2015, Israel welcomed 39,529 travellers from India with a growth of 13.2 per cent over 2014.
Speaking about the growth Hassan Madah, Director-India and Philippines, Israel Ministry of Tourism said, “The growth so far from January to June 2016 is five per cent. We are expecting more now, as we are investing more in this market. Next week we are launching a campaign and now we are also having our multi-city roadshows. Under this new campaign, we will have advertisements on broadcast and print media’s. Digital media will be our strong as we are spending 3 Cr only on digital for social media and online media promotions.”
Earlier Israel was perceived only as a pilgrim destination in the India market. But now with the changing trends and awareness in the market, Israel has witnessed a mix of various travellers heading to the destination. Judah Samuel, Director of Marketing-India, Israel Ministry of Tourism said, “Two years ago when we opened an office in Mumbai, we were perceived as a pure pilgrim destination. We have changed this mindset and now established ourselves as an exotic destination in the India market.”
Madah further added, “The high end luxury travellers are one of the main targets for us. Israel isn’t a cheap destination when it comes to hotel pricing. Pricing in our country can be compared to some of the European destinations. We are targeting FITs and MICE business from India. Honeymoon is also one of the budding segments from India. When it comes to food, our cuisine has a lot of vegetarian food and we also have some Indian restaurants in the major cities.”
El Al, flag carrier of Israel, connects India with a direct flight TO Mumbai. In summers, El Al flies three flights a week, whereas in winters the numbers increases to four per week. Samuel said, “One of the major challenges in India is still connectivity. El Al flies directly to only Mumbai and the number of seats per week is less. The demand for travel from India is more than the capacity. With at least a daily flight from India this hurdle can be easily removed.”
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) is aggressively looking to increase footfalls from the India market. Vietnam welcomed around 70,000 travellers from India in 2015, reflecting an increase of 27 per cent as compared to 55,000 tourists who visited in 2014.
Speaking about the India market, Vu Nam, Deputy Director General, Tourism Marketing Department, VNAT said, “India is a very vast and a very potential market for us. As of now the numbers from India is very small, last year we saw only around 70000 arrivals from India. When compared to china market from where we get around two million tourists, India is still small. We know that India is an important tourist market for us, but there are a lot of challenges which needs to be addressed. Currently we don’t have a direct flight from Vietnam to India. The Government has now started promoting tourism in India and we are also in talks for a direct flight. We hope that in near future when we have direct flights the numbers will increase. We have spoken to some national carriers to introduce flights to bigger cities in India.”
This year VNAT in association with the Embassy of the Vietnam and OM Tourism had organised Vietnam Tourism Promotion roadshow in New Delhi. Also Vietnam is keen to participate in leading trade fairs in India. Nam added, “We will plan more promotions in India this year. In 2015, we attended the PATA Travel Market in India. We also attend a few trade fairs in India to promote our destination. This year we will organise some Fam trips for Indian tour operators and media. The roadshow which we had in India in April received an excellent response and we will continue to do such roadshows in a bigger scale in India.”
Vietnam is aggressively promoting Phu Quoc Island as a leisure and honeymoon destination by offering visa - free entry to all foreign tourists for a period of 30 days. “We are looking to introduce Phu Quoc Island as a tourist destination. This island is still unexplored and has a lot of virgin beaches. Our government allows all foreign tourists to Phu Quoc visa-free for a period of up to 30 days. Apart from this, Vietnam is home of eight UNESCO world heritages and beautiful beaches. We also have a lot of Hindu temples in Ho Chi Minh City which is of interest for India travellers. We have also opened a new safari zoo which can be a good attraction.”
In 2016, Vietnam received around eight million international tourists, with China being the biggest source markets followed by Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Vietnam has already welcomed around 4.7 million tourists in the first half of this year. “This year, for the first half, the international arrival has increased by 20 per cent so we hope to see a very good growth by end of this year,” Nam added.
With the hospitality segment booming in the country, one cannot overlook the ever evolving Delhi-NCR region. Today, this region has clearly stood out as an important business hub. To further cater to this demand many new hotel chains are investing in this part of the country. But despite these developments, hotels in this region feel that there is a slowdown in growth in the region. Also the region has witnessed a dip in the leisure side of the business.
Speaking about the current scenario, Kanika Hasrat, General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon said, “Gurgaon being a business city sees strong business transient demand. But, the leisure business for the city has seen some crunch due to business shift to hotels in Aerocity area. This segment contributes between nine to ten per cent of overall revenue. We are anticipating one to two per cent growth,” she said adding that 2015 saw a marginal growth in occupancy across the board however ADR was still under pressure from inadequate and inconsistent demand. “We saw two to three per cent growth in occupancy with no growth in ARR and Revpar. 2015 was still a volatile year for demand and we saw no supply in the city. 2016 has projected as a comeback year for demand in this region and we all are yet to see the surge in demand in this market,” Hasrat opined.
Echoing Hasrat’s opinion, Sanzeev Bhatia, General Manager, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa added, “Due to dis-balance of demand and supply the situation for hotel industry is not good. Hotels are neither doing the expected/budgeted occupancy nor able to achieve the targeted room rates. We have around 35:65 ratio in term of leisure business at our hotel as being in the down town area most of the business is from corporates. Leisure segment has not grown with the speed it was expected particularly after the introduction of Visa on Arrival facility for tourists of many countries.”
General Manager of Radisson Blu, Paschim Vihar, Arun Arora said that leisure is not one of their focused segments. While the FIT leisure is consistent, leisure Groups has not shown any significant increase in the ADR’s.
Whilst the Delhi-NCR is witnessing a slow growth, hotels are now looking at alternatives to fill up the rooms and keep their business rolling. Speaking about the strategies to beat this situation, Arora said, “Value additions in the MICE packaging to tap the volumes and penetration in the Medical Tourism segment will be our major focus in 2016.”
Hasrat explains that the inflow as a majority room supply has come in Aerocity region, which is getting its share of both business and leisure business shift from Delhi and Gurgaon. She said, “Majority of international leisure demand has shifted to Aerocity but the business transient demand for Gurgaon has been strong. SME is a growth segment which should provide a substantial base for Gurgaon hotels. We are working towards capturing the demand from this segment through multiple channels.”
Another major development is the emergence of the online aggregators. Bhatia claims, “Share of online business is increasing day by day and we are also doing great business from this segment.”Arora says that both online and offline bookings are still significant and important for their occupancies. “Online is steadily increasing while offline contributes in the B2B sourcing. In our scenario they are running parallel”, he further stated, “However the B2B space is quite important for us, till online aggregators further consolidate and replace it completely.”
Voicing a neutral opinion Hasrat said that they see online segment and travel portals as partners and allies not as competitors. She said, “More these aggregators take over traditional offline hotel bookings, the more consolidation of so called traditional offline hotel bookings will happen which will only be beneficial to chain hotels. It’s a huge segment and the traveller community is growing. The new age travellers are more tech savvy and we can see them patronising online channels for their travel.”
Despite these challenges hotels are now gearing up and are expecting positive growth in 2016. Even the domestic growth is now picking up in certain regions. Hasrat said, “Domestic market is very robust and is fuelling the growth in the Indian Economy. Its contribution has increased from 30 per cent – 40 per cent few years back to current 60 per cent-70 per cent plus overall and growing.”
Arora added, “With the increasing inventory of rooms the market is growing at a steady pace. While MICE holds lot of potential, Sports and Medical Tourism is emerging as a big contributor.”
Various reports furnished by STR and HVS have indicated a steady increase in 2016 over 2015. Bhatia says that like everybody else in the Industry they also expect 2016 a good year even though the challenges are there and the market is going very slow but he still feels it will pick up.
Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) has welcomed 17,486 Indian tourist arrivals in during the first quarter of 2016. The destination, which is extremely popular among the honeymooners segment in India, is now looking beyond to attract MICE, HNIs, and golfers. In 2015, 72,145 Indian tourists visited Mauritius with an increase of 18 per cent as compared to 61,167 tourists who visited in 2014.
Speaking about the increase in tourism footfall from India, Vivek Anand, Country Manager – MTPA India said, “India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and this is reflected in the rapid growth of Indians travelling overseas. In such a scenario, Mauritius views India as a very important market. Mauritius is a natural destination for Indians given its cultural connection with the island. During Jan-Mar, 2016, we had 17, 486 visitors from India. Whilst we definitely see more footfalls from segments like families, honeymooners and solo travellers, we are targeting the MICE, weddings groups, golfers and film production houses. We have seen an increase in the HNIs, weddings/MICE and golfers in the recent times.”
Mauritius has been the setting in a lot of Bollywood films. The destination is also offering incentives to woo film producers from India. “Cinema Tourism segment is an important segment to showcase the destination and a lot of Indian films have been shot in Mauritius. The Government used to provide incentives for films and television production till 2015 but now it is on a case to case basis,” Anand added.
Divulging more details, he informed that the average length of stay in Mauritius for an Indian visitor is six nights. To further increase the stay, Mauritius is promoting new activities and products in India. “We will have roadshows in five major cities in August 2016. We also send regular updates through e-mailers and facebook posts. Familiarisation trips are also being organised for travel agents. We definitely look forward to do some tactical campaigns with top travel agents in India.”
In 2016, the destination is targeting a 15 per cent increase over 2015. Currently, the major source markets for Mauritius are France, UK, Reunion and South Africa. India is an emerging market, currently standing at number six among all markets.
Aiana Hotels and Resorts, an independently owned new brand company with a presence across the Middle East, the Indian Sub-Continent and South East Asia, has adopted a cluster strategy to create a new benchmark in the hospitality industry. “We currently have seven hotels under development, in Qatar, India and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We will continue to grow the portfolio over the next five years, all under management contract. In India, we are looking primarily at leisure destinations and a few key gateway cities. Our growth will be determined by a cluster strategy that offers hotel owners and our guests, accessibility and consistency in service delivery,” Amruda Nair, MD & CEO, AIANA Hotels and Resorts, said.
Replying to a question over setting up a new hospitality company instead of joining her family’s hospitality venture Leela Hotels, she says “I have been blessed to have hoteliers as parents (both attended the Hotel School at Cornell University) and my grandfather was a true entrepreneur and thus establishing a new hotel brand was a natural next step for me. I was fortunate to meet a partner who shared my passion for hospitality and supported my dreams and ambitions of creating an Indian brand with a global presence. My partner in this business is Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, one of Qatar’s leading entrepreneurs and Chairman of Qatari Business Association and Al Faisal Holding, who has played a significant role in the development of the Qatari economy and infrastructure. I would call it a meeting of minds that's redefining hospitality.”
Sharing the philopshy of the venture, she says that the joint venture to form Aiana is the result of a focused and proactive strategy to create a niche in the hospitality market. “The Aiana service culture, in tune with the needs of the next generation of travellers, is underpinned by our intuitive and unobtrusive Indian service ethic. Aiana will cater to the upper-upscale category of hotels with fresh and relevant product design complemented with immersive, experiential concepts. Our USP’s will be our Indian service ethos, commitment to the environment and community, signature Indian specialty restaurant and spa concept based on the 5 elements of Ayurveda,” she says adding that our authentic service, design, and operating philosophy is geared to exceed the expectations of a new generation of savvy travellers and explorers.
In India, Aiana is currently focussed on South India because of the diversity of experiences offered by vivid tourism products. Aiana has also adopted fractional ownership concept that is becoming increasingly popular with busy professionals looking for a hassle free and maximum utilization of their vacation time. “At Aiana Munnar resort we will provide an option to buy an entire villa from the developer or a pocket friendly 1/6th portion fraction. Other properties that will function under the same model are the Bengaluru-based real estate firm Ferns Estate & Developers who will manage and operate four resorts in Karnataka. Expected to open in 2019, the resort will have 75 villas in the first phase,” she adds. In addition to existing expansion strategies in the Middle East and India, AIANA will seek management opportunities for hotels and resorts in South East Asia.
Bangkok Airways, which flies to Mumbai in India, is all set to attract Indian travellers to the ASEAN region. The airline is witnessing an excellent load factor of over 90 per cent in peak seasons on Mumbai- Bangkok route. With an extensive connectivity in the ASEAN region, the airline is now eyeing to provide Indian travellers seamless connectivity on these routes.
Speaking about the plans for India market, Komkrit Ngamwongwirot, Regional Director- Sales, South & South East Asia and Middle East said, “Currently we have a flight on Mumbai route which is doing extremely well. The load factor is above 90 during peak seasons and in low season is around 70 per cent. As of now for expansion we are looking at a few Tier I and II cities in India. If we get traffic rights, we will increase our network in the Indian market. India is a very high potential market for us. We would also like to increase frequency on Mumbai route, but as of now it is not possible as we have exhausted our capacity.”
Earlier this year, Bangkok Airways had entered into a loyalty programme pact with the Jet Airways under which the frequent fliers of the two carriers can redeem reward points while travelling on each other's network. The airline is also looking to expand this partnership to enhance service in India market. Ngamwongwirot added, “Currently we have a partnership with Jet Airways in India which is working very well for us. But soon we need to expand our partnership with Jet, so as to provide much better service in India.”
Recently, Bangkok Airways added Vietnam to its route with the launch of a four time weekly flight to Da Nang. With excellent connectivity to Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and now Vietnam, the airline sees huge potential on these sectors. He said, “We are dominant in the ASEAN region with three routes to Myanmar, two cities each in Laos and Cambodia, and we just started a flight to Vietnam. We are now looking to increase more cities in Myanmar. Cambodia is doing extremely well as their economy is growing. In Laos, we are looking to connect the smaller cities with our Tier II cities. We are looking to attract Indian travellers to these destinations, as we all are one single community and we want to increase tourism to all these destinations. We see a good market in India for these destinations.”
This year, the airline is also looking to expand into the China market. Ngamwongwirot added, “We are looking to expand in China. India and China are two of the most rapidly growing economies in the world today. We cannot overlook china. We are looking to fly to Chongquing and Chengdu as of now.”
Ginger Hotels, one of the dominant budget hotel chains from the house of Tata’s, has launched its second hotel in Noida; Ginger Hotel Noida, East. With this, Ginger, a pioneer in budget accommodation, now has one of the largest room inventories in Noida. Strategically located in the heart of Noida, Ginger Hotel Noida, East; provides convenient access to Noida Expo Centre, Electronic City, Corenthum Business Park, Pragati Maidan, Buddh International Racing Circuit and Delhi Expo Mart.
With 96 rooms, this hotel offers free high-speed wireless Internet, multi cuisine restaurant with 24/7 coffee shop, well-equipped fitness center, and state of the art meeting facilities, the hotel is a great choice for today’s value conscious traveller.
Rahul Pandit, MD & CEO, Ginger Hotels said, “This is an extremely proud moment for us as we launch our second hotel in Noida - a city that is continuously evolving as a business district and IT hotspot. Ginger is the largest chain of branded budget hotels in India with a resilient promise of safety, cleanliness, wonderful sleep experience, refreshing shower experience, a sumptuous breakfast and seamless internet connectivity. We assure travellers of a delightful experience with us.”
The North East state of Meghalaya is aggressively looking to welcome tourists and investors to the state. The state is now promoting community driven sustainable tourism and is focusing on making it a haven for experiential tourism.
Speaking to T3, Mukul Sangma, Chief Minister, Government of Meghalaya said, “Tourism has to be promoted with the involvement of the community. Meghalaya has already formulated many such initiatives. One of our most famous attractions, the Mawlynnong Village, has been named the cleanest village in Asia. This has happened due to the involvement of every individual in the community. We also have the world famous Cherrapunji, which receives the highest rainfall, is of touristic interest. Therefore, community driven eco-tourism, rural tourism and based on that some more high end investment can create a complete eco system which can make Meghalaya one of the most sought after exclusive destination.”
The Chief Minister also urges investors to invest in the field of education, which can create the state as a hub for educational tourism. “The North East provides a huge potential for investments. One of our major focuses is on the educational tourism segment. Meghalaya is not only an environmental friendly destination but also safe. We can have investment in educational sector and make it a destination for high quality education. Apart from this we are also looking at health tourism, sports tourism and adventure tourism.”
With the new Government’s ‘Act East Policy’, there is a major focus on joining North East to the Railway map. In 2014, Meghalaya entered the Railway network with a route connecting Dudhnoi-Mendipathar. Sangma has also proposed to connect the state capital of Shillong to Guwahati in Assam which can bring in more traffic to the state.
Sangma added, “As far as connectivity is concerned, we have the best of roads in our state. Air connectivity wise there are 11 flights from Delhi to Guwahati, 16 flights from Kolkata to Guwahati and three flights from Mumbai to Guwahati. Guwahati is well connected to Meghalaya by road. Also, our own airport is in the process of expansion as the land which was required for it, has been acquired. Ideally not only the air connectivity, but the rail and road connectivity is also developing. We are also looking to connect Shillong with Guwahati by rail. We are suggesting that the whole rail connectivity in North East should culminate into a high end luxury product like the ‘Palace on Wheels’.”
Meghalaya is also keen to tap the film tourism segment. Sequel of the commercially successful Bollywood film ‘Rock on!!’ has been shot majorly in Shillong, Meghalaya. Sangma added, “There is a huge potential that exists for film tourism. Meghalaya is still an unexplored destination and this makes it unique. The Government is engaging with potential partners and already few of the filmmakers have visited our destination and shown interest. In addition we are also looking to create a positive eco system to make the destination viable for music and entertainment industry.”
Planet Hollywood Resort, Goa, a Hollywood themed resort by the Wyndham Hotel Group has witnessed an excellent response from the Indian market. This property is the second Planet Hollywood brand property globally, after the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino at Las Vegas Hotel. Currently, this 115-room resort is planning to add luxury tented accommodations at the beach, which will be the first in South Goa market.
Speaking about Planet Hollywood’s move to enter Goa market, Anand Chatterjee, General Manager, Planet Hollywood Resort, Goa said, “Goa is primarily a leisure destination be it for pure family/friends leisure trip or business leisure like off-sites and incentives. It’s also a great wedding destination. Although it generates some amount of rooms’ nights from the local Industrial Zones, the leisure tourists dominate the business. Post the Defexpo event in Goa, it has also turned in to big destination for large conventions.”
Spread across 10 acres of land, Planet Hollywood is an upscale property with a collection of rooms, each with its own one of a kind touch of Hollywood memorabilia and richly appointed amenities. The property is designed by Jonathan Adler, and the hotel is built in elegant and modern Goan style low-rise architecture. The resort has been built through an investment of INR 225 crores.
Speaking about their further plans Chatterjee added, “Apart from the rooms and suites, the property plans to seasonally offer its guests the option of staying in tents on the bench. We will have around 15 of them. In terms of F&B, we hope to soon add a shack-like beachfront seafood restaurant. One of the most ambitious and exciting plans that we have is to make the resort the country’s first offsite movie premier destination.”
Presently, the hotel is aggressively tapping the Family/Friends leisure trips, business meetings, weddings, honeymoon segment and also repeat guest, as Goa is known to receive the highest number of repeat travellers.
Speaking about tapping the MICE and Weddings segment he said, “We definitely do cater to the MICE Segment. We offer many options to choose from when planning your meetings, conferences and life’s most memorable events. Cinema Paradiso is our themed ballroom which can accommodate 300 guests in theatre style fully and we also have three smaller meeting rooms.”
Speaking about the B2B segment and the hotels marketing plans, Chatterjee said that travel agents are partners of the hotel and they have organised many familiarisation trips of niche travel agents and travel bodies. He added, “The strategy has been simple that till the summers/monsoon period, we are exposing the hotel to as many guests and event/travel companies as possible to create awareness. We have also been very aggressive on rates. There are quite a few innovative packages that we have created for on-line market place.”
Maharashtra Ex-servicemen Corporation Ltd. (MESCO), for the first time in the country has introduced the concept of Military tourism, ‘Veer Yatra’. Initially, MESCO has introduced nine packages ranging from one night stay to weeks stay. The tours are designed to give an authentic experience when it comes to living at Military sites wherein the facilities are very basic.
Speaking about the new initiative, Col.(Retd.) Suhas S Jatkar, Managing Director, MESCO said, “This is a new concept which we have started. It already exists in some of the countries. What we are looking at is to create jobs for the ex-servicemen and the widows. Also, we want to encourage and inspire the people and the youth of the country to join military. Military of defense is one field where civilians and students do not get a lot of exposure. With this new initiative, we will give the civilians a chance to live a military men’s life.”
Apart from the tourism division, MESCO has also entered the ticketing business. The key motto to enter these businesses is to create employment opportunities for the ex-servicemen and widows.
Jatkar added, “We don’t want the widows whose husbands do not come back from the battlefield to be left only with a meagre pension, we want them to earn and lead a life with dignity. So we are also looking at ticketing, that is air ticketing. We have got all the licenses. We are appealing to the travel and corporate fraternity to please give business as this will help in generating more and more employment. In future, we also have plans to get into the home stay business. We are planning to introduce stay with the war widows, where the tourists can understand the life of the widows. This will be a kind of home stay experience.”
One of the major segments that MESCO wants to tap is the MICE and Corporate segment. Jatkar said that they have created capsules for leadership and corporate trainings which is a unique product. He said, “We are also focusing a lot on the MICE Segment. During the day we can arrange for meetings and in the evening we can have military games and activities which are sort of team building exercises. We can also provide chat with war veterans from the 1965 war or the Kargil war, which will again be a unique experience.”
Under the Military tourism concept, MESCO will give the tourists a chance to experience War Memorial, Army Workshop, Defence Academy, Naval Base, Warfare Centre, Military Management Techniques, Art of War, Military Games and Survival Techniques. Veer Yatra will also showcase the institutions that it is made of, including the Armed Forces Medical College, College of Military Engineering, Air force Station, Military Hostels, various Regiments, Naval Aviation Museum, Military Museum and certain iconic spots such as China Border at Nathu La Pass, J&K – Pakistan Border, Military Post – Srinagar and a peep into the Border Roads Organisation.
“We will take the tourists to various military establishments throughout the nation. Apart from this, we have packages where we take the tourists to various forts and teach them how to look at a fort with a strategic view. This will help them to understand the structure of the forts and how the Marathas defended them,” Jatkar added.
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