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Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

Dream Cruises, a luxury cruise ship operated by Genting Cruise Lines which has gained popularity over the years in the Indian market, is now witnessing growth from the smaller cities. Indian travellers are now looking at alternate holiday segments.

Speaking about the Indian market, Naresh Rawal, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Genting Cruise lines said, “Up until June, the year has been very positive for Genting Cruise Lines across all our segments of cruises. Through the years, we have noticed that India as a cruising market has really matured and is now welcoming the idea of cruising as an alternate holiday destination. We have seen a steady growth of passengers from across Tier I & II cities patronising our services. While, Tier I markets always had a matured travel audience, it’s really motivating to see the acceptance we have received from Tier II markets.”

Cruises from Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, where Dream Cruises is home ported, are popular cruising destinations for India market due to its proximity. With lucrative visa offerings, enhanced connectivity from smaller markets, Hong Kong and Singapore attracts a significant chunk of these cruise travellers.

“The air connectivity to these cities from even Tier 2 markets have improved spells and bounds over the last couple of years. Hong Kong and Singapore are really hotbeds when it comes to Indian tourists due to their economical airfares, simplified visa process and amazing last mile connectivity from the airport to the cruising terminal. We have seen amazing response to our Singapore – Surabaya – North Bali itinerary on board Genting Dream and also have seen a rise in the number of travellers patronizing the Hong Kong – Miyakojima – Naha itinerary on board World Dream. This is not taking from the fact that all our itineraries due our unmatched hospitality and Indian centric service are very popular amongst the Indian audience,” Rawal revealed.

Genting is also witnessing a growth in demand for luxury products from India market. Travellers are now looking for premium cabins and exclusive experiences while cruising. Dream Cruises offers Dream Palace, which is a ‘Ship within a Ship’ concept. The world class butler service, access to exclusive dine in restaurants, priority booking at entertainment has witnessed many Indian takers.

Speaking about the demand, he further said, “The steep rise in the number of bookings we have seen in our Dream Palace offerings over the past couple of years, shows there is a demand for luxury. Indians have now understood the definition of luxury and are already aligned with the expectations when we say luxurious offerings. Indians are now the leading travellers across the world and have matured enough due to their travels to understand and appreciate our quality of services. With every travel of theirs to an international destination, Indians grow as travellers and are now asking highly informed questions when it comes to luxury cruising.”

Recently, Genting Cruise Line announced the launch of Explorer Dream. The new itineraries are now picking up in India market. “The recent launch of Explorer Dream is the introduction of our Australia and New Zealand itineraries. As a part of the winter sailings, Explorer Dream would be positioned in Sydney and Auckland while sailing to the picturesque ports of Dunedin, Wellington, Gisborne, Sunshine Coast and New Castle in these countries. Through Explorer Dream, we are looking at hosting the thrill seeking, adventurous and mature travellers from India to sail on an expedition of a lifetime with us. These destinations are now upcoming locations for the new age Indian traveller and this is what we would like to tap. Australia and New Zealand have always been on the to-do lists of DINKs (Double Income No Kids) travellers. Many of these travellers have been to these two countries; however what we would like to sell to them is the truly mesmerizing experience of witnessing these countries through a cruise ship sailing,” Rawal added.

Cygnett Hotels & Resorts, which operates over 35 hotels in India and two overseas, is eyeing South Asian markets for expansion. The group has witnessed significant growth in India market over the last couple of years.

Speaking about the expansion plans, Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts said, “Cygnett is on a steady growth trajectory and we are opening /signing hotels in double-digits every year. This year, we are planning to operate 35+ hotels in India and are planning to venture into the international waters as well. On India specific plans, we are enamoured by the untouched beauty of the Northeast and have a presence in two of the seven sisters of NE India. We will be opening two more hotels in that region this year. With the number of leisure travelers going up every year, we are looking to have a presence at leisure destinations such as Nainital, Jim Corbett, Ranthambore, Srinagar and more; we are also expanding our portfolio in the metro and urban cities. All these expansion measures will help grow our Cygnett Resort, Cygnett Park, and Cygnett Inn brands. On the international front, we are already operating in Nepal and we would be making forays into some territories in the South Asian countries.”

Being in the mid-market segment, the group is witnessing a healthy average occupancy of around 73 per cent. Sarkar feels 2019 to be a good year for the hospitality industry.

“The hotel industry experienced an inflection point in the year 2018 in many ways. Average rates grew by approximately 6.25 per cent in 2018, unlike in 2017 and 2016, where occupancy was the main driver of growth in RevPAR. We achieved an ARR of Rs 3000 with 73 per cent average occupancy and RevPAR around 2150. 2019 should be a positive year as there is a gap in demand and supply. The need for rooms is scaling the graph at a pace higher than the supply. Also, economic stability in the country would again be a favourable trigger for growth.”

He said that the percentage of contribution to the revenue from the MICE segment has grown. “Because of substantial presence of food aggregators, there have been some challenges in boosting the F&B as people are finding home deliveries more comfortable. Still, room occupancy has been the major contributor to the overall performance of the units,” he added.

The group is looking to tap markets where the branded hotel segment is still at a very nascent stage. “Most of our current operations are in tier II &tier III cities. This segment has been our strategic focus because these markets are devoid of branded chains and we intend to establish our brands and capture the target audiences’ mind space with our brands. Consequent to this, we are planning to capture more territories in the same. Smaller cities are experiencing a surge in travel and are attracting tourists because of various economic initiatives.  The main challenges are to deliver the same brand message across and meeting the expectations of the people,” he added.

National Tourism Organisation of Serbia has appointed Beautiful Planet Destination Marketing to expand its tourism activities in India. As part of the mandate, Beautiful Planet will be responsible for organising roadshows in Mumbai and Delhi and a group media familiarisation visit to Serbia.

In a move to promote border free tourism, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the decision on visa exemption for Indian nationals in September 2017.

Marija Labovic, Acting Director, National Tourism Organisation of Serbia said, “Beautiful Planet has an excellent track record in destination representation. Outbound tourism from India is on a growth trajectory and we would like to be part of the growth story. Serbia has everything to offer the discerning travellers and we are geared up to cater to the needs and demands of the Indian market.”

Huzan Fraser and Beena Menon, Directors, Beautiful Planet Destination Marketing said, “We are absolutely delighted to be chosen as the India representative for the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia to market this new and exciting destination in the Balkans.  We would like to enhance the visibility and image of the destination using the culture, history and diversity, to uniquely position the same in the market.”

Some of the features that make Serbia an incredibly attractive tourism destination include: UNESCO World Heritage Sites; National Parks; Adventure Sports like white water rafting, free climbing, flying, orienteering; diverse Fauna; Nature Parks; Sports and Recreating Activities like hiking, bicycling, walking and hiking; Mountain Resorts and Spa & Health Resorts; Monasteries and Museums.

The Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority has officially announced the successful submersion of its 70-metre long decommissioned Boeing 747. The plane will become the centrepiece to the world’s largest underwater theme park, set to open in August. Located off the north coast of mainland Bahrain, 30 kilometres from the Amwaj islands, the underwater spectacle sits approximately 20 metres deep.

Now in its desired location, the plane will soon play host to an exceptional new diving experience and international attraction in Bahrain, fostering new coral growth and providing a safe haven for marine life. More items are set to be fabricated and submerged alongside the plane, including a 900-square metre traditional Bahraini pearl merchant’s house.

With a specialist team, required procedures and preparations were put in place, ensuring the project’s strict compliance with international environmental and safety standards. Such events included dismantling and reassembling the aircraft’s wings, removing wires, hydraulic, aerial and fuel systems, adhesive, plastic, rubber, chemical materials, and all possibly toxic substances to preserve the marine environment.

Fully decontaminated from toxic substances, every effort has been taken to limit the project’s environmental footprint and to ensure delivery in the most environmentally sound manner, working in favour of wildlife preservation and research into marine ecology.

Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of industry, commerce and tourism and chairman of BTEA board said, “We are proud to launch this unique eco-friendly project in partnership with local diving companies, the Supreme Council for Environment and the private sector. The new theme park will undoubtedly emerge as a global tourist attraction. The world-class project covers an extensive area, and will provide an unforgettable experience for both tourists and diving enthusiasts alike.”

The near-to-complete project is in line with BTEA’s long-term tourism strategy, embodying the Kingdom’s wider vision to generate future opportunities for tourism and drive full economic growth by 2030.

Sébastien Bazin, Chief Executive Officer, Accor speaks about his vision and strategies to induce futuristic elements in a traditional hospitality chain

 

How do you see India as a market and what is your vision for this market?

Accor only exists due to its partners. These partners take the risk of developing a hotel. Today we have 4800 hotels in 100 countries. Accor has never been stronger than today. We are opening one hotel every 30 hours and in the next two years we will be opening a hotel per day. Today we have 4800 hotels which is good. But in India we have only 51 hotels, so it’s a bit more than a per cent. We have in France 1800 hotels, and Germany 500 hotels, in England 350 hotels which are all very small than India. My presence in India is not an accident; we are very serious about this nation. India has one of the oldest respected civilisation with 100s of historic sites, extraordinary culinary and diversity and still getting only two per cent of global travellers. I am looking at how Accor can help India growing from two per cent worldwide destination to 10 per cent. We want to offer more and more experience and brands to the foreign travellers in India. Accor should have around 200 to 300 hotels in India. We will be opening another 24 hotels, but we need to open more.

Today one of the biggest challenges is customer acquisition and retention? Has the concept of loyalty programme evolved over the years?

For the last 50 years, loyalty programmes has been driven majorly by collection of points and getting various perks. Today, people don’t want a cocktail at the bar or a complementary fruit basket at the room. Members are looking at things which is difficult to do on their own. People out there are looking for experiences and access. We recently conducted a survey in around 30 countries and 40,000 loyalty card members. From this survey we found out three major points which people want from the loyalty programme. Firstly, people are looking for access to concerts, entertainment and music. Members want special access to backstage of concerts and meet the singers. Secondly people want culinary experiences. Members are looking for culinary as well as cooking classes and opportunity to meet 3 star Michelin chefs. Finally access to sporting events and chance to meet the players backstage has been the demand. And the sport majorly asked is for Football.

These demands are from 28 years old and also 58 year old members. So we have decided to shift the strategy. So we have now come up with a new programme called, ‘Accor Live Limitless’. We have already have signed three partnership. We have signed with AEG which is the largest concert organiser in the planet. 70 venues in 50 countries and have all major stars performing. We have signed 70,000 tickets every year. We signed another contract with IMG, who is the biggest food festival organiser in 30 countries. We will give privilege experience in these festivals. Then we signed a contract with football team ‘Paris St. Germaine’, which is the fourth largest football team in the planet with 400 million social media followers.

Accor is known for giving out best possible rates on its own website. You also have partnership with all the major OTAs, how do you balance this relationship? Also isn’t OTAs a competition to your own channels?

We as collective hotel players (all the big branded chains) have succeeded and have got the OTAs to accept that the best available rate should be with the hotel company and not on the OTAs. This is because it’s our inventory, we are taking the risk, and we are managing the people. It’s been a boxing game. However it will take a few months for the people to realise this. This is possible only if you are a big chain. Smaller chains still depends on OTAs to sell their inventory.

The OTAs spend millions of dollars in mobile app and website development. We spend one tenth of that as we don’t have that much budgets. We spend on brand and marketing. It’s very difficult for us to cope up with same flexibility, seamless journey that you find on OTAs. If you take three minutes to book on Accor, it will take two minutes on Booking.com or Expedia or other OTAs. This is one of the challenges where we need to look how we can partner better. For you as a guest you want to have speed when you book. We are now very client minded and looking to enhance every experience.

What is the concept of augmented hospitality which you are looking to develop?

We are a hotel company and we do everything to tap the repeat client. Still the average client returning to our hotel is two times a year. So my interaction with you is two times a year, and you interaction with Facebook is 12 times a day. If we want to survive, we have to multiply the number of touch points and increase the interaction with you. But travellers may not come to us 12 times a year as they don’t need to. So now we are buying or investing in many different businesses. We own the largest concierge system called ‘Jean Paul’. People can book anything under Accor ecosystem. When it comes to co-working we own a company called WOJO. We have invested in sbe, which is the largest nightclub, restaurant, entertainment group. So we have invested into 20 different businesses. With Accor Live Limitless we are integrating all these pieces of the puzzle into one ecosystem. So with all these I will increase the interaction from two times a year to maybe two times a week. This is what augmented hospitality is all about.

Radisson Hotel Group is set to further enhance its technology platforms by launching a new website that will have a bouquet of all its brands to choose from. Also, later this year Radisson will launch ‘Emma,’ which is a unified system designed to encompass revenue management, property management, business analytics and further increase personalisation.

Speaking about the plans, Katerina Giannouka, President, Asia Pacific, Radisson Hotel Group said, “We are coming up with a new website in June this year. Earlier, we had different websites for each brand, now everything will be at one website. It also comes with an application; it will be a cutting edge in the Industry. We will also define the room categories, so that guests can select the type of room they want. Marketing strategies will be further refined and bookings will be made easier.”

Divulging more details about ‘Emma’, she said, “Emma is our new technology platform which will create experiences and will link all our property systems, reservations, loyalty programme and creates customised and seamless services. We are working on giving key access to the best unique offer that others don’t offer. We are working on a concept where guests can select the particular room which they want just like the airline seats. This doesn’t exist today, but will come with the launch of Emma. We will have a lot more flexibility with the new website.”

In India, the group currently operates 94 hotels and has a strong pipeline of hotels across the nation. Radisson Blu will be the fastest growing brand for the group in India market. The Group signed 15 hotels in India in 2018 and it has already signed four more properties in 2019: Park Plaza Amritsar, Radisson Greater Noida, Radisson Gurugram Sohna Road City Center, and Park Inn by Radisson Kashipur.

Speaking about the India development plan, Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President of Operations, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group said, “In India we have 94 operating hotels, and we are one of the largest international chains in India. We have also been the fastest growing brand in India in the last couple of years. We have around 50 hotels in the pipeline. This is an extremely active and robust pipeline. Our portfolio is growing in Tier I, II and III locations. We have been one of the first movers to get into the smaller markets and this has been a part of our strategy since the very beginning. Many of our hotels are landmarks in each of these smaller locations and are doing very well. We see amongst the portfolio in India Radisson Blu has the largest presence and this is our major growth brand.”

Radisson is now looking to further tap the MICE and family segments. The group is looking to introduce new concepts later this year to make MICE and family bookings further seamless.

Giannouka added, “One of the biggest growths last year was in the MICE segment. That business is growing fast. We are also launching brands in our company like ‘Radisson Meetings’, which is a new brand for us to tap this MICE business. Earlier we had different programmes, we will be packaging all these into ‘Radisson Meetings’. This will be launched in end of June. Also family and leisure travel is growing for us; we are also launching a new concept called ‘Rad Family’. This has been warmly received, we had an internal meeting and everyone recognises that this market is important.”

In India market, the group is also looking to partnership with f&b brands to further enhance the experience. Giannouka said, “What we are looking at in terms of new brand is alliance in the f&b space. We see the strength of working with recognised brands that complements our seven brands.”

Saxena further said, “In India nearly half of our business revenues come from f&b space. This leaves us to seriously enhance our food offerings. We are aggressively focusing on f&b as a core pillar of our business model. There are active discussions for tie-ups.”

Jalesh Cruises, India’s first premium cruise ship, recently sailed on its maiden voyage from its homeport Mumbai. The cruise liner unveiled its first vessel, ‘Karnika’, which was acquired from the P&O cruises from Australia and has a capacity of 2000 guests.

Speaking about Karnika, Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Zen Cruises said, “We are the first premium cruise ship in India. The ship arrived in March in Singapore and went into revitalisation. We had very good response from the market when the first look was out. As a company, we want to make sure that guests know that this is a cruise ship for Indians to explore the 7600 kms of coastline. One of the major USPs is that we cater the finest Indian cuisine in the cruise. We will strive to provide the best experience. There are 700 crew members on board and the ship can hold almost 2000 guests. We have nine different food outlets and 13 bars. We have massive Broadway shows, entertainment and several bands. We also have a water park and also a lot of activities for the kids. We have spacious rooms, across various categories. One of our aims is to become famous for the big fat Indian weddings.”

The ship is set to be home ported in Mumbai for around eight and half months and during the monsoon Dubai will be its homeport for three months. The group aims to attract 250,000 travellers in the next 12 months.

 “Mumbai will be our homeport and we will turn the ship around 100 times in the next 12 months. In the monsoon the ship will move to the Middle East, calling Dubai its homeport. We are predominantly doing two and three night cruises and we are looking at 250,000 guests in the next 12 months,” Bailom added.

Further speaking about the current size of the Indian cruising industry and the growth, he added, “Today the Indian cruising industry size is 1.6 to 1.7 lakhs, we need to go to 2.5 lakhs. We want to have 250,000 guests ourselves. Our bookings are happening very well. We want Indians to go international in the comfort of their home. We will grow quickly here being in Mumbai. We will double the cruise market in next one year. We will look at 500,000 to 700,000 in the next three years. We have the potential to be close to China very soon. We have a government which is positive in developing the waterways in India. This is just a part of how India has grown in last ten years. We created a cruise line association called INCLA and we work closely with the Government and creating SOP manuals. We want to work closely with all ministries and will want all the other cruise lines to come to India. If this happens we can grow a healthy good business.”

One of the major goals for the group is sustainability and community building. The group is looking to create close to two million employment opportunities in the coming years. “One of our goals is to give back to the local community. We are trying to hire as many as Indian nationals as we can. Our promoters’ idea is to create around 2 million jobs in the next five to 10 years. One of our major programmes is the Clean Wave programme and in the next 12-18 months we will be plastic free. We want to be a part to clean up the beaches and environment in India, which is one of our goals,” Bailom added.

The group is also looking to acquire its second and third vessel soon. The Mauritian entity owned group with Subash Chandra as a major investor is now further looking to attract more investments.

 “Our goal now is to get a couple more ships and develop the cruising market. Our plan is to get the second ship and third ship soon. We are working aggressively on this. Jalesh Cruises is owned by a Mauritius entity, there are a lot of promoters and investors involved and one of the major promoters being Subhash Chandra family. Deltin Group is also one of the main investors. We want to make it a 100 per cent Indian entity in the next few months with more investors coming in. The total project is of over 90 million dollars. Cruising is an expensive business and take a long time for break even. Our average ticket price is US$ 130,”  he added.

InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) is set to witness exponential growth in the India market. The group currently operates 39 properties in India and has another 39 in the pipeline. The majority of the upcoming properties will be from the Holiday Inn Family.

Speaking about the growth in India market, Sudeep Jain, VP, Development, InterContinental Hotel Group said, “In India, today we have 39 operating hotels. We have another 39 hotels in the pipeline. This is a good number for us and with the signing pace we will get to 100 soon. Our goal is to have 150 within the next two to three years. Holiday Inn family which includes Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn express will be our predominant part of our strategy. This is a brand family which is well known worldwide and recognised in India and caters to demand and needs of customers and owners. Out of around 5600 hotels we have globally, 3600-3700 are from the Holiday Inn family. There is definitely emphasis in this brand, off the 39 hotels that operates in India, 27 are Holiday Inn express brand. This is a conscious strategy for us and has worked for us.”

Last year, the group acquired Regent Hotels and Resorts which are into the luxury space and recently it also acquired the Six Senses group. “We are waiting for the right opportunities in the luxury segment. Today, we have four brands in luxury : InterContinental, Regent, Kimpton and Six senses. We would probably see two to three of those brands come to India. I see an opportunistic demand for luxury segment in India; it is not classified as a very huge demand. This segment will continue to grow, but mid tier segment will grow faster,” Jain said.

Last year, IHG introduced a conversion friendly brand, the ‘Voco’ that was opened in Australia and Dubai.  “We recently introduced the conversion friendly brand called ‘Voco’. Our research demonstrated that a lot of hotels are running without a brand and are of very good quality. These hotels are generally underleveraged as they may not have the scale to reach a lot of customers or do distribution like big companies. There is an opportunity to provide them that service without changing a lot of guidelines. There could be a brand which is lifestyle oriented and with us they can become much more successful. This was the reason behind bringing Voco brand. In India, a lot of the running properties are branded in the segment of upper upscale. The brand was introduced 10 months back; we just opened Voco in Dubai. We opened the first one in Australia in Gold Coast which is very successful. We are satisfied with the acceptance of the brand. We will also try and having conversations and will have a Voco in India as well. The first few Voco brand hotel will be in the bigger cities or well known resort destinations in India.”

In the recent years, IHG has made huge investments to develop world-class technological developments. The group boasts of a first of its kind new technology called the IHG Concerto, which is in its second phase of implementation. “One of the areas which is our USP and we are leading is the technology. We have a cloud based system, Concerto, which will change the way people book. Phase I was that all our hotels worldwide will use this system which has happened. During phase II, we want to use the system to benefit the customers with customisation and choice and for owners to help in revenue management. It uses a lot of knowledge and history to build more customisation. It provides attribute based price and give more meaningful choices. This is one arena where IHG has made a lot of investment. Phase two is on its way, we are pilot testing. We also have the IHG Connect. This is a way one can connect with the WiFi network and people can access everything through mobile phones. We are getting this into all our hotels globally and in the next couple of years this will be rolled out. All of these are in implementations right now,” Jain informed. 

With an aim to position itself as a unique experiential destination in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island recently showcased its diverse products in the India market. The destination organised a 3 city workshop along with its tourism suppliers in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai recently. The workshop was organised along with Atout France.

 “The B2B market in India knows about our destination, but we need to increase awareness. We are looking to assist the travel trade to promote the destination. We have a lot of marketing plans for 2019 in India market. We have various familiarisation trips for travel trade and media. It is our priority to have a strong relationship with the B2B market in India. We are now doing workshop in Mumbai. We have many local partners with us for the roadshow. We have Air Austral, two DMCs who are keen and have worked with Indian market and two hotel partners,” Lydie Sangarin, Market Manager, Reunion Island Tourism Board, said.

The Reunion Island being an unexplored destination for the India market has a lot of unique experiences to offer. The destination boasts of active volcano and helicopter tours which are very popular.

Speaking about the attractions Stéphane Fouassin, President, Reunion Island Tourism Board, said, “Helicopter trip is the main highlight of our destination, which no other island can offer in the Indian Ocean. We have a lot of attractions to offer for all age groups starting from a three day itinerary to two weeks itineraries. We are looking to tap Indian travellers between three to six nights. The main activities are helicopter trip, the volcano trip, museum of volcano and lava cave which are very popular. One can also go to Salazie, the popular waterfall. People can also add beach activities and activities such as diving, paragliding and snorkelling. We also have a lot of family activities such as vanilla plantations. We are also looking to attract the millennial travellers. We have around 70 activities. We have the only active volcanos which continue to erupt, which itself is an experience.”

During the recent workshop, a delegation of seven suppliers came to India comprising of the national air carrier Air Austral, Destination management companies, hotels and a helicopter ride attraction. Air Austral provides twice weekly connectivity between India and Reunion Island. Also the destination is well connected with India via Air Mauritius.

 “Currently we have our regional airlines, Air Austral flying out of Chennai twice a week. We also have Air Mauritius flying out of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. This is perfect for people to visit both destinations. We are a year round destination, May and June is the best time to visit though. Also during the year end its perfect for honeymoon segment. Also, we provide free visa on arrival. Booking with a tour operator gives this access for maximum 15 days. So our visa is also seamless process which is a positive for us,” Sangarin added. 

 

With summer holiday season just around the corner, travel plans to exciting and exotic destinations are underway for many.  From stitching the perfect itinerary to zeroing down on the best hotel and flight bookings, a lot of energy and time has already gone into making the trip a memorable one. So, what next?

In our quest for exploring new experiences, we often tend to miss out on the important aspect of protecting our journey from unforeseen contingencies, and that’s where a reliable travel insurance comes in to play. Even though the outbound travel market has surged over the past few years, not many people have recognized the need for a travel cover. While most consumers end up buying travel insurance as a mandatory cover, they often fail to understand the fact that it’s the only protection to help them in the event of any eventualities during their trips.

In fact, it is compulsory for travellers visiting Schengen countries to have travel insurance as a part of visa documentation process; even Australia mandates people over a certain age group to apply for travel covers.

For instance, while on a trip, if you lose your passport, a travel insurance policy will be your best guard to take care of the reimbursement expenses of acquiring a duplicate passport or getting a new one.

Similarly, in case of Baggage delay / Baggage loss, the insurance cover will compensate for your loss up to a certain permissible limit; while for baggage delay, you can get the expense of buying new personal properties reimbursed. 

Medical emergencies or a serious injury, during a trip could get anyone on their feet and that is when a travel insurance comes as a savior to ensure that medical emergencies are adequately met including cashless hospitalization or having a close family member flown to the location and taking care of other related expenses as well.

The most common hiccup nowadays could be an airline’s fault or a sudden medical evacuation. Many such unplanned perils may further blemish a planned trip at the eleventh hour, which can arrive in many ways –what do you do about your prior hotel or airline bookings if your trip gets suddenly cancelled due to natural calamity at the location destination? In such cases, a travel policy recompenses for the expenses incurred for accommodation and ticket bookings.  In case of a delayed flight, a travel policy will cover additional expenses such as an unplanned night stay at a hotel.

Theft is a common occurrence during trips. An insurance policy takes care of fraudulent charges like loss of credit/debit cards. However, before investing, it is prudent to know the fine prints of a travel policy to secure your journey better.

Given below are some elements you must look out for before buying a travel insurance policy.

• Confirm if you have a travel insurance already

You could have travel coverage already and not even know about it! Some Credit card policies or home insurances provide travel too, hence it’s well worth checking from the existing accounts before buying a new policy.

 

• Get your medical cover checked

If you have a medical condition make sure to carry your vaccinations and medicines recommended by the doctor for the destination you are travelling to. Some insurance companies may not pay out in case you get struck by a virus in absence of proper precautions.

 

• Check for your valuables cover

One must understand the difference between baggage and electronics and other valuables. While ‘baggage’ refers to personal day to day items; electronics and valuables comprise a completely different section of the policy. Many companies do not compensate if you do not carry an invoice copy. Hence, it’s essential to carry original bills and vouchers or have digital copies on your phone or mailbox to testify your purchase claim. 

 

• Pay more to get more

Some travel insurance companies distribute levels of covers to choose from. Make sure you check these levels as paying a little more with not too much difference in price can help you avail more fun with your buck.

 

• Multi-trip policies

Multi-trip policies are more beneficial for frequent travellers. Multi-trip policies cover all trips undertaken in a policy year, keeping in mind the length and limits of each trip. If one undertakes 5-6 trips a year, it is recommended to buy a multi-trip policy rather than a separate policy for each trip. Also multi-trip policies are more economical.

 

• Check for Cancellation Terms

The most disheartening part of a trip is if you have to cancel at the last moment due to unforeseen snags. Hence, it’s advisable to read the policy document carefully as not all insurance companies cover cancellation of accommodations and flights.

 

Since the Indian insurance market opened up under the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act (IRDA Act), product innovation and consumer options have grown by leaps and bounds. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) reported a steady increase in the number of outbound travelers from India; in 2014, there were 18 million travelers departing the country, with an estimated year-on-year growth of 11 per cent and a projection of 35 million outbound travelers from India by 2020.

Vacations are supposed to be pleasant and memorable. You do not want it to be tainted by unfortunate incidents. Since you cannot control an incident, precaution is what you can ensure. Travel insurance is a subjective matter and hence all the parameters should be thoroughly checked. You should choose an insurer which is offering you what you are in quest for. What deems for others may not work out for you. Medical expenses in abroad can cost a lot, so it’s vital that everyone going abroad has adequate cover in place for any eventualities.

 

It is primarily advised by financial experts to read the travel insurance covers and documents before opting for a policy. You must not only chase an inexpensive travel insurance cover but seek your cover from a trusted brand with strong domestic and international networks and a successful claim settlement track record to go by. But most importantly, be clear of your own needs and expectations from a travel plan to adequately take care of your journey.

 

By Parag Ved, EVP & Head, Consumer Lines, Tata AIG General Insurance

 

 

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