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Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

The 7th edition of ‘Where Else’ conference is the official tourism conference held annually by the Israel Ministry of Tourism for the world travel industry.  The week-long convention held recently was attended by 130 travel agents from 17 countries.  With a grand opening ceremony in Tel Aviv, senior members of the tourism industry from around the world took part in tours at different tourist sites in Israel with support from the regional Tourism Associations, Hotels Association and the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association.  The purpose of the conference was to expose attendees to the tourism brands in Israel along with the country’s recreation, entertainment and leisure options.

In attendance were nine top travel agents from India accompanied by Hassan Madah - Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism, India and Philippines. The group explored beach tourism in Eilat and Dead Sea, tours in the North focusing on religion and history and city breaks in Tel Aviv- Jaffa and Jerusalem. In addition, business meetings were held between the Indian delegates and Israeli wholesalers and hoteliers.

 

Madah said, “Israel has witnessed another year of record breaking tourist arrivals with over 55,000 Indians who have travelled to the country through November 2017. It was important for us to showcase Israel to key Indian travel trade through our biggest annual tourism conference in Israel. India’s rapidly evolving consumer market is always looking for new experiences in a holiday destination and Israel’s dynamic offerings from the historic yet new age cities of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem to the resort town of Eilat. The conference was a wonderful experience that exposed the Indian travel trade to the varied offerings and experiences that can be undertaken in Israel along with an opportunity to connect with key stakeholders from the Israel tourism industry.”

The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island and the hosting of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix contributed to a dramatic surge in hotel guests staying in the emirate during November.

The month saw a 16 per cent rise in guests staying in the emirate’s 162 hotels and hotel apartments compared to the same period in 2016, according to figures released by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

China remains Abu Dhabi’s largest overseas source market with 334,000 Chinese guests staying in the emirate this year, a dramatic rise of 63 per cent, which can be attributed to the lifting of visa restrictions and destination marketing campaigns taking place in major Chinese cities throughout the year.

India is the second largest supplier of international guests, rising almost 10 per cent this year to number 320,000. The UK is Europe’s largest market, witnessing 12% growth to number 244,000 while the US and Saudi Arabian markets have also recorded growth compared to the previous year.

With 4.3 million hotel guests staying in accommodation across Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain Region and Al Dhafra Region in the first 11 months of the year, the emirate has witnessed nine per cent year-on-year growth and is on target to reach a record 4.9 million guests by the end of December.

Welcoming the latest rise in visitors to the emirate, Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi said, “While November and Q4 is traditionally a strong period for us, particularly with visitors from Europe, we are still highly encouraged by the sector’s performance during the month and the 16 per cent increase in hotel guests across all three regions to number 443,000 guests. The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi was a monumental event, not only for Abu Dhabi but also for the whole of the country and indeed the region, contributing enormously to our appeal as a ‘must visit’ destination. The museum attracted worldwide attention and instantly became a huge draw for domestic and international visitors, which we anticipate will continue for many years to come.”

The museum’s opening on November 11, following close collaboration between the UAE and French governments spurred a 32 per cent rise in French guests during the month compared to the same period in 2016 with further positive traction anticipated from the French market next year.

During November, guests from the US increased by 50 per cent, while the China, UK and Germany saw rises of 38 per cent, 36 per cent and 21 per cent respectively. In total 443,636 guests stayed in the emirate, with 322,506 international visitors and 121,130 domestic visitors.

Ghobash added, “Our annual events calendar across the emirate continues to develop and expand with November hosting another successful Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Art festival, National Day celebrations and the Fourth National Traditional Handicrafts Festival in Al Ain. These events are proving a draw to visitors who are seeking a blend of Arabian culture, heritage and excitement in a diverse and affordable destination. We expect a strong Q4 performance to round off a very successful year for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector. We have challenges to address, such as increasing average length of stay of our guests and the occupancy rate, but we are constantly working on new initiatives and marketing to improve these figures.”

 

The number of guests increased across all three regions in November with Abu Dhabi city seeing a 16.8 per cent rise in its 131 hotels compared to November 2016, Al Ain Region increasing by 10.7 per cent in its 20 hotels and Al Dhafra Region increasing by 15.3 per cent in its 11 hotels.

With 2017 on the cusp of retirement, Google India has revealed the top travel trends observed from September to November this year. The trends highlight search behaviour transformations of the Indian audience, compared with travellers’ data documented during the same period in 2016.

As per Google, holiday related search queries have increased 27 per cent this year, with the vogue being ‘luxury’, ‘honeymoon’, and ‘safari’ destinations. Both international and domestic luxury searches have increased by 34 per cent, amid online hunts for ‘royal holidays’ that has spiked 12 times.

The quest for warmer topographies and related activities become widespread during winters, which can be associated with a 32 per cent rise in safari destination explorations. Searches for Desert Safari in Dubai, Night Safari in Singapore, Bali Safari and Marine Park, as well as Safari World in Bangkok have surged; in conjunction with Google’s insight.

Other than aspiring for a warmer panorama, winter also marks the dawn of the wedding season and with it, honeymoon plans. Seychelles, Maldives, and Bali top the honeymooners’ international search list this season as the trends show a 40 per cent rise in these queries.

The search perusal for international destinations such as The Vatican has grown almost eight times, followed by Myanmar by three times and Hungary two times. Buzz about these locations range from ‘private tours of the Sistine Chapel after-hours’, ‘what to see at the Vatican Museum’, to ‘Myanmar tourism’, ‘Burma tourist map’, and ‘things to do in Budapest’.

Talking about international travel trends, it is fascinating to see that Dubai still continues to be the most searched destination, followed by Bangkok, Thailand, and Disneyland USA. Apart from the search for destination activities such as safaris, international cricket as an international excursion observed a rise of 456 per cent, fuelled by matches held at Melbourne, Australia and Lords, UK.

Within India, ‘God’s own country’, Kerala has preserved its popularity as the most crowd-pleasing destination for domestic travellers. Weekend getaways, specifically near Delhi have become an extremely popular search term, culminating in a 361 per cent increase. Hence, places like Rajasthan and Srinagar known for its fervent tourism, are fast becoming popular amongst domestic travel pursuits.

The trends also cite that Indians are planning their travel in advance, as last-minute bookings have reduced by 17 per cent for domestic travel and 20 per cent for international trips. The proliferation of smartphones has further made it possible for travellers to research, plan their itinerary and single out their travel prospects real-time. Google search data indicates two out of three holiday related searches are now happening on mobile devices and searches on desktops have reduced.

Camfil, one of the world leaders in clean air solutions has entered into an exclusive partnership with ITC Hotels, five-star hotel chain in India to improve the indoor air quality standard inside the hotels. As part of the collaboration, Camfil India, the Indian subsidiary of Sweden based Camfil AB will bring its state of the art technology and high-end filtration systems to ensure that the guest at the ITC hotels breathe the cleanest air to standards prescribed by World Health Organization (WHO). The ongoing project will open its doors with Delhi's best air quality, this month. A dynamic plaque displaying real time air quality both indoor & outdoor will be placed at the ITC Maurya lobby.

Dipak Haksar, Chief Executive, ITC Hotels & WelcomHotel said, “As part of ITC Hotels Responsible Luxury ethos, luxury experiences are delivered at various touch points of the hotel through various endeavours aimed at guests, associates, community and the environment. ITC Maurya has pioneered many such initiatives, the most recent being to enrich Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) aligned with WHO standards.”

PKSV Sagar, Managing Director, Camfil Air Filtration India said, “We are pleased to announce our partnership with ITC Hotels, a world class hotel group that has consistently lead the way when it comes to sustainability and innovation. With our patented, ISO16890 certified special air filters, we aim to help ITC further add to the guests’ delight as they will experience fresh, crisp & clean air in the properties as prescribed by WHO standards.”

With the completion of this project, ITC Maurya will be the leader and the first Hotel in India in the field of providing superior Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), setting new benchmarks in the Indian and Global hospitality industry. The project took off in April 2016 on (World Earth Day) from ITC Maurya and will be further expanded to other properties across the country.

Indoor Air Quality has a direct correlation to the outside air. Indoor Air can be up to fifty times more polluted than the outdoor air due to dust from human occupancy, carpets, furniture, rugs, curtains, pets, shoes, etc. adding on to the already polluted dust entering into the building systems. Camfil has taken up this challenge to clean up the air quality inside spaces of ITC Maurya. The approach would be two pronged – first to upgrade the existing Air Handling Units with Camfil make ISO16890 certified filters which ensures consistent performance over a lifetime. These filters would have a special mounting mechanism to ensure perfect sealing to avoid outdoor air leaking into the Air handling units. In addition to this, Camfil’s patented technology Air Cleaners, would be installed in each of these air handling unit rooms to further clean the air within by re-circulating the air through these independent units.

Mumbai & Delhi have been identified as primary markets to source MICE movements into Oman. Agents from major agencies in these markets recently witnessed Oman’s offerings as a MICE destination on a familiarisation trip conducted by the Ministry of Oman Tourism. The group consisted of nine shortlisted agents from travel companies like Via.com, Goomo Orbit Corporate & Leisure Travels, Geanis Holidays, Travel Clinic, HRG India, Thomas Cook, Ambassador Express Holidays and Fountain Head Corporate Journeys.

The group explored a completely different side of Middle East in Oman, showcasing regions amidst the desert and the sea; combined with authentic Arabian experience, history and culture, cuisine, adventure activities and many hotel inspections. Highlight of the trip was their visit to the recently opened first phase of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre which is located opposite the new Muscat International Airport. It includes an exhibition hall spread over 22,000 sq m and 10-12 meeting rooms around it. Phase two will be completed by the second quarter of 2018 and will include a convention hall. Recently, the OCEC hosted ‘ICCA Oman Meetings Association Expert Forum’ and ‘UNWTO/UNESCO conference on Tourism and Culture’ that have been landmark events.

Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman said, “Oman’s new national strategy for tourism underlines MICE as one of the main focus areas. Increase in number of flights from India to Oman, ongoing construction of many new international hotel chains, soon-to-be-launched new Muscat International Airport and upcoming phase II of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) will bring momentum to this plan in the coming year.”

 

This fam trip has aimed to showcase Oman as a luxury and premium tourist destination for all segments across MICE. Being a short-haul destination from India, excellent flight connectivity, varied experiences and activities to offer, and now with the rapid development of infrastructure; Oman is becoming a sought-after destination for MICE in the Middle East region.

IndiGo has announced the commencement of its ATR operations in Hyderabad. The inaugural ATR flight will operate on Hyderabad-Mangalore sector starting December 21, 2017. With the introduction of brand new ATR 72-600 aircraft to its fleet, IndiGo has taken another step towards providing an on-time, affordable and a hassle-free travel experience to passengers in Tier-II and Tier-III towns and cities.

Aditya Ghosh, President and Whole Time Director, IndiGo said, “Following the vision of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote regional connectivity through UDAN, IndiGo is proud to announce the addition of brand new ATR 72-600 aircraft to its 149 aircraft strong fleet and offer connectivity to tier II and tier III cities of India. It is indeed a moment of great pride, not only for team IndiGo, but for every citizen of this country who is waiting for an affordable and a hassle free flying experience on these unserved and underserved routes. With more ATRs joining our fleet in the months to come, we are much closer to realising the dream of the common man. IndiGo network will expand not only to provide connectivity between these smaller cities, but our strong network of domestic and international markets will also open up immense connectivity to and fro for these smaller markets.”

“By December 2019, IndiGo with its fleet of brand new 21 ATRs, would have connected about 15 tier-II and tier-III new cities on its network, thereby giving a big boost to regional connectivity,” he further added.

Sanjay Kumar, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “On January 7 - 9 2018 IndiGo is commencing its second and third ATR operations, adding Tirupati and Rajahmundry on IndiGo’s 6E network respectively.”

He also announced four new domestic flights from Hyderabad; which include an additional Hyderabad – Lucknow – Hyderabad flight, a new Hyderabad – Ranchi – Hyderabad flight, an additional Hyderabad – Jaipur and a new Hyderabad – Jammu via Jaipur flight on December 21 and two international flights which include Hyderabad – Doha - Hyderabad on December 21 and Hyderabad – Sharjah - Hyderabad commencing on December 29, 2017. “These additional flights have helped IndiGo in achieving 1000 flights a day mark in December 2017, making it the only Indian airline to operate as many flights in a day,” he added further.

IndiGo has placed a term sheet for 50 ATR aircraft. The airline is expecting to add seven ATR flights by March 2018 and 21 ATR planes to its fleet by December 2019.

IndiGo in October 2017 had announced strengthening its network in the regional markets with over 90 flights to and fro Tirupati, Rajahmundry, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Mangalore, Madurai, Vijayawada and Nagpur.

Azamara Club Cruises, the subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises has entered into an agreement to purchase the Azamara Pursuit, a ship that will complement the brand’s proposition further by taking travellers to destinations hitherto unexperienced. Come March 2018, TIRUN Travel Marketing the pioneer of cruise tourism in the country and the exclusive India representative of Azamara Club Cruises will provide Indian travellers the opportunity to enjoy the most uniquely-curated destination experiences in the magnificent sister ship of Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.

The Azamara Pursuit is similar in size to the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, and its décor and features have been customized to match the exquisite experience provided by its sister ships. However, the most important highlight of the ship will be the journeys it makes to previously uncharted destinations such as the vast salt flats in Chile’s Antofagasta or allowing travellers to dine in the oldest continuously inhabited house of the Americas in Lima, Peru.

Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive, TIRUN Travel Marketing said, “Azamara Club Cruises has been highly popular amongst Indian cruise enthusiasts because it offers a delightful blend of upscale experiences and longer overnight stays for a more nuanced enjoyment of the destinations. Azamara Pursuit will further add to the brand’s value as a cruise line that guarantees the best of aesthetics, experience and extravagance to travelers, bringing its guests the experience of a boutique hotel at sea. The destinations explored by the Azamara Pursuit and the longer itineraries combined with stimulating on-port and on-sea experiences are surely going to find many takers in India. We are pleased to extend the opportunity to our guests to travel to destinations as exciting as Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Belfast, Akureyri and many more on this wonderfully-appointed ship.”

The Azamara Pursuit will be covering a total of 61 destinations, out of which 15 destinations have not been visited yet by any of Azamara’s ships. The ship will be travelling across all the seven continents, allowing travelers to experience an assortment of geographies and cultures. Information about deployment and itineraries for Azamara Pursuit has been made available since October.

Department of Tourism (DOT) - Philippines has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Singapore International Airlines (SIA) for a one-year joint marketing initiative that will implement activities to promote the Philippines to the Indian market. The tourism department is eyeing to boost marketing initiatives to the Indian market as it inks an agreement with a Singaporean air carrier.

This will be done through various marketing platforms such as social media, familiarisation tours, and roadshows, among others. The agreement was signed by DOT’s undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. and SIA’sSenior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Campbell Wilson, at the Makati Diamond Residences.

Bengzon said, “This is a milestone for the Philippines. The India market is growing at a very fast rate. In fact, we are expecting to reach 100,000 arrivals by end of 2017. This joint agreement is envisioned to sustain and further strengthen this growth in the coming years.”

Latest data from the DOT shows that arrivals from the Indian market have reached 88,832 in the first 10 months of the year, with a 20.28 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016.This makes India the second fastest growing market next to China.For this year, the DOT is expecting Indian arrivals to hit the 100,000 mark. Moreover, Bengzon said Indian tourists would also significantly contribute to the country’s tourism receipts.

“An Indian tourist on average spends at least US$1,000. Just imagine if we are able to meet the 100,000 mark of Indian tourists. Also, part of our strategy is to make them stay longer in the Philippines by developing new products that would meet their needs,” Bengzon added.

SIA and its sister company SilkAir also agreed to bring tourists not only to Manila but also to secondary destinations. “The end result that we are really looking for is a wider dispersal of tourist traffic across the country and spread the benefits of tourism to communities,” Bengzon said. For his part, Wilson said the mutually-beneficial agreement will pave the way for a positive impact on the country’s tourism industry. We are confident we can increase visitor arrivals; it is an honour to bring our passengers anywhere in the Philippines,” he said.

Aeroflot has become the first airline in Russia to provide real-time location information for all the baggage it handles, choosing SITA, the global IT provider, to deliver an end-to-end baggage tracking solution using its BagJourney system.

BagJourney allows Aeroflot to accurately track passengers’ bags at key points along their journey, including at check-in, loading onto the aircraft, transfer and arrival at the destination airport. BagJourney provides a precise picture of a bag’s location. It uses baggage data from 400-plus airports and 500 airlines that passes through SITA’s global, fully-managed baggage message and distribution service, BagMessage.

Kirill Bogdanov, Deputy CEO, IT, Aeroflot said, “Baggage tracking is just the latest example of how Aeroflot is focusing on technology innovations that improve the customer experience. We recognise that baggage is such an important area for passengers, and through this solution we will be able to provide them with more certainty on where their bags are at every step of the journey.”

Dmitry Krasnov, SITA VP Russia and CIS said, “Aeroflot has a great track record of embracing technology to enhance the passenger experience. With SITA’s BagJourney, the airline can permanently track bags, reducing the likelihood of a bag being mishandled in the first place. This will have a tremendously positive impact for passengers while making the airline’s baggage operation far more efficient and significantly reducing the number of mishandled bags.”

IndiGo became the first Indian carrier to operate 1000 plus flights in a day. IndiGo also took the delivery of its 31st Airbus A-320 Neo aircraft making the first Indian carrier with 150 aircraft fleet. The milestone underlines IndiGo’s position as one of the country’s largest carrier with 150 Airbus and one ATR aircraft connecting 46 destinations.

IndiGo has also announced its 50th destination, Vijayawada (VGA). Flights to Vijayawada (VGA), Andhra Pradesh, will commence operations on March 2, 2018. This destination is a part of our turboprop routes and will open in the third phase of our ATR operations. IndiGo ATR flights will now connect Vijayawada to Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Aditya Ghosh, President and Whole-time Director, IndiGo said, “We are truly excited to achieve a 1000-daily flights landmark and dedicate this feat to millions of customers who choose IndiGo. It is a testament to our commitment of providing enhanced connectivity and unmatched reliable and safe air transportation across the country. We shall continue to serve our valuable customers and strive to get even better at delivering safe, on-time, hassle-free and affordable services.

Sanjay Kumar, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “It gives us immense pleasure to introduce services from Vijayawada. 2017 has been a great year from growth and expansion as the airline clocked many milestones. In the coming years, we will continue to expand our network to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travellers.”

 

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