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The world over, businessmen are looking for the next growth drivers. The emerging economies such as BRICS have been the most talked about economies to serve as the big growth boosters. Likewise, the travel Industry in India is keen to identify the key emerging markets for taking a leap towards higher growth and margin markets. Central India seems to be the best bet for the travel industry as they move beyond the conventional metro markets in the quest for a higher rate of growth.

“We have identified markets such as Nagpur, Indore and Raipur, to name a few in central India, and have named them our secondary markets. These secondary markets hold big potential in terms of contributing to overall growth of our hotels spread across the world. We now look at devising strategies to educate our B2B partners as part of our overall strategy to grow domestic and overseas business to our hotels,” said Dhananjay Saliankar, Regional Director – South Asia, Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

“We strongly believe that central India will act as a catalyst to group and MICE business in India and across the world for our brands Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W Hotels, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Le Méridien, Element and Aloft,” he added.

Echoing his sentiments, Rajiv Duggal, SVP, Tourism Hospitality and Leisure, Lavasa, explained that a big market like central India is no longer a hidden asset. “The big players in the travel trade knew about the potential of the central India market. In fact, they had been reaping huge dividends with little and unstructured presence in this market. Fortunately, this market is now no longer a hidden asset for a handful of players. Increasing number of leading players in travel and hospitality have realised the significance of scaling up their presence and operations in central India. We at Lavasa, get huge numbers from this market, and hope it will help us get prepared for other similar markets in the rest of India,” said Duggal.

It’s actually true that many players had started getting good response from the central India market before they looked at setting up their tangible presence in these markets. Sharing her experience, Vasudha Sondhi, Managing Director, Outbound Marketing, said, “In 2012, we realised that these central Indian markets were so ripe they needed our structured and strategic intervention. The destinations, hotels and brands we represent in India can really benefit from this so called hidden jewel. The travel segment here is robust and one can expect strong double digit growth as the base is still relatively small.”

“The travel fraternity here certainly needs support in terms of awareness and education of the various possible avenues for them. We see a great future in central India and look forward to strike a mutually rewarding relationship with the local players here,” she added. One realistic illustration of great response and willingness to partner with leading brands in the central India market is Star Cruises. According to Naresh Rawal, VP Sales, Star Cruises, one of the key reasons for the success of their specialist programmes in India was the response generated from central India.

One of the strategies to succeed in the region can be the use of regional dialect. Sunil Kumar, Acting President, TAAI firmly advocates the need to use the local language to connect with local players here. “I advocate the use of local vernacular language. At Interserve, we have seen it work. Our media friends should toy with the idea of experimenting with local vernacular languages to help their patrons develop new markets,” said Kumar.

Another interesting strategy put to use by Harmandeep Singh Anand, Secretary General, TAAI also merits attention. He opened up his suppliers for other local players in the city of Nagpur to be able to connect with local players here looking at the vast opportunities. “During the course of our business, we realised the vast size of business possible in our city. Being a responsible player and part of a travel agents association, I felt it was in interest of my travel fraternity here at Nagpur and my leading suppliers to network together and explore various business possibilities. One needs to realise that there is a humongous possibility of growing strong business from central India and its time has come now,” said Anand.

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