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News
Maansi Sharma

Maansi Sharma

South West Germany and the region of Stuttgart recently held a press conference in Mumbai to promote 2014 spring and summer holiday offers and wine tourism in the destination. The special focus was to promote outdoor activities during this period. According to Hans-Joerg Hadbawnik, Regional Director for Russia and India, Stuttgart-Marketing GmbH, there has been a 6.5 per cent increase in Indian arrivals to Stuttgart, with the region receiving 155,000 overnights from the source market, the highest in Europe.

In his presentation Hector D’Souza, Director – India, South West German Tourism promoted boating in Lake Constance, Lake Titisee and Lake Turbingn; cruising in River Neckar and River Danube; swimming in lakes and pools across the destination; sun bathing; self driving; hiking in the Black Forest, Swabian mountains and Stuttgart; camping in Black Forest and Freiburg; jogging; ballooning in Baden Baden and Constance; paragliding in Baden Baden; and relaxing as outdoor activities for the summer season.

He further promoted MICE activities. “Stuttgart, Heidelburg and several other cities have excellent convention centres, and the region’s infrastructure can cater to conferences and events year round,” said D’Souza.
 
Speaking about the importance of educating the travel trade in India, D’Souza revealed that there are 410 Cuckoo Specialists across the country currently, with another 1200 registrations for the programme. He further added that an online sales guide has now been made available with real time access to information and the ability to carry out hotel bookings immediately. The guide also has information on special tours.

Promoting wine tourism is a new initiative by Stuttgart Marketing and TMBW. “Stuttgart, Baden Baden and Heilbronn are wine growing areas, and August and September are the best times to visit. South West Germany is home to 26,000 hectares of vineyards, of which 430 hectares are in Stuttgart. Furthermore, the largest wine festival – Wine Village, takes place in Stuttgart through the last week of August, and receives one million visitors. There is also a wine museum in Aulbach, making wine tourism a must on tourists’ itinerary,” D’Souza concluded.

South West Germany also hosted a wine tasting soiree in Mumbai for the travel trade and media in Mumbai.

While the industry spent the year 2013 embroiled in speculation about whether or not Indian outbound would take a hit as a result of the economic instability, Indians seemed to have packed their bags and dealt with their woes on vacation. That is, if room bookings are anything to go by. International hotels are still notching significant room night requests from India, with the source market maintaining its position as an important one.

Atlantis The Palm, for instance, has seen a stable increase in annual FIT and MICE bookings from Indian travellers over the years, revealed Andrea Krenn, VP - Public Relations, Atlantis The Palm. The property saw a 22 per cent increase in 2013 compared to 2012 in terms of Indian guests. “In 2012, India represented 4 per cent of our business. In 2013, India represented 6 per cent of the resorts business. In 2014, our target is to grow the India market further by an additional 15 per cent,” she added.

Similarly, the Cotai Strip Resorts Macao, has welcomed steady leisure traffic since The Venetian Macao opened in 2007, with the properties getting a further boost after the IIFA Awards were held at the resort in 2009 and 2013. According to a Cotai Strip Resorts Macao spokesperson, India ranked its fifth largest market in terms of total bookings for 2013.

“Guests arriving from India have grown steadily over recent years. Major demand for One&Only Le Saint Geran never alone comes from metropolitan cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. Cities with direct flights represent a stronger market, however good connections via hubs in the Middle East have added opportunities for us. In 2014, we are considering incentives to encourage bookings at One&Only Le Saint Geran,” revealed Brett Armitage, Senior Vice President Global Sales, Kerzner International.

An added advantage for the Cotai Strip Resorts is that their off-season is India’s peak travel season. “Our off seasons are actually the peak outbound seasons for India – April to June and end of October to November. Prior to these periods, we work with travel agents to provide targeted package that suits Indian travellers’ needs,” the spokesperson said.

In fact, all the properties were unanimous in their strategy of working closely with the travel trade to attract more Indian footfall every year. The Cotai Strip Resorts, for starters, has been participating in SATTE, New Delhi since 2011, and have held trade dinners in 15 cities for promoting its hotels from 2009 to 2012. Furthermore, they have highlighted several packages for the Indian travellers, including the recently added DreamWorks All Star Parade.

With Sands China having launched the DreamWorks Experience at Cotai Strip Resorts Macao in July 2013, Sheraton Macao Hotel rolled out hotel packages with DreamWorks themed family suites and activities that have fuelled footfall to the property. “This has been strongly reflected during the summer holiday season with the DreamWorks Experience, especially in August when we achieved 96 per cent throughout the month,” said Ruth Boston, General Manager of Sales and Marketing - Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central.

Krenn revealed that Atlantis, The Palm works closely with travel trade partners to increase visibility for the property. Various joint promotion initiatives including newspaper and magazine ads have helped the establishment highlight the exclusive aspects of the resort, she opined.

“We greatly appreciate the professional support of our valued travel trade partners. By contracting with different wholesalers and frequent promotional communication via the DMCs, we broaden the visibility of One&Only Le Saint Geran in India. Regular meetings with various agencies across India, presenting the unique and distinct aspects of the luxury resort has proven to be an added benefit,” Armitage stated.

Goa Tourism is set to woo tourists this year via a slew of festivals, starting with the Viva Carnaval 2014 that will commence on 1 March. Addressing the media at a press conference in Mumbai, Nikhil Desai, MD, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) stated that, Goa’s chequered history and multiculturalism are a matter of pride for the state, and festivals are a window into the Goan lifestyle.

The state’s first ever Cashew and Coconut Festival; the second edition of the Food and Cultural festival that was revived last year following a hiatus of nine years; and the Shigmo Festival, a celebration of Holi in Goa that features religious and cultural parades, will dot this calendar year.

Speaking about the importance of festivals in the state, Dilip Parulekar, Minister for Tourism, Government of Goa, revealed that, the Viva Carnaval 2013 welcomed two lakh visitors, and the state is aiming for a footfall of three lakhs this year.

The event also saw actors Jackky Bhagnani and Neha Sharma, who star in the upcoming movie Youngistaan, speaking to the media about their experiences in Goa and association with the Carnaval. Youngistaan is the official movie partner for the Goa Carnaval 2014.

What sets the event apart this year is that it will feature street performances by musicians at various vantage points across the state, a King Momo contest and increased prize money.

The tourism authority of the Government of Portugal (Turismo de Portugal) recently concluded its three-city roadshow across Chennai, Bengaluru and Mumbai. The roadshow witnessed a delegation of 20 members representing DMCs, hotels, a cinema production company and Emirates airlines, led by Claudia Miguel, Trade Relations Marketing & Promotional Division, Turismo de Portugal.
 
According to Miguel, emerging markets such Russia, China, USA, India etc. have shown strong growth in the recent years. “2013 was the best year for tourism in Portugal. The Eurozone crisis has seen internal demand decreasing, but we are receiving more tourists from abroad, especially emerging markets. We have recorded a 30 per cent increase from the US, 30 per cent from Russia and 35 per cent from China. Even Germany, which is among our top ten countries, has recorded a 10 per cent increase. Travellers want new products and new destinations to visit, and visiting Lisbon and Porto has become fashionable,” she opined.

Speaking about India as a market for Portugal, Miguel revealed that from 2012-13, Portugal almost duplicated the number of requests for visas, seeing a 40 per cent growth from the market. “We visited India for the first time in 2012 when we conducted the roadshow in Delhi and Mumbai. Following that, we gathered feedback from the Portugal trade, and asked them what markets they were keen on returning to work with, and they voted India as one of them, with a request to visit the South of India and Mumbai,” she said.

Furthermore, following the successful shoot of a Tollywood song in Lisbon, Turismo de Portugal is now set on working further with the Indian film industry to woo more film productions to the country. Film producers Cinemate, who were part of the delegation to India, expressed their interest in co-producing Indian films and bringing Indian productions to shoot in Lisbon. “In 47 years, this was the first time an Indian production came to Lisbon. We found it a great experience and we would like to enhance that. Indian movies have been shot in so many countries across Europe. It would be a pleasure for us to work with Bollywood as well,” opined Rui Guerra, Line Producer, Cinemate.

Revealing their strategy for the Indian market, Miguel stated that the Board would continue being represented by Charson Advisory in India as they are well recognised among the Indian trade and can enhance the destination’s relations in the country. Furthermore, there are plans in place to conduct promotions and trainings for the travel trade.

The Portugal DMC Oasistravel.net, which is represented by Big Blue Marble in India, conducted a familiarisation trip for Indian agents last year that garnered great response. Speaking with the media at the roadshow, Vitor Manuel De Almeida, General Manager, Oasistravel.net revealed that, while the Indian market has not notched as much growth as the company would like, it is slowly picking up. “Tapping a market the size of India is a challenge. India is a big country with different types of expectations. 60 per cent of our business is MICE. For India it’s the beginning, so the MICE traffic is not much. We mostly see clients who have an international convention to attend in Lisbon. We hope to see the Incentives market now start to come in,” he said. 

Participants at the roadshow included GeoStar Destination Management, Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade, SANA Hotels, Penha Longa, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Vila Gale Hotels, RDMC, Oasistravel.net, Osiris Travel, Quasar, VEGA & destination management companies such as In Tours Portugal – DMC, Vinitur - DMC, Lusanova DMC, Mr. Travel Portugal – Luxury DMC and Vista DMC, Cinemate – a movie production company and Emirates Airlines.

CastaDiva Resort & Spa, an establishment located on the banks of Lake Como, Italy, recently organised the Flavours of Italy by CastaDiva at The Ambassador Hotel, Mumbai. The six-day long culinary showcase, hosted by Alessio Mecozzi, Executive Chef, CastaDiva; Andrea Luri, General Manager, CastaDiva; and Davide Rotondo, F&B Manager, CastaDiva, and coordinated by Karl and Amala Dantas, invited the travel trade, media, and the general public, to The Ambassador Hotel’s Society Restaurant for an Italian gourmet dining experience. The effort was CastaDiva’s first attempt to woo Indian travellers to the property.

“For us, the Indian market is an important one. We are a relatively new property on Lake Como, which itself is a relatively new destination to India. So far, Indian numbers are not even in double digits in terms of percentage. It is important that we start nurturing emerging and untapped markets along with established ones, because we cannot put all our eggs in one basket. For instance, the Russian market’s signs this year are not positive because the Rouble has collapsed, and there is a tax on luxury goods. What is happening in Ukraine is not good either. So it’s a good idea to be here first and invest in emerging markets such as India, Brazil etc.,” opined Luri.

The property has taken similar initiatives in the past in Dubai and New York, and felt that, while communications and sales actions cannot be left to just sales calls and trade shows, which is a route that everyone follows, an initiative of this kind was necessary to make a mark on the Indian traveller. Believing that The Ambassador, as well as The Society restaurant, have a history and heritage that make the hotel a perfect partner for the activity, CastaDiva joined hands with the property for the initiative.

“The idea was to do something different from a trade show, which does help business, but you get lost in a crowd and the target segment gets diluted. Here, we have 500-600 people expected in the next six days, which will showcase both properties,” said Geoff Magee, Vice President Operations, The Ambassador Group of Hotels.

Unravelling their plans for working with the travel trade in India, Luri stated that the establishment will return to educate the fraternity about the property, and will also plan familiarisation trips for them. Speaking about their target segments, Luri revealed that their main focus is FIT, and that the property witnesses 99 per cent of leisure traffic. He further added that, while there are facilities for small meetings, a MICE or group segment accommodation is difficult, unless the property is taken over by a company for an event.

As it grows in size and stature every year, ITB Berlin’s importance among the travel trade industry grows with it. 11 years ago, the ITB Berlin Convention was set up, and has long since established itself as the world’s largest tourism convention with 21,000 participants, and is recognised as a leading think tank of the global travel industry. “Today, ITB Berlin is truly the world´s leading travel trade show. All sectors of the leisure and corporate travel market are represented. The volume of business negotiated and concluded at the show is in the order of EUR 6 billion. At ITB Berlin, anyone with a lust for travel can experience the whole world in a single place,” said David Ruetz, Head, ITB Berlin.

According to him, the number of bookings at ITB Berlin 2014 has remained consistently high compared with the last year. One noticeable trend, he stated, is that exhibitors are booking larger stands, which demonstrates that the show is a reliable economic indicator which accurately mirrors the industry’s developments.

India has always considered ITB Berlin an important part of their annual strategy to showcase Incredible! India, and this year the country has upped its ante. “As always India´s participation is very important at ITB Berlin. There has been particularly high demand for places at the world’s leading travel show from India. But as the show is completely booked each year, space is limited at ITB Berlin and we cannot offer more square meters to Indian exhibitors. Hall 5.2b, occupied by India, is again booked up this year. For the first time the three Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal will be represented with their own stand. First-time exhibitors are healing travel (jet on Travels), Welcome Tours, Brys Hotel, Indian Zing and The Ultimate Travelling Camp,” Reutz revealed.

This year, ITB Berlin will kick off with an event on the topical subject of omni-channel marketing featuring high-ranking participants. The ITB Berlin Convention’s agenda too, features up-to-the-minute and forward-looking themes and leading experts will be taking part in the debate. On 5 March 2014, at the ITB Future Day, Nils Müller, CEO, TrendONE, will look ahead to the year 2025 and present some innovative travel products. Jean-Claude Biver, President of the administrative board of Hublot, will talk about the rules of the market for luxury products.

Christine Duffy, President & CEO, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) will examine how destinations can participate in the cruise boom. Bernhard Bohnenberger, President, Six Senses Hotels Resorts & Spas will talk about Luxury & Eco in the hospitality industry. Doug Lansky, award winning Travel Journalist will deliver insights on technology innovations for overcrowded destinations. These are just a few of the names from a strong line up on speakers at this year’s Convention.

Speaking about the importance of travel trade shows in today’s tourism market, Reutz opined that trade fairs are an extremely effective marketing instrument that offer excellent value for money. The costs of establishing customer contact at ITB Berlin are far below those of buyers’ business trips or of organising road shows. Equally, these contacts are of a higher quality, as meetings take place between interested and well prepared business partners in the presence not only of the products being offered by the exhibitor but also of a representative display of the industry, he added.

“Every year ITB Berlin attracts more and more decision-makers from abroad. ITB Berlin not only boasts the world’s most diverse and international range of exhibitors, but is also the event with the most trade visitors from abroad. In the light of these advantages, in terms of the value they offer nothing can better face-to-face meetings at a trade fair. We make use of the many possibilities offered by the internet and social networking sites in order to improve our trade fair services. However they are no substitute for face-to-face meetings at trade fairs,” said Reutz.

Having notched a 10 per cent growth in 2013, Ark Travels, which is the PSA for Star Cruises, MSC Cruise and Norwegian Cruiseline in India, now aims to achieve a 25-30 per cent growth in 2014. Speaking exclusively with T3, Kishan Biyani, Director, Ark Holidays opined that increasing awareness and acceptance of cruise holidays has made the company more optimistic about the year to come. “The cruise market is growing rapidly in India and more travellers are beginning to understand that this holiday option is the perfect for tourists from metro cities, families and even single mothers,” Biyani stated.

He further added that the company is planning to tap the tier II and III markets for the cruise ships. “Travellers from metro cities have done the Star cruises and are looking for more exotic destinations and longer cruise holidays such as Alaska. However, the tier II and III markets will still be keen on South East Asian cruises, where the holidays are shorter and visas are easier to come by,” he added. Speaking about the year 2013, Biyani stated that the vessels had received a lot of footfall from FIT and corporate travellers, especially from the West, North and East of India.

When asked about their strategy to work with the travel trade this year, he mentioned that they started the year with participation in TTF in Chennai and Bengaluru and look forward to SATTE, with an aim to participate in more trade shows and thereby increase visibility. The company also plans to conduct presentations for travel agents, and expand these activities to smaller cities in India.

“We believe that the smaller cities are an untapped market with tremendous potential. Some of our vessels also have new itineraries that we need to educate the travel trade about. In addition, we have begun to host weddings on board, and have already organised three so far. We will hence focus on this travel segment more this year,” Biyani concluded.

Having seen a significant rise in business from the Indian market over time, Lama Group is set to take large strides in the Indian market. Kulwant Singh, Managing Director, Lama Group revealed that the company plans to offer franchise agreements in India in a bid to reach out to a wider market. The group launched this business strategy at the OTOAI convention that followed in Philippines.

“The idea is to reach out to a tier I and II cities across India easily. We aim to have 30-40 franchise agreements signed this year. Our partners will receive the support that our regional offices currently give its B2B partners. Furthermore, disseminating information, education, visa services and packages on offer will be communicated to the agents faster through this initiative,” opined Singh.

Speaking about the previous year, Singh stated that the Rupee depreciation had put a dent in business, resulting in Lama Group’s plans to open hotels in India being put on hold. However, he is optimistic about this year and the business it will bring. “Our plan for the next five years includes signing on 30-40 franchises this year, and then increasing those numbers by 30-40 per cent over the next two years. Our aim is 100 franchises across India, which will make us the largest player in the field,” he said.

When asked about the business he expects Dubai to get since it has been declared the host of Expo 2020, he stated that Dubai is privileged to have won this opportunity. “It is great news for tourism as such conventions help not only business but the airports which are gateways into Dubai, transportation for commuting, infrastructure, hotels etc. It has a direct impact on Foreign Tourist Arrivals and the economy of the emirate,” he said.

Having seen a significant rise in business from the Indian market over time, Lama Group is set to take large strides in the Indian market. Kulwant Singh, Managing Director, Lama Group revealed that the company plans to offer franchise agreements in India in a bid to reach out to a wider market. The group launched this business strategy at the OTOAI convention that followed in Philippines.

“The idea is to reach out to a tier I and II cities across India easily. We aim to have 30-40 franchise agreements signed this year. Our partners will receive the support that our regional offices currently give its B2B partners. Furthermore, disseminating information, education, visa services and packages on offer will be communicated to the agents faster through this initiative,” opined Singh.

Speaking about the previous year, Singh stated that the Rupee depreciation had put a dent in business, resulting in Lama Group’s plans to open hotels in India being put on hold. However, he is optimistic about this year and the business it will bring. “Our plan for the next five years includes signing on 30-40 franchises this year, and then increasing those numbers by 30-40 per cent over the next two years. Our aim is 100 franchises across India, which will make us the largest player in the field,” he said.

When asked about the business he expects Dubai to get since it has been declared the host of Expo 2020, he stated that Dubai is privileged to have won this opportunity. “It is great news for tourism as such conventions help not only business but the airports which are gateways into Dubai, transportation for commuting, infrastructure, hotels etc. It has a direct impact on Foreign Tourist Arrivals and the economy of the emirate,” he said.

Tourism Ireland recently brought to India a delegation comprising airlines, hotels and the visa authorities from Ireland, led by Amanda Burns, General Manager Middle East and Asia, Tourism Ireland. Addressing the trade and media in Mumbai recently, Burns unveiled the destination’s new online training programme site - irelandspecialists.com.

The programme consists of six modules, and awards a gold status certificate to agents who score 100 per cent, and silver status to those who score 90-99 per cent. Gold status agents stand a chance to win a trip to Ireland as well. Speaking about the new training programme, Burns revealed that the department is aiming to train 750 agents through it this year.

Throwing light on Tourism Ireland’s strategy for the year, Burns stated that, increasing awareness of the destination is a focus for the department this year. During the trade mission, she highlighted the Limerick city of culture; the upcoming cycle race Giro d’Italia; the Wild Atlantic Way tourism route and the Causeway Coastal touring route. She further mentioned that, higher airline frequency by Emirates and Etihad, who have increased connectivity via their hubs, will help push Indian traffic to Ireland.

 

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