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Maansi Sharma

Maansi Sharma

Indian global assistance and travel insurance company TrawellTag has merged with Australia’s travel insurance and medical assistance provider Cover-More in a bid to provide Indian travellers with a wider range of services and better travel experience. Addressing the media at a press conference in Mumbai, Dev Karvat, Managing Director, TrawellTag Cover-More said, “We were looking for other players in the field who are more established and can help TrawellTag achieve better outcomes. The Indian travel insurance market is about Rs. 450 crores, and Cover-More already caters to four times that market size.”

As part of their agreement, the synergy will allow integration of complete travel service products; new e-commerce dimensions; higher sales; expansion of current products and an upgrade of IT systems. Cover-More has over 60 products, which TrawellTag will bring to the Indian market step by step. Adventure sports cover; car rental cover; overseas supply insolvency and trip cancellation cover are some of the products being integrated immediately, revealed Karvat.

“Some of the major challenges the Indian travel insurance industry faces are underpenetrated markets, lack of products, lack of product awareness, and limited channels. The key idea of the partnership is to help overcome these obstacles. For instance, Cover-More has developed a software in e-commerce called “Impulse” which helps sell products that are appropriate for each segment of traveller and the kind of holiday they are opting for. It even offers phone assistance for the clients as well as extended services for families back home in the case of business travellers, allowing for a stress-free trip,” he added.

Karvat further stated that Indian airlines have been approached by TrawellTag Cover-More to encourage them to use their e-commerce solutions such as Impulse. OTAs and travel agents have already been approached for the same. Furthermore, the company is conducting a National Training Drive to educate travel agents across India about their products. “We have already finished with Ahmedabad, and will move to Chennai next. We intend to cover 12-15 cities by March. The training will be conducted at different levels. We will follow up with the agents that get trained this time around, and move them ahead to next year’s training based on their work with the product,” he said.

Speaking about the advantages TrawellTag will extend to Cover-More, Karvat revealed that they would look at expanding the business to regions such as Egypt and Middle East where the latter does not have its reach. He further added that Cover-More will integrate TrawellTag’s baggage tracker service for its clients in the next quarter.

“We want to add more emotions to the product through this partnership, and not just through reimbursements and insurance claims, but through more advantageous services and tangible value,” said Karvat.

Forming day two of the World Tourism Conference that was hosted in Melaka, Malaysia in October this year, some of the industry’s greatest minds came together to discuss the industry’s current situation and the way forward. In keeping with their Conference theme ‘Global Tourism: Game Changers and Pace Setters’, New Directions for Tourism Product Development and Boon or Bane of the Tourism Sector were the panel discussion topics for the day.

Panel Discussion III: New Directions for Tourism Product Development

Chang Hogan, Dy. Director General of Marketing and International Cooperation Department, China National Tourism Administration and David Chapman, Director General, The World Youth Student and Education Travel Confederation presented their experience on the topic, while Ong Hong Peng, Secretary General, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia moderated the session.

Kick-starting the session, Hogan revealed that tourism contributes to 4 per cent of China’s GDP, making it an important sector for the country. He further added that the Ministry has begun to set aside a certain amount of time every year where departments work in conjunction to increase tourism in every way possible. According to him, China has focussed on increasing rural, ecological and forest tourism sectors, as well as improving qualities of service and infrastructure. “We are willing to join hands with other countries for improvement in global tourism,” Hogan concluded.

Speaking about attracting youth and gen Y travellers, Chapman said that statistics show 200 million youth trips to date, with the prediction being 300 million by 2020. He opined that this is the fastest growth sector in tourism. “When things get tough, the youth get travelling. While the backpacker market has been seeing a dip since 2007, the flashbacker market has been on a rise. The youth spend on tourism has increased from EUR1500 in 2500 to EUR 1500 in 2012. TRhe age group of youth travellers is increasing along with their spending capacity and frequency of travel,” he revealed.

Panel Discussion IV: Boon or Bane of the Tourism Sector

Moderated by Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, Impact Newswire; the panel included Shaun Vorster, Advisor to the Minister of Tourism, South Africa; Kevin Leong, GM, Asia Cruise Association – Regional Perspective; William Harber, VP of Market Development, Carnival Asia – Global Perspective; and Azran Osman Rani, CEO, Air Asia X.

According to Vorster, who spoke about tourism and mega events in tourism, South Africa witnessed a fourfold growth in inbound tourists from 1993 to 2012, all through which the destination hosted events. “We learned a lot from our mistakes while hosting the FIFA in 2010, and benefited from it tremendously as well. We received 309,000 additional tourists, earned SAR 3.6 billion in tourism receipts, and also grew our brand exposure and improved infrastructure. We adopted a ‘milestone’ mindset; understood value proposition; learned the advantages of social media and TV; roped in local community support; and used green economy as a license to a broader economy,” he said.

Vorster further added that South Africa aims to earn SAR 6.2 billion over the next five years in exhibitions. To aid this, they hope to switch to e-visas over the next five to six years, as well as deal with the issues of air lifts and carbon footprint.

Speaking about reshaping tourism, Rani opined that multi-sector flights are a growing trend which means, length of stay won’t increase for the next few years; it will only stabilise as people get more inclined to LCCs. This, he added, will be the trend till there is a next generation in in the aviation model. He further added that infrastructure development is very lumpy, and this is an issue faced by all key tourism products. “While one year the seat capacity available is enough, the next year it is less as the popularity of the destination has increased,” he said.

The rapid growth of the cruise industry was evident in Leong’s presentation which showed a prediction of 3.8 million cruise passengers by 2020. Speaking about the challenges, Leong stated that geography, attitude towards cruising and limited infrastructure are the prime challenges that Asia will face when it has to hold these 3.8 million passengers. He further stated that the economic benefits of cruising are not yet recognised, which is why the industry is not yet a priority.

Harber revealed that Carnival Cruises expects to have welcomed seven million guests by 2020.

Onerous immigration policies, inflexible duty hours, distributors not selling client expectations and the need for training were some of the challenges Leong listed in cruising. He added high fees and port charges to this list.

Oman, which has recently gained favour among Indian leisure travellers, is set to tap the MICE segment as well. According to Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman, the MICE market in India is booming at a rapid pace and many destinations have benefitted because of this, including Oman.

“We foresee a growth in this segment of Indian travelers to Oman in 2014. To increase awareness amongst corporate and trade about Oman as a MICE destination, we recently participated in MICE Travel Mart (MTM) in Mumbai and will also participate in MICE India & Luxury Travel Congress (MILTC), Experiential Planner, MTM Delhi. We would also like to give the trade and corporate a firsthand experience of Oman and will conduct a FAM for top corporate and trade in the month of August,” she said.

In addition, Oman Tourism is looking to leverage on Film Tourism and Destination Weddings, which Sheerazi added are emerging trends in India. “We participated in the 3-city India International Film Tourism Conclave (IIFTC) earlier this year where we got the opportunity to meet several top directors, producers and production houses that showed great interest in shooting in Oman,” she added.

When asked about their plans for the year, Sheerazi revealed that the main aim will be to increase brand awareness. “Earlier, Oman was looked at by Indians only for its business and commercial prospects, but this perception has slowly but surely undergone a change. Today, luxury seeking Indians too are travelling to Oman to experience an off-beat destination.

She further revealed that Oman will be prominently present on the digital platform in 2014. In mid 2013, the destination launched its exclusive Oman Tourism, India Facebook page which has over 20,000 likes so far. They also regularly engage with fans on this page and provide them valuable information about Oman through Facebook posts. “We will also be conducting a blogging contest soon in the Indian blogspace. Through this initiative we want the well educated, evolved, travelled and adventurous Indians to travel to Oman and obtain more knowledge about the destination and promote it through their blogs,” Sheerazi concluded.

Having added four flights from Mumbai and Chennai and three from Bengaluru in 2012, followed by three additional flights from Chennai and one additional flight from Mumbai in the month of January and June, 2013 respectively, it is little surprise that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) considers India a priority market. Furthermore, the airline added Kochi as a new destination on the India route in the month of September 2013, along with two additional flights from Delhi and Bengaluru in October 2013.

“India is a key market for MAS. We have seen 18 per cent growth YoY in India. Our average SLF this year has been over 80 per cent. Whilst we see competition intensifying further next year with new capacity injection from existing as well as new players in the industry, this is a market where we believe demand growth will match the capacity. The focus for MAS next year will be to strengthen the current network and provide enhanced connectivity to destinations within and beyond Malaysia,” said Azahar Hamid, Regional Senior Vice President South Asia & Middle East, MAS.

Speaking about the most recent increased light frequency from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, Hamid stated that the airline has received great response for these additional flights. “Being a priority market, we are always looking at more connectivity to strengthen our presence in India in response to the current market needs. We have received tremendous response to all additional frequencies including Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur. We have seen a steady increase in passenger traffic matching the added capacity and frequency, and have been garnering an average SLF over 85 per cent on this additional flight,” he concluded.

The British Council held a press conference in Mumbai yesterday to launch its GREAT Scholarships and GREAT Careers Guide, with the aim to showcase UK as the best place for Indian students to pursue higher education. The programme features 370 scholarships worth almost GBP 1 million, offering 260 courses across top universities in the UK from September 2014 to January 2015. The Council is also organising an education fair across India, which will witness the participation of 70 universities from Britain who wish showcase their courses to aspiring students.

“UK’s commitment to India is evident from the three visits David Cameron has made during his term as Prime Minister. During his last visit he focused on the education, stating that UK is looking to attract the best and the brightest minds to study in the country, and carry that education forward wherever they go. This is what we are trying to highlight here as well. There are 43,000 non-European students in the UK right now, and 30,000 of them are Indian. There is no limit to the number of education visas we issue,” said Andrew Soper, Counsellor (Prosperity), British High Commission, New Delhi.

Soper cited quality of education, high number of institutes and courses, global recognition and better lifestyle as some of the main reasons students should select UK for higher education. He further added that the country has introduced a new visa for aspiring graduate entrepreneurs who have great business plans in a bid to encourage such students to stay back and pursue these ventures.

The GREAT Careers Guide that was unveiled at the press conference features all the practical information and tips an Indian student would need while applying and then studying and lodging in the UK. “The links between our countries in terms of education is quite strong. We are a cosmopolitan country, an English speaking nation, and have a large Indian Diaspora. Furthermore, research shows that students educated in the UK get paid higher than graduates from other countries. Four of the world’s top six universities are in the UK, and offer every course imaginable. This is the best time for students to come to the country,” added Soper.

Karnataka Tourism Forum (KTF), the not-for-profit organisation that organises B2B roadshows across India to promote the state and encourage domestic tourism, today organised it’s first event of the year in Mumbai. The Forum will soon be moving on to Delhi where they hope to tap a few inbound tour operators as well to attract international footfall to the destination. Speaking with T3 on the sidelines of the event, CB Ramkumar, President, KTF revealed that the Forum conducts about four roadshows a year, with 40 sellers participating at each event.

“We visited three sectors in Gujarat (Ahmedabad, Surat and Baroda), Pune and Chennai in 2012-13, and have Mumbai and Delhi on the cards so far this year. We always try and follow up our roadshows with FAMs, and will organise one soon for the Mumbai agents. We are starting with the strong source markets this year such as the metros, and will move on to other tier II and III cities as well,” he stated.

Speaking about the Mumbai event, he commented that the Forum has added a new segment called Experiential Karnataka, which highlights the experiences unique to Karnataka such as homestays and city walks. Poornima Dasharathi, Unhurried, a company that specialises in experiential and thematic tours, stated that the demand to know more about the history and culture of a destination is increasing, leading to more demand for city walks in Bengaluru, thematic city tours and out of city tours. The domestic and NRI markets are the strongest for such tours, while international demand is also on the rise for city tours.

Speaking about KTF’s plans for the year, Ramkumar added that the forum is planning an awards ceremony to felicitate trade partners. “Furthermore, we are planning a Karnataka International Travel Expo (KITE) at a later stage, which will feature B2B fixed appointments,” Ramkumar said.

KTF is a private organisation run by volunteers who are passionate about Karnataka as a tourist destination. The body works closely with Karnataka Tourism Board and the Ministry as consultants for tourism policies and so on. The Karnataka Tourism Board partly funds these roadshows. The Mumbai roadshow witnessed the participation of tour operators, hotels, resorts and spas from across the state.

TUI Travel has recently introduced it’s charter flight service to the Indian market, and has succeeded in selling two of the seats to a honeymoon couple recently. TUI converts aircraft into 56 first class beds. The vessel does a tour around the world  - 7 countries - in 25 days, commencing in Seychelles and concluding in Boston. The pricing is close to Rs. 55 lakhs, an all inclusive packaged with accommodations at Four Seasons’ properties.

“People are on the lookout for a different kind of holiday. They are more willing to spend on a luxury holiday as a result of possibly higher disposable income. Also, holidays have now become a necessity for Indians, a time to get away from the monotony of daily stress,” said Vishal Sinha, COO, TUI India.

TUI is also trying to work out if it can bring the charter services into India, i.e. commence the journeys from India rather than Seychelles. “However, this will take time. We need to get the necessary permissions and create a market for the product. We aim to have it in place by 2017,” Sinha added.

Elaborating on the new product range being offered to Indians, Sinha revealed that TUI has been able to establish ourselves as players who provide private yachts, and requests for the same have been on the rise. “People are on the lookout for a different kind of holiday, and a yacht holiday is just that because we provide the private yachts with a captain, chef and butler, and it can accommodate seven to eight people, sail along Thailand – Koh Samui, Pattaya etc. It provides an element of luxury and adventure, while not being exorbitant. These are in the range of a five star hotel stay. It is becoming increasingly common for customers to opt for these. For instance, anniversary celebrations are popular on these liners, and we have also managed to sell honeymoon packages on it. The liners can travel through Seychelles, Thailand, the French Riviera and Greece,” he said.

TUI is distributing these packages among the Indian travel trade to fuel bookings, and is currently educating the trade about the advantages of selling TUI’s products. “We believe that the trade can definitely earn more from selling our components. If you sell a Quark Expedition, you would earn close to Rs. 80-90,000 in commission. Selling one of the charters at Rs. 55 lakhs would fetch a commission of Rs. 5.5 lakhs. We are trying to educate the Indian trade about these benefits,” Sinha concluded.

The Enterprising Travel Agents Association (ETAA)’s first international convention, scheduled to be held in Dubai from 29 November- 2 December 2013, received overwhelming response from members and was sold out in the first six weeks since its announcement. Naveen Advani, President, ETAA stated that they are treating the convention in a unique way, by making it a discover experience rather than a convention filled with panel discussions and business sessions. “The focus is to showcase and promote the host destination, and experiencing it is the best way to do it as opposed to keeping members in a ballroom listening to business sessions,” he said.

Speaking about Dubai as a venue, Advani added that the destination is close to India, has a lot of awareness, and is well advertised, increasing agents’ curiosities about the country, and making it the perfect place to showcase to ETAA members. The convention will also feature an offline destination training programme by DVPC, a first of its kind as the module is an online one.

Themed ‘Dubai in your Palm’, the convention will showcase Dubai’s malls as well as outdoor activities such as the dhow cruise, desert safari, etc.  Karl Dantas, Chairman Emiratus, ETAA also revealed  that the overwhelming response has led to other countries approaching them for future conventions. He further added that the association is already planning one domestic and one international convention in 2014, both of which will be discovery conventions like this year’s.

He further stated that the event is dedicated to the late Kamlesh Amin, whose dedication helped move ETAA to recognition.

Adding to the association’s achievements this year, its membership base went up from about 420 members to 575 since the announcement. Dantas added that, while the common belief is that the international convention fuelled these numbers, only half the new members are attending the convention. The increase is based purely on increased awareness of the association. “We are now mooting chapters in Nasik, Nagpur, Cochin, Chennai, Coimbatore, and other cities as each of these regions has crossed 20 members.”

While the travel industry laments a slow inbound season during the Indian summers, owing to the fact that it is largely an outbound tourism period, states have been witnessing a steady footfall of domestic tourists, keeping them upbeat about the time of year. Two of India’s most popular holiday destinations – Goa and Kerala, have notched a steady increase in domestic numbers during the holidays.

Domestic arrivals in Kerala have been showing a steady increase over the years. In 2013, the number stood at 10,857,811 compared to 10,076,854 – registering a growth of 7.75 per cent year-on-year. According to Suman Billa IAS, Secretary, Kerala Tourism, Kerala attracts a lot of domestic travellers especially from the north around this time because of the school summer holidays and the relatively cooler climate that the state enjoys post the arrival of the monsoons in early June.

Goa Tourism Development Corporation, which recorded a 12.47 per cent increase in domestic tourists in 2013, believes that numbers also indicated the tremendous potential for growth that Goa has as a tourist destination. Footfall figures for April and May 2013 stood at over 1,95,286 and 1,92,959 respectively. Dilip Parulekar, Minister for Tourism, Government of Goa, said, “These figures only prove that Goa continues to be the destination of choice for people from all across the world. At the same time, these numbers also serve as a reminder for us to constantly strive and keep the infrastructure and other developments in the state on par with international standards so that Goa can turn into the number one destination of choice for travellers. Goa Tourism has listed 34 infrastructural projects to be completed over the span of the next two to three years, and we are also exploring the possibility of tie-ups with private hotel chains to take GTDC properties to world class standards.”

Kerala Tourism is keen to promote the state as an all-seasons destination. In a bid to leverage the potential during what is traditionally dubbed ‘off-season’ during the peak-summer months of April-May, followed by the monsoons, the department has launched a campaign titled ‘Dream Deals’. Odisha Tourism has announced that it will organise roadshows in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Surat, Visakhapatnam and Ahmedabad to welcome more domestic tourists. Odisha has received 8.47 million domestic tourists in 2011-12 compared to 7.77 million previous year.

Madhya Pradesh, which has always been focussed on the domestic market, is reaping good benefits from its strategy. The state has witnessed a record 620 per cent increase in domestic tourist arrivals in the last seven years.

Also, to draw more domestic tourists, authorities in Leh area of Jammu and Kashmir have done away with the requirement of an Inner Line Permit. The Leh administration, in a circular, has notified that any identification proof shall be treated as an Inner Line Permit for citizens of the country who visit the place often dubbed as the dream destination. The region welcomed more than 1.37 lakh tourists in 2013.

Meanwhile, Karnataka which recently announced that it’s tourism policy is equally focused on the domestic market. R V Deshpande, Karnataka Tourism Minister, stressed on the need to cater to domestic tourists rather than concentrating only on foreign tourists, while unveiling the state’s tourism policy 2014-19 in Bengaluru recently.

The focus of this year’s Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) was clear – that Thailand is a safe haven once again for visitors. The popular destination has been battling political woes since January 2014, and was recently placed under martial law with a late night curfew to maintain peace in the nation. Even as agents were building business ties at TTM+, the curfew was lifted for popular tourist destinations such as Koh Samui, Pattaya and Phuket.

Addressing the global media present at the Mart, Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) revealed that the tourist arrival numbers are not on track as a resukt of the coup, and the destination has noted a 5 per cent dip in footfall. However, TAT does still hope to touch 13 million Foreign Tourists Arrivals (FTA) by 2015, notching an earning of THB 2.2 trillion.

“We had originally projected 25.6 million FTAs for 2014, but the coup has lowered our numbers to popular destinations such as Bangkok and Koh Samui, denting these projections. We have requested special packages to increase footfall to the country, and if extra budgets are sanctioned we will increase promotions to fuel inbound tourism as well,” he added.

Arunyik further revealed that the Tourism Authority is working with Thai Airways to increase tourism numbers, and is even in talks with a popular singer to perform in Thailand in a bid to showcase the destination’s safety. TAT is also working closely with the National Council to the same end.

“As national security is an issue we cannot ease visas to encourage tourism. However, we are mooting free visas for certain markets. The China market, one of our strongest, has suffered the most, and we are working with the Chinese authorities to bring in about 100,000 tourists to Thailand. We have also recommended special budgets for insurance. The move is under consideration,” he said.

India, Thailand’s sixth largest market, dipped by 14.7 per cent in Q1 2014. However, in April 2014, the numbers improved to show a footfall of 72,000, only a 4 per cent dip over the same period last year.

Speaking with the Indian media on the sidelines of the event, Jamnong Junnapiya, Executive Director, ASEAN South Asia and South Pacific Region Department, TAT mentioned five big projects to fuel tourism from the country: A consortium with travel agents; online promotions; Radio programmes; film shootings; and B2B roadshows.

Considering East India as one of Thailand’s stronger markets in the country, Thailand also plans promotions during the Durga Puja festival, and further intends to increase flight frequencies o n Thai Airways by two flights a week between Kolkata and Bangkok from 2 August 2014.

TTM+ took place earlier this month at the IMPACT Muang Thong Thani Convention and Exhibition Centre in Bangkok, and welcomed an Indian contingent of 17 hosted buyers.



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