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Maansi Sharma

Maansi Sharma

The ICC World Cup 2015 has provided Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) with an opportunity to tap the cricket-frenzied Indian market. Speaking on the sidelines of the Mumbai edition of the recently organised Kiwi Link India 2014, David Craig, General Manager Asia, Tourism New Zealand agreed that the cricket world cup is a big opportunity for TNZ, and the team has to ensure they make the most of it.

“We have to work across a range of promotional activities, especially working with well known partners who know New Zealand and are trusted spokespeople here in the Indian market. We are currently trying to also make it easy for Indians to travel to New Zealand, or for them to travel from Australia to New Zealand should they plan to visit Australia first. World Cup marketing will be more PR-led than advertising-led. We think the cricket world cup is going to be more about stories and personal experiences; what Indians have an affinity to in New Zealand; with what they say about the destination and so on,” he said.

When asked if sports is an angle that is leveraged globally to draw inbound tourists, Craig commented that the destination grabs every opportunity it can to draw tourists in from this segment. “New Zealanders are nuts about sports and it’s a very emotional area. So if you are in a market where people love a particular sport, it’s a fantastic way of hooking them on to New Zealand. In the past we have also leveraged the rugby world cup. We need to be very specific market by market which sport we crank up, but sports are a great way for us to talk about New Zealand,” Craig added. 

He further revealed that TNZ is in the process of signing on four major Indian tour operators under the ICC World Cup banner to design special packages for the event - TUI India, Fanatic Sports, Sports Konnect and Cutting Edge.

Speaking about their strategy for the remainder of the year, Craig stated that TNZ saw good momentum in business and visitor numbers were up 13 per cent in 2013, encouraging them to continue the strategy they followed last year, but invest more in the activities. A lot of involvement with the trade, especially in tier I cities, through platforms such as Kiwi Link India 2014, which was organised in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi, are part of their plans for the year.

The Kiwi Link India 2014 is the largest edition ever hosted. The platform will welcome a delegation of 33 New Zealand operators and an attendance of over 500 Indian delegates. The aim is to educate the Indian trade and tap the family travellers, young adventurers and honeymooners from here. TNZ is also aiming to tap the corporate market/business travellers as the destination has the wherewithal to host up to 2,000 delegates.

Furthermore, the third Hobbit movie is slated to release at the end of this year, marking the end of the Hobbit trilogy as well as the Lord of the Rings franchise, providing TNZ with a promotional hook they plan to leverage well.

Craig also added that TNZ is planning a few associations with Indian entertainers, details of which will be announced soon.

The Maharashtra State Government submitted a policy in June this year to the High Court suggesting that all organisers of holiday and adventure camps henceforth will have to be registered. The move is an attempt to regulate the burgeoning travel segment. The Indian travel segment is growing rapidly and the trends show an upward curve in the lean towards experiential and adventure holidays. However, following a series of unfortunate accidents, some fatal, public outcry led to the aforementioned decision by the authorities.

The policy’s focus is to regulate trekking and mountaineering activities and has decided on a minimum qualification and experience for trainers and instructors. It also caps the admissible age limit of treks to over 3000m to permit only those above 16 years.

The policy further provides specifications for the required equipment and life saving apparatus and has recognised select institutions for training, instructing and guiding so as to minimise medical risks. A code of conduct has also been laid down for the organisers. A breach of conditions would culminate in the cancellation of their registration. 

Speaking about the impact of the policy, Milind Bhide, MD, Countryside Adventure Holidays, said, “The government of Maharashtra has made a government's resolution(GR) for organisations conducting adventure activities, and has made registration mandatory for such organisations. The GR also has some regulatory framework to regulate & operating guidelines for adventure activities such as climbing, trekking, snowboarding, paragliding etc.  The adventure tour sector may take some time to adapt itself completely in the new environment. Hence, it is too early to predict the implications of the Maharashtra Government's latest Resolution.”

Anirudh Chaoji, Director, Pugmarks opined that the industry desperately needed a regulation as it’s absence had led to a free-for-all style of running business with the adventure equipment and safety measures not up to the mark. He stated that operators would use outdated and old equipment with no one to monitor them or provide guidelines to point out the right way to do it. The industry, he said, needed someone to improve the rut of the adventure tourism segment.

Commenting on the challenges such a policy might pose, Bhide opined that there is a need of having some registration and regulation along with broad guidelines. However, he added, the GR in its current form lacks clarity. “If implemented without making few necessary changes may create confusion and will be deterrent to the activity,” he said.

Rajinder Singh, Director, The Wanderers called the move a step in the right direction. However, he added, the GR document is flawed and is grey in most areas. “Most experts in the industry were never consulted while framing this GR and nor were they part of the process of framing these guidelines. The GR in its shape and form will only lead to chaos, a license raj and surely corruption. We are willing to be a part of the creation of these guidelines and in fact we want watertight yet a very transparent GR which is implementable. The Govt has to take the right steps by first recognising 'Adventure Tourism' as an industry, involving the industry experts to create these norms and create the requisite infrastructure for the safety and growth of this industry,” Singh said.

According to Chaoji, when the ruling finally came in, it was more bureaucratic and red-tape than expected. “It’s more of a permit raaj where you register the number of people going, gender segregation and so on with the district sports officer, when what should have been included were standard operating procedures, evacuation norms and the likes,” he stated.

The Adventure Tour Operators of Maharashtra (ATOM) are together formulating certain corrections in the GR. Chaoji, who is one of the founding members of the association, reiterated that the GR itself is a must and the association is not opposing it, but feels it needs more practicalities for the improvement of adventure activities. “We do want a regulatory system in place where fly by night operators who will not take customers for a ride with bad equip and unsafe measures,” he added.

The SKAL Club of Bombay, which elected its new Managing Committee (MC) in October last year, has recorded an increase in their membership numbers in the few months of its existence, bringing the club’s total strength from 50 to 120. In his presentation at their most recent EMG, Carl Vaz, President, SKAL Club of Bombay, urged the members to ‘Go Forward’ and really commit with funds to an annual  calendar of pre-decided networking opportunities that help business growth. He stated that Members should benefit from opportunities that are fun, varied and interactive, and build lasting friendships and camaraderie, Build a healthy balance between spending and savings, and Cater to social obligations as SKAL.

“With the above, let’s build our club strength from 120 to over 200 by the end of 2014. This will help grow your own business opportunities and network of friends,” he added. The MC also unveiled the proposed SKAL calendar of events for the next one year at the EMG.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Vaz stated that it was imperative to alter the club’s fee structure from Rs 6,000 and Rs 5,000 for new and renewal memberships respectively, to Rs 10,000 and Rs 8,000 to meet mounting costs. “With raising this bar, we will be able to pump this money back into the club. We want 120 members to become 200, but those 200, when they come in, will see such stature and quality, they don’t mind sponsoring events and aiding in any way they can, which increases business opportunities for the whole membership base,” he explained.

The growth of the Indian market has paved the way for several hotel chains of international repute to set up shop and benefit from the burgeoning industry. However, estimate suggests that the rapid growth of the hospitality segment in India has led to an oversupply in the markets, especially the metro cities which are almost every chain’s first stop. Among these is the city of Mumbai, financial capital and one of the busiest gateways of the country.

Arguing against this belief are the five star properties running successfully in the city, notching year-on-year growth in Revenue per Available Room (Revpar) and occupancy. According to Andrew W. Harrison, General Manager, Four Seasons Mumbai, 2013 saw continued strength in the luxury segment and the hotel stabilised in occupancy, to the low 70s. Furthermore, Revpar grew as business into the city grew after a prolonged period of lull, he revealed.

The Sofitel Mumbai BKC also did well last year and the first six months of 2014 have been very positive for the hotel, said Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager, Sofitel Mumbai BKC. The property has recorded enhanced occupancy levels over last year and the coming season looks buoyant in terms of both, average room rate (ARR) and occupancy levels.

“The Financial Year 2014 proved to be the best year for The Westin Mumbai Garden City. The hotel has reported a positive revenue growth of 11 per cent during Jan-June this year over the last year. The overall productive performance of the hotel in facets of catering/ banquets, F&B and rooms business is indicated by increase in the occupancy level up to 4 per cent over the previous year and augmentation in ARR by 3 per cent as compared to the last year,” said Anurag Bhatnagar, Area General Manager, Westin Mumbai Garden City.

2013 was also a record breaking year for Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel that saw a surge in business travel. “Being a MICE hotel, whilst most of the annual conventions were retained at the hotel, the weddings and social segment too saw an increase in revenue. The hotel had over 67 per cent growth in the wedding and social segment,” said Rex Nijhof, General Manager, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet Marriott Executive Apartments.

Staying ahead of the game

So how do these properties stay ahead of their competition while servicing the same market? The Westin Mumbai Garden City names it’s positioning as a ‘Lifestyle’ inspired brand as it’s niche. Proximity to Bombay Exhibition Center, Infinity Business Park, Nirlon Knowledge Center and Mindspace has driven the ‘Corporate Segment’ and MICE organisers to the hotel. Moreover, the new T2 flyover connecting the international and domestic airports has given the hotel a breakthrough in airline, crew and transient business,” Bhatnagar said.

“We are changing the way we do meeting by providing our guests numerable meeting space options besides the traditional boardrooms. A very popular new trend at Renaissance is the ‘Green Meetings’,” revealed Nijhof.

Taking a different route, Sofitel Mumbai BKC has focused on increasing it’s thematic offerings to guests as a way of staying ahead of it’s competitors. In the past few months, the hotel has seen a host of events including performances by an international all-girl band from the UK and mentalist Nicolai Friedrich apart from few more such events.

Harrison stated that the launch of the Four Seasons Luxury Private Jet and The Four Seasons Extraordinary Experiences have been great brand enforcers as it has led to greater guest engagement and a better understanding to recognise and serve luxury travellers. “We have worked hard to capture more direct bookings with continued enhancements to the fourseasons.com website and are in the process to introduce a new mobile application,” he added.

Treading as per the trends

Bhatnagar opined that the market is demonstrating a sturdy inclination towards the upper-upscale business hotel. And this seems to be a unanimous opinion in the segment. Speaking about the trends seen in the traveller today, all the General Managers agreed that the customer today is better travelled, better informed and more demanding of quality accommodation and services.

“A traveller today is very well informed about his rights and privileges, understands value for money, is technologically savvy and expects the hotel to be agile and flexible to meet his demands. This has led to a certain degree of impatience. Groups and conventions have increasingly been demanding all inclusive packages which impact profitability in an adverse way,” said Harrison. Commenting on the excess inventory in Mumbai, he said that Mumbai has to be the “best value” luxury hotel market.

According to Chakraborty, in terms of product offerings, when one talks about room amenities, it certainly has changed dramatically. Also, as technology advances people’s choices have also grown and now they expect hotel rooms to offer them flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations among others.

Nijhof opined that the lead time for booking hotels is becoming shorter whilst the customer bookings are getting more and more personalised, customised and unique. He further added that the hotel industry is increasingly moving towards the digitalised world.

According to Chang Chee Pey, Executive Director South Asia, Middle East & Africa and Planning Projects, STB, the destination forecasts 2013 tourism receipts to be in the range of US$23.5 to US$24.5 billion (an increase of about 2.2 to 6.5 per cent from 2012), and visitor arrivals of about 14.8 to 15.5 million (an increase of about 2.8 to 7.6 per cent from 2012). Imaginably, India will contribute a sizable chunk to the same. India contributed US$1.1 billion in terms of tourism receipts in 2011, which represented a 21 per cent increase over 2010.

“In 2011, India was the fifth largest source market for Singapore in terms of visitors. Singapore received a total of 869,000 Indian tourists in 2011, displaying a 5 per cent year‐on‐year growth. In terms of tourism receipts (TR) contribution, India contributed 5 per cent to the global TR and is the third most important market after Indonesia and China. For the first three quarters of 2012, 670,000 Indian tourists visited Singapore, representing a 4 per cent increase,” said Pey.

STB has remained unfased by the decline in the Indian Rupee. Speaking of the situation, Pey stated that, although the Indian rupee is currently on a weak footing, the destination is still seeing strong interest from leisure travellers and corporates alike for Singapore and outbound cruises from Singapore as Indians shift from longer haul destinations to taking shorter holidays nearby. “As India’s middle class consumer base expands, more and more will see travel as an essential spend,” he opined.

Several airlines, including Jet Airways, Indigo, Air India and Tiger Airways fly to Singapore from various cities in India. In addition, in India, Singapore Airlines operates from Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmadabad, providing India with strong direct connectivity to the destination. Furthermore, to match the high demand for Singapore as a destination, as of end December 2012, Singapore has about 52,000 rooms from 338 hotels, with a healthy pipeline of about 14,000 hotel rooms to be expected in the next few years, Pey revealed.

Further highlighting the importance of India as a market, Pey said, “India continues to be a key source market for Singapore and we are committed to offering Indian visitors an indelible Singapore experience which will keep them coming back for more. The ‘The Holiday You Take Home With You’ campaign is a major undertaking for STB in India and we will continue to build on this and make it larger by reaching out to the travellers through various channels and partnerships.”

Showcasing their activities with the Indian trade, Pey revealed, “In the next wave of development, we are looking to new growth areas like cruise, arts and sports. Having a close working relationship with travel partners allows us to share the latest destination offerings in Singapore.”

KidZania, the fastest growing kid's entertainment brand, recognised globally for its unique blend of education and fun, has expanded its footprint with the opening of its first centre in India, in Mumbai.  Mumbai will be the 14th operational centre of KidZania in the world as India joins countries like Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

Speaking about Kidzania’s impact on tourism, Sanjeev Kumar, Director and CEO, KidZania India stated that for inbound travellers, especially from USA which does not have a Kidzania of its own, the Mumbai outlet will be a great attraction. In addition, NRIs are a major target segment, he revealed, whose children will need engaging activities when they are visiting their families. He further added that the Edutainment Park will work closely with the travel trade to promote and sell the park to customers. “We have tied up with certain GSAs that will be marketing this product to both international and domestic tourists, as well as specific groups.

Highlighting the challenges faced, Kumar revealed that machineries and activities’ supplies such as fire engines and ambulances etc were required for Kidzania, obtaining which required several permissions. Gaining these, he said, were roadblocks. However, he stated that everyone was supportive when they understood that the concept was educational and financially enhancing as well as entertaining. 
The total investment for Kidzania was about Rs. 100 crores. Kidzania also plans to open a franchise in Delhi by 2015, following which they plan to add a Bengaluru branch as well.

Shah Rukh Khan, Actor and Co-Promoter of KidZania Mumbai said, “I’m elated to see KidZania open in India and proud to be part of such an empowering concept. It is my belief that KidZania will be the new destination for Indian parents to send their kids to learn and have fun together. India is ready for an edutainment concept like KidZania and I’m hopeful that it will provide new opportunities to the kids to shape their future."

KidZania is an indoor family edutainment theme park that emulates the workings of a real city, complete with paved roads and cars, city buildings, recognisable establishments and a functioning economy. Ideally suited for children aged four to 14, KidZania Mumbai features 60-plus real-world establishments (Bank, University, Fire Dept, Radio Station and many more) and 80-plus role-playing options (Pilot, Surgeon, Fashion Designer) to help children develop real life skills. Unique to KidZania Mumbai, children can also experience one-

Having witnessed success with their ‘The Holiday You Take Home With You’ campaign, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has now launched its Incentive-centric campaign “Inspire”. This rewards programme is a partnership between STB and major Singapore tourism industry partners such as Changi Airport Group, Gardens by the Bay, Resorts World Sentosa, Sentosa Leisure Group, Singapore Airlines, Singapore Turf Club, and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Incentive groups travelling no later than 31 December 2014 and staying at least 1,000 visitor nights are welcome to apply for the INSPIRE programme. Applications are open till 31 July 2014 and will be evaluated individually.

“Even in today’s economy and situation, Indian companies would want to increase their top lines and revenues. For that they need to motivate their top performers and employees to push themselves further. Incentives are hence still important. US and Europe are now too expensive, so they will look at closer destinations, and that is where Singapore will benefit. Teemed with the attractions we have on offer through Inspire, it will create more value for Indian companies to choose Singapore,” said Chang Chee Pey, Executive Director – South Asia, Middle East & Africa, Singapore Tourism Board.
India is the first country where STB has launched Inspire, and Chee Pey hopes that the initiative will revive Indians’ interest in Singapore as a destination. “Travel is now part of the Indians’ lifestyle and ingrained in their psyche. Once they come to terms with the dollar rate rise, they will go back to travel. It is not something they will give up,” he added.

Speaking about the partnerships forged for Inspire, Chee Pey revealed that STB is open to adding more partners to the initiative at a later stage if the campaign is successful. While the campaign has been launched for this year, STB has plans to go beyond one year if it receives good response.

When asked about air connectivity improving Singapore’s odds as a destination this year, Chee Pey stated that Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh visited Singapore recently and signed a new air services agreement with Singapore to grant 10 per cent more air rights between the two countries. “Right now, Singapore carriers have exhausted their air rights to India, and this will be a welcome move. Of course we are always pushing to see if we can get more flights into more cities in India. For instance, Pune has always been a market we have been interested in establishing direct flight connectivity with. We hope that the Indian government will grant us some of these requests down the road,” Chee Pey added.

He further revealed that Tiger Airways is looking to expand to the East, maybe Kolkata, and even the North East. There have been talks also with Tiger Airways about flying into Guwahati, he added.

Highlighting their activity with the Indian travel trade, Chee Pey said that STB has tied up with Kuoni India to do the holiday bazaar in five cities for their roadshows (Kolkata, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Chennai) which will have a certain Singapore focus. In October, STB will be launching phase three of our The Holiday You Take Home With You campaign.

STB, in association with Asia Cruise Association, also recently organised training sessions for the Indian market in Mumbai and New Delhi on cruise tourism. Commenting on these initiatives, GB Srithar, Area Director South Asia Marketing, STB said, “The key role STB can play to further cruise tourism is to bring the cruise liners together and look at cruising as a whole. Indian travellers still don’t have cruises high on their lists and we need to promote it more. Going forward, we will work more closely with the industry for trainings and promotions for cruises.”

Air India’s much awaited flight route from Delhi  to Sydney and Melbourne has received a further boost through its association with Qantas. According to Inder Singh, Manager (Tourism and Business Development), Air India, as per a codeshare agreement between the two airlines, Qantas will provide Air India passengers 30 seats at a minimum fare for travel within the destination. A similar agreement has been signed with Air New Zealand, Singh added.

“The offer will be available to FITs at first, and group travellers’ special fares will also be added on soon. The offer will be available to all IATA agents in India,” Singh revealed.  He further stated that, as an incentive to travel agents, a 20 per cent incentive will be given on basic fare, plus fuel surcharge on business class tickets will be given for a booking of a minimum of five tickets.

Air India has an inaugural offer of about Rs. 48,000 round trip between Delhi and Melbourne/Sydney.

Among the newbies in destinations that perceive India as a strong potential market is Reunion Island. The destination already has direct connectivity with Chennai, serviced by Air Austral, making Chennai a very potential market, revealed Alefiya Singh, Director, Iris Reps, India representative for Reunion Island. “India is considered as an emerging and potential market for Reunion Island. Hence, all the tourism efforts are concentrated in creating awareness to the trade as well as to the consumer.

Speaking about the growing strength of the Indian market, Singh opined that it is a matter of time whereby the footfall from India to Reunion Island will increase. “Chennai is also a very potential market since there has been VFR traffic. However, I cannot deny Delhi and Mumbai since they are the main markets,” she added.

When asked about the impact of the declining currency strength, Singh stated that, given the scenario, Indians might compromise in the category of resorts and the number of nights. “Of what I understand of the Indian consumer, the moment you show them the quality and value of the product, they will definitely put their money on the destination. Reunion Island has both the features which will appeal the Indian tourist,” she said.

Highlighting their efforts in India, Singh revealed that Reunion Island is currently doing media promotions with Thomas Cook. “We have always believed in our travel trade partners and hence we have done trade promotions with online portals and NTO. There are more trade promotions to follow,” she concluded.

The first-of-its-kind scuba diving live-aboard product in India, Infiniti by Karina Tourism & Adventures, a Mumbai based company, is set to attract the worldwide diving fraternity to the Andaman Islands, thus putting the destination on the global diving map, revealed Sunil Bakshi, Co-Founder & Director, Karina Tourism & Adventures. According to him, the Andaman Islands are a unique destination for divers, surfers and general explorers. They have a lot to offer to Indians as well as foreigners, and much of it has been unexplored, he stated. The 130 feet long Infiniti will commence operations with five-day trips to diving sites in the Andaman Islands waters.

“I want to put the Andaman Islands on the world’s scuba diving map and make it a hot new diving frontier for the world – with special attractions such as volcanic diving, it has the potential to be as sensational as the Galapagos Islands or Belize. However, there has never been a proper live-aboard to access the many wonders of this area,” he added.

Bakshi believes that, in India too, scuba diving is taking off in a big way and there are dive clubs nearly everywhere in the country. Furthermore, Infiniti will do PADI certifications on board, allowing for even non-diver who would like to learn or are interested in a yachting type of holiday to come aboard. “We have other activities onboard too such as surfing, kayaking, barbecue under the stars, spa on board, island excursions, bird watching and so on,” he said.

Speaking about their welcome in the Indian market, Bakshi stated that Infiniti has received healthy response from cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai and Delhi, among others. Highlighting their plan to attract footfall, he added that Infiniti will primarily follow a B2B sales strategy and create a PSA network where partners in India and abroad will play very important roles.

“In addition to alliances with specialised dive clubs and select travel agencies/ tour operators, we will use digital marketing and targeted, niche advertising. Worldwide, liveaboard marketing is very well organised and sophisticated. In India, the challenge is to create familiarity with the concept,” he opined.

Infiniti’s schedule from September to December expects Indians to come for PADI courses and general excursions or charters. From January to May, they expect an international clientele to come for some advanced diving at remote locations such as Barren Island and Narcondam Island. The marketing strategies are, therefore, being formulated to attract both inbound and domestic tourists, Bakshi revealed.



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