In a bid to showcase and promote unexplored destinations, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), recently conducted its annual Tourism Conclave at Kevadia, Gujarat. The event was organised in association with Gujarat Tourism. Kevadia is home to the world’s tallest statue, ‘Statue of Unity’. The conclave witnessed members from 20 Regions and Chapters across India.
Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI, said, “We thank Gujarat Tourism and their entire team for their support in putting up such a conclave. We are confident in the revival of the travel and tourism industry. Members of the trade were going through challenging times due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this gave an opportunity for them to adopt to transformation, and ability to explore. Physical events like these are much needed to boost the confidence of the industry.”
The Member delegates experienced the accommodation and facilities at Tent City 1 and Tent City 2 at Kevadia along with evening dinner cruise along the River Narmada.
Kevadia has been developed as a wholesome destination with around 30 attractions in and around the Stature of Unity. Some of the major attractions include Jungle Safari, Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, Valley of Flowers, Cactus & Butterfly Garden, etc. Delegates also visited the five gardens inside Arogya Van (Herbal Garden), which exhibits a wide range of medicinal plants and health related landscapes.
Jay Bhatia, Vice President, TAAI, added, “This initiative of TAAI shall ensure members are familiarised with the region to promote Dekho Apna Desh and revive the promotion of domestic and inbound tourism through skilling and personal experiencing.”
Jenu Devan, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, Gujarat Tourism addressed the conclave via live video call wherein he highlighted the initiatives of the government in promoting Gujarat to the world and thanked the TAAI committee for bringing their members to SoU, in Gujarat and also assured full support and encouragement to the members in promoting Gujarat as a wholesome destination.
Devan added, “Gujarat tourism is proud to be associated with the Travel Agents Association of India. Two years ago, we had the vision to develop the entire area of the Statue of Unity for tourists to spend at least two to three nights. Now, there are almost 30 attractions in and around the statue. We have something for everyone and all age group, segments to enjoy. Also, in the recent years a lot of accommodation options have been added and the state is now further investing to develop this destination.”
On day 3, a half day business session was organised which was addressed by Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of Tourism (I/C), Govt of India, via a video message. He welcomed the initiative of India’s largest and premier travel- tourism association, TAAI, which has set an historic example of positivity due to the changing times. He added that TAAI membership has all aspects of tourism professional organisations and in the coming future the responsibility and challenges shall increase when inbound tourist commences their India visits. TAAI members must be ready with newer ideas and strategies to ensure Tourism to India is facilitated by them in a smooth manner.
Further, the day witnessed three engrossing panel discussions, which very well addressed the challenges and the way forward for the tourism industry.
The first panel discussion was moderated by Jay Bhatia, Vice President, TAAI on Bharat ka Vikas – Empowering Domestic Tourism. The session witnessed panelist including Dr. Achyut Singh Jt. General Manager- Indian Railways (IRCTC), Ajay Kumar Wadhawan, Chief of Sales, Air Asia India, and Past President of TAAI, Balbir Mayal. The speakers gave their views on the changing dynamics in the travel and tourism field of the last few decades and how India shall be a top tourist destination in the world.
The second knowledge session, “Where Winners Play” was moderated by Ashish Gupta, Founder – Strategy Pluto and Conculting CEO, FAITH. The panelists for this session were Rodney Dcruz, Asst. Director, IATA; Bettaiah Lokesh, Secretary General, TAAI and Sunil Kumar Rumalla, President, UFTAA.
Speaking about the relevance of IATA, Dcruz said, “The number of travel agents in India is much more than the total 4417 IATA Agents in the country. The disconnect which the industry feels with IATA is just a perceptional issue. We are not the regulators but just facilitators. We come up with all rules and mandates in consultation with the industry.”
Speaking on behalf of the members, Bettiah said, “When there is an issue, instead of dealing with individual airlines, why should I not deal with IATA, which is the representational body for all refunds. We have over 1000 IATA agents in our association and we don’t see any benefit. We would consider changing our Association’s constitution that IATA accreditation is required.”
Rumalla added, “The Covid crisis has shown the inability of IATA to take care of the travel agents. The travel agent is now merely a bank that is funding airlines. The airlines are using up our money for their operations. Today, we need a zero-risk investment and IATA needs to play a balanced role between the airlines and travel agents.”
The final discussion was moderated by Amish Desai, Karnataka Chapter Chairman, TAAI. The speakers for this session were Parineeta Sethi, Chief Editor & Publisher of Pinnacle Connect, Vasdha Sondhi, MD Om Marketing and Jyoti Mayal, Chairperson Tourism and Hospitality Skill Counsil (THSC). With their expertise in sales, marketing, PR and social media, technology and skill development, the panelist suggested how todays evolving TAAI member must peruse and be empowered with all the skills apart from delivery of service. Mayal also updated on the upcoming initiatives of WITT (Women in TAAI and Travel), where TAAI shall give back to society and empower the women to become entrepreneurs through skilling and work towards making India a safe and secure tourism destination.