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Karishma Sen

Karishma Sen

From addressing infrastructure woes to implementing aggressive marketing campaigns, West Bengal (WB) tourism is leaving no stone unturned to increase visitor footfall to the state. Shedding light on the State Tourism Board’s plans to develop and improve infrastructure in the state, Umapada Chatterjee, Director, West Bengal Tourism, shared that the West Bengal government has identified 10-12 sites for major tourism infrastructure development.

“With the active help of the private sector across the state, we are improvising on the existing facilities and services, as well as developing new ones. Instead of a viability gap funding (VGF), we will be investing in the creation of ‘critical infrastructure’ to attract private investors to invest in tourism facilities such as hotels, restaurants, and other facilities through the PPP model. We are hoping to attract an investment of Rs. 6,000 crores in tourism,” he informed.

Elaborating further, Chatterjee shared that the government has identified 207 acres of land in Gajoldoba in Jaipalguri, which is the gateway to the Doars, to be promoted as a major tourism destination. The government has also allocated Rs. 120 crores for various projects of destination development, comprising road widening, electricity, water connections, etc. The tourism department itself will be spending Rs. 7 crores to set up tourist cottages and Rs. 2 crores for building youth hostel accommodation. Similarly, in Jharkhali in South 24 Parganas district, the government has spent around Rs. 100 crores for the creation of critical infrastructure such as roads, electricity, drinking water, etc. 

The government has also initiated a smoother inter-state road transit system by simplifying the permit system. “The WB Government is in constant talks with our counterparts in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam and Sikkim. With a better road network, one can experience the natural beauty of the state,” said Chatterjee. He further highlighted that the state government recently inked a MoU with Pawan Hans to connect Kolkata and the other WB districts by air. The company is also contemplating the operation of amphibious aircraft from Kolkata to places such as Digha, Haldia, Asansol, Behrampore, Tajpur and Sagar.

The Board is trending in international markets after participating in SATTE New Delhi in January 2014. West Bengal will now showcase their products at international tourism events/shows starting with ITB Berlin in March; followed by the Arabian Travel Market, Dubai in May; ITB Asia in August and the World Travel Market (WTM) London in November. “Through these international travel shows, we want to showcase the vibrancy of our state and the various tourism offerings to the entire world. So far at SATTE 2014, we have received overwhelming response from international buyers and I am confident that moving forward we will soon be one of India’s most visited states,” opined  Chatterjee, further informing that they are also keen on increasing domestic footfall by participating in several events in various cities within the country.

“In April this year, we plan to participate in the India Travel Bazaar, which will be followed by organising 'Destination East' in association with CII or organising ‘West Bengal Travel Mart’ in the city with the help of travel operator associations,” he added.

For Sentosa, Singapore's island resort getaway, India is among its top two markets. In 2013, Sentosa received around 900,000 Indian visitors, which clearly indicates the popularity of the attraction among Indians. “Nine out of every 10 Indians visiting Singapore come to Sentosa, making India our largest source market. 2013 was an eventful year for us. Overall we witnessed a growth of 20-25 per cent in terms of visitors to the park,” shared Steven Chung, Director - Marketing, Sentosa Leisure Group.

He further opined that the island resort is expecting to attract one million Indians in 2014. “Judging by our previous numbers, we expect a lot more than 1 million on site. We are further developing the island and are launching new attractions which will help us gain repeat visitors as well. In the near future, we plan to increase the number of hotel rooms, which currently stands at 2500.”

Expanding its product portfolio, Sentosa Leisure Group plans to launch new attractions such as Kidzania, and a unique show called the 'Wings of Time' in June 2014. The island resort is also set to rebrand and revamp the Sentosa Merlion. Elaborating further, Chung informed that the island is set to get its very own Madame Tussauds in November 2014. “This museum will be tailored to reflect the culture and excitement of Singapore and Southeast Asia . It will be the only Madame Tussauds outside of the flagship attraction in London to incorporate a ride into the experience,” he said.

Shedding more light on the uniqueness of the Madame Tussauds in Singapore, Meike Schulze, Divisional Director- Attractions in Asia, Merlin Entertainment, who will be operating the attraction within Sentosa, said, “We see Sentosa as one of the leading attraction destinations in Southeast Asia. Singapore is the ideal location for a Madame Tussauds, and we are confident that we will add a new element to the country's successful entertainment offering. We look forward to working together with Sentosa to introduce other exciting, new concepts in the future.”

Speaking about their marketing strategy in India, Chung revealed, “We work very closely with the Singapore Tourism Board, as well as the travel trade here in India. We are pleased with the work and effort that our Indian partners have put into selling Sentosa. Moving forward, we will continue educating the trade and updating our consumers about the new attraction through various B2C platforms.”

The latest trend shows that city specific tourism boards are slowly detaching themselves from their mother ships – the National Tourist Offices (NTO’s), and promoting their cities as individual entities in India. Be it working hand in hand with the trade, embarking on new promotional activities, or highlighting new tourism products, these Boards are leaving no stone unturned to tap the burgeoning Indian market.
For instance, the announcement of Tampa hosting the 2014 IIFA awards has provided them an opportunity to increase their sales and marketing efforts in the region, informed Shari Bailey, Director of Leisure Sales, Visit Tampa Bay, adding that 2013 was a good year for the city across all tourism markets.

New York City (NYC), on the other hand, has seen an increase among student groups covering educational tours. According to Makiko Matsuda Healy, Vice President, Tourism Development - Asia Pacific, NYC & Company, approximately 231,000 Indians visited the city in 2013 compared to 215,000 in 2012.  NYC & Company has also worked diligently over the last several years to highlight family travel to the city and expects this trend of growth to continue as they engage with family ambassadors to spotlight all there is to see, do and experience, she added. 

Although Visit Orlando is still awaiting final visitation numbers for 2013, early indications show that it was another great year for Orlando. “We welcome more than 57 million visitors annually from 292 countries, and are expecting continued growth in 2014. We continue to target India as one of our long-term growth markets and look forward to seeing increasing numbers of Indian visitors enjoying our destination,” opined Nancy Hahn Bono, Global Development Sr. Director, Visit Orlando.
Safe to say, India has climbed the ladder to become one of the sought-after source markets for such mono destinations.

Connecting with the travel trade

Connecting with the travel trade and marketing the destination are two aspects that a tourism board cannot overlook. Which is the reason these cities have amped up their marketing and promotional activities to strengthen their position in the market and build ties with the travel trade. Visit Tampa Bay sees a great deal of future growth opportunities in the area. “We have secured in-market representation in India, and now Tampa Bay will have a consistent presence in country. We will also be hosting a Tampa Bay sales mission in India post IIFA Awards. We have begun work with several travel trade partners and look forward to increasing our efforts in 2014 and beyond,” said Bailey.

Bono informed that the tourism board will continue to maximise great partnership with Visit Florida in India to further educate the Indian travel trade on all that Orlando has to offer.

Alefiya Singh, India Rep, Reunion Tourism shared that Reunion Island is slowing shifting their focus into tier-II and III cities. “We are starting off with the participation at Global Panoromic Showcase in Nagpur in order to target Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Chhattisgarh. We will be participating in various roadshows, B2B platforms, trade fairs and organise familiarisation trips. We are also working very closely with Cox and Kings/Thomas Cook and Kuoni this year,” she revealed.

Through the India office, NYC & Company participate in Brand and Visit USA seminars and VUSA seminars in various cities across India, the annual Brand USA India mission as well as individual relationship building through one on one meeting with travel professionals. “We have conducted successful trade FAMs in the past years and have a few in the pipeline for 2014. We will continue to promote our NYC Travel Training Academy. We have also made significant strides in our efforts to educate the tourism community and suppliers in NYC to be aware of Indian client needs and continue to do so,” said Healy.

Displaying new products

Ask any new destination why they consider India a potential source market, and their answer will be, because Indian travellers are looking for newer places and experiences. The same holds true for these cities as well, which is why promoting new products is a big part of their annual marketing strategy. NYC & Company recently launched its Neighborhood X Neighborhood campaign, which promotes travel to lesser- known areas of New York City. “The Neighborhood x Neighborhood initiative intends to spotlight the affordability and accessibility of neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island with a particular emphasis on areas that have seen new hotel development in recent years,” shared Healy.

According to Singh, Reunion Island has always been considered a destination for the young and adventure lovers, but now even families have started travelling which is a positive sign. “We plan to showcase high-end luxury, FIT and honeymoon products, and small MICE offerings in India. Being a small island, we cannot accommodate large volumes of tourists. So, our aim is to receive about 3,000 Indian visitors over the next year or two,” she added. 

Orlando continues to be a very popular destination for leisure visitors from India. Elaborating on product offerings Bono informed that their theme parks have been undergoing major expansions and will continue to be Visit Orlando’s key marketing message into 2014. “Walt Disney World Resort is in the final stages of completing the New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom's history.  Universal Orlando Resort is in the midst of an expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Expected to open in 2014, Universal Orlando Resort is also adding their fourth and largest on-site hotel, Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort, featuring 1,800 guest rooms and scheduled to open in late 2014,” he concluded.

The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) India office recently hosted the ‘2014 India Showcase’ in Mumbai and in New Delhi at The Taj Mahal Hotel. The annual event showcases the LHW brand and its member hotels to the luxury intermediaries in the Indian market place. “The sole aim of organising this showcase is to introduce our travel trade partners to the LHW members. Over the years the Indian market has shown significant growth. We have registered 30 per cent growth in terms of business from India to member hotels in 2013 compared with the previous year,” Sowmyaragavan T E, Director – India, The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) said.

He further opined that despite slowdown in overall outbound travel from India, the company has been able to drive growth from the India market.

The B2B exchange, served as platform for one on one meeting with the luxury agents and the participating member hotels. Highlighting the USP of the showcase, Sowmyaragavan shared, “The Showcase is the most important customer event hosted by The Leading Hotels of the World in India. They provide excellent exposure for our members and are effective forums for strengthening client relationships. Hoteliers participating in the India Showcase Program make the most of the opportunity by forging business ties with the trade in Mumbai and New Delhi. Our objective is to ensure the attendance of high-caliber clients who are directly responsible for managing corporate, group, leisure and business travel.”

Talking about their marketing strategy in promoting the LHW members, Sowmyaragavan stated that, since its inception in India four years ago, the market has shown tremendous potential and to feed on this potential LHW will continue to maintain a strong dialogue with their trade partners here in India. “We have set up offices in India and we plan to expand more into other metro cities. A stronger approach is what we need to reach out to clients from tier II markets. Apart from our annual showcase we regularly send out fliers, newsletters, etc out in the market. We connect regularly with the trade by updating them with various offers and packages our members put on display,” he added.

The nine-member delegation that visited India comprised of Capella Hotel Singapore‎, The Dolder Grand, Zürich, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Switzerland, D-Hotel Maris, Turkey, The Landmark London, Lotte Hotel Moscow, Russia, Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, Baglioni Hotels Spa and Roccoa Forte Hotels. The Showcase presented a bouquet of luxury hotels from the LHW’s collection including the ones in Asia Pacific and Europe, and highlighted their one-of-a-kind experiences to the Indian trade partners and media.

The Victorian Government recently announced plans to develop travel packages to Melbourne as part of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup to be held across Australia and New Zealand in February 2014.

Louise Asher, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Victoria along with Australian test star Brett Lee, an ambassador for Victoria and the Cricket World Cup made this announcement at a press conference held in Mumbai. The travel package program will be developed in partnership with trade partners in India. “I am overwhelmed and delighted to be back in India to announce the ICC Cricket World Cup games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2015. With games scheduled across Australia and New Zealand, the Cup presents the perfect opportunity to watch top class cricket and explore Victoria between matches,” Asher said.

She further shared, “Last year we received 73,000 Indian tourists which is a nine per cent growth over 2012. Victoria offers a variety of tourism experiences that are all close to Melbourne, such as the spectacular Great Ocean Road and the iconic penguins at Phillip Island Nature Park. Melbourne is now a destination of choice for Indian tourists, migrants, students and investors. It is a sophisticated, creative, surprising and romantic city, renowned for its superb restaurants, cafe culture, theatre and diverse art and cultural events.”

Asher also announced the Victorian Government’s ‘Come Alive in Melbourne’ campaign which has been developed to leverage social media platforms in India to create further awareness of Melbourne and Victoria. “As part of the campaign, we have engaged the support of Indian entertainers, Tanmay Bhatt and Rohan Joshi, who will visit Melbourne and Victoria in April to experience the best of our State,” Asher informed. Tourism Victoria will be asking its 240,000 Indian Facebook fans to submit ideas for experiences and challenges for Tanmay and Rohan to take on in Victoria and then watch their experiences along the way.

In a bid to increase Indian footfall into the country, Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) will aggressively promote the destination in India by implementing a stronger marketing campaign in 2014-15. Zambia receives over 1,50,000 tourists from their biggest source market South Africa, and over the past two years, has consistently recorded 20,000 Indian arrivals. This, according to Mato Shimabale, Director Marketing, Zambia Tourism Board, cements the fact that Zambia is a sought  after holiday destination “In the past, ZTB has not been active in the Indian market. recording 20,000 arrivals from India despite close to no marketing or promotional activities, increases our faith in India as a source market. We are extremely optimistic about it and hope to see a two-fold increase in the next five years,” he said.

Shedding more light on ZTB’s plans for the Indian market, Shimabale informed that, moving forward, they will work closely with their India representative, Blue Square Consultants, to connect with the Indian travel trade and build presence as a preferred outbound holiday destination among Indian travellers. “We started taking an interest in the Indian market last year through participation at OTM. This year, we decided to expand our reach by participating on a larger platform at SATTE New Delhi 2014. With the kind of response we have received so far, and with a combination of B2B and B2C marketing, we are sure that in the next four to five years, or less, India will be among our top source markets,” he opined.

He further added that ZTB plans to soon launch an online training programme/webinars for the travel trade, to educate them on the varied offerings of Zambia. “FAM trips will be conducted for the Indian travel trade in August 2014. We are also in talks with leading tour operators in India, such as Cox & Kings and Thomas Cook, to launch joint campaigns and feature Zambia in their brochures,” he stated.

Talking about target segments from India, Shimabale shared that business travel from India contributes to 35 per cent, leisure 26 per cent and VFR and students to the rest of the footfall. Moving forward, ZTB wants to strengthen the leisure segment, besides tapping the business travel/ MICE segment, he added. 

The tourism sector’s contribution to Zambia’s economy is 3 per cent, which the Board is looking at increasing to 6 per cent by 2016. There are plans to create 300,000 jobs in Zambia’s tourism sector. “We want to focus more and more on this sector and also want to invite private investors to develop the tourism sector in our country. We are slowly trying to put Zambia on the map by hosting important events such as the 20th edition of the UN General Assembly of the WTO (World Tourism Organisation) at Victoria Falls last year,” said Shimabale.

Growing at the rate of 12-15 per cent per annum globally, cruise tourism is fast emerging as a new marketable commodity/product. Cruise ships are like moving townships studded with state of the art facilities and a variety of recreational activities. The idea is fast catching, as journey on board cruise liners is not only pleasurable, but also comparatively free from the hassle of packing and unpacking at multiple destinations. The cruise industry in India received its biggest boost upon the arrival of the SuperStar Libra of Star Cruises in 2006 – 07 when she was home ported in Mumbai.

Currently, there are more than 15 ocean cruise liners and river cruise companies with significant presence in the country offering diverse destinations and attractive offers from time to time to lure the Indian traveller. Experts believe that in the near future, India will emerge as a significant source market for cruises world over. Cruise liners are launching additional vessels to cater to the increasing passenger capacity and to maintain its product pricing in order to remain in business. Cruises are no longer considered the privilege of the rich and the elderly as more and more young tourists are seen booking cruise holidays.

However, there are two sides of the story. Over the years, the cruise business in India has seen slow growth and has been sold as a category only with very low brand recall. The Indian travel trade has yet to adopt cruising for its customers as a primary offering in its portfolio. Lack of awareness among the consumers, lack of cruising options closer to home, and limited interest among travel agents when it comes to promoting a wider destination range, are several factors responsible for the slow growth of the market.

T3 spoke with players representing cruise liners in India about the future of the market and the way forward...

All Aboard!

Cruise tourism has slowly but surely become one of the rapidly growing sections of the tourism industry. The prerequisite of a quintessential Indian traveller is to have a holiday which is all inclusive and value- for-money, and a holiday onboard a luxury cruise liner in any part of the world provides just that!

According to Pradeep Saboo, Managing Partner, Guideline Travels LLP, an Indian traveller has slowly but surely grown beyond just looking at the price tag of any product. “Quality of the destination being visited has become one of the major pointers in the check list of the modern day traveller. So the strategy remains the same both for India as well as the international market. Cruise tourism is here to stay and the cruise companies are well matching this demand and constantly upgrading their products to suit the need of any traveller.”

Agreeing with Saboo, Amit Mathur, Country Head, MSC Cruises, shared that cruising as a holiday is gradually picking up in India as consumers have started understanding the benefits of cruising. A cruise holiday presents an opportunity to explore multiple entertainment activities on a ship during the journey, he opined.

Costa Cruises is witnessing a change in the booking pattern from travel agents, informed Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, the GSA for Costa Cruises India. “They are now looking at not just FIT bookings but also group blocks for their series movement. Of late, everybody from corporates to honeymooners, from senior citizens to families, seem to be clamouring to climb aboard cruise liners due to the convenience associated with it,” she said.

Beatrice Dolder, Business Development Director, Maison de Voyage, which represents Uniworld Boutique River Cruises in India, believes that there has been a slight growth in the cruise industry. “Even though the rest of the world, especially Europe, have seen a setback due to uncertain market conditions last year, the cruise industry has seen a slow rise by 10 per to 15 percent on an average.”

Accepting ‘Floating Hospitality’: A challenge

Globally, the total cruising population is about 20 million and driven mainly by the North American markets. Of this, the Asian share is a mere 4 per cent. From India, after years of pushing by the main travel operators, the cruise customer numbers has just about touched 100,000. At an estimated 100,000 cruise vacationers, we are still at a nascent stage, though numbers are showing a gradual increase. The growth is dependent on multiple factors such as connectivity to the sailing port, infrastructure, strength of currency and, most importantly, awareness. Trade partners play an important role in distributing the products and its imperative that they are educated to sell cruising as a concept.

American and European markets naturally believe cruising is a grand way of holidaying. International vacationing itself is still very young in India. Even now, 50 per cent of Indians go to the Far East. Sidhartha Roy, Senior Vice President, Indian Travel Promotion Company & TRN Marketing, which represents AmaWaterways in India, is disheartened that with such buoyancy in outbound travel, cruising remains nascent. “One important reason is that India, despite having a full blown ‘inbound tourism’ format and 5,000 km of coastline, does not have the environment for domestic cruising options. The little we have is firstly is not of any set standard and secondly is not pursued with passion by the domestic or inbound operators. Hence, the onus of customer education has to shift to the trade,” he opined.

According to him, the government has also shown scant interest for this format of leisure holidaying. “All efforts have been mired in some tardy decision making process. The government, tourism associations and the trade now need to orchestrate it together,” he said. Saboo also believed that the lack of government support and inadequate infrastructure for cruise is hindering the growth. “These cruise companies have now drawn away from India and explored better and much more profitable avenues at other destinations.”

Mathur believes that a better connect with the consumer is required to educate them on the benefits, most importantly help them understand that cruising is not about just being in water for seven to eight nights, it has a lot of excitement packed in.
Cruising, especially river cruising, in India is perceived as luxury travel only the rich and famous can afford which is not totally true. By booking a cruise nine to 12 months in advance, one can avail more than 50 per cent discounts on cabin fare. However, since the Indian market is known for booking last minute, it works adversely, stated Dolder, further adding that there is also a preconceived notion that cruising is for the old / retired which again is not true at all. “Another misconception is that people believe they will miss out all the important monuments and places to visit in a particular destination if they take a cruise because they will be continuously sailing. A lot of times they are not aware of shore excursions and the inclusions which river cruising offers.”

In relation to cruise vacations as a product within the fray of outbound travel, suffice to say the cruise segment has seen its share of growth over the past few years. “Having said this, the fastest way to growth is to have cruise ships of international standards and brands, positioned in our own backyard, i.e. to have home ports developed within India. Since this is still a phenomena, growth within this segment is staggered,” said Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive, Tirun Travel Marketing, which represents Royal Caribbean International in India.

Staying afloat…

Over the past two decades, Royal Caribbean has successfully marketed the concept of cruise vacations via various mediums including direct marketing, print and electronic advertising, trade programs and more. “We believe in innovation in relation to both mediums and communication. We are constantly conceiving of newer mediums and technologies as well as interesting campaigns to reach out to our consumers segments,” shared Chadha.

Costa believes in localising the product experience to meet the needs of the Indian market. Gupta elaborated, “Our approach is to focus at 'segment wise customisation' and defining the needs of our customers and getting it implemented in our market. We believe that Costa Cruises has all the right ingredients to suit the Indian market. Hence, we are using all our energy and focus to familiarise the audience with our ships. We are promising world-class quality and value-for-money to the audience.”

Saboo informed that there are various innovative ways in which Guideline Travels come up with when it comes to marketing the product. “Events such as an Indian food festival, along with live Bollywood entertainment are some of the tools to penetrate the Indian market. We focus on making Indian passenger’s overall cruise experience rise above their expectations.”

Apart from participating in road shows and expos, Maison de Voyage regularly sends out fliers to their clientele with attractive offers that they can avail. They have a dedicated sales team across India that goes out and promotes/talks about our product to agents in the industry. The company also advertises in trade magazines and other print media. “MSC Cruises will also continue to identify and grow the target segment of clients who have potential and tie up with experienced trade partners to promote the product in an efficient way. B2B forms a critical part of our distribution network, we will support our channel partners through regular marketing to help connect to consumers directly and generate healthy leads,” Dolder said.   

The Curious Indian: Testing new waters

While itineraries to South-East Asian countries of Singapore and Hong Kong have become popular, while cruising to Antarctica, South America and Australia are slowly picking up pace. MSC Cruises dominates the Mediterranean region and northern Europe. However, Mathur is noticing enquiries coming in for sailings in Miami, South Africa and UAE during the winter season.

For a first time traveller usually the best cruise options are from the Far East. An ideal cruise vacation could be onboard the SuperStar Virgo from Hong Kong, the SuperStar Gemini from Singapore or SuperStar Libra from Penang. “These ships visit some very beautiful ports of call viz. Sanya, Halong Bay, Kaohsiung from HongKong, Pulao Redang, Pulao Tioman, Kuantan from Singapore and Phuket, Krabi from Penang,” said Saboo, adding that this route is the busiest from the perspective of the Indian market and is well complemented by these ships as they round the year.

In terms of the Indian market, The River Rhine and River Danube cruises are always in popular demand, informed Dolder. “These sailings also get sold out well in advance. Our Danube Discovery & Prague, Legendary Rhine and Moselle and Castles along the Rhine itineraries are most popular as they cover Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic. Our Far East destination covering countries such as Cambodia/Vietnam are also in demand with extensive itineraries from 10 to 18 Days.”

AmaWaterways is famous for their Danube sailings. This route traverses cities such as Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Karlovy Vary, Nuremberg etc. Costa Cruises enjoys maximum traffic to places which are located close to India - Singapore and Dubai.

Unique on-board offerings for MICE

Royal Caribbean International prides itself with the largest and most innovative ships, hence, MICE and charter programs are a natural corollary. “We have itineraries that allows corporate to tweak the programs to suit their needs, in terms of exclusivity, value and customisation.  We allow the corporate to charter a deck, half ship or full ship charter, based on their requirements with complete access to facilities offered onboard without any extra exposure,” informed  Chadha.

Corporates have slowly started showing keen interest in cruise holidays and Guideline Travels LLP offer many packages including various team building activities and state-of-the-art facilities to cater to large corporate groups. “There are various kinds of soft team building activities which happen on a regular basis onboard at all our ships. We also provide corporates with conference areas and onboard entertainment to host parties or functions. Moreover, we have been pioneers in organising religious kathas/discourses onboard the SuperStar Virgo, thus creating and opening up a segment of travel for the seniors in our Indian families,” Saboo added. 

Sailing onward...

Moving forward, while visibility is increasing, the effort is to monetise the mind-share, explained Roy. “The trade has begun to accept our product, though selectively. So, the ‘word of mouth’ exposure is happening but not gone ‘viral’ yet. These are early days and we hope to improve footfall going forward.”

Dolder said that, since the Indian clientele is different from the international market, their strategy too is slightly different. “Indian customers generally book last minute, hence, we need to avail them last minute deals as compared to international markets as they book well in advance and benefit early bird discounts. We are working to have few last minute deals as Indians would prefer cost effective offers. This year, we also have gratuities included, thus promoting Uniworld as an all inclusive cruise liner,” she stated, and added that, while visibility and familiarity in the market is one of their core aims, they intend to capture the niche segment.

One of the emerging trends noticed among outbound travellers is that they are opting to go to new and unexplored destinations. Indian travellers now increasingly prefer experiential holidays. Emerging destinations such as Bulgaria, Argentina, Trinidad & Tobago, Taiwan, Jordan and Seychelles are putting their efforts to cash in on the growing Indian outbound market. According to industry experts, 2013 saw a considerable shift in demands and expectations of the travellers from a holiday. Let’s take a look at what 2014 has in store for emerging destinations in the Indian market…

The year that was…

Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, new destinations have come out as winners thanks to several factors such as the increase in disposable income, innovative packages, and destination promotions, with support from the aviation and hospitality industry. In 2013, Bulgaria welcomed its first Indian MICE group, shared Stefan Ionkov, Head of Commercial & Economic Office, Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria to India. “This was a huge leap for the tourism department and it also proves that Bulgaria is slowly gaining recognition as a tourist destination in India. The same group want to come back again in summer of 2014,” he stated.

Similarly, Argentina also received encouraging response from India in 2013. The destination saw  good response from the travel trade as well as the Indian travellers, and welcomed MICE groups, Medha Sampat, Knack Marketing, India Representative, INPROTUR (National Institute of Tourist Promotion in Argentina), revealed. 

Similarly, Trinidad & Tobago profited from the Indian market last year. According to Huzan Fraser, India Representative, Tourism Trinidad and Tobago, over the last year, the Tourism Development Company Limited of Trinidad &Tobago managed to increase awareness about the destination and its products in India. As a result, they have seen an increase in enquiries and bookings to Trinidad & Tobago from the Indian market.

“India is an extremely important source market for Jordan as there is tremendous scope to increase Indian arrivals to Jordan. 2013, however, has been very challenging with the political turmoil in the neighbouring countries of Jordan in general and the Middle East in general. Also with the weakening Indian Rupee, outbound travel from India has been slightly sluggish,” said
, Manager, Jordan Tourism Board, India Office.

Way forward: Innovative marketing

Increase in the number of travellers looking for new destinations and activities are opening up new doors for emerging destinations. Experts believe that with new and unique marketing and promotional activities and strategies this trend will continue to grow right through 2014-15. “We will be investing in advertising and branding to create top of the mind recall and convey that the Seychelles islands are truly different and magical. We will be looking at a mix of ATL and BTL activities across print, web, out of home and electronic platforms,” informed Lubaina Sheerazi, Head – Bluesquare Consultants, Seychelles Tourist Office – India.

In 2014, Bulgaria expects a significant increase in the tourist groups from India. They start our marketing and promotional activities in India by participating in SATTE in January. This will be followed by educational seminars, media and corporate FAMs in India, Ionkov said and opined the Indian outbound MICE is also on the radar.

Trinidad and Tobago also wants to position themselves as a must do tourist destination especially for visitors to USA. “We want to convince the Indian visitors to Trinidad & Tobago to increase their length of stay. We will also promote key attractions of Trinidad & Tobago such as the Hanuman Murti, The ASA Wright Nature Centre, The Pitch Lake and The Witch Grave among others in India in 2014,” shared Fraser.

Noel Saxena, Country Head, Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB) Representative Office in India shared that TTB is currently working on a number of MICE incentive plans with increased benefits in 2014. TTB will organise FAM for MICE organisers and related media this year.

Sharing 2014 plans, Sampat revealed that they have many innovative and interactive ideas lined up for the next year. “The destination offers an assortment of products which can be packaged in an innovative way. We have commenced with training the trade and then will continue with mono Argentina trade shows. We will be participating in trade fairs in Mumbai and Delhi.”

For 2014, the Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) will look at marketing Austria through a combination of products like online study programme, promotions, print promotions, joint campaigns and radio. With these ANTO expects to grow and surge forward with an even better year ahead for 2014. Speaking about their strategy for the year, Christine Mukharji, Marketing Manager India, ANTO said, “We will have an online certification study programme for the travel trade i.e. Austrian Certified Travel Specialist (ACTS). We will also continue to work closely with the travel trade to promote Austria as a must visit destination for 2014. We will continue to focus on our tier 1 cities as well as increase our presence in the tier II cities.

Emerging source segments

In 2014, these destinations are focusing on the event segments, be it weddings, conventions, large celebrations, corporate events etc. They believe this segment will continue to gain momentum and will be fruitful for business. The potential of India in terms of outbound tourist market is very high for Seychelles. “We are confident that the country will soon become one of the strongest emerging source markets for Seychelles as Indians are now looking for new and exciting destinations to travel. Our current focus is to attract the honeymoon, luxury, adventure and experiential travellers from India,” said Sheerazi.

According to Fraser, the honeymoon segment is one in which we are rapidly seeing an increase of demand and bookings. Bulgaria has witnessed more than 100 per cent increase in 2013 in the MICE segment. “We received numerous groups from India and all of them are insisting to return in 2014 again. The MICE segment is really developing with a huge success,” opined Ionkov.

SATTE has always been a vital part of the Indian tourism industry and is recognised as the most sought after B2B travel and tourism event in South East Asia. This year, SATTE has recorded an overwhelming participation of several Indian and global players, each visiting the event with high expectancy from the event and its offerings. Buyers and sellers continue to flock in, with their enthusiasm and support, fuelling a surge of first-time visitors and exhibitors as well. Dubai - Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has gradually built their presence at SATTE and continue to expect larger inflow of buyers. Carl Vaz, Director (India), DTCM said, “SATTE is a must attend for Dubai and we are pleased to be associated with the event over the last seven years.”

Manoharan Periasamy, Director, Tourism Malaysia, believes SATTE is the right platform where the tourism board can update and equip the travel agents in India with all the relevant information they need to market Malaysia to their customers. Echoing his sentiments Jay Gray, Vice President, Global Partnership Development, Brand USA said that they are confident that their participation in the event will make a constructive and long-term impression. Brand USA will also develop a series of activities during the travel fair to further strengthen tourism marketing efforts in the region.

At SATTE 2014, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is looking forward to building business relations with prospective buyers and partners. “SATTE is one of the best arenas for buyers and sellers to mingle and discuss business opportunities. We are looking forward to have a long term association with the event,” said Runjuan Tongrut, Director, TAT New Delhi,

A number of SATTE’s key exhibitors including Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Turkey, Seychelles and Bhutan, Kenya, among others, have increased their stall size considerably, reiterating SATTE’s importance as a great B2B platform. “Participating at SATTE has always been a very important part of Goa’s marketing and promotional plans. We see the tourism event as an opportunity to network with international clients as well as domestic tour operators and travel agents,” opined Dilip Parulekar, Tourism Minister of Goa.

Jagdish Patil, Managing Director, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) views SATTE as the perfect platform to educate international buyers and increase footfall to the destination. “We want to showcase the various facets of our state to the international market and SATTE is a great channel through which we can educate the trade,” he stated.

For the first time, VisitBritan, Zambia, Bangladesh, Lavasa Corporation, Gold Coast Tourism, Taiwan Tourism Board, Singapore, Sri Lanka, among many others will showcase their tourism profile in India through SATTE. First time participants VisitBritain have placed their faith in SATTE and hope to yield excellent results post the event. Lavasa Corporation, who will also be participating for the first time, plans to position Lavasa as preferred weekend and MICE destination through SATTE. “We are looking forward to SATTE in January and are very keen on meeting quality buyers who will help us leverage the business. Through the travel event, we want to be the leading destination among the domestic market,” said Rajiv Duggal, Senior Vice President – Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure, Lavasa Corporation.

SATTE also continues to receive the support of international organisations and governing bodies, including World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and leading tourism associations of India such as the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), Enterprising Travel Agents Association (ETAA), Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI), IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) and Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI), to name a few. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, UNWTO commends SATTE for providing an indispensable platform for the global tourism and travel sector to network, exchange views and impressions on current affairs, and to strengthen their business ties. “SATTE acts as a tourism driver for the Indian travel and tourism industry,” Rifai added.

Sharing similar sentiments, Subhash Goyal, President, IATO opined, “Over the years SATTE has given the Indian and Asian tour operators, hoteliers, State Tourism Boards, airlines etc. an unique opportunity to showcase their products to foreign and local buyers.”

According to Iqbal Mulla, President, TAAI, “SATTE has been a game changer for the Indian travel and tourism industry. We are very pleased to be associated with a show of this stature and will continue to support SATTE.”

Naveen Advani, President, ETAA, further shared that, through SATTE, the travel industry has benefitted in a large way as the quality of participants, be it buyers or sellers, keeps getting better as each year passes. “SATTE is the largest and most well organised travel trade fair in South Asia and has brought enormous benefits to the members of ETAA,” Advani said.

SATTE Mumbai, the companion event that caters to the Western region of India, will be held at Nehru Centre Mumbai on 3-4 February, 2014.

Tourism Victoria is eying a 7-10 per cent increase in tourist footfall from India each year for the next ten years. The island destination of Australia is enjoying a premium status in India. “Last year, we received 73,000 Indian tourists, which is a nine per cent growth over 2012. India is a very important market for us. It is among our top 10 and only second to China in the Asia Pacific region," informed Leigh Harry, Chief Executive, Tourism Victoria. 

Harry shared that their marketing strategy comprises of three phases: Come alive in Melbourne campaign, the cricket World cup 2015 and the food & wine campaign: ‘Restaurant Australia’. “All these campaigns will have high visibility in the Indian market and will be tailored to the Indian market. We are also planning to do tourism campaigns with Singapore airlines and air India in the near future.”

Celia Ho, Regional Manager, South and South East Asia, Tourism Victoria opined, “The Melbourne NOW! campaign is being introduced at a time where inbound tourism from India to Australia has been on a steady rise and is forecasted to increase by an average of 8 per cent per annum between 2010 and 2020. If realised, this will mean approximately 126,100 visitors from India and associated expenditure of almost A$500 million to Victoria.”

Tourism Victoria is also ramping up its marketing efforts to fight the intense competition from short- haul destinations and is relying heavily on the social media. At the recently concluded three-city trade mission to India, Tourism Victoria launched its new digital campaign, ‘Come Alive in Melbourne’. “We need to market ourselves a lot to stay relevant in the market. Social media is a very important and smart tool to do that,” said Harry. 

Shedding light on their social media activities, he shared that, with 2,40,000 Indian fans on its Facebook page, Tourism Victoria is looking at leveraging the social media platform to promote the destination in the Indian market through their upcoming digital campaign ‘Come Alive in Melbourne’, “The campaign which commenced in March will witness Indian video bloggers, Tanmay Bhat and Rohan Joshi blogging about their experiences in Melbourne. Their video blogs will showcase the duo’s trip highlighting some of Melbourne and Victoria’s most appealing attributes for the Indian visitor including events, food, sport, nature and heritage. 

Tourism Victoria is also planning to develop 3-10 night packages for Indians for the 2015 World Cup. Louise Asher, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Victoria and Australian cricketer Brett Lee, an ambassador for Victoria and the Cricket World Cup, announced that their travel package program will be developed in partnership with trade partners in India. “I am overwhelmed and delighted to be back in India to announce the ICC Cricket World Cup games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2015. With games scheduled across Australia and New Zealand, the Cup presents the perfect opportunity to watch top class cricket and explore Victoria between matches,” Asher said. 

Lee further added that Indians will be able to enjoy Melbourne during its finest events period which will include events such as the World Cup, Melbourne Grand Prix and Melbourne International Comedy Festival.




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