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Karishma Sen

Karishma Sen

Recognising the fact that the Middle East is emerging as a fast growing destination for Indian outbound, Bonton Tours is focusing on Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The region has a lot to offer tourists coming from India. They are the most sought after destinations that encompass an array of activities – adventure, nature, culture, architecture, leisure and much more,” opined Avanish Sharma, Managing Director, Bonton Tours.

Sharing the company’s performance in 2013, Sharma said that the business has recorded a profit growth of 65 per cent compared to 2012. “We are very happy with the growth number. We have added more destinations into our packages and itineraries. In terms of our distribution channel we have grown, and now have 10 branches in India covering all metropolitan cities.”

Moving forward, Bonton tours has an array of launches and expansions in the pipeline. Shedding light on the same, Sharma said, “2014 is a very important year for the company. We will soon be going online with our new e-booking facility. This will be available to all our customers in the next two to three months. We are going to expand our distribution channel and appoint more PSA’s and GSA’s in India in order to increase penetration into B2C markets.”

The travel management company, along with Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Tourism Board and Shangri-La Hotel, recently organised a roadshow in 15 cities, namely Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, Jaipur, Kochi, Chandigarh, Madurai, Coimbatore, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Rajkot, Pune, Surat, Nagpur and Ahmedabad. “We received overwhelming response in all 15 cities. The roadshow was a way to reach out to our esteemed B2B clients in tier II cities of India and make them aware about our products and services and how Bonton can contribute to their growth and expansion,” Sharma said.

The German National Tourist Office (GNTO) recently organised its India roadshow in New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, which received tremendous response from the Indian travel trade. The Delhi road show witnessed 250 trade visitors, Bengaluru recorded 150 and Mumbai received 300-350 trade visitors, Till Weigl, Destination Manager, Asia & Australia, GNTO, revealed.

Speaking on the sidelines of the roadshow, Romit Theophilus, Director (Sales & Marketing), GNTO – India Office, said that Indian arrival to Germany is at par with last year. “In 2012, we received 500,000 overnights and we are hopeful to maintain the same number in 2013 too. We could have seen an increase in Indian arrival, however, the depreciation in rupee has made package cost 30-40 per cent more expensive. We are happy that we notched better business from India compared to other European destinations, and we are expecting the situation to stabilise in 2014,” Theophilus said.

In 2014, GNTO will highlight German culture and events such as the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the UNESCO world heritage sites. “We will continue to promote ‘affordable hospitality’, a campaign specially designed for the Indian market. We are also tapping the FIT, MICE and honeymoon segments as these offer good growth opportunities.”

Speaking on MICE movement from India, Theophilus stated that MICE contributes 20 per cent and leisure contributes 25 per cent, while the remaining is fuelled by business travel to Germany. “We have received Indian incentive groups of 500- 1,000 people in the past. However, a lot of corporates have put off MICE travel for this year due to the rupee depreciation but they have committed to us that they would do it next year,” he added.

GNTO is also tapping repeat visitors as Germany is full of activities and unexplored destinations, Weigl, said. “Many first time visitors have the image of Germany as romantic and a mountainous destination area but there is a Germany outside of that area as well. Germany has a very long and extensive shoreline that many people don’t know of.”

Germany also plans to have one GNTO roadshow every year to help the German partners to understand the Indian market better, hence further aiding in developing the image of Germany as a great tourist destination suitable to Indian travellers, Theophilus said, adding that GNTO will majorly focus on end-consumers in 2014.

As many as 12 German suppliers participated in this three-city roadshow including Frankfurt Tourism & Congress, Deutsche Bahn, Stuttgart, Visit Berlin, Alpha Travel Consultants, Maritim Hotels, Steigenberger, Emirates, K D Rhine Line, Berlin TV Tower, Saxony, DZT India.

“Sofitel’s flagship property in Mumbai has witnessed exceptional response and strong occupancy since its official opening. The brand has succeeded in garnering a lot of interest. Many Indians are now developing a taste for luxury, in both the leisure and business segments. We are extremely positive about the growth of both segments in the Indian market,” Markland Blaiklock, Senior Vice-President and Head of the Asia Pacific Region, Sofitel Luxury Hotels, said.

The luxury brand is looking at opportunities in metros such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and resort destinations such as Goa. “We are exploring our options and are carrying out market research. No firm agreements have been finalised as yet,” he added.

Speaking about their development plans, Blaiklock stated, “Due to the economic slowdown, we are not on schedule with our development as we would have liked to have. Sofitel Luxury Hotels will launch two new hotels in India by 2016-17 – Sofitel Mulund and Sofitel So Mumbai Mulund. But the development is slower than anticipated. We are okay with it because the development of the area will take some time as well.”

Further elaborating on the minor setback, Blaiklock opined that the plan was to sign two or three agreements, following this hotel and take it to ten properties in the next two years. “However, because of the current slower economy and issues with the cost of borrowing, we have not been able to sign more agreements. We are very confident that in the years to come, things will change,” he said.

Sharing future plans Blaiklock revealed that, ,moving towards 2015, Sofitel will follow two high-priority brand objectives: to increase brand value by pursuing targeted developments in key capital cities and major tourist destinations in the region, and to expand the brand portfolio to 150 hotels globally.

As the international tourism trend in India is expanding adequately, the results are reaped by several other tourism hotspots. Abu Dhabi is the recent inclusion in the list. For 2013, India remains the top overseas source market with 157,594 Indians checking into Abu Dhabi’s accommodation – a 26 per cent increase on 2012. They delivered 620,641 room nights, with an average length of stay of 3.94 nights, said Bejan Dinshaw, Country Manager - India, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

“We are benefitting from increased destination awareness in India following the opening of a dedicated promotion office and increased air access from the country following Etihad Airways’ equity stake in Jet Airways and the move by the Indian carrier to make its hub in Abu Dhabi,” opined Dinshaw.

The Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) also revealed that Abu Dhabi International Airport recorded the highest traffic from India for the first six months of 2013, with traffic growing by 18 per cent over the same period last year.

2013 was an eventful year for the destination. Apart from their annual roadshow and setting up a dedicated promotional office, TCA Abu Dhabi also organised its ‘Abu Dhabi Month’, campaign, which ran throughout August 2013. This year, the Authority plans to follow a two-pronged marketing strategy for the Indian market. “Abu Dhabi is a very well-known tourist destination among Indians. Last year, we were testing waters and did not have a dedicated plan in place. This year, after a lot of market research, we are more focussed on our target segments - families, couples, groups etc. We have a separate marketing plan set up for the trade and the consumer. We want to target both as they are equally important for increasing footfall into the destination,” Dinshaw said, adding that TCA Abu Dhabi will also up their marketing activities in tier II and III cities in India.

Elaborating further, he said that TCA Abu Dhabi is going to continue educating and connecting with the trade through annual roadshows. “We will be hosting our 2014 roadshow in August. We are also looking at experimenting with the digital platform. We plan to start online trainings for the trade,” he added.

According to Dinshaw, the response at SATTE 2014 was excellent. “We couldn’t have thought of a better platform to start the year off with. Last year, we saw immense potential and opportunity at SATTE, but this year we have done phenomenal business,” he opined.

The growing might of the Indian outbound MICE market has compelled international tourism ogranisations and products to have India-centric strategy in place, opined Carl Palmlund, Vice President - Group Sales, Atlantis, The Palm. “We have been focused on MICE for the past years in India. Currently, Indian outbound MICE is more important for us as Indian corporates are looking at non-dollar destinations due to depreciating Rupee.” Atlantis, The Palm expects almost 50-60 percent of our overall revenue to come from MICE and weddings in 2013, Palmlund revealed.

Moving forward, the hotel will be carrying out more marketing campaigns to capitalise on this segment. “We have tried to position Atlantis in the MICE world. We are working towards involving the majority of our clients to enjoy this one-stop leisure destination, and how we can engage our business partners. We will continue to do our regular sales and marketing promotions,” he said, adding that the hotel will increase travel trade activities in its biggest markets such as UK, Germany, France, China and India.

“We have carefully reviewed the demands and requirements of meetings planners and feel confident that we offer a unique environment with extensive facilities currently not found in Dubai. We are setting the standard in accommodation, entertainment and recreation for hospitality on The Palm Jumeirah,” he added.

Trafalgar is targeting a 20 per cent growth in its India business next year on the back of increased initiatives. "We are looking at a 20 per cent growth from India in 2014. It is a very conservative estimate," said Nicholas Lim, Regional Director, Trafalgar Asia.

He further informed that the company has witnessed a robust growth of 88 per cent so far in 2013, compared to 2012. “We are taking initiatives such as vigorous marketing, partnership with travel agents, digital outreach and social media to target Indian travellers," Lim said. Though at present the share of Indian travellers is between 1.5-2 per cent globally for the company, we are hopeful of a good growth.

Lim added that the main driver of growth for business from India will be the growing affluence of Indian society. The growth potential from Asia is huge, he added.

The German National Tourist Office recently organised its roadshow in the cities of New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. According to Romit Theophilus, Director Sales & Marketing, the roadshows received overwhelming response from the travel trade in all 3 cities. There were over 12 German suppliers present at the year end roadshow. “We are grateful to our partners for providing constant support throughout the year. This year we have few new partners on board and we look forward to have a long association with them in future as well. We plan to have one GNTO roadshow every year. This will our German partners to understand Indian market better. Hence further aiding in developing the image of Germany as a great tourist destination, thereby making it more suitable to indian travellers,” Theophilus said adding that Germany received 402,440 overnights from January-August, 2013.

The road shows facilitated interactions on latest updates, highlights and attractions for the Indian travelers between and the Travel trade. The partners who had participated in the roadshow were representatives from: Frankfurt Tourism & Congress, Deutsche Bahn, Stuttgart, Visit Berlin, Alpha Travel Consultants, Maritim Hotels, Steigenberger, Emirates, K D Rhine Line, Berlin TV Tower, Saxony, DZT India.

In an attempt to increase tourist arrivals to Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently launched the third phase of its ‘Singapore – the holiday you take home with you’ campaign. The campaign exclusively designed for Indian tourists seems to be a perfect fit as more and more Indians begin to travel abroad. The campaign recognises the Indian traveller’s shift in the current scenario when the country has recently recorded reduced Indian visitors owing to the devaluation of Indian rupee against Singapore dollar.

Indians are among the top five travel markets for Singapore. STB’s latest campaign’s tagline is ‘Leave Curious, Return Inspired’. The first two phases of the campaign promoted Singapore as an ideal romantic getaway and as a place to enjoy and celebrate. The third phase promotes it as a place of wonder and learning. “Through this campaign returning and new visitors alike will be captivated by the diversity of our wildlife and marine-themed attractions as well as the compelling story of Singapore’s conservation efforts. These will create cherished memories to bring home,” said Chang Chee Pey, Executive Director for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, STB.

Elaborating on the new campaign, Pey said, “The campaign mainly focuses on the wildlife, nature and marine life. We will also be releasing videos of Bollywood Actor Mandira Bedi’s family trip to Singapore. These feature her trip to the Marine Life Park as well Singapore Zoo, F1 circuit drive and dinner destinations for couples.”

Isabel Cheng, Chief Marketing Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) added, “Over the years, we have seen a robust increase in the number of Indian travellers visiting Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo. This year, we are pleased to welcome them to Singapore’s newest attraction, River Safari, Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park that provides an immerse experience. The grand opening of this river-themed water park, the first and only in Asia, will be conducted in December and all the attractions will be functional thereafter. Together, our four parks offer the ultimate wildlife experience for visitors to Singapore. We receive a good mix of groups, families, FIT’s and MICE. For WRS Indians are among the top five source markets.”

STB will continue to partner with MakeMyTrip, Kuoni India, Mercury Travels, Thomas Cook, Yatra.com and Cox & Kings to reach consumers across India. GB Srithar, Area Director, South Asia, STB opined, “We want people to come out and experience offerings, like the Universal Studios Singapore and Gardens by the Bay, cultural celebrations such as Deepavali and Christmas Light Up at Orchard Road and Singapore River; the year-end music festival ZoukOut; as well as a wide variety of dining and shopping options.”

In a bid to attract high end leisure travellers from India, the  Vienna Tourist Board (VTB) plans to aggressively tap the Indian market starting next financial year. The Board views India as a very important source market and wants to increase Indian arrivals into Vienna by promoting the city of castles, palaces, museums and gardens. “Vienna as a destination is very rich in art, culture, heritage and architecture, which is very famous among high end leisure travellers. Vienna is fast emerging as one of the hottest destinations for Indian leisure travellers as wells as honeymooners. Vienna received a total of 23,737 Indian arrivals from July 2012 – June 2013, which is a very small but sizeable number. We as a destination are not looking at mass numbers but we are looking at quality high end tourists who will want to spend money and enjoy the destination to its fullest,” said Verena Hable, Spokesperson, Asia market, VTB.

Hable further added that the Indian MICE market is also important for Vienna, “Conference and corporate travellers contribute to about 15-18 per cent of the total number of Indians visiting the city. We have excellent MICE facilities and in the future we want to promote Vienna as an ideal MICE destination.”

This year at ITB Asia, the Vienna Tourist Board has launched their new marketing campaign exclusively for the Asian LGBT market. Hable futher informed, “LGBT tourism is a very niche market and is not very often spoken about in Asia. But we have realised the potential of this market and with this marketing campaign we expect to see a sizeable increase in visitor arrivals from the Asian market. The LGBT travellers spend a lot more and stay a lot longer than then average tourist which is an advantage for any holiday destination.”

Owing to the mounting growth in both inbound and outbound MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) market, SATTE this year will focus aggressively on MICE with MICE @SATTE. In it’s launch year [email protected] will have a separate MICE pavilion as well as exclusive panel discussions running concurrently.

[email protected] will provide a unique opportunity for all those who organise, influence or make budgetary decisions for meetings, incentive travel, business travel and events to network with the leading suppliers in the industry. The MICE pavilion at SATTE will give trade visitors a chance at one-on-one interaction and meetings with the sellers and the panel discussions will witness industry stalwarts brainstorming on topics such as innovative performance incentive programmes and effective motivational techniques for employees, distributors and channel partners, enhancing negotiation skills and bagging deals, calculating accurate ROI on the events, and many more.

Other such highlights of the event include: ‘Up-to-the-Minute Content’ – Buyers will be provided with an agenda thoroughly researched with representatives of local and international event industry, MICE players, corporate sales, HR and procurement heads and leading event planners; ‘Speed networking’ – This will provide a unique opportunity to meet all the key industry players in quick succession and develop long term business relationships; and ‘Facilitated networking sessions’ – Visitors will benefit from 8 hours of networking through panel discussions, roundtable debates and frequent refreshment breaks.



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