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Karishma Sen

Karishma Sen

It was impossible to buy a low cost ticket on an Asian carrier ten years ago, stated Tony Griffin, Senior Vice President, ASM – the World Route Development Consultants, at the Routes Asia 2013 Strategy Summit. “The reason being there were no Asian low cost carriers (LCC) in existence. It is quite staggering that in the year 2012 we have over 300 million seats available in the low cost segment in Asia alone. LCCs accommodate 50 per cent of the total air capacity in Asia,” he said, adding that even with the robust obvious potential of the Indian market, the industry is still going through a rough patch and it has become very hard to anticipate the future of LCCs in India.

Commenting on the current status and potential of low cost carriers in Asia, Neil Mills, CEO, Spicejet said, “It all comes down to cost, so how big a market can actually become is really dependent on how much you are charging the consumer to enjoy that part of the market. As long as the cost base, particularly in India, is high, the ability for us to stimulate more market is quite limited.” But he also believes that, across Asia, there is a huge opportunity for growth. “As long as we make our products cost effective we can surely make more people travel. In India over 50 per cent of the domestic market is actually LCCs. Over the last few years, value conscious consumers in India have clearly chosen to fly LCCs, and we will witness a substantial growth predominantly from this market,” he opined.

Quoting a famous economist, Giorgio De Roni, CEO, GoAir said, “In the long term, we are all dead.” He then stated that it is a possibility that LCCs may see a downfall in India as the cost structure is so high that it is getting impossible for an airline to survive as a low cost model in this market. “We would like to provide affordable fares to our customers but we are unable to do so due to heavy taxation, cost of infrastructure and infrastructure bottlenecks. When an airline, just to survive, has to apply fares that are 40-60 per cent higher than normal air fares in Europe, we cannot be termed as low cost.” Roni suggested that airlines, along with all the other stakeholders in the industry, should go to the root of this unusual hiccup and create a dialogue that will help come up with a solution at the earliest.

Venggataro Naidu, Head of Network & Fleet Management, Air Asia X, sees a lot of potential in the Indian market. “Air Asia has a huge network in Asia with short haul flights and we see a lot of potential in the LCC market, not just in the domestic market, but also in long haul flights.”

Speaking about the change needed to successfully run a LCC in India, Mills said, “What we first need to change is perception. As soon as aviation in India is not classified as a luxury good and actually be considered as a serious infrastructure, things will change. The Government needs to realise that aviation can be a major GDP growth driver.” He further opined that aviation is not just for the elite minority but for the middle class majority.

Agreeing with Mills, Roni further explained that aviation, if treated properly in this country, can have a major impact on the economy, employment generation and tourist flow into the country. “The number one priority and the biggest challenge LCCs face in India is taxation. Taxation in Indian on ATF is the second highest in the world at 25 per cent. This number, in fact, doesn’t provide a true picture, as on top of the sales tax there is an exercise fee of 8.24 per cent as well as an octroi. At the end of the day the taxation burden of ATF is more than 40 per cent. This is something that needs to be addressed immediately,” he concluded.

Continuing with its expansion plan, Carlson Rezidor Hotel is slated to open 13 hotels in India in 2013. “We have opened 35 new hotels and added 48 hotels to our pipeline over the last two years. We have had a strong start in 2013 and will carry that momentum into the rest of the year,” said Simon C. Barlow, President- Asia Pacific, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. Currently, the Group has 92 properties in the Asia Pacific, including 57 in India. In the Delhi market alone, the Group operates 19 hotels. Apart from two new hotels in Mumbai and Davao, the Group will add another 13 properties before the end of the year, bringing their operating portfolio to 107 in the Asia Pacific.

“India is a priority market for us. We have more hotels here than in China. Last year, we signed a strategic partnership with a Gurgaon-based real estate firm Bestech Group to open 49 Park Inn hotels by 2024. We are investing capital to build the first two hotels and will develop the rest over 15 years in northern and central India,” informed Barlow. The deal involved Carlson investing Rs 230 crores for the first two hotels in Gurgaon and Mohali. He said that the Group is looking to put in seed fund to create an investment vehicle that will build multiple hotels for the Southern, Western and Eastern regions, and strike strategic alliances with partners, just as it did for the North and Central regions.

Commenting on how different working in India is, Barlow stated, “With emerging markets, we need to have competent managers from within the market itself. In high growth markets, one needs to protect the integrity of brand, whereas emerging markets don’t always understand brand standards. We always look for the right partners to keep the brand integrity intact.”

Barlow further revealed that the Group is planning to introduce its high-end lifestyle brand ‘Missoni’ in India to expand its footprint in the country. “We would like to introduce our luxury brand ‘Missoni’ in India but we are not time bound. We do have plans to introduce the brand in another three to five years and this brand would be introduced in one or two cities in India, possibly Delhi and Mumbai,” he said. According to him, luxury hotel development in India is facing the weight of high land and construction costs. “Even though we are looking at achieving multiple hotel growth, we will be cautious with the Missoni brand. Missoni has to be developed in the right location and built to the exact brand standard. We are therefore in no rush to develop the Missoni brand in India,” he concluded.

Carlson operates hotels under brands such as Radisson, Park Plaza, Country Inns & Suites and Park Inn through management and franchise routes.

Domestic and outbound travel has been the talk of not just Indian industry stalwarts but international ones as well. The mere statistics of tourism in India is enough to raise eyebrows and contribute to heated discussions that fuel a growing opinion of India’s tourism potential. The creeper that grows alongside this sector is MICE. Not only has it been contributing to a large chunk of the tourism sector, it has also grown leaps and bounds in quality, services and, most importantly, demand.

Current status of Indian MICE industry:

According to International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) statistics, a total of 400,000 conferences and exhibitions are held worldwide every year at the total outlay of US$280 billion, and India’s share is pegged only at US$4.8 bn. Currently, India ranks 27th in the global MICE market. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) states that the annual MICE industry output value has already reached US$1.16 trillion (including US$400 billion for conferences and US$760 billion for exhibitions). For India, the domestic MICE market is quite strong and inbound MICE market is gradually picking up with the active support from the Ministry of Tourism.

However, it is the outbound MICE market that is growing rapidly. According to EuroMonitor, the Indian outbound MICE market was estimated to be around US$ 550-600 million in 2011. It grew strongly and resulted in an outbound trip volume of 6.2 million, with around 1.5-1.8 million Indians travelling outbound only for MICE. For one, almost every NTO is scrambling to get a piece of the Indian outbound MICE traffic pie. While the country has a reputation for discerning travellers with dispensable income who are continuously on the lookout for a new destination to explore, there is no doubt in the minds of NTOs that MICE would be a great segment to tap from here keeping these trends in mind. Providing further impetus are the increasing number of air routes already introduced or being mooted to aid easy connectivity and add to the attractiveness of the destination.

While the industry has witnessed growth in outbound MICE traffic, there has also been a steady trickle of domestic and inbound corporate travel that is picking up speed as India improves its infrastructure and establishes itself as a quality MICE destination. India’s government, both Centre and States, and private sectors put serious efforts into improving India’s infrastructure with state-of-the-art convention centres. While most of them are still in the making, the existing ones enjoy bustling business largely from the domestic sector.

Hotels are not to be left behind in a sweeping trend. While convention centres in India took their time to develop, hotels began to serve the growing demand. Some of them started convention centres attached to their accommodation and others offered as many MICE facilities as possible within their premises. With a promise of brand quality, the offerings put MICE tourism on the domestic, and on the international map as well, a fact that is proven by the statistics that MICE contribute no less than 20 per cent of the hotels’ business.

Of course, none of it comes without challenges. The increase in demand is still not met with appropriate supply in infrastructure. But hotels and convention centres in India seem to have stayed afloat and drummed up enough business to make MICE large contributors to their toplines. The largest contributors are the domestic MICE travellers. And it is not just the metros and major cities any more. With a consistent increase in GDP is a constant rise of tier II and III markets and new industries mushrooming across the country. Pharmaceuticals, automobiles, educational institutes, real estate, banking, multinational corporations etc. have all posed as major segments for domestic MICE.

Moreover, increased air connectivity has made India easily accessible. The country has over 80 airlines coming in from more than 45 countries. With FDI relaxation in aviation and the slow but steady revival of the national carrier, things are looking up for the country. Mumbai airport is finally getting its long awaited T2 which will increase its welcoming capacity; several smaller airports are getting uplifted; the deal between Jet Airways and Etihad Airways is sure to encourage other carriers to consider the FDI opening in India; Air India has finally received its Dreamliner and is hopeful of flying them soon; and increased frequency by various foreign airlines will definitely boost two way tourism exchange between India and the world. All in all, the MICE sector is growing rapidly, being fuelled by a niche and emerging segment that is continuously on the rise.

 Convention Centres enjoy great business

The greatest challenge the Indian MICE segment faces is lack of infrastructure. One of the fastest growing markets has not been completely equipped to welcome the advent of one of the fastest growing segments. It is any wonder that hotels as well as the government and private sector have jumped at the chance to grab a slice of the pie. The MICE segment in India is growing at around 20 per cent annually, a figure that has encouraged the government to, first and foremost, identify, invest in and plan the construction of state-of-the-art convention centres. In addition, Public Private Partnership (PPP) models have been adopted for several more such venues.

Pragati Maidan, run by India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), is all set for a mega expansion and makeover and now being turned into an integrated international exhibition centre-cum-convention complex. As per the proposed plan, the revamped exhibition area will have a state-of-the-art exhibition space of around 50,000 sq mts capable of accommodating 4,000 pax at a time and two new convention halls with a capacity of 1,000 seats each. It is slated for completion by end- September 2016. According to Rita Menon, CMD, ITPO, the modernisation work should begin in January 2014.

Apart from the Govt. of India, states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal among others are also developing convention centres to draw MICE business. And it isn’t just the growth in infrastructure that shows the segments’ progress. In fiscal 2012-13, India Exposition Mart Ltd (IEML) which runs the India Expo Centre and Mart, Greater Noida, witnessed 25 exhibitions and in 2013-14 are prepped for 30 exhibitions. The Centre, which saw a mere 10 events with 50 days’ occupancy in the year 2011-12, moved up to 22 events with 143 days’ occupancy the consecutive year, and already has a confirmed occupancy of 171 days in 2013-14.

 “With increasing airfares to international locations and budget constraints, Indian business houses commenced looking within the country for the Incentive programme preceded with a small conference or meeting,” opined Rajiv Duggal, Sr. Vice President – Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure, Lavasa Corporation. According to him, metro cities were targeted initially because of the fact that tourist cities with India did not have enough rooms. “As hotel chains started moving into tier II and III cities, so did the all components of MICE. Today, a MICE programme can be held in almost every city of India and also at very touristic locations, this helps corporate to not only bring business seriousness into the destination but also allow its people to enjoy the various tourism ready products for the fun element. At Lavasa, MICE is a very important segment for us contributing almost 40 per cent to our city occupancy,” Duggal said.

Speaking about inbound MICE visitors, Rajeev Jalnapurkar, Vice President, Ramoji Film City, revealed that the myriad of experiences India offers makes it a unique destination, and is perhaps the reason why it has so many repeat visitors. “If projected and marketed consistently in an international forum in partnership with the private players in the industry, there is huge potential for the Indian MICE Industry to grow at least two fold in the next five years,” he added.

According to Peter Frawley, General Manager Delegate, Accor Andhra Pradesh and Goa Hotel Operations (Hyderabad International Convention Centre), the MICE infrastructure in the country has been developing rapidly and convention hotels and conference venues of international standards are being set up in cities across the country. “With the corresponding expansion in the network of airline operations, India is ready to position and market itself as an important MICE destination,” he said and added that India is going the global way and MICE is fast becoming a major part of the travel and promotional budgets of the companies.

While infrastructure is a major concern for the MICE space, the industry cannot ignore its competition – neighbouring countries which have established themselves as MICE destinations long before India joined the rat race. Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore, among others, have packaged and marketed their MICE offerings successfully over the years, and India needs to catch up with and stay ahead of them.

According to Sudeep Sarcar, GM, IEML, MICE destinations in India are very well connected with the rest of the world and this is driving more and more MICE business to the country. However, he believes that, to stay ahead of the neighbouring destinations, an investigation needs to be conducted on the factors and attributes affecting convention site decision making. “Conventions can be hosted anywhere, which gives rise to competition among destinations in portraying themselves as the best destination. Because of this growing competition, it is imperative that an investigation be made into the factors that contribute best in site selection for MICE within the various destinations in India,” stated Sarcar.

Jalnapurkar believes that the challenges remain in terms of delivering end-to-end execution, creating real-time right ambience that inspires the ideas of the clients who often come here to brainstorm and accomplishing the goals on daily basis. “Market weakness in Europe, protracted negotiations, and market uncertainties pose major challenges. With the economic slowdown, corporate are also seen cutting conferencing budgets are most often felt in the sponsorship of the large association events,” added Frawley.

However, Sarcar opined that the prospects for the MICE industry are looking very bright. “Indeed the changing trends are clearly indicating that this sector is making a steady comeback as the world economy has started picking up. With the economy improving, there is once again a renewed demand for exhibitions, meetings and events to showcase latest products or for brainstorming sessions or simply for attracting clients,” he said.

It is not just Indian convention centres that are benefiting from the domestic market, even international venues have been witnessing a growth in the Indian outbound MICE market. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Overseas Arrivals and Departures, as of the end of December 2012 there were 8,760 arrivals from India who came to Australia for convention/conference purposes. Karen Bolinger, Chief Executive Officer, Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) stated that it is to see an increase in corporate and incentive visitors from India this year as a result of a recent successfully hosted Indian event and interest garnered from Tourism Australia’s Melbourne NOW! campaign in India. “MICE or business events are extremely important to the Australian tourism industry, generating A$1.2 billion. MCB’s sole responsibility is for the procurement of business events that attract delegates to Victoria so the MICE category is essential for the organisation’s existence,” she said.

Okinawa Convention Center (OCC) in Japan recently entered into the Indian market to tap the growing potential of the Indian MICE segment. OCC has already chalked its promotional plan for the Indian market.

MICE contributes 20% to hotels’ business

Undoubtedly, 2012 was one of the tougher years travel and tourism has seen in the recent past, with hotels facing difficulty in meeting their top lines. The silver lining though, was the contribution of MICE to properties that offered the facilities. Providing a considerable contribution to the properties’ annual business as well as their occupancies, the segment has been fuelling the sector’s success to a large extent in the past few years.

“Indian hospitality industry has gone through a sea change in the last one decade. The evolution that has come about has brought in the dynamism leading to novelty in the way hospitality business is perceived and done. MICE has become one of the most important segments to concentrate on for hoteliers throughout the country,” opined Amit Mitra, Director - Business Development, Le Meridien Coimbatore and Le Royal Meridien Chennai.

According to Saeid Heidari, GM, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Hotel, which receives 30 per cent of its business from MICE, currently the hotels are experiencing shorter booking lead times and a lower demand with regards to international congresses into the city. The overall MICE travel has, however, increased.

“MICE is the fastest growing section of the international and domestic tourism markets. The standards of facilities and services offered have evolved over the last decade towards the extensive use of technology, environment friendly services, pricing, market segmentation, regional preferences, etc. This segment has immense potential and provides tremendous growth opportunity in India for the sale of several hundred room nights as opposed to few by the transient travellers. In fact, MICE tourism finds itself being inevitable in all the occasions,” opined Sanzeev Bhatia, General Manager, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa.

With a growing business, of course, come varying trends and the MICE space is no different. As the segment grows, so do the demands of the customers. Martin Wuetrich, General Manager, Sheraton Bangalore, which owes 20 per cent of its room occupancy to MICE, opined that opportunities lay in the tier II cities. “Some of these markets are beginning to create demand with newer segments purely because of the quality of the kind of hotel that exists. Something similar has happened in a city like Bengaluru. Corporate and multinationals are considering Bengaluru as an option to hold high scale annual events looking at the availability of world class MICE facilities, events they would have otherwise held abroad or in Mumbai or Delhi. The MICE industry is blooming at this point and hotels are all cashing into this opportunity,” he said.

Vikram Chauhan, General Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel, Ahmedabad, revealed that many corporations are adopting the e-conferences as a solution to save money and time. However, he added, it has not replaced the value of face-to-face meetings and MICE events continue to be in demand. Girish Ganeshan, General Manager, Hyatt Ahmedabad, cited the opening up of various segments such as medical, health, culture tourism, because of exchanges between different professional bodies across the industries and trans-Atlantic have added to the demand for quality MICE venues.

And, while the whole world goes green, hospitality is not to be left out. Several properties are looking towards a new concept called ‘Green MICE’. Alila Bangalore is currently revamping their environmentally conscious MICE events. This should be launched in the second half of the year. Radisson Blu Hotel Ahmedabad has also initiated offsetting the Carbon footprint in India which would start from next quarter. The Met is awarded with ISO 14001, an Environment Management System CertificatioFunnin given by an internationally recognised certification body. The property even has its own in-house environmental programme known as ECOMET.

Nothing new comes without its challenges, especially not in a tourism market as dynamic as India. Vineet Mishra, General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre stated that the MICE tourist today is very selective. “Anybody who has a MICE requirement will call up five to eight venues and negotiate the best price from them. He would then begin to compete on services. The challenge is competitiveness of pricing and having a product differentiator.”

Krishna Unni, General Manager, Alila Bangalore believes that logistics is always unpredictable since issues such as traffic are very hard to control and affect MICE business experience. “In terms of infrastructure India is at a nascent stage and this reflects in the lack of facilities available. However, this segment is set to take the lead and is paced for a robust growth in near future,” said Sanjay Sharma, Complex General Manager, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa.

Mitra opined that today’s conference organisers look for value and the experience they can offer to the participants vis-a- vis the overall price and also flight connectivity to the city. Heidari suggested that a Convention Bureau for the city will elevate it within the international and domestic markets.

As a contrast, Philippe Charraudeau, GM-VP of ITC Grand Chola, stated that whilst there exits infrastructural challenges, with the support rendered by the DMC/PCO trade partners and hotels, customers organising conventions do not face much challenges. The burden is shared equally by the hotel, event managers, convention centres and the trade.

India is becoming an exotic MICE destination

From bustling cosmopolitan cities to tiny hamlets that seem frozen in time, India offers a heady blend of culture, history, tradition, hospitality, beauty coupled with modern amenities like deluxe and super deluxe hotels and resorts that would appeal to the business traveller. India is going the global way and MICE is fast becoming a major part of its travel and promotional budgets.

The Union Tourism Minister (I/C) K. Chiranjeevi recently sought the Finance Ministry’s help in setting up of six MICE centres in the country. Chiranjeevi’s request to Finance Minister therefore highlights the Ministry of Tourism’s intent for MICE promotion and interest in pacing the process up. On one hand, India has to compete with other global destinations and contend with factors such as pricing, space and infrastructure that play a big role in developing it as a MICE destination, but on the other hand, it has the advantage of being an emerging superpower with various other factors such as government support, infrastructure development and economic growth in its favour.

“The importance of the MICE industry is that it adds a stirring layer to annual business meetings and conferences transforming them from boring, dull all-work-no-play get-togethers to something enjoyable. Work is most definitely the priority but the icing on the cake is exhilarating new destinations, the exotica factor and enjoyment factor. And India as a MICE destination fits the bill,” said Karan Anand, Head – Relationships, Cox & Kings, adding that the inbound MICE segment is on the upward curve, growing at 20 per cent annually.

“More and more corporates are realising the importance of motivational programmes for staff retention and this phenomenon has huge potential for growth,” said Vishal Suri, Dy. COO Tour Operating, Kuoni India.

Sharing similar sentiments, Chander Mansharamani, Vice Chairman, India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB), said, “India is gradually emerging as a MICE destination globally. The MICE organisers abroad are cashing in on and promoting India’s cultural heritage, areas such as spa and wellness which they feel area additional advantage as add ons to the MICE activities.”

According to Arjun Sharma, Managing Director, Le passage to India, the changing economic scenario, with India and China as the two leading global economies, has highlighted India for the commercial and business potential it offers.

With world class hotels and the development of infrastructure, India is now one of the top MICE destinations in Asia too, following closely on the heels of Dubai, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Vineet Batra, Managing Partner, CHIME, believes India has the potential and opportunity as a superpower to emerge as a powerful contender in the global MICE industry. “Obviously, countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Dubai have had the first movers advantage and have been recognised as destinations over a long period of time. However, India scores thanks to the sheer size of the country, its global and young population and booming economy,” he said.

Zakkir Ahmed, Managing Director, Trust Travel & Tours said, “Amidst the countless ways that India can capture world attention as a tourist paradise, there also exists a dynamic business opportunity as a splendid venue for international conferences and conventions of no less than global standards.” He further added that unique tourism products such as Palace on Wheels and Royal Orient Express, offer a luxurious experience with their air-conditioned saloons decorated extravagantly where guests get a first-hand experience of Indian culture, heritage and cuisine.”

Batra believes increased air capacity and rapid improvement in infrastructure has also played a big role. “The new International and domestic airports are better equipped to handle large volumes seamlessly. The big influx of hotel space in various categories, particularly in the metros and bigger cities have given the opportunity to large organisers to look at India as a MICE destination,” he said.

Speaking about the emerging MICE destinations within India, Mansharamani added, “The state of Rajasthan is one the emerging MICE destinations. Kerela is also gaining momentum because of spa and wellness.” Apart from the emerging destinations Delhi, Greater Noida, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Cochin are famous for MICE destinations.

With the expansion in the network of airlines operating on the domestic routes, enhanced tourist surface transport systems including the Indian Railways, new centres of information technology, numerous new convention centres, hotels and resorts, India is now a preferred MICE destination.

National Tourist Offices consider the Indian MICE market as lucrative

Experts opine that MICE contributes as much as 40-45 per cent to overall travel volumes and India is no exception to it. Indians are now are now travelling abroad throughout the year on business. The recent statistics suggests that the Indian outbound MICE market is estimated to be around US$600 million and is expected to increase by 12-13 per cent over the next couple of years. Unaffected by the global slowdown, Indian corporates are spending on corporate travel, increasing the outbound market for MICE.

MICE movement from India to Malaysia grew by leaps and bounds in 2012. Malaysia received 693,056 Indian tourists last year out of which 19 – 22 per cent were business travellers. “This was largely due to the efforts of the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MYCEB) and a group of dedicated MICE travel agents,” stated Manoharan Periasamy, Director, Tourism Malaysia. Tourism Malaysia expects to see a 20 per cent increase in Indian MICE footfalls.

For Thailand’s MICE industry, 2012 was a buoyant year with 895,224 MICE visitors and 7,382 MICE events, 6.84 per cent up from 2011, and exceeding Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau’s (TCEB) annual target. According to TCEB, conventions contributed 33 per cent, followed by corporate meetings and incentive travel, which contributed 25 and 24 percent respectively. International exhibitions and trade shows accounted for 18 percent of total MICE revenues for 2012. Moreover, TCEB is confident of continuing growth in 2013, driven by a major rebranding and strategic repositioning of the organisation, and continuing strong public and private sector investment in MICE venues and related developments. TCEB is promoting incentive tourism in the cities of Coimbatore, Mangalore and Pune, building on its longstanding presence in the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.

Dubai also has been showing tremendous growth in its MICE arrivals since the launch of its Indian operations. Carl Vaz, Director (India) of Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Government of Dubai, said in a statement, “Amongst Dubai’s key markets, India is one of the most resilient markets today, accounting for growth even during tumultuous times.” At SATTE 2013, Dubai highlighted its growing reputation as a preferred MICE destination.

In addition, there are new and emerging players looking to tap the Indian MICE market. Taiwan is one of them. There has been a steady increase in the MICE movements to Taiwan from India in last couple of years and Arthur Hsieh – Director, Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB), Singapore Office, is positive that Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s (TTB) MICE Incentive plans will help agents increase MICE movements to Taiwan in the coming years. “TTB has recently launched the MICE Incentive Plan for 2013 with MICE centric sample itineraries, gifts, special schemes and assistance and giveaways designed to attract MICE groups to the country. This also included discounts and performances from the TTB specially geared towards the Indian market,” he said. TTB also plans to organise multiple FAM tours for MICE organisers.

After a period of rapid and unprecedented infrastructure development, Macau has emerged as one of Asia’s newest business tourism destinations. The incentive group coming to Macau should have minimum 50 non-Macau participants with at least two consecutive nights of stay in Macau hotel. A maximum support of MOP$300 will be granted on actual consumption per non-Macau participant for their incentive activity in Macau.

Although India is a relatively a new market for Abu Dhabi, Bejan Dinshaw, Country Manager, India, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, sees huge growth potential for MICE. “We are also hoping that the Etihad stake in Jet Airways will assist us greatly by opening up regional Indian hubs to Abu Dhabi,” he said. Dinshaw further informed that business events in Abu Dhabi was estimated at US$6.5 million in 2010 and is anticipated to increase to US$13.3 million in 2020. “This is based on an increase of seven per cent per annum on average between 2010 and 2020, however, now with the newly formed Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau this can potentially increase at a much higher rate up to 10 per cent per annum CAGR over 10 years.”

Egypt Tourism Office (ETO) is also focused on driving business travellers to their country. Adel El Masry, Director, ETO said, “More than 35-40 per cent of outbound from India is MICE tourism and it is imperative that we enjoy a slice of that mix. Government of Egypt has allocated US$500,000 to the Ministry of Tourism’s MICE department to promote the sector for financial year 2012-2013. This will help support the initiatives of overseas outbound agents to promote MICE in Egypt.” ETO will be organising road shows in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad to highlight their MICE offerings.

With Oman embarking in the MICE industry as a key growth market, the Sultanate’s tourism development and management company, Omran, is building the OMR 330 million Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). “The new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre will open in 2017 and will provide state-of-the-art facilities and convert Oman into a competitive venue for major global and regional events. This will enable Oman to host major meetings, incentive, conventions and exhibitions events,” revealed Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Oman.

Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager – India, Tourism Australia opined that international business events visitors contribute great value to Australia. “Recently, Melbourne witnessed one of the largest Indian incentive groups ever to be hosted in Australia - more than 4,000 Indian delegates. We have been working alongside our partners to reach out to the corporate community and encourage incentive travel to Australia through a wide range of activities including familiarisation visits, destination training sessions for travel partners and niche events.” He further added that by 2020, this sector has the potential to contribute up to A$16 billion annually.

Germany, being a leader in Indian MICE to Europe, received 584,508 Indian overnights, of which MICE contributed to 60 per cent of the total number. There are more than 6000 conference hotels and event locations, said Romit Theophilus, Director - Sales and Marketing, German National Tourist Office, India. Commenting on their marketing strategy to promote Germany further, Theophilus said, “We will carry out MICE specific corporate presentations to key corporate personnel in sectors such and banking and financial services, pharma and IT.”

France boasts a powerful infrastructure of over 612,000 hotel rooms, 120 convention centers, 80 exhibition centers which makes it a perfect MICE destination form meeting and event planners. According to Catherine Oden, Director Atout France India, Business travellers believe in business mixed with pleasure and as an all round destination France offers both. They plan to project Nice, Cannes, Deauville and Evian as affordable MICE destinations.

Spain is also not lagging behind and foresees great potential in terms of Indian outbound for the MICE market. “Spain received around 60,000 Indian tourists in 2012 and approximately 15 – 20 per cent consisted of MICE groups, and around 25 per cent were business travellers, revealed Arturo Ortiz Arduán, Tourism Counselor, Tourism Office of Spain in Mumbai adding that in 2013, Spain is expecting an increase in the figures from last year for MICE participation in Spain.

NTO’s believe that MICE trends are expected to pick up in 2013 and will prove to be one of the major travel segments in the Indian market. Meeting size is growing, meeting space is changing, luxury space is making a comeback and emphasis is given on teambuilding activities. The growing economy and increase in international trade, increased participation in conventions, exhibitions and corporate meets is fuelling the growth of the outbound MICE segment.

In 2012, Indian arrivals to Philippines stood at 46,000. This year, the Philippines DoT is hoping to increase visitor arrival numbers from India to 66,000 tourists. In order to meet this target, the Department plans to educate the Indian travel trade on the varied offerings of Philippines. It is looking at launching Philippines Tour Specialist Programme in India. “Having seen the success of this programme in established markets like the USA and Japan, we plan to replicate the same in the Indian market. India might be the first emerging market to host the programme,” said Benito C Bengzon, Assistant Secretary, International Tourism Promotions, Department of Tourism, Philippines.

India is one of the top 15 markets for Philippines and Bengzo believes there is a lot of potential to up this position. “We are extremely enthusiastic about reaching out to new markets and segments in India. We have to be more focused and build up our presence in the Indian market. We want to connect with the Indian travel trade to generate demand for the Philippines. The Tour Specialist Programme will train the frontline staff in order to help them guide and assist travellers with the vast offerings of the Philippines,” Bengzon added.

He informed that the Philippines wants to position the country as a destination suitable for all age groups and travel segments, including MICE and Bollywood tourism. "We would like to position the Philippines as a destination for Film Tourism. We are also looking at tapping incentive groups, families and couples. We have better quality products and packages being offered to Indian travellers.”

According to him, connectivity between the two countries is a major hurdle in tourism exchange between the two countries. “At present, there are only three weekly flights between New Delhi and Manila via Bangkok. We are talking with several foreign carriers to connect the Philippines with India, including with other major cities in the sub-continent. Our strategy is to introduce additional flights to Manila and Cebu and convince new players to fly directly to resort islands. We want to create demand for our destination in order to fill existing flights and improve air connectivity.”

He believes that good air connectivity and easy visa procedures are vital for the progressive development of a tourism industry. “We are open to the idea of introducing visa on arrival facility to increase tourist arrivals from India. The introduction of visa on arrival in the Philippines is under discussion. We hope it will soon be implemented.”

Besides Mumbai and Delhi, the new markets that Philippines Tourism will tap are Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. “The average spending capacity of people in these cities is considerably high and to tap that we will have regular roadshows in these cities. We will also reach out to other major tier-II cities,” said Bengzon.

Keeping the industry’s demand to expand the canvas of SATTE by incorporating new segments in mind, SATTE  is exploring the possibility of launching few niche and emerging segments at its 21st edition in 2014. SATTE 2013 witnessed demand to have players from the MICE, Travel Technology and a few other segments.  “The idea is to expand the horizon of SATTE and make it a bigger platform to offer more networking opportunities to our partners,” Sajid Desai, Group Director, UBM India.  Apart from MICE and Travel Technology, SATTE also plans to rope in players from medical tourism and travel insurance field, he added.

According to him, Indian travellers are becoming more tech savvy with the advent of new technology.  Citing PhoCusWright’s study, Desai said that one third of the worldwide travel sales will be made online by end 2013. Moreover, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube has changed the behavior pattern of consumers as well as travel trade partner. “This is the reason that we are thinking of having travel technology as a new part of our show,” he said and added that we already have presence of online travel agencies at SATTE and our endeavour is to make it more focused.

Similarly, MICE is also growing and most of the participants at SATTE such as National Tourist Offices of various countries, hotels and resorts and travel agents and tour operators   among others consider MICE as a new revenue stream. “We are chalking out a strategy as how MICE as a tourism segment can be promoted at SATTE,” he added.

SATTE 2014 is scheduled to be held in New Delhi at Pragati Maidan from 29 – 31 January 2014 and in Mumbai at Nehru Centre from 3 – 4 February 2014.

In order to tap the growing potential of Indian outbound, Oman Tourism has accelerated their marketing and promotional efforts in India. The Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman recently hosted 60 Indian travel agents and tour operators from seven Indian cities: Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Hyderabad. This was Oman Tourism’s largest FAM trip from India so far.

During the trip, Indian partners were showcased Oman as a leisure, FIT, honeymoon and MICE destination. The objective was to give the agents first hand experiences of Oman’s tourism potential to help them sell the destination more effectively.

Getting ‘FAM’iliar

Indian agents travelled to Muscat, Nizwa, Sharqiya Sands, Sur, and Ras Al Jinz to discover and gain knowledge about the various tourism attractions and products of Oman. Agents were also taken to some high-end hotels to get acquainted with about Oman’s accommodation offerings.

Alongside the FAM trip, Oman Tourism also organised a workshop titled the ‘Discover Oman Programme’. The aim of the workshop was to give agents an in-depth overview of the country and its culture, as well as an impression about the ongoing and future projects; and to familiarise them with the destination. “Being at par with the needs and wants of Indian travellers is significant to us as the Indian market represents a huge prospective for Oman. Indian arrival numbers have been on a stable increase since the launch of our Oman Tourism office in 2010. Travel trade is a top priority for us as they are the backbone of any tourism industry to flourish,” Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Under Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Oman, said.

Adding to Al Mahrouqi, Lubaina Sheerazi, Head, Blue Square Consultants, the India Representative of Ministry of Tourism, Oman, opined that a detailed knowledge of Oman’s offerings is of fundamental significance in promoting the destination to the correct tourists/clients. Following Al Mahrouqi’s address, a panel discussion was organised to address the challenges Indian partners are facing while promoting Oman. The panel discussion was moderated by Philippe Georgiou, Chief Officer - Corporate Affairs, Oman Air, and participants were Nasser Al Rahbi, Head of Legal Affairs Dept, Royal Oman Police; Salim Al Mamary, DG, Tourism Promotion, Ministry of Tourism; Sunila Patil, Director, Veena World; Ashutosh Mehere, Sr. VP - Alliances and Special Projects, Cox & Kings India; Mahesh Morthy, Manager, Gulf Ventures; Issa Al Ismai, Executive Director, Oman World Tourism; and Lubaina Sheerazi.

Having received encouraging response from the India market since 2010, British Columbia (BC) has doubled its India budget in last three years. This was informed by Monica Leeck, Market Development Manager Asia, Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training British, British Columbia. According to her, British Columbia has come up with a two-phase plan designed especially for the Indian market. “Phase 1 will be operational in 2013 and will see British Columbia lay focus on major metros like Mumbai and Delhi and phase II, which will be put in action in 2014, will focus on Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and major Tier-II cities.”

India and China are the most important emerging travel markets for BC and are currently enjoying positive growth. “In 2012 Indian visitor arrivals to BC were 46,565, a 7.2 per cent increase over 2011. We expect this number to increase by 10 per cent in 2013. Currently, India is the 11th largest international market for visitors to British Columbia,” she said adding that British Columbia is the second largest destination visited by Indians in Canada. There is a budding market for the leisure segment and BC is concentrating on attracting a combination of honeymooners, FITs and group travellers.” 
Highlighting the importance of the Indian travel trade, Leeck opined, “The Indian travel trade is a major driver in establishing British Columbia's presence in India and 95 per cent of our business comes from them. We are conducting many joint promotions with the travel trade, which involves a 50-50 investment from each the agent and ourselves.”

To increase the average length of stay in the province, British Columbia in conjunction with the travel trade has come up with special itineraries and packages that include new products and tourist attractions. “BC would like to develop the staple itinerary by promoting new products such as wine touring in the Okanagan, wildlife viewing (e.g. whales and grizzly bears) on Vancouver Island, honeymoon destinations such as luxury lodges on the Pacific Coast, and outdoor soft adventure (think New Zealand but bigger).  In addition, we will start introducing the concept of "winter fun in the snow". Enjoy winter like a Canadian: take a ski lesson, take the family dog sledding, snow tubing or snowshoeing; and combine this with the VIA Rail snow train to the Rockies, or Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) viewing in the Yukon,” she said.

The South American destination, National Institute for the Promotion of Tourism of Argentina (INPROTUR) in India is looking to tap the Indian market by being more reachable, regular and proactive with the Indian travel trade. “Last year, Indian arrivals to Argentina were approximately 5,000 as compared to 3,000 in 2011 which is a very encouraging number. Argentina is still a very new destination entering the Indian market and such a growing interest proves that Indians are now looking towards the unexplored,” said Leonardo Boto, Chairman, INPROTUR, adding that Argentina’s participation at SATTE 2013 has gained them a number of inquiries for Argentina and they hope they can convert the same to strong business ties.

Boto further opined, “Our most important focus area will be to educate the travel trade. Support and proper training will be provided to agents to help them package various products that can be offered to their clientele. We will start by targeting agents in Mumbai and Delhi and will gradually move to Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai.”

Agreeing with Boto, Medha Sampat, Director, Knack Marketing & India representative for Argentina Tourism, said, “We will start with training the trade and then continue with conducting Argentina road shows in various cities. We are looking at developing the market with a long-term perspective. We will participate in trade shows, work closely with media, conduct seminars and trainings, and organise FAM trips to promote the destinations.”

Argentina will focus on the experimental and experienced traveller mainly from the FIT and MICE segments. “We want to position Argentina as a mono destination. The average length of stay of Indian travellers is five days, and we want this to increase to 7-10 days. We want to promote the nature, culture, vineyards, nightlife, handicraft and festivals of Argentina to the Indian market,” Boto said. Argentina is also looking at destinations and tourist attractions such as Iguassu falls, El Calafate, Ushuaia, the beautiful wine regions in Mendoza, Patagonia and Buenos Aires to tap MICE, honeymooners and families in India. “We also want to start promoting the various festivals and events such as the Dakar Rally, Argentine polo, Tango Festivals, food and wine festivals including the national harvest festival, among many others.”

According to Sampat, Argentina is picking up pace due to the good flight connectivity to Buenos Aires. “Argentina is well linked with airlines like South African Airways, Qatar, Turkish Airlines and Emirates.”

In a bid to increase the number of Indians flying by LATAM, the South America based airline organized its first ever work-shop in India in partnership with four South American countries. The event saw the participation of representatives from countries such as Chile, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. Thierry Curey, General Manager, South Asia, LATAM Airlines Group said, “India as a market has great potential. Our main objective to hold such a workshop is to educate the travel trade on its connectivity to South America. South American destinations have started gaining momentum in India, but a lot of people are reluctant to fly to these destinations due to lack of knowledge of air connectivity.”

Speaking about connectivity Curey said, “We offer connectivity to 120 destinations in South America within Brazil, Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay. LATAM flies to South America for the Indian market from all major hubs—Frankfurt, Paris, London, Madrid and Milan,”  he said adding that LATAM Airlines Group, a merger of LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, is South America's largest airline network.

At workshop Curey also introduced the LATAMs’ South American Airpass, which provides travellers unlimited flight changes for reduced cost, lower price one-way journey fares, the choice to fly to preferred destinations, and the option of availing of tailor-made itineraries. The Airpass has been available for purchase from June 1, 2013, and the travel period will be 12 months from the date of issue.

Encouraged by the increase in Indian arrivals, Turkish Tourism has accelerated their marketing and promotional activities in India. Turkey received 90,000 Indians in 2012, reflecting a 24 per cent increase over 2011 when the growth rate was 16-17 per cent. Looking at the previous year, Turkey is recording double-digit growth Y-o-Y from India. The tourism board’s effort is to maintain the growth momentum from India in the coming years as well. “We are expecting a 30 per cent growth in Indian arrivals in 2013. The number of Indian tourists to Turkey has been growing up to 20 per cent on an average annually and with the focus on new travel segments, the growth rate is expected to be higher,” said Özgür Aytürk, Culture and Tourism Counsellor, Turkish Embassy in India.

Apart from Istanbul’s famous historical and cultural attractions, Turkey is also promoting the three ‘S’- Sea, Sand and Sun. “Turkey has lot to offer to all kind of travellers. Most of the Indian travellers are looking at experiencing something more than just sightseeing. 75 - 80 per cent Indians visit Turkey for leisure and quality holidays,” said Aytürk.

Aytürk informed that Turkey is aggressively promoting itself as a destination for business and cultural events. “More than 20 per cent visit Turkey for MICE. We are focusing on MICE as Turkey has state-of- the-art convention facilities. Ontalia is hosting the ICCA 2014 conference. Ismeirs and some other cities have big convention venues.” According to the statistics of ICCA, Istanbul has been ranked the seventh most popular destination for MICE.

Ayturk believes that Indian travellers look at several aspects of tourism like shopping, nature, history, etc. “We are strongly promoting the wedding and golf segment. Indians are most welcome to look at Turkey as a shopping destination as well,” stated Aytürk.

Speaking on their marketing and promotional strategy for India this year, Ayturk stated that this year the tourism board will spend US$ 1 million on advertising alone. “We will be organising joint advertising campaigns with key players of the market in India and also have an extra budget for joint promotion campaigns with some big players in the market to help them showcase Turkey’s attractions.”

Commenting on flight connectivity Aytürk informed, “Turkish Airlines, which connects New Delhi and Mumbai with Istanbul with daily services, wants to double its flights on both routes. The carrier has also sought permission from India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation to start services to Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.”



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