The Travel Agents Association of India’s (TAAI) Diamond Jubilee celebration in conjunction with ITTE and the TAAI Travel Awards 2011, held in Mumbai recently, witnessed industry experts sharing their insights and knowledge in two insightful and informative interactive business sessions. The two business sessions, ‘Destination Management and Brand Positioning' and ‘Trends in Inbound and Outbound Tourism', were put together by TravelBiz Monitor, the Knowledge Partner for the event.
The business session on ‘Destination Management and Brand Positioning' discussed the importance of branding and destination management in the travel and tourism scenario. The session was moderated by Sheldon Santwan, Editor & COO, TravelBiz Monitor and the speakers included Vipul Mittra, Principal Secretary - Tourism, Civil Aviation and Pilgrimage, Government of Gujarat; Hanneli Slabber, Country Head - India, South African Tourism; Carl Vaz, Director – India, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing; Adel El Masry, Director, Egyptian Tourism Office in India and Emin Cakmak, Chairman, Turkish India Tourism Council.
Presenting audio-visual clippings shot for South Africa’s pre-World Cup and post-World Cup promotional campaigns, Slabber said, “While making these clipings, we made sure we had people in the video; we can show beautiful places, but people are an important aspect and form the crux of the complete campaign.” Speaking about the importance of branding and knowing one’s target audience, Slabber added, “A brand can't make a guest appearance. And you can't have a brand without a partnership. The most important thing is to ‘Know your Customers'. Listen to your customers and offer the product which is relevant to them.” Slabber stressed on the fact that alignment of a brand and brand promise is crucial.
Highlighting the tourism figures for Eqypt, Masry said, “In 2010, international arrivals to Eqypt were 14.7 million and we have been witnessing a 17.5 per cent increase year-on-year. In 2010, Indian arrivals to Eqypt were 1,14,000 and we have been witnessing a 36 per cent increase year-on-year from India. Tourism is important for the GDP of our country since it contributes 11.8 per cent to GDP. India is an important market for Eqypt.”
Gujarat has witnessed a considerable increase in the number of tourist arrivals since Gujarat Tourism roped in Amitabh Bachchan as their brand ambassador: before the campaign, the state received 800 visitors for Rann Ustsav, and after the campaign, visitor figures shot to 32,000 in 2010 and 75,000 this year. Mittra said, “While deciding the destinations for the Bachchan campaign, we first selected destinations with potential to attract the maximum traffic. We wanted to highlight the different facets of our state like wildlife, heritage, pilgrimage and desert; showcasing Gujarat as a destination for everybody.” Further, realising the state’s USP, the Asiatic lion sanctuary at the Gir National Park, Gujarat Tourism has changed their logo and the new logo has lion on it. “Gujarat is the only place in the world home to Asiatic lions and hence we made our USP as our brand logo,” revealed Mittra. Over the past few years, the state has increased its tourism budget aggressively.
Turkey, with its wonderful MICE facilities, museums, beaches, shopping, adventure activities, history, culture, golf courses and sports facilities, has received 27 million tourists in 2009, the seventh highest international tourist arrival figure for the year. Cakmak informed, “2023 will be the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey and for that year, Turkey Tourism has forecast 50 million tourist arrivals, USD 50 billion in tourism revenue and the fifth rank in the world.”
Highlighting the importance of destination marketing, Vaz informed, “It is important to have a dialogue with the target audience. For instance, it is critical to educate the travel trade and the destination should be understood well before packaging the product. It is equally important to educate travelling consumers about the destination, generate awareness and create desire for the destination as an experiential option. The media too plays a very crucial role in projecting the destination. It is also vital to be a part of the travel trade associations for building relationships with the travel trade fraternity. In addition, trade associations play a very crucial role in encouraging bilateral and multilateral trade between nations. It encourages business and investment opportunities and establishes a channel of communication with potential travellers that have a propensity to travel.”
The second business session, ‘Trends in Inbound and Outbound Tourism', saw Ashwini Kakkar, Executive Vice-Chairman, Mercury Travels; Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Travel Group; Abhijeet Patil, CEO, Raja Rani Travels Pvt Ltd and Karan Anand, Head - Relationships & Supplier Management, Cox & Kings forming the panel. KD Row, Executive Director, Sales and Marketing - India region, Air India, moderated the session.
Commencing the discussion, Kakkar stated that customer trends and behaviours are changing, as is the geographical trend. “We need to keep up with the pace of change and the dramatic shift in consumer patterns to closer, faster, cheaper travel. In addition, India and China are the next big inbound markets globally, and we need to adjust ourselves to cater to China as much as we did to cater to the other markets.” Patil suggested that the industry should try and adopt a Utopian model for progress, one that enables the industry to fight for fair prices that will increase inbound tourism.
Agreeing with Kakkar, Goyal stated, “Knowing trends is knowing the future. There are three Ts that depict the trends today – Technology, Telecommunication and Travel and Tourism. As leisure increases, so will travel and tourism. What we need to focus on is inbound tourism, our potential markets and our strengths - medical and holistic tourism. As far as outbound goes, there is a demand for shorter journeys. More non-stop flights will hence increase our business. Visa-on-Arrival facilities and infrastructure should be part of our main focus.”
Anand opined, “Outbound is still a new sector in India. During the 1990s, when airlines recorded a drop in business, agents decided to focus on leisure travellers. Due to calamities, inbound travel was affected, which shifted the focus to outbound. Shortly after, domestic came into notice. Now, corporate travel is back in the limelight. Indians have spread their wings, but still face certain challenges. First and foremost, we need to understand and embrace technology. Travel agents own nothing but their clients. The relationship we have with them during their travels will always hold our business; which means 24x7 quality service is a must, most of which can be made possible with technology. In addition, we need to pressure the Government into opening the doors to upcoming markets by extending the Visa on Arrival facility.”
Summarising the discussion, Row said that Visa on Arrival will be a critical decision, making it a crucial tool for the future. But what can the trade associations do to facilitate the Government's decision on issuing Visa on Arrivals to certain markets? Goyal responded, “With unity, we can make anything move. The security the government talks about is nonsense. During terror attacks, Sri Lanka faced losses due to lack of tourism, and they offered Visa on Arrivals. Their largest threat was the South Indians and that was the largest market they recorded. The associations must get together and fight for VoAs in the national interest.”
When questioned by Iqbal Mulla, President, TAAI, as to how inbound tourism figures can be increased to equal outbound tourism figures, Goyal said that Indians have made inbound tourism difficult for themselves. “It is difficult to get visas to enter our country. We need to shake up our bureaucracy to this reality,” he said.