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Murari Mohan Jha

Murari Mohan Jha

The Network of Indian MICE Agents (NIMA) recently organised a familiarization tour for around 40 tour operators and media in Vizag to experience the varied tourism offerings of the city. The 3-day educational tour was organised by Hotel and Restaurant Association of AP and Tours and Travels Agents Association with support from Andhra government and district administration. The objective of the fam was to understand the composite tourism profile of Visakhapatnam as well as to establish the city as MICE destination for domestic and overseas markets.

Speaking on the occasion, Gajesh Giridhar, President, NIMA, said that Visakhapatnam has varied tourism products. “Visakhapatnam has almost everything to offer and we have decided to have a destination showcase. The only thing lagging is the push to sell the destination. The first initiative we took is to have our partner in Andhra Pradesh. We opened NIMA’s first India chapter in Visakhapatnam. Goa is one of the destinations for MICE and we have agents who can convert Visakhapatnam into Goa. We need travel agents and operators to formulate a suitable itinerary. The next plan is to have a destination showcase in Delhi. We will invite 300 agents from North India for B2B meetings, destinations presentations and networking in coming months,” Giridhar said.

Extending all possible support to travel and tourism fraternity, Praveen Kumar, District Magistrate, Visakhapatnam opined that tourism is the core activity in the service. “Visakhapatnam is one of the safest cities in India. Visakhapatnam is the 5th cleanest city in India. There is a lot of tourism potential but we have to work together to realise this potential,” Kumar said adding that the state government is planning to build wayside amenities, resorts and other related tourism infrastructure and tourism products. The state government has earmarked Rs 200 crores for the beachfront development to give a boost to the tourism in the district. “The project is expected to be completed in two years. Seven beaches will be developed including R.K. Beach, Sagarnagar and Yendada etc.. Consultants have been approached by the government for the project. Apart from the beaches, the Simhachalam hill shrine would be developed on the lines of Tirupati,” he said.

He also said that there will be emphasis on health tourism as the city has 30 super speciality hospitals, including 21 in the health city. In the next three months, development activities of smart city would be taken up, he said.

He also informed that a Greenfield airport is coming up in the city which will provide a lot of confidence to go and target tourists not only from India and international. “The air connectivity is growing. Visakhapatnam airport currently operates 25 flights a day including 4-5 international destinations. These are the opportunities and the idea is how to convert the strength into opportunity,” he said.

The idea of the state government is to bring all stakeholders on one table to realise the tourism potential. “This meeting will go in a long way as far as tourism is concerned. I can see the potential for this event to make Visakhpatnam as one of the prominent destination. This activity will also definitely give confidence to investors to come and invest in city infrastructure,” Kumar said.

Jagdeep Bhagat, Founder Member & Coordinator – Branding, NIMA opined that an aggressive marketing and promotion is needed to position Visakhapatnam as a major tourism destination.

The recently concluded Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) IntelliCon Regional Conference in Delhi-NCR received a better response from the corporate travel segment compared to earlier conferences. The one and half day educational conference delved deep into the challenges and opportunities that corporate travel sector offers. The conference witnessed the presence of as many as 130 delegates from across the value chain.

It began with an educational session exclusively for buyers that were attended by over 30 buyers. Jyothi Varma, Regional Manager, South East Asia, ACTE kickstarted the session introducing ACTE as a catalyst for change by providing high level learning and idea exchange opportunities throughout the travel community. Varma posed a question asking panelists: Have the role of travel managers transformed with the rising purchasing power, ever changing technology and corporate’s thrusts on reducing travel cost? Are we going in a right direction? How travel managers are handling the last minute demand from travellers and what is the expectation of a corporate buyer from a supplier? Responding to these, panelists opined that business travel represents substantial costs, and controlling these costs and finding ways to reduce them is central to the professional role as travel managers. They agreed that there is a clear shift in way of travel buying. Earlier, the procurement team at corporate was looking at hotel rates and not location which many times created inconvenience to travellers. Today, the procurement department is engaging the travelllers at every level in the procurement process and travel buyer’s success is determined by traveller’s satisfaction. Summing up the session, Varma said that organisations are gradually falling under increasing pressure to minimise the expenses associated with travel and to negotiate global deals with travel suppliers. Travel policies within organisations are common with cost reduction being top priority for a large majority of the organisations.

Speaking on the sideline of the conference, Benson Tang, Regional Director, Asia, ACTE, informed this was the 5th year of ACTE’s presence in India and 2017 is a milestone year. “My plan is to push further for ACTE’s global conference in India. As of now, I have pushed forward only proposal recommending India as a host country for our 2018 global conference. We had a discussion on the subject with Indian Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma and we received an encouraging response from him. Now, it is up to the Board Members of ACTE to consider this proposal. Board Members can veto the proposal as well,” Tang said adding that ACTE organised its annual global conference in China in 2016 that was attended by over 600 professionals from across the world. “For India one, we are talking about brining 1000 travel professionals under one roof,” he added. He informed that the global conference brings together key decision-makers from both the corporate travel buyer and travel supplier at one platform offering ample exposure to the destination on the global corporate travel map.

Talking about India, Tang said that India is one of the most important markets for us. “Our membership is increasing. We have a full time professional and we will continue to put more resources in India. Our plan of hosting global conference in India tells how important India is,” he said.

The second day started with a keynote address on ‘Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Future’ from Sunil Kumar, President, UFTAA and TAAI. Kumar said that the growth of corporate travel in India is fuelled by growing businesses in India. He opined that the way corporate travel is growing, pricing and buying options will influence travellers behavior in coming days. Therefore, industry needs to prepare a pool of skilled professionals who can cater to the growing demands of corporate and the effort of ACTE is laudable here, he added.

After the keynote address, the day saw three interactive sessions titled as Hybrid Booking Solution - The Perfect Combination?, The ‘PAY’ Landscape of 2017 - A 360 Prospective for Travel Managers  and First Party Data + Third Party Data = Magic.

Speaking on the hybrid booking solution, panelists said the combination of an innovative, integrated online travel platform and a complementary human support team is the only way to provide business travelers with the easy-to-use online tools they are looking for and the essential offline support they inevitably need.

The panel on Pay Landscape highlighted the role of virtual cards and mobile payments in the world of corporate travel. While travellers are able to pay their expenses seamlessly and companies and travel managers can track movements, reduce fraud, and overall exert more control over the spending of employees, the reality is much more complex. Virtual cards, or the creation of unique credit card numbers for each business trip, and mobile payments through various app services are yet to become ubiquitous in corporate travel due to a variety of challenges. If certain card schemes are not accepted by merchants, employees are forced to use either their own personal cards or cash. This adds to the complexity of the reconciliation process of the expenses within accounts management. However, panelists were optimistic that latest technologies like artificial intelligence, mobile applications, and the Internet of Things should enhance the customer’s experience to remove pain points from travel.

The third panel discussion on Data highlighted the importance of data quality and reporting requirements. All panelists agreed that having big data is nice, but the real value lies in the extraction of meaning from it. Companies are finding commonality in raw, unstructured data and then analysed it for their business purposes. What is needed is to have a proper ability of big data technology to enable to find intelligence in vast amounts of data presenting a clear, massive opportunity to reshape the way consumers are marketed and sold to in travel.

The last keynote address was delivered Subhash Goyal, Member, National Tourism Advisory Council, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India where he talked about the rapid pace of growth of Indian economy leading to an increased business and corporate travel. He urged the audience to gear up to tap the potential of the growing demand from corporate travel sector.

Encouraged by the growth in India, SriLankan Airlines has decided to increase its footprint in India market. “We have seen substantial growth in traffic from India to Sri Lanka in last one year and vice versa. As a result, we are going to increase frequency. We currently operate 107 frequencies in a week and we will be increasing that to 130 by middle of this year. We are adding three destinations; Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Coimbatore by July this year. Moreover, we are also increasing frequencies to Mumbai and Delhi and considering increasing frequency to Kolkata as well,” Siva Ramachandran, Chief Commercial Officer, SriLankan Airlines, said in New Delhi on the sidelines of a function organised by the national carrier of Sri Lanka to honour trade partners in India. Elaborating further, he said that the carrier currently has seven frequencies from Mumbai and Delhi which will eventually be increased to 14. “There is going to be huge growth in the India market. Our overall load factor on India routes is close to 80 per cent. While some destinations are witnessing 90 per cent load factor, it is not less than 70 per cent on any routes,” he informed.

To support this expansion, Sri Lankan is also taking delivery of new aircraft. Talking about the fleet acquisition he said that the carrier has taken delivery of the first A320 neo early March and the next one is arriving at the end of the March. “We also have two more A321 neos slated for delivery in July and that’s when we start our expansion programme. We are expected to take delivery of two more aircraft by the end of this year. We are also looking to flying to Melbourne by end of 2017 which will also help connectivity to most of the Indian points,” he revealed. SriLankan has already expanded its operations in China and Far East market. Speaking on making India as a catchment market, he said that Colombo is a mini hub. “We do not have a big airport but our terminal is going to expand soon. All the 107 flights from India have connectivity to Maldives, Seychelles and Far East destinations,” he said.

The carrier is also in the process of delinking the MRO business and converting it into a Separate Business Unit to expand its MRO vertical. “We have the expertise and technical know-how to expand MRO business and we are trying to acquire more space for hangar,” he said.

Speaking on the privatisation, he said that the focus of the government is to privatise the airline. “The government is well on its way on ‘partially privatising’ the carrier with 49 per cent private stake and 100 per cent management rights. From the bidding process, we have shortlisted an American investment company and the process is to be completed before this year end,” he said.

Despite emerging global scenario, demonetisation and recently imposed service tax amongst others, outbound tourism from India is going to grow in coming time, feels Amod Thatte, Head - Products & Innovation, Outbound Division, SOTC. “We have seen terror attacks happening across the globe. The best part is that the Government of India does not issues travel advisories. Also, customers have a wider choice i.e. if a destination is disturbed, customers prefer to go to other destination,” Thatte said. Speaking on the demonetisation, he said players who were dealing in cash might have got impacted. “Demonetisation is a good thing to happen because it offers a level playing field for us. Indian outbound offers a huge potential and those who have not followed the norms are now falling in the line,” he said.

According to him, the Service Tax is now a reality. “The Government has passed the law. We have no options but to start implementing this. The ways it has come about is not fair. It is giving advantage to one part of the industry. The Government needs to understand. The foreign tour operators who are dealing with India have now big advantage over Indian players. Its high time that Govt recognises outbound as a industry. Govt has done a lot of for inbound but let’s not forget that outbound is one of the biggest sources for forex for Govt,” he opined.  The Govt recently enacted a law by which tour operators have to pay 60 per cent service tax on 60 per cent of the invoice value. Prior to this, tour operators were paying 10 per cent on the invoice value for booking hotels and for other tours the tax is payable on 30 per cent of the bill.

Thatte suggested that the issue of air connectivity and visa should be addressed if Indian outbound has to realise its growth potential. “Any new outbound route is welcome. We have seen in the past that there has been a huge flow of tourists with additional seat capacity or new frequency,” he said citing examples from Air India when it launched the Vienna service last year. “This gave us a good impetus and we developed product around this. Any sector which are outbound friendly is beneficial for us,” he said.

Talking on SOTC, he said that 2016 started with a great challenge on several counts like Paris attack. Also sometime in November 2015, the biometric rule for Schengen visa has changed creating inconvenience for travellers. “The beginning was difficult and we fine tuned our strategy accordingly. By mid of the year, we were on track and finally 2016 emerged as a good year for us from the outbound perspective,” he said.

Replying to a question over new destinations, Thatte said that there have been destinations already present in India. For eg; Australia and New Zealand have been in India and now they are witnessing double digit growth and taking shape. “Eastern Europe sector has done quite good in 2016. Scandinavia is doing quite good for us as a lot of awareness are being created in India market. Vietnam and Cambodia, although very small, has been growing fast. The largest chunk to Vietnam and Cambodia is customised holidays.  Due to being long-haul, it will take few more years for Latin and South America to become popular in India market,” he added.

Speaking recently at the update and outlook meeting of the PATA India chapter, Lohani said that aviation and tourism goes hand in hand. “Air India still has a lot of legacy issues which needs to be resolved. There were two different carriers merged in 2007 and it brought a lot of issues. There were many differences between the two companies in terms of work culture, areas of operation, compensation, working conditions, entitlements etc. We want to settle these issues. We are looking at consolidation and expansion both. In the last one year between December 2, 2015 and December 1, 2016, we added four new international destinations which is a big thing for any international carrier - Delhi - San Francisco, Delhi - Vienna, Ahmedabad - London – Newark, Delhi –Madrid routes. We are waiting for the arrival of few aircraft; some 787s are arriving. 777s will come in the first quarter of 2018. We plan to try to fix some new destinations. We plan to fly to six new destinations in 2017 i.e Washington, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Kenya or any other destination in Africa. We are looking at Frankfurt – Mumbai route. We have got the requisite clearances for direct international flights to Singapore and Bangkok from Chandigarh and they have been scheduled to take off before the end of March 2017. We are looking at adding six new international destination in 2017 and another six in 2018,” Lohani said and added that apart from 8 eight aircraft which is coming, we are also looking at at least inducting five more new wide body aircraft.  

On the domestic side, Lohani agreed that having old fleet is one of the problems. “We have to retire these aircraft. We are adding 14 aircraft to our fleet in 2017. We have an order for 22 right now. The basic plan is to induct 100 aircraft between now and March 2020 to take the total fleet size to 230 from the current 132. We are working on Connect India programme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. We have got eight ATRs. We will have a total of 23 ATRs by December 2017. We are looking at connecting Jaipur- Bikaner, Jaipur - Jaislamer, Bhopal – Indore –Raipur - Jabalpur. We will be launching similar operations from Mahrashra and Karnataka and all this is going to happen in 2017. We are looking at making Bengaluru or Hyderabad a hub for ATRs,” Lohani informed.

He said that the domestic expansion will be taken care of by Alliance Air. “It’s a regional airline. We expect it to turn around in 2017-18. We are very aggressive on that,” he added. He informed that Air India is going to launch first garland flight of India. In January this year, the carrier will launch Kolakata- Raipur- Indore- Ahmdeabad- Jaipur – Delhi flight which will star flying in return direction the next day. “We are looking at Dehradun, Pant Nagar, Lucknow, Bhopal, Patna,” he said adding that airline is a tough business, very different from hotel. “We posted an operational profit Rs 105 cr last year. This year we hope that operating profits be couple of hundred crores,” Lohani opined.

Speaking on the improvement in services, Lohani said that the services were the issues. “However, this has considerably improved. Earlier, we used to get only negative feedback but now are getting positive feedback also. Food is our USPs and I am emphasising on this. Our OTP has also improved. We continue to grow and continue to expand. We have to connect India to rest of the world. We have to connect all state capitals. Within the state, we are going to connect one region of the state to another region. We are open to suggestion and ideas. We want to fly profitably,” he said.

Recognising the double digit growth in Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in 2016, Vinod Zutshi, Secretary – Tourism, Government of India said that 2016 is going to be a landmark year in the tourism history of India.

“We have grown faster than the world growth. We have been exceeding the growth rate of global tourism since last 4-5 years, and this year it has been phenomenal. Till November, we have achieved 10.4 per cent growth compared to 4.4 per cent growth in 2015 and we are going to achieve close to 11 per cent in 2016. The domestic tourism is booming. 2015 saw 1.43 billion Domestic Tourist Visit (DTV). This year we will touch 1.65 to 1.70 billion DTV. The growth rate is 17-18 per cent in DTV compared to 14-15 per cent earlier. Aviation is growing with 22 per cent and medical tourism is by 24 per cent,” Zutshi said at the 5th Update and Outlook Meeting of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) India Chapter in New Delhi.

He spoke on the initiatives taken by the Ministry in 2016. “Today, we have 161 countries for e-Visas. All the expectations and desires raised at various forums by industry regarding e-Visa has almost been addressed. Now, the concept of eTV moved to eVisa. The validity for eVisa has now been extended to 60 days and travelers can apply 120 days in advance to visit India.  eBiz visa is also going electronic,” he said. Moreover, film visa regime has also been streamlined. “New protocols have been approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) in the previous cabinet meeting and the system has been rationalised and made friendlier. The movie business today has a wide reach and speaks volume about the destination. Better Film Visa norms will further give a big boost to India tourism by opening it to new source markets and strengthening the image of the country,” he added.

According to him, one of the achievements of the Ministry was launching of the helpline. “We launched the SMS led campaign and we got very healthy feedback. We started this campaign in middle of November last year. We received close to 3.5 crores SMS in 11 months. We were getting 1,000 queries and after launching the SMS campaign, queries have increased by four times,” he informed.

Talking on visibility of India as a destination, Zutshi said that ever since I joined, I have been listening from travel industry that we are out of sight and out of mind. “So, we gave a great emphasis on promotions.  The marketing and promotional campaign we launched has been unprecedented in the last 4-5 years. We have global news channels BBC, Discovery, TMC, NGC, CNN and CNBC amongst others running Incredible India campaign. We are covering almost all the leading travel channel as well. We are also focusing on channels that are country-specific, in the UK, France, Australia, Russia, along with travel channels and digital media. We have not left any major digital platform on which we are not campaigning aggressively,” he said and added that the first round was started in October. “We are going to launch the 2nd round in January for six months. We have planned our campaign in such a manner so that there will be continuity irrespective of the budget requirements,” he revealed.

Elaborating further, he informed that the Ministry has also made a beginning, after a brief hiatus, into the domestic market. “We have picked up certain things. Presently, we are running Indian Heritage Trail Campaign involving 36 heritage monuments which will continue some more times. We are bringing some more creative which are very noble and unique. We are also going to pick up some more themes from across the country. We have already been picking up NE and J&K themes to our DD channel. We are on the spree of making more films. Discovery has made eight films for us each film covering a state from the North East. BBC is making five films for us on various themes like MICE, medical, adventure and wildlife,” he added.

While marketing and promotion was given a major push, the Ministry also gave similar impetus to the tourism related infrastructure development. “Over the last two years under Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD, we have sanctioned project worth Rs 4000 crs. All these projects are in pipeline. We have started sanctions for new projects. We are going to double spend in 2016 compared to last years. This is a year where we are going to spend the entire budget money; rather, we will spend Rs 100 cr more,” he said adding that the Tourism Investor Summit was very well received by investors. “It is going to be annual feature,” he said.

Speaking on other initiatives, he said that cruise tourism has been given a boost in 2016. “We brought out the roadmap for cruise tourism. The Board for medical tourism is functioning very well. We have set up a task force on Adventure Tourism in October, 2016 for resolving issues related to development and promotion of adventure tourism in the country. We addressed almost all pending issues of adventure tourism in last meeting. We are looking at hosting ATTA conference. We are also going to launch trains having glass coaches on Visakhapatnam to Araku Valley route in Andhra Pradesh and in Kashmir on Banihal-Baramulla circuit by March 2017,” he said.

He also said that current mechanism of counting foreign tourist arrivals does not account for NRI’s arrival. “We are looking at consulting UNWTO to include the NRIs arrival also in FTAs,” he said and added that the new Tourism Policy is on anvil and hoped that the policy see the light of the in this fiscal only.

Recognizing the power of the growing Indian outbound travel, many of the provinces and cities of the United States of America has strengthened their presence in the India market. However, there is few waiting for the opportune time to enter into the India market, And, Washington DC is one of them which recently forayed into India leveraging on the might of the IPW, the travel industry’s premier international marketplace, scheduled to be held in Washington from June 3-7, 2017.  

“We probably should have been in India much earlier. India is a strong and emerging market for Washington, DC and the region with lots of potential in terms of leisure travel and business development. In visitation numbers, we have over 80,000 Indian visitors coming to Washington DC in 2015, making India the 6th largest and one of the fastest growing market for us. The growth is over 10 per cent over the last year. We are here to build awareness about the varied tourism offerings of the Washington DC. We see the interest, potential new relationship with new airlines. We are also the host city for the IPW 2017 and we want to capitalize on this,” Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO, Destination DC, the official marketing organisation for Washington DC, said during a media interaction in New Delhi. Ferguson was leading a delegation of Washington Dulles International Airport, Etihad Airways and IPW in India to present Washington DC as a tourism hub for leisure and fun.

Ferguson further said, “We will be back in the market in the near future and look at making sure that India is a part of our ongoing sales process. We plan to work on India with a long term strategy,” he added.

Replying to question on the DC being a destination for business travelers, Ferguson said that Washington DC is fortunate enough of doing a fairly large amount of convention business. “But, we already actually arrived as a leisure market. Domestically, we are perceived as leisure destination as domestic market knows the offerings of the DC. Internationally, it is perceived as a house of the US government. We are encouraging media, travel and tour operators to come to DC and see how diverse is our offerings,” he added.

To support his argument, he informed that the largest per cent of travelers coming from India are leisure travelers. “Together, the Capital region encompassing Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland, gets 41 per cent leisure travelers and 28 per cent business travelers of the total travelers it receives,”  he informed.

Talking on the future roadmap, he said that the hospitality industry will do extremely well under President-elect because he is from the hospitality industry. “The President-elect truly understands the hospitality industry. He has been a huge benefactor of the hotels and casinos that he owned and I think he will continue to maintain the interest in additional visitation to the United States. As a matter of fact, the US Travel Association has already interfaced with his administration, the incoming administration, to talk about some of our priorities. I know that the CEO of Marriott International has already sent a letter to the President-elect referencing some of the priorities for the industry,” he added.

IPW has always benefitted the host city in terms of visitation and contribution to the economy. The host city has witnessed a million additional visitors and US$1.7 billion in economic impact to the host city over the next three years of hosting the IPW. IPW is attended by more than 6,000 attendees from over 70 countries, including 1,300 international and domestic travel buyers.

SriLankan Airlines has consolidated its positioning as the largest airline operation in the Maldives by commencing services to Gan Island on 2nd December 2016. With this, SriLankan Airlines has become the only airline to operate international flights to Gan International Airport, with four flights per week.

Gan is the most populated island in Addu Atoll (also known as Seenu Atoll), the southernmost atoll in the Maldives. “… we add the second Maldivian destination to our  connectivity map. As an airline it is our duty to provide our passengers with convenient connections across the globe and an  award of this nature is evidence that we have surpassed  expectations and made a significant contribution to tourism in the Maldives,” Sujeewa Rodrigo, Area Manager Maldives, said.

The commencement of services to Gan is part of the recent strategic shift by SriLankan to heighten its focus on its network in South Asia namely India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and in the Middle East Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, and the Far East including Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. Gan is one of 11 new destinations in the Asia-Middle East region to which Sri Lanka’s national carrier is commencing services in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Encouraged by 30 per cent growth in Indian arrivals within last three years, Taiwan Tourism has adopted a multi-dimensional marketing and promotional strategy to further boost the Indian arrivals. “Within the last three years, we invested a lot of budgets in India to improve our visibility and how to accommodate Indian friends in Taiwan. In fact, we really see the numbers going up. India is a strong potential market for us. Our numbers have grown up by 30 per cent in last three years. We witnessed an incremental 10,000 Indian travellers in 2015 over 2014. In 2014, we had Star Cruise sailing on the Taiwan seas but in 2015, we notched growth without Star cruises. We received 36,000 Indians in 2015. This year, till August, we estimate of welcoming over 20,000 Indian visitors, reflecting a growth of nine per cent,” Arthur Hsieh, Director, Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB) Singapore branch said on the sideline of a roadshow in New Delhi.

Hsieh claimed that visibility of Taiwan as a tourism destination is growing but there is a lot more to be done. “Interestingly, we started seeing some Indian incentive groups coming to Taiwan in the end of 2015. We are ready to offer incentive supports to large group. We would like to organise incentive workshop in India. As Taiwan has good universities, we are also looking at tapping the student segment from India. We would like to welcome more Indian student in Taiwan,” he said and added that Taiwan is quite suitable for family holidays. Taiwan introduced a MICE incentive plan for India in December 2015 with special schemes and performances designed to attract MICE groups.

It has also introduced a simplified group visa policy to encourage more high-end tourist groups from countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. The group visa is free of cost for five or more persons to push the MICE growth.

Talking about the promotional strategy for the India market, Hsieh said, “We are creating awareness about our tourism products in major metros. So far, we have visited six cities – New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. Our priority is to consolidate our positioning in these cities first before going to other Indian cities.” He added that Taiwan is positioning itself as value-for- money destination in India.

Taiwan and India recently signed bilateral air services agreement for the development of civil aviation relations that will help facilitate increased bilateral trade and economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and tourism, currently, Taiwan-based China Airlines offers three direct passenger flights each week between Taipei and New Delhi.

Taiwan annually receives 10 million foreign tourists and its main source markets are Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Singapore amongst others.

Having adopted a selective approach in its tourism promotion in order to follow the principles of sustainability, Sharjah Tourism is focusing to draw a certain audience including family and MICE segments from India. “We have mainly business travellers from India with a short stay. We are getting a lot of VFRs which is another big chunk of Indian travellers. However, we are missing the Indian family travellers who can really add value to Sharjah and we are looking at this segment as we know that Indian travellers are looking for the experiences and learning from their trips. Our focus is on the family segment as Sharjah, being the cultural and educational hub of UAE, is a perfect fit for Indian travellers. Our products are more educational,” Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Government of Sharjah, said at the sidelines of a roadshow in New Delhi. Sharjah offers 22 museums, eight protected sites, an archaeological discovery centre.

The Authority started its tourism promotion in India in 2014 and currently India is the 4th largest source markets. “We do not want to climb to number one in tourism as sustainability is our key focus. We are looking at the long term benefits. We want Indian visitors but we are targeting a certain audience as our products cater to these segments. In our next trip, we will definitely bring our MICE venues. MICE market here is much bigger than before and they want experiential travel,” Midfa said. The roadshow witnessed participation of nine exhibitors from Sharjah apart from Sharjah’s national carrier, Air Arabia. Tourism contributes nine per cent of the GDP of Sharjah and Midfa is very happy with this. “We still want to grow but as long as we bring the right kind of tourists.”

Replying to a question over the slow pace of marketing and promotional efforts in India, Midfa said that Sharjah is coming to India 4-5 times in a year covering different cities but this is not enough. “We need to be present in India whole year. We are about to sign with a PR agency. We were struggling about signing up with PR agency in past years not only in India but in our five main source markets. We have now almost selected one of the top PR agencies in India. We will be making an announcement in November. This will really make a difference for us,” he said explaining that the selection process for PR agency took time because it’s a very detailed agreement. “You have to know your KPIs and where is your audience. One needs to be much more focused to achieve the desired result. You need to find right partner who is willing to take the part of the responsibility to promote the destination in a right way. We do not want a partner who is working with a destination competing with us,” he informed. He made it clear that Sharjah Tourism is not going to open its office in India. “We think that is a waste of money, time and resources because you cannot manage your staffs who are sitting here from Sharjah. It is always better to deal with the company who has knowledge of local market,” he added.

He said that Sharjah Tourism focuses on those cities in India that are connected directly by Air Arabia, the national carrier of Sharjah. Air Arabia currently operates 112 weekly flights to India, connecting 13 cities. “Almost 60 per cent of traffic from India is point to point traffic and 40 per cent goes beyond our hub in Sharjah. We have excellent performance throughout the years on India routes, notching above 90 per cent load factor. Of the total traffic, we have 30-40 per cent leisure, MICE and VFR. We also a good student traffic from India,” Sachin Nene, Regional General Manager – India, Air Arabia, said.

 

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