Let’s travel together.

women game changers

Industry thought leaders across tourism specialisations share their views with Reema Lokesh on what will be the future trends in their field of work

Shobha Mohan, founder partner @Rare India

Game changer thought: Experiences will take over ! ‘meaning is truly the new luxury’

Shobha Mohan

What will be the primary game changer for the next five years in your work domain?

Travel from booking to delivery and execution has to become a personal and enjoyable experience. Even large inventory and group hotels are revisiting their delivery to engage their guest both visually and through service and activity. Art installations, arty and design spaces, fabric and people, colours, contrasts and fragrances are taking over from the neat and sterile spaces of yore. Attitude training and genuine expressions are replacing the usual lip-stretches and chewing-gum smiles. Experiences will take over ! People will forget what they pay but now how you make them feel. Businesses are beginning to invest in EQ all around, from their employee programs to delivery – ‘meaning is truly the new luxury’.

Plans for 2019?

We are trying to find a balance between online and offline selling without compromising on the essence of the experience and story-telling. There is a lot of competition in the small boutique space just now and we are working very hard to rephrase and tell our stories which are by far more genuine than many of the boutique hotels out there. The community angle to the RARE community of hotels is something that is now becoming a part of the global sustainable travel agent, we plan to work on this more efficiently to take the message out. These two are from a marketing point of view which we are focussing on. Lastly our sales force is being streamlined and trained to facilitate efficient sales.

What is the USP of your business?

That we have created a product line of boutique experiential hotels in 2004 way before this was even a trend speaks volumes for the work we have done and continue to do. Our market reach is very strong and the values additions of our hotel community is very unique and genuine. This is reflected in the experiences at each one of them and resonates in all our marketing promotions and communications. Being pioneers our reputation and brand has reach far and wide without being gimmicky we have grown and sustained organically. Also what we do is what we personally believe in. It is my endeavour to train my team to think sustainably and think style, boutique and community all the time.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

I believe people are your best investments. This year it is my endeavour to invest in people, to train and empower them to deliver the RARE ideal effectively. I always say we are all “Rare&Aware”. As for projects I want to take up fledgling and potential destinations like Andhra Pradesh and the North East and work with the government to work on a global tourism model which is sustainable as well as lucrative without destroying the destination. We must look at quality and not quantity, lower number but higher revenue models will keep new destinations pristine.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

There are many many lodges, retreats and experiential hotels opening up with all sorts of concepts. It is important to take into account the local flavours of the destinations and to constantly innovate to create quality products at viable price points. Hotels and projects should invest in research and feasibility, impact on the local resources etc. before they hit upon the sweet spot that can provide sustainable ROIs at the same time treading softly on the land and resources. Marketing should be so managed that the destination does not lose its appeal and does not impinge on the local populace. For people with a vision that can consider the above, there are great opportunities in newer areas where there are fewer quality products and also new frontiers and concepts to explore.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on top? Your comments.

Absolutely broken and will continue to shatter it. In fact somehow the outbound Industry has a lot of great women on top, it is the Inbound and Domestic where we seem to be lagging behind. Especially in associations and organisations, women as changemakers are somehow in the minority. I feel if they make it to the board their voices are largely subdued and their ideas not taken into account. Women are naturally inclined towards inclusiveness and deeper engagements. They also tend to ideate more broadly and long term; and always from a business perspective which could be well used brand ourselves as a destination well. I am against having women organisations, because I believe tourism is a collective cause and we are in it together and we bring in our skills and ideas to create a balanced environment and a wider perspective.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

Yes and that is wake up and re-imagine destination India. Re-think our quality and the element of luxury. With the online dogging us with deals, agencies and hoteliers should take a stronger stance against selling on the basis of lowering the costs and side-stepping the travel agents. Ideate for collaboration, sustainability and a brilliant PR strategy. Mediocrity won’t work, there is a wealth of richness in every corner of the country, there are a 100 things you can visit India for – lets break the box and reinvent ourselves. It’s time to reset our strategy, and there is no dearth of talent in this country to help us achieve this.


Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Aero Enterprises, GSA Costa Cruise India

Game changer thought: Cruise liners home porting and starting short
round trip itineraries from Indian coasts

Nalini Gupta

What will be the primary game changer for the next five years in your work domain?

While cruising in India is growing at a rapid pace, according to me the big game changer is going to be cruise liners home porting and starting short round trip itineraries from different parts of the vast Indian coastline (i.e. Mumbai, Goa, Chennai). Ease of boarding from within the country, is going to help Indian cruising numbers shoot upwards from 180,000 currently to 1 million within a short span of time.

Plans for 2019?

We are looking at aggressively using Social Media to educate more travel companies and the end consumers about the different cruising itineraries.

The USP of your business?

Cruising in India is still only in its nascent stages of growth and Costa currently is still the only cruise liner to have taken first steps to homeporting from Mumbai. This just shows the dedication that we have to growing the market in India. Today, we have far flung places in India who are reaching out to us for our Mumbai sailings. This has also helped our brand awareness spread to a larger base in India, thereby helping sales on our International sailings as well.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

The future investments will be to have more Costa ships homeport in India for a longer duration in the year. However, presently we are the only cruise liner home porting from Mumbai from December to March.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

The opportunity is that the cruising/holiday travel is going to grow aggressively within the country. The challenge for travel companies will be that consumers will know a lot about cruising and different holiday options as information becomes even more and more readily available. Hence, travel companies and sellers cannot just sit on their past laurels, but they need to ensure their teams are proactive, solution seekers and knowledgeable besides being just customer friendly. In terms of cruising, also while the consumer and the cruise liner will be excited about the India opportunity, the port infrastructure and related procedures will need to move at the same pace.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

I think I am seeing a lot more energetic young women take leadership positions, which is very exciting as I think women are able to handle frayed nerves more ably with their strong emotional quotient. They also lead teams well.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

Work hard, learn to own your clients instead of just transacting with them, enter unchartered waters fearlessly, recognise the power of working with teams.


Zareen Kahai, Government of India licensed travel guide and owner Myztic Travels

Game changer thought: The domestic market will have a major market share than Inbound tourism in due course of time

Zareen Kahai

What will be the primary game changer for the next five years in your work domain?

According to me the domestic market will have a major market share than Inbound tourism in due course of time. More and more people are realizing the importance of travel and prefer moving out on a long weekend. Its a great shift for the Indian economy and Indian Tourisim as the domestic customers are on the rise. Business in the travel space is no longer seasonal. One can clearly witness growth in the domestic market due to a number of both internal and external factors and it will only surely rise over time.

Plan for 2019?

2019 I plan to add food tours to my company portfolio and focus on food workshops for foreigners.

What is the USP of your business?

I am a Female Travel Guide , very few women travel guides are available in my field . When I passed the government of India license exam we were only 2 women in a class of 180 meaning the rest were offcourse men . So my field is completely male dominated . Women travellers find it safest to travel with me through India. I am amongst the very few women in this field with a legal license to work from the government of India. Being a woman in this field I take that as my biggest USP and I do not feel intimated by the fact that I am in a male dominated profession. My passion helps me soar and being the brand ambassador of my country is something I am extremely proud about.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

I plan to focus on circuits which have not been capitalised due to poor infrastructure for example the Buddhist Circuit. I want to bring the Buddhist circuit to the mainstream travel. Try to move it from being just a pilgrimage circuit to a secular circuit wherein people of all faiths and from all corners of the world travel. UP and Bihar are rich in history, heritage and culture. These will be experiential and historical tours. In India we do read about Buddhism a lot in our history books what I would like to do is bridge the gap and would like Indians to experience these sites with their families. There is a huge potential of this circuit in south-east Asia and the west.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

The biggest challenge would be lack of infrastructure in Bihar and certain parts of UP. There is lack of basic amenities and good roads on these routes and lack of toilets and clean midway stops to eat like we find on the Rajasthan circuit which has developed quite well. We definitely don’t have high end and neat and clean hotels. It will be extremely challenging and I hope the governments of Bihar and UP focus more on giving travellers basic infrastructure as this will be a great boost to the tourism industry and make travel in Bihar and UP much
easier.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

Well to be honest there very few women travel guides who move out with groups into different states of India. Most prefer to work in the place they live as safety is of paramount importance and this is a completely male dominated sector. I truly have believed being fearless, courageous and passionate is the only way forward. If you are good at what you do you can truly make a difference. Yes, being a woman travel guide is not a very accepted profession in this country and I have answered this question endlessly why am I in this profession and its looked down upon as well . People don’t respect me but my passion drives me and what people think has never made a difference to me and it shall never stop me from doing what I love doing the most which is being a brand ambassador of my country.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

My message would be lets make the industry more women friendly and see more women travel guides out there by encouraging them.


Lubaina Shrerazi, COO, Blue Square Consultants

Game changer thought: Technology is and will continue to be the biggest game changer

Lubaina Sheerazi

What are the primary game changer for the next 5 years in your work domain?

With digital revolution at its peak, technology is and will continue to be the biggest game changer in the travel business in years to come. Being tech savvy is now a need for the masses, influencing majority of their travel decisions. Given how digital and mobile-centric the world has become, the demand for technology in the travel sector has no intent of slowing down. As a representation firm, it is imperative to understand the scope of digital media, its ever evolving trends and tap into its full potential for intelligent solutions and impactful results. Services like Marketing, Sales and Public Relations must adopt a digital approach and change its modus operandi to foster growth for tourism boards and hospitality brands.

Plans for 2019?

2018 has been a successful year for our company with some path breaking work executed for our clients. We have witnessed strong outbound growth results and increased traction for various tourism boards and hotel chains we represent and are glad to step into the New Year on a high note. Our client portfolio has also expanded to include newer brands.

What is the USP of your business?

We offer a whole gamut of representation services to our clients. As a partner, we take responsibility for managing the brand and business in India. We are specialists in tackling the Indian market’s complexities by implementing a global approach along with possessing exceptional skills in crisis management for our brands as and when required. Our efforts have resulted in changing perceptions and driving desired outcomes; Oman’s inbound travel mix has gone from being completely labour heavy to a healthy mix of high end leisure and MICE, while Thailand has now attained a fine balance of high end travellers and budget seekers as opposed to drawing only budget vacationers previously. Seychelles has also received an overwhelming response with India coming in as one of the top 5 source markets in a short span of time.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

As an agency, we believe in constantly reinventing our strategy to provide a comprehensive approach for all our brands. Bearing this in mind, we aim to drive increased investments towards expanding our digital arm to offer a 360 degree, all-inclusive solutions to enhance the PR, marketing and sales efforts.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

The wave of digitalisation has exposed travellers to an enormous amount of information. In this scenario, it becomes crucial to break the clutter as novelty is an essential element in building travel aspirations. Experiential travel is in vogue and marketing entities must work towards developing innovative marketing solutions to lure the new set of travellers who are becoming more discerning and informed. Additionally, the influence of social media also brings with it a host of opportunities and challenges. Creativity and optimal use of technology along with a localised approach is the key to landing on the tourists’ itineraries.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling; however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

More often than not, women have proven to be successful leaders possessing the power to envision, shape and strategically guide the culture of their firms. The service industry without doubt can welcome more women in top positions as this has been a workplace problem since decades now. However, we cannot fail to acknowledge the fact that companies today are far more dedicated towards honing the leadership potential and skills of female employees than in the past as they are now recognizing the value of workforce diversity.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

A new year brings with it newer prospects, opportunities, chance to learn and unlearn and raise the bar by doing exemplary work. As an industry, it’s our time to rise and shine together setting examples of admirable innovation for the rest of the world to follow suit.


Sakshi Vij, Executive director, carzonrent and founder & CEO, Myles

Game changer thought: Consumers are more likely to change their
car ownership behaviour to car sharing options

Sakshi Vij

What will be the primary game changer for the next five years in your work domain?

The mobility industry is going through a new phase of electrification, connectivity and access over ownership from the consumer side. All of this is with the objective of making ground travel more convenient, affordable and clean. The next five years will see large adoption of the same. Electric vehicles will be a strong focus. Consumers are more likely to change their car ownership behaviour to car sharing options like MYLES.

Plans for 2019?

We believe that the EV policy by the government will take its full shape in 2019. This will provide a large boost to clean energy vehicle options and also bring a large number of EV options from car manufacturers.

What is the USP of your business?

As Carzonrent and Myles, we have always focussed on providing newer mobility options achieving convenience, value and Flexibility for our customers. Our corporate chauffeur drive business has continuously innovated in providing the only completely automated B2B chauffeur drive service to large business houses in India. With Myles, our car sharing service, we are bridging the gap between access over ownership of a car to prospective car users.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

We will continue to invest in Technology as a company and keep building more products in the area of personal mobility.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

I see the Indian millennials making their need for access over ownership of assets felt strongly. A car is therefore an asset that will become far more popular in the Car sharing space. As Myles we will collaborate with stakeholders in the car ownership value chain to make this available to our consumers.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

I believe that one of the toughest sector for women to crack was manufacturing, and we have seen shining examples there from General Motors to Pepsi and so many more. In the services space, I see a lot of women entrepreneurs starting out as well. It may now be the time for the industry to collectively push that envelope.


Manjula, owner, Varun Worldwide Vacations

Game changer thought: Travel industry will need to look beyond set itineraries
to attract clients

Manjula

What will be the primary game changer for the next five years in your work domain?

The travel industry is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. The success of companies such as Airbnb and Uber prove that the clients preferences are shifting from a planned itinerary based holiday to a more exploration based holiday. They are investing in experiences and want to live like the locals. The travel industry, over the next 5 years, needs to adapt to this changing mindset and look beyond set itineraries to attract clients.

Plans for 2019?

Our workload has been steadily increasing and we would definitely like to grow our team in 2019. We are also in the process of putting together groups of young travelers who are looking for once in a lifetime experiences such as the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania, the Machu Picchu trek in Peru and scuba diving with the sharks in the Philippines. Hopefully we will be able to roll-out some more experiential packages in 2019.

What is the USP of your business?

We love to curate tailor made packages like ski packages and diving holidays for our clients who are interested in offbeat and luxury destinations. We also have decades-old trust based and personal relationships with many of our DMC and hotel partners, creating this sweet spot where the suppliers provide excellent service to our clients, and our clients return with very happy memories.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

In addition to the growing team and packages mentioned above, we’re also launching a brand new interactive website that will allow clients to choose or shortlist their potential holiday destinations.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

Now services like car rental, room bookings and experiences are all available online and only a click away for most clients. Competing with the internet or tech-based companies is definitely going to be a growing challenge in the industry. Despite a proliferation of these options, clients are often skeptical of the quality of these, and the opportunity for small family-owned businesses like ours is to leverage and deepen our relationship with suppliers so that the quality of our offerings remains unmatched.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

The travel industry has always been ahead of most industries in terms of giving women the opportunity to grow and flourish. In fact some of the pioneers of the industry have been women. We’ve always been balancing work and home, managing crises and people – these are very important skills in the trade and women should appreciate this, support one another and help each other grow as leaders.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

2018 may have brought with itself challenges like more competition and alternative forms of holiday planning, but let’s work together as an industry rather than compete and remember to keep the client front and centre!


Jyoti Mayal, Hon. secretary general, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), member board – CII Skill Development, member board – CII National Committee on Tourism and Hospitality, Member – FAITH (TAAI) and director, New Airways Travels (Delhi)

Game changer thought: Government needs to recognise us as an industry

What will be the primary business game changer for the next five years in your area of specialisation?

Travel and travel related business is evolving. Every day that dawns is a day full of challenges. We have seen revenues deteriorating and services becoming more demanding due to evolving technology. Relationships are more superficial and the bondings are more mechanical. Unity and moving together is of the past. The next five years I believe the above stated issues will change more and more.

Any plans which went unfulfilled in 2018 and will pan out in the coming year?

Holding a position of the Hon Secretary General at the most nodal body – TAAI I believe we need to build on our strength of services through technology and start looking at ourselves as consultants. We should certainly be seeing our industry getting into a matured platform as we progress. We should cultivate relationships and grow more united. We should also make the government recognise us as an industry which actually supports the country the most, for employment, foreign exchange, progress & infra structure. We definitely need to work closely with the government and fight for a recognised industry status. We cannot be ignored. No ministry takes us seriously – neither tourism nor aviation. We are like the gap fillers. Even the airlines are behaving in an autocratic way .They keep taking our support, inputs, and then finally react as they want to. My objective surely for future is that we as an industry should be heard seriously and our inputs be considered as priority.

What is the USP of your business?

Our company is into distinct businesses from corporate travel, conferences, exhibitions etc. In corporate business we need to see how our services can improve. I feel services and travel are going to be based on experiences. Vanilla services can be offered by all but the differentiators is personal touch and dedicated services.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

Every agent should be nurturing niche markets. Luxury market, incoming tourism also holds a great future. I would like to build this model for my travel company and hope 2019 would be the year to do so. In conferences, exhibitions too we need to see what the audience is looking for. We certainly need to delve into what the trade would be like in the next five years and draw out a long term plan to succeed. Once again I feel personal touch with smart technology is the winning formula.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

I have learned so much from this industry and I would like to give back to the society from my learnings. Recently I did a forum on relevant topics for the industry – technology, tourism and challenges in aviation. I plan to do many more knowledge sessions and the purpose would be to educate the industry and work towards building an industry with inputs of ethics, knowledge and success. In an annual exhibition which I do for children I like to inculcate tourism, health, education & entertainment.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

The travel trade needs to see more women in the fore front. I believe women are much better workers and leaders. We are so used to multi tasking. Women are perfectionists, work diligently and passionately. They have humility & willingness to learn along with persistence & know the balancing act well. We certainly look forward to many more leaders. Woman should also be supporting woman and help each other to become leaders.


Sheetal Wadhwa Munshaw, Director, Atout France -India

Game changer thought: Slow travel may emerge as an important travel
trend in the coming few years

Sheetal-Wadhwa-Munshaw

What will be the primary business game changer for the next five years in your area of specialisation?

Digitalisation is the driving force today for all businesses and its contribution to the field of travel has been immense. Travel is enabled by technology and the discerning traveller of today literally has all information at the click of a button. This burgeoning dependence on technology may pave the way for newer concepts in travel and it would not be surprising if vacations of the future are considered a means of a detox from all things digital. Slow travel may emerge as an important travel trend in the coming few years. While technology will still play an important role in the travel domain, vacations may be considered as a time to disconnect and spending quality time with friends and family.

What is the USP of your business?

In addition to being the most visited country in the world, France is also the number one country for Indian arrivals in the Schengen space. What sets France apart from its contemporaries is its unique art de vivre that is integral to the daily life of the French. This art de vivre also forms part of France’s areas of expertise that include diverse domains such as wine tourism, ecotourism, sports, the French Alps, the French savoir-faire and nightlife. France’s signature tourism brands include destinations such as Alsace, Alpes-Mont Blanc, Biarritz Pays Basques, Burgundy, Brittany, Bordeaux, Côte d’ Azur, Corsica, Champagne, Languedoc-Mediterranean, Lyon, Normandy, Provence, Paris, Toulouse- Pyrénées and the Loire Valley that benefit of global renown. Our global strategy is to effectively communicate and showcase these iconic destinations and France’s areas of expertise through our marketing and communication initiatives.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

India is steadily gaining importance as a source market for France. This is reinforced by the fact that during the official visit of the honorable minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs – Jean-Yves LeDrian in December 2018, a closed door panel meeting was held in Mumbai with a selection of prominent spokespersons from the travel domain to understand today’s dynamic travel trends and means of augmenting the number of Indian travellers to France. Focused efforts are being made by French suppliers to adapt to the needs of Indian travellers and we are confident that France will continue to remain a preferred travel destination for the discerning Indian traveller.

What are challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

To connect with the growing breed of experiential travellers, we would like to showcase relatively unexplored facets of France such as adventure holidays, winter travel, self-drive escapades. Cinema is an important medium for us and we would be keen to facilitate the shooting of Indian movies in French locales. The only challenge is maintaining a distinctive identity in a competitive environment and to retain the positioning, recall and allure of the destination.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling, however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments.

By default, women make up a large part of the workforce in the tourism domain. From hospitality to travel to other segments associated with tourism, women have successfully made their presence felt. In fact, at Atout France, our global workforce is 70 per cent women dominated. I personally believe that leadership qualities are more individualistic and personality driven and not linked to gender. A good leader leads by example irrespective of gender.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

I believe that as a responsible fraternity, the onus is on us to successfully and consciously integrate the message of sustainable and responsible tourism. It is crucial for all of us to conserve and preserve our planet and through strong initiatives taken by our fraternity, we can set stellar examples. Let us also integrate the concept of promoting tourism responsibly and avoid over- cluttering monuments and historic sites that already see a huge influx of visitors daily. It is also essential to lend support to local artisans and local producers so that they benefit commercially.


Aditi Balbir, Founder & CEO, V Resorts

Game changer thought: Customers won’t care about whether a room has a
chandelier or not, but will probably be happier to know their resort offers bird
watching or safari experience

Aditi Balbir

What will be the primary business game changer for the next five years in your area of specialisation?

The hospitality industry has always been about customers and their feedback. To that end, five-star hotels always had the infrastructure required to cater to what Indian travellers wanted. In the coming years however, boutique properties (that may or may not have the same kind of infrastructure as 5-star hotels) will shift their focus towards what they can make a customer do — experiences that they can truly cherish. Customers won’t care about whether a room has a chandelier or not, but will probably be happier to know their resort offers a bird watching or safari experience.

Plans for 2019?

We were planning on expanding outside India, something that we will fulfill in FY 19-20.

What is the USP of your business?

V Resorts in India’s largest hospitality management company focused on micro tourism. We offer experiential stays to leisure customers, solving the problem of a lack of standardised, high-quality services to travellers across 20 states. Our exclusive experiences, local outdoor activities and unique dining experiences are all USPs, but the work we do with local women artisans through our store Pitara, is a huge reward for us, as well as being absolutely unique to us.

What are the future investments and projects lined up?

First off, we’re going to be expanding our operations in East India (especially around Kolkata), as well as in the South (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu). This is apart from us venturing into South-east Asia, mainly to places that receive the most Indian travellers.

Are there any challenges and opportunities you visualise in the near future?

First and foremost, maintaining quality across properties. We can’t have the same approach that the aggregators do – customer reviews mean everything to us.

Women are breaking the glass ceiling; however the service industry can certainly make room for more leaders on the top? Your comments?

In India, women in hospitality are mostly all family-business run; we don’t see any women entrepreneurs as such. So I think we can definitely make room for more.

A message you wish to share with the industry?

This is a great question to ask on the eve of our selection as finalists of the UNWTO Awards! Since most of our resorts are in sensitive, offbeat areas, I wish there was a ceiling on the number of properties that are allowed to mushroom there. Mainly so the destination itself remains unspoiled and pristine, allowing everyone to enjoy it as it should be.

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