Let’s travel together.

A national movement

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For the first time, the Great Domestic Tourism Bazaar (GDTB 2012) organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in New Delhi introduced the B2C element so that consumers could discuss and finalise their holiday packages, as well as state governments to showcase their domestic tourism product profile, facilitation offered and their circuits to the domestic tourists.

The inaugural session took off with senior vice president, FICCI Naina Lal Kidwai’s address on the importance of domestic tourism in the country where even with an economic downturn, there has been an increase of 14 per cent last year. “We need to package these products better and make it encompassing,” she said. Kidwai informed that this year 3,000 buyers and sellers meetings have already been pre-scheduled. Jyotsna Suri, chairperson, FICCI Tourism Committee Council further revealed the numbers of attendees at GDTB — 225 buyers, 1,000 B2C meetings and also announced the next date for the Bazaar, which is December 2013. “We have 851 million people against 259 million foreign tourist arrivals and here GDTB will play a vital role,” she added. Subodh Kant Sahay, union minister for Tourism, Government of India released FICCI — Yes Bank Study on Domestic Tourism — Evolution, Trends and Growth. Tushar Pandey, president and country head, Siga, Yes Bank, presented some of the key pointers on the paper.

Subhash Verma, president, ADTOI highlighted the fact that domestic tourism has been neglected and needs to be taken up as a national movement. There is a need to convert the domestic traffic into leisure, and incentivise these travellers rather than subsidising it. Domestic airfare has become a bottleneck in the growth of this sector and forcing consumers to pay unethical prices.

R H Khwaja, secretary tourism, Government of India, elucidated on the availability of workable solutions within. “Pilgrimage tourists form a large percentage and there is a need to organise circuit tourism, appoint state level organisations, and generate employment opportunities in these destinations. Campaign Clean India should not be taken lightly as hygiene is the most important factor in deciding the popularity of the destination,” he said. He requested all stake holders to join the government in a partnership model particularly in the pilgrim circuits. He stressed on the fact that there needs to be a focus on the education at an early level of the benefits that accrue from developing sustainable tourism products.

Sahay focused on the need to develop and conect pilgrim centres. “Today, four crore people travel to Shirdi, and if we link it to Aurangabad, it will lead to a better quality of both life and destination. My own state Ranchi Jharkhand doesn’t have a single tour operator in the state. We need to go to these remote areas and create a set up keeping all the factors in mind.” “Kumbh Mela is round the corner and attracts 10 million visitors alone, but we still haven’t been able to leverage the benefits of such a large scale festival,” he added. There is a need to convert domestic tourism into a business model — budget hotels are a matter of real concern. “We do not have many budget hotels, PWD bungalows should be converted into budget hotels. Film tourism was another area of domestic branding, where single window clearance is the need of the hour. We need to recognise the potential — Middle East market needs to be tapped, aggressive marketing overseas, and FICCI should encourage the states and let them know the potential and growth opportunities,” he concluded.

Regional tourism

The first session was conducted by Amitabh Kant, IAS, CEO and managing director, DMIC Development Corporation on ‘Domestic Tourism — Its Due Share’ with eminent panelist — Soman S Pathy, liaison and nodal officer, Gujarat Tourism; Rajat Kumar, commissioner of tourism, Government of Andhra Pradesh; Vivek Mathur, general manager, Madhya Pradesh Tourism; Gun Nidhi, general manager, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation; R J Gajendra Kumar, tourist officer, Tamil Nadu Tourism; Jyoti Kapur, advisor, ADTOI; Tushar Pandey and Dipak Deva, co-chairman, FICCI Tourism Committee.

The discussion threw light on some of the positive initiatives being undertaken in the state and private players being the major driving force in promoting the destination. Deva stressed on the need to develop experiential travel. Speaking on the initiatives taken in Andhra Pradesh, Kumar said, “The state draws one of the largest number of domestic tourists in Tirupati alone; and the numbers are only growing. The expectations are also growing, and we need to drive that with constant improvement. We are trying to promote Vizag beaches and Tirupati, delta of rivers Krishna and Godavari and backwater trail package has already been introduced.” He informed that the state is running its own brand of hotels called Harita and trying to improve the quality via PPP model.

Madhya Pradesh is a great example of the fact that publicity, destination research, and hygiene are the key factors in driving the tourism potential of the state. Clustering states was seen as an important development. Gujarat was appreciated for its constant initiatives to promote Gujarat as a destination in the country and overseas. Kant highlighted the fact that Gujarat came into the tourism picture late, but their growth has been tremendous. “Political will has always given a boost to develop the tourism in the state,” he concluded.

Tamil Nadu announced that the state funds are being used to promote 32 lesser known destinations. Kumar focused on the need to effectively leverage the policies and infrastructure, otherwise it becomes a linear profession. He highlighted the fact that interstate coordination is the need of the hour and accepted that there is no coordination between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. According to Deva, “India is a long haul destination, 97.2 per cent of the people come by air and we earn more than what Singapore earns. It is important that we realise that tourism is always regional in character.” Kant, in his conclusion stressed on the need for Incredible India to be the mother brand and has to allow the energy to flourish. Each state should have a brand, and government needs to focus on the western as well as eastern corridor.

Domestic need of the hour

  • Hygienic accommodations (youth hostels and dharamshalas)
  • Group connectivity
  • repackaging products
  • Interstate partnerships, especially North-East
  • Capacity building
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Accessibility to remote areas
  • Niche travel/youth incentives
  • Educational trips
  • Technology

Strategies, models and products

Dry selling does not work in the current competitive world. Rajat Sawhney, general secretary, ADTOI urged tour operators to come up with innovative packages. Tourists are well read and have explored quite a few places in India and abroad. Spa tourism, wedding tourism, cruise tourism and developing the biggest coastlines is in demand. Tejbir Singh Anand, president, ATOAI informed that 85 per cent of his invoicing is domestic market and there is a need to understand what to sell and to whom. “It’s all about reselling to the clients. Learning sessions are important and there is a need to collaborate different associations.”

Mohit Gupta, chief business officer – holidays, MakeMyTrip stressed on the fact that there is a shortage of inventory in the popular places, 80 per cent of India still lies unexplored and limited technology becomes an issue. The session clearly stated that there is a need to go beyond our limits and develop the destination. The product requires a unique relationship based selling. Travelling counselors even for the overseas clients via Skype can be one of the effective ways of travelling. Group travelling should be done along with responsible and eco-tourism as people prefer who talk about such initiatives. Akhil Gupta, vice president – Ecommerce, Yatra Online gave a perspective that 75 per cent of the domestic market is led by offline. There is a need to develop on the ground of lounges and stores, and be interactive taking in consideration the demand and supply. “There is a need to study the consumer behaviour on an everyday basis. Product videos, queries, video links, regular e-mail campaign to increase the demand integrated approach, which will cost around Rs 10,000-20,000 a month,” said Avijit Arya, founder and COO, Internet Mogul. He said that OTAs have taken the role of an enabler, but the demand is too big to handle, and trying out best to reach out to innovative suppliers.

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