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Showcasing the Tiger Capital of India

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Nagpur in central India, the gateway to three world renowned tiger sanctuaries – Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh, also nicknamed the Orange City because of its abundant orange orchards, was recently the venue of the region’s first ever B2B platform for the travel trade fraternity in India

Showcase Jagsons, a private initiative by Jagsons Travels was attended by about 28 trade partners and associates of the Nagpur-based tour operator showcasing more then 60 different products and variable interests. Over two days, nearly 160 travel agents not only from Nagpur but also from far flung areas like Pune, Jalna, Beed. Gondia, Bilaspur, Akola, Amravati, other cities of Vidarbha as well as the neighbouring bordering states of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh attended the event held at Hotel Centre Point in Ramdaspeth, one of the oldest hotels in Nagpur. The event saw the launch of the first dedicated online portal for Maldives, Jfly. The portal will be managed by a consortium formed between the Island Group, Sand Destination Consultants and Jagsons Travels.

An idea sees fruition

Speaking to Express TravelWorld, Harmandeep Singh Anand, managing director, Jagsons Travels, said, “The idea was conceptualised three years ago by me and my brother Rishiraj. We thought, why not educate the agent and create an opportunity for us to grow as a B2B player? Finally this year we decided to give it a go. Looking at the overwhelming respose, we are definitely at making this an annual event. Maybe on a larger scale and around the third week of January every year. Reaching out to all our select 180 agents across India who we have been partnering with. This is a long term investment for us.”

Highlighting the USP of Showcase Jagsons, he added, “This is the first time a wholesaler has come out openly to showcase his partners. We wanted to change that mindset. They work with us and when they grow, we definitely grow with them. We foresee a larger participation in 2014 and we even plan to make the 2014 event an eco-friendly one. Initially we will hold the annual event in Nagpur but gradually if we feel that it has become bigger then we will take the concept to other cities as well.”

Explaining the main aim of the initiative, Anand said, “With the changing environment just now, the main aim of Showcase Jagsons is to showcase to our partners that they need to look beyond just ticketing. There are hundreds of options for the agent to earn revenue. The exhibitor profile we have at this event is varied. The participants are offering a whole bouquet of services – from airlines and visa services to hotels to sports tourism, mobile sim card, insurance, GDS, MICE and even tourism boards are participating. Tourism Malaysia, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, The Oberoi Group, Marriott Hotels India, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Accor, Taj Tours, Glacier 3000, Outbound Marketing and Saltours International were some of the participants. Jfly is a really unique portal, for tracking a destination specific live inventory.Though we are Nagpur based, with technology today we don’t need franchises or branch offices. We have our partners. We just need to connect with them which is what Showcase Jagsons is all about.”

About Nagpur, Anand explained that as there are many domestic flights from the city’s international airport, it is well connected to most metros. “Being an industrial belt, there is good amount of money available in the market with a good number of HNIs, so there is plenty of opportunity in the regional market as well as many feeder markets bordering the city. These are the markets we want to reach into. The region has nearly 35 TAAI members and around 250 agents in Vidarbha region alone,” he informed.

Commenting on Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation’s (MTDC) role in the state’s tourism development, Anand believes that though the organisation is doing its work, there is lot of scope for improvement. “Roads need to improve and infrastructure needs upgradation. We also need to promote our tiger reserves. It is sad that many people do not even know that Rudyard Kipling’s famous work, Jungle Book, was conceived in the Pench National Park!”

Nagpur has added a lot of room inventory recently with Radisson Blu, the latest to join the other brands in the city like Tuli, Pride Hotels and Sun N Sand, with the possibility of a Taj property coming here soon. “With the Boeing MRO (MIHAN) coming up here, there are a lot of employment prospects which means need for more rooms. Currently, on a rough estimate there are around 700-800 rooms in the four-star and five-star category, and 1500-2000 rooms in the two-three star and budget segment. “As the demand is seasonal – full occupancies during the Winter Session of Parliament or during a cricket match – the current inventory is just adequate.”

A perfect platform

Aman Bhatia, partner, Island Holidays, expressed his belief that there is a huge market for travel in and around Nagpur. “There is at least one booking per day from here to Maldives. We see a lot of large groups going to USA and Canada. Being the richest city in Maharashtra, there is also a lot of demand for Europe as well,” he informed. He was very appreciative of this debut effort by Jagsons. “A buyer-seller meet of this kind is usually organised by only tourism boards. So it is a great initiative by a private tour operator for the growth of the trade.”

Arun Raghu, director, Fans On Stands Sports, “While travel trade as always boomed in major metros in India, reach and support to agents/trade partners in this part of the country has been limited. They are heavily dependent on the travel eco system in Mumbai. With an event like Showcase Jagsons, local travel trade gets a perfect platform to engage with the global travel eco system for better and bigger opportunities in their home circuit. It is a great initiative by Jagsons and we hope to be back here next year.”

Revealing his thoughts on the sports tourism market in the country, Raghu said, “Sports as a category is driven by passion whether its a participant or the audience. The sports tourism and ticketing industry is growing because of the growth of sports as well as the expansion of the tourism industry. Growth of the Indian sports industry as well as continued expansion of outbound tourism industry is having a positive impact on the sports based tourism and ticketing industry. While in India the sports tourism and ticketing market is still nascent, it is growing rapidly both within the consumer and corporate sectors.” As for Nagpur, he added, “In the beginning sports tourism as a category was believe to be very metro centric.However, recent trends indicate that Tier II markets like Nagpur also have huge requirements. We’ve had people travelling to events like Singapore GP, FIFA World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, English Premier League, Wimbledon from this region.”

His learnings from Showcase Jagsons? “We don’t have to market sporting events as people are already aware of them. The need of the hour is to educate them about the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ around sporting events, the right channels and process to procure tickets and merchandise etc,” he opined.

Raju Akolkar, Destinations Travel & Vacation Planners, was all praise for the Jagsons team. “An excellently organised show, keeping in mind the minutest requirement. It has covered almost all the areas of travel industry. Right from visas to hotels, destinations, DMCs, travel planning, tourism boards, sports tourism, etc. Undoubtedly a timely event for the travel fraternity of this part of the country,” he said.

On his learnings from the event, he said, “I must say that it was an eye-opener from so many angles. An excellent platform for networking and interaction between travel agents and the suppliers. The response was so huge that it really helped the travel agents of central India and vice versa. Numerous offers, new products, promotions, education, deals and also one-to-one interactions were the highlights of the show. Two bags full of product brochures and promotional material to take back home was the icing on the cake!” Offering his insights on the Nagpur market, he opined, “The customer out here is very price conscious. It’s not that he doesn’t have the a money to spend, but the attitude is typical. The popular destinations are Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Sri Lanka. Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Australia- for some premium clients. Europe, of course is the ultimate travel dream of travellers. But, the actual travellers to Europe are very few. Domestically, Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Golden Triangle, Himachal, Jammu & Kashmir are some of the popular destinations of Nagpurians. Air Arabia flies from Nagpur to Sharjah four times a week, the only international flight.”

Nandini Mulay, director, 3A Travels felt that the show was a very informative and enlightening experience. “I learned that to increase my business I can have direct tie-ups with hotels and how I can make my own packages instead of being dependent on other tour operators and agents. Such events should be held often for the travel agents awareness and increase in business.”

Based in Nagpur, Mulay feels that the market has grown tremendously in the last few years. “It is a mature market now and there are families and groups asking for new destinations for their holidays. Last year destinations like Tashkent and South Africa did very well. There are a lot of families taking European destination packages instead of the usual Far East ones. There has also been an increase in families going to Dubai/ Sharjah since there are direct flights from Nagpur. So the packages to UAE are popular. Nagpur market has great potential not only for business travel but leisure travel as well”.

First timers to the Nagpur market, Gopi Motwani – senior manager – operations, Dubai Visa & Marhaba Services, said, “The event was indeed helpful to us from a reach prospective. The turnout was really good and people were excited about the event since it was the first of its kind in the central India market. We did learn that we had underestimated the potential of the Vidarbha region and yes it has changed our prospective about it.”

He too agreed that it is a very mature market with a lot of scope for development. “It will take a couple more of such events to educate the travel fraternity here. I definitely see more potential for all hoteliers and airlines in this market. With the growing economy and a little help from the aviation industry we should be able to develop this market in a big way over the coming years,” he forecast.

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