Niharika Shukla – New Delhi
The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) recently held its first annual general meet where Guldeep Singh Sahni, president, OTOAI informed about the commissioning of a whitepaper on the economic benefits of outbound tourism. The association has also formed an Environment Committee and Women’s Wing. According to him the contributions of the outbound tour operators have not been recognised by the agencies of the government. This whitepaper will help the government agencies to have a clear perspective of the outbound segment.
A panel discussion on ‘OTOAI Vision 2014: Business – Way Forward’, was also organised to look into the business of domestic and international tourism including the problems faced by tour operators in the industry. The panelists included Dhananjay S Saliankar, regional director, Starwood Sales Organisation South Asia; Ratti Dhodapkar, managing director, Abercrombie & Kent Vacations; Vasudha Sondhi, director, Outbound Marketing; Romit Theophilus, director, sales and marketing, German National Tourist Office and Ankush Nijhawan, director, Nijhawan Group. The discussion was moderated by Sahni.
“Even though the business looks positive we can expect to see a lot of drastic changes in terms of regulation. The meaning of outbound tourism is blurring a bit and changes are appearing in the way small agents do business. It is important for every business to have a marketing plan and be careful with the geography one is dealing with,”said Sondhi. Talking about the role technology is playing, Nijhawan said, “To reach out to a wide and tech savvy audience social media is the only solution. It is important that tour operators and travel service providers move towards technology and provide information through online media.” Taking the discussion further, Theophilus said, “Price plays a bigger factor when it comes to tourism in Europe. It is important to specialise in products and services to maintain the business.”
To improve the bargaining power of smaller agents with the suppliers in the tourism sector, the panel remained divided on the feasibility that the consortium holds. The panel discussion was followed by an Open Forum wherein Sahni urged OTOAI members to put across the issues being faced by them. Matters such as fraternity guidelines, service tax, training of agency staff members and overseas suppliers were brought into attention by the members.