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Friday, 26 October, 2018, 11 : 58 AM [IST]

Time to Unite for Image Building of India

As an avid traveller couple, Amala and self-undertake at least 5 international trips a year to different destinations. This year, we have covered Spain (Marbella & Barcelona), Hungary (Budapest), France (Paris), Switzerland (Zermatt & Zurich), USA (St Louis), Germany (Berlin), the UK & Ireland till date with an upcoming trip to Berlin & Vienna over Xmas & New Year.

Things have rapidly changed in 2018, compared to 2017. Most destinations we visited had fewer tourists, hotels had a very low occupancy, shopping malls had very less footfalls, and those too were window shopping sprees. Restaurants were half empty, so no problems to walk-in for a meal which you otherwise had to wait to get in or needed a prior reservation. Queues were virtually non-existent at most site-seeing entrances. Terrorism has taken its toll, all over. Recession has also had its effect as well as unstable political situations in many of the countries. These were not just our observation but we got the opportunity to talk to random people from the industry in the countries we visited, passengers at airports/on the aircraft/at restaurants/siteseeing places, etc. There are some countries also affected by war-like situations, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, labour union strikes and vivil wars. One would say that this is nothing new. No, it has always been around earlier, but in recent times the situation has escalated and things have become worse. All concerned are hoping that we will see better times.

Technology has played a great role in recent times for the travel industry. Use of social and digital media has enhanced business for most organisations and those that have not used this tool are lagging behind and thus stagnating without realising the potential. Perhaps, they feel that it is an expensive route but if one spends some time to understand the nuances of technology, it is quite easy and simple to use i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Linked-in etc Also, for digital promotions there are several tools available and those that are able to get a grasp of it have been able to do it themselves or get it done through others for a pittance with great results. There are companies that have developed apps for hotels and corporate entities wherein a guest who has already made a reservation can check-in seamlessly without going to the counter/reception by doing everything through the app that they download on their mobile which enables them to get their room number and a bar code that allows them to use the elevator without a key and again to open the room door and finally for check-out too. This has cut down costs for hotels and saves the corporate traveller time.

Immigration and security at airports can be quite a nuisance but that is changing rapidly with the use of technology. Many airports have now upgraded their systems for arrival and departure wherein some nationals can use the scanner for the relevant pages of the passport and walk through. Some airports also allow the handbags to just go thru the x-ray machine without having to take out your laptop and other electronic items. Check-in with bags drop off is also quite common now.

Visa application and approval are being simplified with more use of online process that makes life simper for the applicant, except is the case of those countries that have made it mandatory to do your bio-metrics in advance. I have been given to understand (through reliable sources) that this process will be simplified by doing it at the time of arrival at the airports of those countries and at the time of visa application.

Although there have been several impediments as mentioned above, it seems that the situation will change for the better quite soon and hopefully tourism will boom once again with the use of technology and preventive measure against terrorism. Also, airlines are increasing the number of flights and thus fares are becoming cheaper for the budget traveller.

I can’t but help making an appeal to the travel industry in India to come together on the same platform and work out a strategy to dispel the image in the international market of India not being a safe destination for different reasons.

I take this opportunity to wish Sheldon & the Team at TravelBiz Monitor ‘All The Very Best’ on completion of their 11th year and for the 11th Anniversary Celebrations.

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