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Monday, 06 January, 2020, 10 : 23 AM [IST]

‘We are focusing on emerging as well as developed markets in 2020’

Q Overall, 2019 was not quite a favourable year for the travel industry—withdrawal of Jet Airways, collapsing of Thomas Cook UK and Cox & Kings, etc. Against this backdrop, how was the performance of Distinct Destinations?
Distinct Destinations is a new setup with a strong understanding of the travel landscape. From the beginning, our focus has been to create a strong foundation with a well-planned business strategy backed by a creative team. In fact, we see the developments of 2019 not as a setback/drawback but actually an opportunity for our foreign allies and us to grow.

All our partners are mushrooming in their respective businesses and the numbers seem positive. What sets us apart from others is our strong belief in the power of right marketing strategy and on-ground services.

Q To make 2020 a successful year for inbound travel, what are the innovative marketing strategies that you have adopted?
For 2020, we have invested heavily on technology. The idea is to have the right combination of seamless service delivery along with automated operations. We are focusing on emerging as well as developed markets that are positively impacting India's growth and where the demand for experiential and special interest products is high. The increasing popularity of hidden paradises like Nepal and Bhutan (some of DD's destinations) is further accelerating our growth trajectory.

Q Is there any plan to add new experiences or products? If yes, share with us.
Distinct Destinations is all about creating experiential tours & products that cater to distinct tastes of every individual. We focus on innovation a lot and strive to extend the local essence of a place to our customers. This not only makes their travel more memorable but also encourages them to adopt sustainable tourism practices. We have recently curated an exclusive product line for family and solo travellers.

Q Which are the source markets you will be focusing more on in year 2020? Explain.
Our focus is increasingly towards Scandinavia, Australia, UK, US and MICE segment. These markets are indicating positive growth rate for India that we would like to tap into. Also, the mice segment pie has increased substantially over the last few years, we are definitely eyeing a larger piece.

Q Which are the biggest challenges you foresee in the inbound travel segment? And, how do you plan to address them in order to stay ahead of your competitors?
Despite having immense potential, India witnesses one of the lowest international tourist arrivals. Moreover, tourism is a volatile industry that's far from being immune to economic, political or social shifts. While these are the challenges that lay outside the control of the tourism sector, here is a list of five obstacles that the industry is currently facing:

B2B Pricing Wars: Instead of differentiating between experiences and value-added services, cheap and affordable pricing has become an important attraction for a trip to India. This is seen more at a B2B level than a B2C level. With more and more companies selling curated trips to India with a strong focus on service and product, the scenario has become less gloomy. Here, an effective situation would be to make B2B brands realise that standing out in an over-competitive market requires strategic plan to focus on suppliers and value-added services.

Technology: With the advent of technological advancements, big companies are thriving on state-of-the-art innovations. Lack of proper infrastructure, funding and research data acts as a major disadvantage and tends to leave smaller companies

at the mercy of big ones. At present, in India, well-funded companies have done well in cementing their positions in the industry. However, inbound travel segment in India is still not big enough; it is dominated by a few large B2B companies.

On the other hand, smaller travel companies led by innovation have not received the recognition that they deserve.

Perception of India: One of the major challenges that the industry faces today is the perception of India internationally. As one of the most diverse and culturally rich countries, India is a dream destination for avid travellers. Yet, we record approximately 10 million visitors annually as compared to whopping 20 million tourists in Bangkok and Thailand. Government led—Incredible India Campaign—helped India position itself as a leading travel destination. However, lack of cohesiveness across various state-led tourism campaigns has limited India as a clichéd, stereotypical spiritual destination.

In my opinion, there is a dire need to encourage inbound tourism to India. Tourism growth rate can be tackled by well-planned marketing strategies along with better leisure and tourism atmosphere in terms of safety, security and quality.

Competition and Taxes: Last but not least, another big aspect of contention compared to other destinations in South East Asia or South Asia is that India is perceived to be a slightly expensive country for a luxury traveller. The current reduction in GST rates should help Indian industry, but the competition and ease of travel that other countries have provided is something that India needs to match up to.

Q Do you have any plan to introduce new technology platform in 2020?
We will soon be launching an online platform for our B2B partners to simplify operations and inventory hassles. Idea is to save communication time and make the whole process fast and efficient.

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