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Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 18 : 00 PM [IST]

ADTOI Convention 2016 pushes the envelope for tourism into Khajuraho

The 7th Annual ADTOI Convention cum Exhibition in Khajuraho, in support with MP Tourism, brought the under-represented heritage jewel of Khajuraho into limelight. Attended by over 350 delegates, this convention was by far one of the well-organised editions. Akansha Pandey reports.
After showcasing its hospitality at the two previous trade conventions, this time too, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) Tourism left no stone unturned in wooing the delegates by showcasing the unexplored offerings of the ‘Temple Town of Khajuraho’. The Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) conceived and executed the convention in 40 days with a proactive assistance from MP Tourism.



Welcoming the delegates to the inaugural ceremony of 7th ADTOI Convention, Anurag Agarwal, General Secretary, ADTOI, exclaimed, “The modern day traveller in India is not looking for vanilla packages, but an experiential travel opportunity. As "Make in India" is gaining momentum, the time is ripe to push travel within the diverse market of India, going by this year’s convention theme – ‘Domestic Tourism – Billion+ Opportunities’.”

Jyoti Kapur, President, ADTOI said that in this transitional phase of the association when it is rebuilding and reinventing itself, MP has played a vital role in reaffirming its confidence in ADTOI and the segment of domestic tourism. To boost domestic travel, Indian states need to establish a regional office in every other state, emphasised Kapur.


MANAGING THE NEXT BILLION


Moderated by Mukesh Pal Jagga, Member, ADTOI Convention Committee, the session outlined the opportunities to grab the emerging share of domestic travel business. Talking about the same, Narayan Singh Bhayal, GM, Taj Chandela, Khajuraho, highlighted that MP can capitalise on the popularity of Mastani Mahal showacsed in the movie ‘Bajirao Mastani’.

Saurabh Bhargawa, Assistant VP – North India, Taj Hotels, asserted that destination thematic weddings are still an offline business and tour operators must grab this golden opportunity.

Ashish Gupta, Consulting CEO, Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) suggested that offline operators should shrink the business size and maximise profits. “ADTOI operators should specialise in their respective product, market and service. Moreover, it is important to connect with storytelling,” he said.

Commenting on the state’s tourism offerings, Hari Ranjan Rao, Commissioner and MD, MP Tourism, outlined that the tourism industry has not connected with the masses over time. “We need to communicate in our mother tongue for enabling people to connect to our sector and understand its deep rooted potential. On the other hand, we need authentic data and statistics as per which future roadmap can be planned,” he urged. MP government has issued notification for unlocking the forest reserves, water bodies while ensuring carrying capacity to maintain the balance, he informed.



Sanjay Aggarwal, Convention Chairman and VP, ADTOI, highlighted that the figure of domestic travel in India has reached to 1.45 billion in 2015, a 30-40% increase over 2014. The convention is an apt platform to showcase products and deliberate on ways to complement instead of competing, he said.


ADTOI confers posthumous Hall of Fame Award on Late B L Nijhawan
Sham Nijhawan - Chairman, Nijhawan Group, was present to receive the honour on behalf of his father. Overwhelmed by the recognition, he remembered his Father and said that three generations in his family so far have been dedicated to the cause of tourism development.



The inaugural also witnessed the digital launch of the ADTOI’s Manual, the hard copy of which will be out by May end, confirmed Dalip Gupta, Co-Chairman, ADTOI Convention.

The Guest of Honour – Nagendra Singh, Member of Parliament, Khajuraho, revealed that national carrier – Air India has assured to start a direct flight from Delhi. Singh added that he hopes for connections from Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai and is open to both direct and connecting flights. As far as road connectivity is concerned, he said that before the onset of the next season in October, road development will be completed from Satara to Chhatarpur and Jhansi.


STRATEGY STARTUPS – THE FUTURE DOMESTIC TOUR OPERATOR


Foreseeing the future of tour operators, moderator - Ashish Kumar, Managing Partner, Agnitio Consulting, emphasised that travel bookings on mobile will continue to dominate. Thus, offline tour operators need to prepare themselves for the future.

“Offline tour operators can gain an edge with a personalised, transparent and consultative approach powered by technology. A constant engagement will also give them an added mileage,” he said. Citing his own example Debajit Dutta, Director, Impression Tourism Services (India), said that he is selling unique products and experiences rather than destinations and hence isn’t competing with counterparts on rates.



Dr. Venu V, IAS, Secretary, Government of Kerala, added, “Tourism will soon become a knowledge-based business. In the coming time, the knowledge and the difference in conducting business will play a deciding factor. Hence, ADTOI should become a vibrant forum to exchange ideas, facilitate networking and act as a knowledge bank.”

Terming Khajuraho a notable and attractive domestic travel destination, Vinod Zutshi, Secretary Tourism, Government of India, added, “The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has recently proposed Khajuraho to be a part of the Swadesh Darshan scheme and we aim to set up a convention centre here to boost overnight stays and increase business volume. MoT also looks forward to launch a campaign to promote the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.”



Tanvi Sundriyal, Additional MD, MP Tourism, confirmed that the department would be converting three heritage palaces into hotels which will be operational in next two years. Scouting process for operators is still in progress, she said.

Informing delegates about the not-so-explored offerings in Khajuraho, Kavita Singh, President, Nagar Panchayat, Khajuraho, highlighted that stay in Khajuraho can be combined with the scenic sites of Raneh Falls and Pandav Falls; the city of Orchha and Bhimkund and with adventure sports activities at Kuda in Patan of Jabalpur district, MP.


ETHICAL BUSINESS PRACTICES


Amidst huge expectations, the first platform provided to address the concern of Ethical Business Practices (ETP) fell flat. When asked as to how many tour operators agree with the fact that under-selling by OTAs has drastically affected their business, hardly few agreed to it. This was probably due to the fact that mostly people did not have a clear understanding of the subject.

Clearing the myths, Rakesh Lamba, Past President, ADTOI, who moderated the session stressed that they are not against the OTAs or the use of technology. “Technology is a great enabler and offline operators too, are adapting it with time. The main issue is of the unethical pricing being displayed by the OTAs on their portals to the end customer. Not only is it adversely affecting the offline operators, but also affecting the brand value of the hotel brand which is being sold at a lower rate. Moreover, hotel’s ARRs aren’t going up and OTAs too are struggling to survive. The worse being that the customer is getting habituated with the unethical pricing,” he lamented. Lamba also assured that the ETP group will also be meeting the FAITH and FHRAI Executive Committee seeking a rational and level playing field.

Throwing light on the hoteliers’ stand, Tajinder Singh, VP – Sales and Marketing, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Best Western Hotels and Resorts, stated that hoteliers too feel that the offline tour operators are the pillars of business. “Hotel brands such as ours give the same rate to both the online travel agents as well as offline tour operators. It is the OTAs which are giving ambiguous discounts but paying the hotelier as promised.

Harjinder Singh, MD, Odyssey Tours added that however, hotel brands can restrict the unethical rate on OTA’s portal under the guidelines issued by the Competition Commission of India. "The hoteliers can also play a vital role in ensuring a fair play and a sustainable environment," he added.



Subhash Verma, Co-Chairman, ADTOI Convention, wooed the delegates by delivering his slogan for domestic tourism - “No Passport, No Visa, No Foreign Exchange.” This is what makes domestic tourism all the more simpler, he said.

akansha.pandey@saffronsynergies.in
 
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