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Saturday, 06 February, 2016, 16 : 00 PM [IST]

IITT 2016 records 50% growth in exhibitors

It was time to build new contacts and renew old ones at IITT, which provided an opportunity for domestic and international exhibitors to showcase products and services to their counterparts across India and overseas. Disha Shah Ghosh & Prasenjit Chakraborty offer an insight into the third edition of the trade show that turned out to be a platform for key business engagements and constructive discussions
The third edition of India International Travel & Tourism (IITT) Exhibition was inaugurated at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Mumbai on January 15, 2016. Presented by NDTV Good Times, the trade marketplace was supported by Incredible India. TravelBiz Monitor was the Media Partner; and the event had state tourism boards of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Telangana and Uttarakhand as Feature States. The trade show was supported by travel associations namely Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) and Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO). The Knowledge Partner of the event was Outbound Tour Operators of India (OTOAI), and Turkey came onboard as Diamond Partner with Kuwait Airways as Silver Partner and Lavasa as Smart City Partner.

IITT witnessed participation of hotels, resorts, travel agents, tour operators, national and international tourism boards, OTAs, cruise companies, etc. With the buyer-exhibitor engagements, interactive seminars were running concurrently at the exhibition. A unique feature this year was IITT Connect, where exhibitors had a chance to conduct dedicated discussions with corporate entities.

IITT was inaugurated by Dr Subhash Goyal, President, IATO; Philip Saunders, CCO, Kuwait Airways; Jay Bhatia, Chairman, Tourism Council and Honorary Treasurer, TAAI; Erdal Sabri Ergan, Consul General of Turkey, Turkish Embassy; Jyoti Kapur, President, ADTOI; Guldeep Singh Sahni, President, OTOAI; Manish Gandhi, COO, ABEC Exhibitions & Conferences Pvt. Ltd. and Mohit Mewani, Exhibitions Director, ABEC Exhibitions & Conferences Pvt. Ltd. by lighting the lamp.

Talking at the inaugural, Bhatia said, “IITT has emerged as a world-class event in its third edition. The event is very well organised. We national associations are working in tandem to get the tourism industry ‘industry status’.”

Kapur said, “There is ample scope for business for everyone, be it online or offline travel agents. Opportunities are immense and we need the right approach.”

he industry is going through turbulent times and tourism is the first to be affected in times of terror, said Goyal. “There are various issues that need to be solved if tourism has to become an instrument of social, political and poverty eradication. Tourism has a multiplier effect on the economy,” he stated.

As a tribute to the departed souls of the Parhankot attack, delegates observed 2 minutes of silence.

Annual Growth
Throwing light on the three-day trade show, Mohit Mewani, Exhibition Director, ABEC Exhibitions & Conferences Pvt. Ltd., organisers of the event, said, “This year IITT is spread over an area of 15,000 sq mt. of gross area. We have 400 exhibitors showcasing their products. We have 175 fully hosted buyers, and around 100 buyers coming through bus shuttles from Pune, and 150 buyers from Surat and Nasik. The focus is on buyers from Tier-II and Tier-III cities, spread over 30%, 50% and 20%, respectively. We have grown around 50% in exhibitors at the IITT 2016 edition. There are around 30% first-time exhibitors. We already have exhibitors who have confirmed larger spaces for next year. Since there are many players entering the market, the challenge is to convert the leads into exhibitors. The show has grown more than double in size compared to the first edition. In 2017, IITT will be held from January 11-13.”

Mewani stated that they introduced a new platform called the IITT Connect which is a table business meeting between the corporate buyers and exhibitor. “We realised there was a big vacuum, and therefore to give India an international level platform to showcase their offerings, we came up with IITT. We are looking at including niche tourism products to be focused and are in talks with travel trade associations,” Mewani said.

The event saw senior delegates deliberating on issues concerning the travel and tourism industry worldwide namely: 
  •  What’s next for India in its online travel boom story?
  • What strategy should a tour operator adopt with the well informed customer?
  • Emerging Wedding Destinations/Destination Weddings and Changing Dynamics in the Wedding Industry
  • How startup’s have changed the Travel! And Fuelling the Indian Wanderlust: what will it take to get Indians to travel more?

Promoting Tourism in times of Terror
The session ‘Promoting Tourism in times of Terror’ had Saroja Sirisena, Consul General of Sri Lanka; Saut Sringoringo, Consul General of Indonesia; Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France; Jay Bhatia, Chairman Tourism Council & Honorary Treasurer, TAAI; Erdal Sabri Ergen, Consul General of Turkey as panellists. Sheldon Santwan, Editor & COO, TravelBiz Monitor moderated the session.

After a brief note on how the dark cloud of terrorism is impacting tourism, Santwan asked each of the delegates to share how their nation coped with the situation.

Munshaw said that there has been a questionable situation in Paris after the attack. From the Indian market, much to the contrary, France hosted the biggest MICE movement in December, a month after the attack. “Many itineraries were re-routed, there were minimal cancellations. The FITs continued to travel as well. The Indian market was largely not disturbed,” shared Munshaw.

Philip Saunders, CCO, Kuwait Airways
Kuwait is at a good geographical position. IITT has grown since its inception. In terms of professionalism, it stands head on with ITB Berlin and WTM London. If airlines want to tap the Indian market, IITT is the right platform.

Syed Irfan, MD, Quality Holidays
IITT is a good platform, and we have received good response. We are promoting Karnataka, especially the southern part of the state. The destinations we are promoting are Bengaluru, Mysore, Coorg, Bandipur and Kabini. We received many inquiries for Coorg. It’s a coffee and peeper plantation destination which is located in hilly area. We have been promoting the destination since the last 3 years, and in such a short span of time, it has become popular amongst tourists. The organizers need to advertise the event on a larger scale to attract trade visitors.

R Venkateshwar Rao, District Tourism Officer, Government of Telangana
The exhibition is good. We are promoting some unexplored monuments and historical importance-temple and places. For example, we are promoting Qutub Shahi tombs, river cruise from Nagarjun Sagar to Somashila and Srisailens. Our aim is to promote important destinations of Telangana and package tours. We have developed infrastructure facilities for both inbound and outbound tourists. I request the organisers to publicise the event better next time.”

Prashant Pilankar, Director, Tourkraft
IITT has been a good experience for us as a good number of visitors have attended the exhibition. We are offering ground arrangements for group travels to Europe. At IITT, we are promoting Europe and other destinations but our focus area is Europe. Our expertise is in MICE, Leisure, Pilgrimmage, Special interest group. I found the organisers are very pro-active and willing to accept suggestions. Though, the organisers should get more international exhibitors.

Anshul Singhal, Assistant Manager, Marketing, Yatra.Com
It has been a great experience for B2B engagements. Through this exhibition, we are promoting holiday destinations and focus on destinations like Europe, Dubai, Singapore etc. When it comes to domestic destinations, our focus is Goa, Kerala, Kashmir and Ladhak. We received enquiries from B2C segment but not at expected level. The organizers have done a good job. But I sincerely believe that there has to be more advertisements about the event well before it starts. At least the organisers should start teaser campaign a month ago.
Sanjeev Adhikari, Sr Tour Executive, Lets See Tours & Travels
We are promoting entire Eastern Himalayan region which includes.  Besides, we are also promoting Bhutan and Nepal. For us, the response has been quite encouraging. We observed more and more people are showing interest in North East region of the country. One of our packages is 3 Sisters Package which covers Assam, Arunachal and Meghalaya, which we are promoting at IITT.
Kunal Sampat, General Manager – India, MSC Cruises
This is the first year of our participation at IITT and the show has met our expectations. The corporate meetings that have been arranged for exhibitors is the USP. Looking forward, if they continue the same way, IITT has a bright future.

Throwing light on how Sri Lanka dealt with the terror threat for years, Sirisena said, “For a small country like Sri Lanka, the negative media focus was increasingly difficult to deal with. Against that backdrop, the tourism figures at the lowest were 300,400 tourists per annum. At the end of the conflict, we had 500,000 tourists and now we are touching the 1.8 million mark. We had invested financial, human and physical resources in this industry. We offered better infrastructure and pricing, much below our cost.”

A month prior to the session, Istanbul witnessed a blast. However, the impact on tourism was minimal. Ergen said, “We are bullish about international tourism; and the Turkey Tourism is doing a good job by promoting and showcasing the best of the nation. Istanbul ranks sixth for international tourists. We have been living with terrorism for sometime and are cautious about it. It is about attacking ignorance. Platforms like IITT are perfect for sending out the right message along with trade media. We identified perpetrators within 24 hours and the security system is efficient to safeguard our country. I am happy to say we had minimal cancellations from India, and the Indian consumer is sending the right message that they are not being bullied,” he said.

Santwan said, “We need to look at ways where associations like TAAI, which can work out with the government and issue travel advisors to send a message to consumers that the world at large is not in danger. Terror is not a thing of the past, it is here to stay and unfortunately a thing of the future, and none of us are sanitized from the trend.”  

Bhatia said that the industry needs to work towards educating the consumer. But a terror act in a remote part of the country does not affect the whole nation. “TAAI as a pan India association is connected with tourism boards and can impart information to members about the situation. I request tourism boards to work in tandem with TAAI to issue travel advisors. The world at large refers to social media and mainline media and information should be curtailed. The social media can go against the country. When travel advisories are issued against India, the government should send a reverse advisory and take into confidence the trade associations.”

India as a country tends to de-market itself, said Santwan. The mainstream media tends to blow the situation out of proportion because of an event in one state of India, Santwan opined.

We tend stay in uncertainty for days sometimes. This is disturbing for the citizens as well as incoming tourists, opined Munshaw. “But in France, the government was very proactive and communication was quick. The media sometimes can be strength and can be a weakness. It is important to be factual without adding additional perspective into it. Most often than not, we focus on what went amiss. India is huge nation and the right message needs to be sent out; every market is different and that needs to be channelised through adequate information.”

Santwan concluded the session by saying that while sending out the right message should be of utmost priority, tourism boards, governments and trade associations should collectively work in reaching out to the consumer.

SMA Sheeraz, Director, Sheeraz Tours
This is the third year of IITT and each edition is getting bigger and better. This edition is well balanced between domestic and international exhibitors. Even international exhibitors are not from one particular region. They have come from Europe, South East Asia, Central Asia, and Middle East. From domestic point of view, there are many states have participated in this exhibition. I have updated my product knowledge and will apply it before the new season starts. So, it will help my business to grow. Another important thing is, the exhibition has witnessed the participation of budget to high-end hotels. So, it will help me to cater to customers falling in different price brackets.
Sanjay Shantilal Tank, Regional Manager Sales (Gujarat), SUBA      
It’s a good exhibition for B2B operators. The event offers ample scopes for tie-ups, marketing and sales. The exhibition is more focused on outbound than inbound. The organisers should concentrate more on promotional aspect and invite more tourism boards from India as well as abroad.
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