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Thursday, 14 February, 2019, 12 : 47 PM [IST]

Iitt’s sixth edition brings all segments of tourism industry under one roof

Ambarin Chougle & Bhumi Gupta
Inauguration ceremony of Iitt 2019


The sixth edition of India International Travel & Tourism (Iitt Exhibition organised from January 10 to 12, 2019 in Mumbai was a three day affair divided into two-days of B2B networking and one-day B2C event held at MMRDA Grounds, BKC. Iitt exhibition, organised by ABEC Exhibitions & Conferences Pvt. Ltd, is a networking and marketing platform for the travel and tourism industry where under one roof, exhibitors ranging from international and national tourism boards, tour operators, hotel chains, airlines, cruising lines, DMCs, etc., showcased their offerings.

Manish Gandhi, COO & Executive Director, ABEC welcomed Hon John Amaratunga, Minister, Tourism of Sri Lanka, and said, “Today, we see some extremely important steps that have been introduced by our government to increase international business. Introduction of e-visa for 163 countries and launch of incredible India 2.0 campaign will make an improvement in marketing which is something to look out for in the future.”

L-R: Archana Trasy, Director, Work That Works; Karan Anand, Head- Relationships & Supplier Management, Cox & Kings; Rajiv Duggal, Deputy Counsel, Global Tourism Council; Jilesh Babla, Director, Zanzibar Tourism Promotion Centre (India); Natarajan Ramji, Chairman, Travel Masters India


Knowledge Sessions
TravelBiz Monitor as Conference Partner to Iitt 2019 organised four panel discussions at the exhibition where senior delegates deliberated on issues concerning the travel and tourism industry worldwide.

Developing new destinations through film tourism
The first session, moderated by Rajiv Duggal, Deputy Counsel, Global Tourism Council, shed light on the increase in the percentage of outbound tourists as a result of film tourism. The panellists for the discussion were Karan Anand, Head- Relationships & Supplier Management, Cox & Kings; Jilesh Babla, Director, Zanzibar Tourism Promotion Centre (India); Archana Trasy, Director, Work That Works; Natarajan Ramji, Chairman, Travel Masters India.

Taking examples from the films already made in foreign countries, Babla exclaimed that the destinations have always benefitted by shooting an Indian movie. He said, “It’s not necessary that the first film you shoot there is going to create the hype for you but over the time, with couple of hit movies, the destination starts picking up”. With respect to the budget scenario, he expressed that it is very expensive to make an Indian movie and private sector along with the government can contribute to shoot at a foreign destination.

Trasy commented on the same by saying that the budget depends on the script and today anything can be shot anywhere, she said, “With OTT platforms, there are so many things being shot across the world. Even a single episode from a series has a million dollar budget. Sets can be put up anywhere in the world. So, today the world is the canvas for the film industry. Basically, content is King”.

Being an experienced professional in the industry, with over 1000 films made under his banner, Ramji shared his opinion on the logistics of making a film from the travel trade point of view and the role of travel agents in partnering the production. He said, “We are marginal players as travel agents. I rode away from the basic travel agent platform of the hotel, food and transport to permits, applying for incentives, getting tax rebates, mounting up action sequences, staging mega dances, etc., rest of the basic things would be only 5% of my job with respect to the films.“

Opposing the idea of travel agents partnering with producers, Anand says, “I don’t think a travel company should get into films, it is not our expertise. The only way a tour operator can integrate a successful movie is with a joint promotion and marketing exercise, nationally, regionally or at a city level. It can only be successful when movies coordinate with the countries.”



Adapting to Change in Outbound MICE trends
The first panel of the second day focused on the changes in the MICE trends. The panellists for this session were Anil Sontakke, Sr Manager- Sales & Marketing, South East Asia, Naprod Group; Ravindra Goriparty, Director, Smart Travels, Naveen Kundu, CEO & MD, Mercury- A Luxury Initiative of EBix Cash; Manoj Gursahani, President, Visit USA Committee; Paramjit Bawa, Regional Manager - India, Destination New South Wales; Sriram Rajmohan, CEO & MD, Club7 Holidays; Dr Rajesh Shukla, Head of Personal Accident & Travel Home, TATA AIG

Gursahani, moderator for the session, opened the session with a corporate angle. He put forth his question to Sontakke, based on their earlier conversations, asking what factors are considered while choosing a destination and a tour operator, Sontakke said that “As a corporate, we expect the travel agent or tour operator, to make arrangements for a doctor in the hotel, should be knowledgeable about the destination we are visiting, flawless visa procedures, and the hotel to be a business hotel so it is well-equipped with a corporate’s basic amenities.”



Goriparty, when asked his observation about the changes in the MICE trends, stated that “Regarding the MICE movement, it’s a combination of corporate and the travel operators. Whenever there is a MICE destination, we try to educate them on how to grow the MICE industry from the Indian point of view, worldwide. We try to promote ease of travel, destination/ product knowledge, insurance, specialised people to take around, all of this will elevate the growing number of the Indian market which has been escalating each year.”

Kundu, sharing his perspective on the changes, expressed that MICE is for the perceiver and not the procurer. He said,“MICE needs to change. We have to bring a revolution. The element of creativity and art has to be put into MICE because it is not just a combination component of travel, its an experience.”


Speaking about the changing trends from a destination perspective, Bawa said that there are a few noticeable changes in the past few years. Agreeing to Kundu to improve MICE scenarios he said that “ A lot of companies now look at many factors when they decide the destination.

Responding to how does one give an experience with demands for credit and price competition, Rajmohan stated that most of the corporates collect multiple quotes for the travel but there are few mistakes that they make while budgeting. “Corporates make budgets without deciding the destination, so we, instead of telling them that it is an impractical budget, have to make all this available to them at that same cost. Due to this, there is a loss of experience and no room for innovations”, he said.

Putting forward the question to Sontakke, Gursahani asked about the parameters considered for corporate group tours. Sontakke informed that creditability is the first factor for tour operator followed by the other general considerations.

Goriparty gave a perspective from the Tier II and Tier III cities, when questioned about the cultural nuances during a large group tour. He said, “Earlier people lacked discipline when they were on such tours, not because they are rude but because it is not in the culture. We have been educating the Tier II and Tier III cities and fortunately the scenarios have changed over a period of time.”

After stating the balance needed between the quality and experience of a traveller, Kundu highlighted the reality of future shifting from a regular incentive to creating an event or product based experience. He also stated that there is a need to set a norm. “Until and unless the larger brands come together and set a norm, we are killing jobs. Tourism is the largest employer but it will hamper the entire travel system by cutting down man power”, he expressed.

Shukla suggested that the company should get an insurance for every travel to benefit from the value added services while on a travel or in case of emergency.

Concluding the session, Gursahani ended with a message to the people to adapt the best aspects that one learns while dealing with the corporates and the travel agents in their dayto- day life.

L-R: Paramjit Bawa, Regional Manager - India, Destination New South Wales; Naveen Kundu, CEO & MD, Mercury- A Luxury Initiative of EBix Cash; Sriram Rajmohan, CEO & MD, Club7 Holidays; Dr Rajesh Shukla, Head of Personal Accident & Travel Home, TATA AIG; Manoj Gursahani, President, Visit USA Committee; Anil Sontakke, Sr Manager- Sales & Marketing, South East Asia, Naprod Group; Ravindra Goriparty, Director, Smart Travels; Natarajan Ramji, Chairman, Travel Masters India.


Cruising – Bridging the gap between Infrastructure & Customer Demand
The second panel session of the day two was focused on Cruising industry in India and the infrastructure for taking it forward, moderated by Sheldon Santwan, Editor & COO, TravelBiz Monitor. The panellists in this session, namely Jurgen Bailom, President & CEO, Zen Cruises, Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals, Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, Representative of Costa Cruises in India and Cdr Nevil Malao, VSM (Retd.) Asst. Vice President, Operations – All Ports, JM Baxi & Co., shared disparate views on the potential of cruise tourism in India, they elaborated on the industry having come in focus recently and stated that it is the fastest growing sector in India, outbound and domestic both.

Santwan started the discussion by shedding light on the launch of domestic cruise lines and how the companies have returned. Commenting on the same, Gupta recalled that Star Cruises initiated cruise tourism in India and how the response from the Indian market was impressive. She said, “We saw an opportunity and we grabbed it. We needed the consumer who is ready but we also needed the infrastructure. It was a challenge but it kept getting better and better. Government didn’t understand this but associations like INCLA helped.”

L-R: Jurgen Bailom, President & CEO, Zen Cruises; Dr E. Ramesh Kumar IAS, Chairman, Mormugao Port Trust; Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, Representative of Costa Cruises in India; Sheldon Santwan, Editor & COO, TravelBiz Monitor; Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals, and Cdr Nevil Malao, VSM (Retd.) Asst. Vice President, Operations – All Ports, JM Baxi & Co..


Expressing his views on the subject of infrastructure, Bailom added, “Key experience of being in domestic market is to have an official transport vehicle and to be on the right side. India is ready to start cruising. We have natural fit for cruising with expansive coast line. To provide for the crowd, we need more ships. Cruise ship is an international destination for the Indians. We plan to double the market of our premium cruise line and cater to the masses and explore the very beautiful India.”

On being asked about the ports in India being cruise friendly, Malao answered, “The cruise ships are only getting bigger. We are now graduating to larger picture. It’s a chicken and egg kind of situation where we have large ships and few accommodating ports. Ports are picking up in terms of infrastructure. Immigration customs and staff need to be accommodated to do their jobs efficiently when we speak of cruise terminals.”

Saxena spoke about the development in India for outbound market in terms of cruising. He said that domestic and outbound market could be similar, “We need to look at where are we fitting in to provide passenger, who is the king. We need to provide as per foreign standards. A lot needs to be done in terms of reaching out to the customer. “

Optimism in terms of acceptance could be seen in the words of the speakers. They exclaimed that every company is getting innovative in terms of experience giving. Levelling up small ports would be a big step but a port is expensive and so is cruising and the cruise coming once a week would be difficult to sustain for the whole year. Nevertheless, the panellists agreed that sustainable port operations could be looked at.

Data Privacy- The New Age Challenge of Technology
The last session of the conference covered the issue of data privacy with respect to the mechanism to validate data security and the system to mask the data from leaking. The session was moderated by Kanishka Agiwal, Travel & Transportation Industry Leader India/South Asia, IBM. The panellists for this session were Chetan Kapoor, Co-Founder, Videc & Research Analyst - Asia Pacific, Phocuswright; Ankush Sabharwal, Founder & CEO, CoRover; Ruchit Jangid, Vice President - E-Business, E-Commerce, SOTC Travel; Tarun Bhakri, Director Commercial, American Express GBT.

Agiwal opened the panel and directed his first question to Bhakri asking their safeguards when it comes to maintaining the sanctity of the day of the customers. Responding to the question, Bhakri said, “We demonstrate a very structured approach when it comes to data security, confidentiality & accuracy. At American Express, our capability to manage data, demonstrate compliance and manage confidentiality is an area which is given a lot of importance.”

Stating the challenges faced by the travel company to manage the data, Ruchit said that data privacy is of utmost concern in the travel industry. “There are certain guidelines globally, that we need to adopt before working in India. We have our data encryption systems in place that make sure the transaction and other details are not in air. Internally too, there are fingerprint systems for customers to keep the data secure. All our systems are GDPR compliant”

On issues of data privacy, Sabharwal stated that “We made sure that we don’t take data that is irrelevant. We take only that is required for the business.”

Sabharwal, when asked what will his response to monetise the data be, he said that “We do have disclaimers in place, and as per GDPR and data privacy policy. We need to make it very visible. For monetisation, we need to have analytical data to display contextual ads and user has an option to receive those ads. If the user is okay, we keep the data in cookies.”

Agiwal touched upon invasion of privacy at some level with customer data and asked about the line that the companies thread on to Bhakri. Bhakri responded that, “Data privacy is extremely important on the corporate traveller end and is managed in a structured way, I think the approach we demonstrate of the business could be better. The government has also taken a strong note. There are bills that have been passed.

Interestingly, non ability to manage data may also result in criminal liability. It is important that we as an industry create relevant awareness to these backforce.”

L-R: Disha Shah Ghosh, Chief Sub-Editor, TravelBiz Monitor; Kanishka Agiwal, Travel & Transportation Industry Leader India/South Asia, IBM; Tarun Bhakri, Director Commercial, American Express GBT; Ruchit Jangid, Vice President - E-Business, E-Commerce, SOTC Travel; Ankush Sabharwal, Founder & CEO, CoRover


He also stated that “There is a need, from the data controller, to take consent from the individual in question. It is important for you to align with the expectation of sharing of the individual data with you. So, the individual can and is liable to ask you the use of his data. Once this kind of regime comes in, there will be a lot of change in the way we go in our business.”

“We need to be aware from the users perspective.” says Kapoor, adding to Bhakri’s statement. He also stated that the users need to be made aware that every individual’s data is important. ”Our behaviour can be reflected in the social media, my time spent can be used to provoke my instincts to buy something I don’t want.” He suggests that everyone should read the policy before checking anything.

On issues of addressing the on-ground implementation and ecosystem problems, Bhakri suggested ground approaches saying, “It is important for organisations, businesses and individuals to take note of the consequences of not falling in line. I believe that the on-ground implementation will happen quick and fast due to the liability clauses associated with it.“

Discussing on the implementation issues, Jangid added that, “In India, we have complicated systems. GDPR guidelines are difficult to implement but it is important for companies to establish a trust level to connect at a consumer level to let them know that we have invested in the technology to protect your data and that is how customer will start appreciating your efforts along with the other co-partners. We also need to make sure that the partner is compliant on the same level too. We also need to create an awareness amongst the people to read the data privacy policy and give consent and not just tick since they are mandatory boxes.”

The session concluded with a discussion on the need of a proper blockchain technology in place to address the query of specific data sharing and anonymity.

ambarin.chougle@saffronsynergies.in
bhumi.gupta@saffronsynergies.in
 
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