TravelBiz Monitor

In Conversation

Wednesday, 03 April, 2019, 13 : 02 PM [IST]
‘We will continue to engage with the government through all possible channels’

Q OTOAI is a fairly new association, how are you looking at strengthening its wings? Any plans to open new chapters?
Yes, we are a relatively new association and growing form a baby to a robust teenager. We are mainly focusing on strengthening the membership base pan India basis. I am very happy to inform that we have added more than 70 members in a year and the focus is to keep increasing this number. Currently, there are no plans as yet to create more chapters as we have the North/West/South and East already. Once we have more than about 800-900 members, we will look at adding additional chapters.

Q Are there plans to introduce new membership categories? Elaborate on the existing structure as well as fee and benefits?
There is no plan to introduce new membership categories. The existing membership categories are:
Active: These are tour operators who are in business of foreign tours and travel for a period of at least one year and have organised foreign trips for tourism/study tours/conferences/conventions/ MICE/medical tourism/destination weddings, etc. and as per rules framed by Executive Committee from time-to-time. Application for Active member shall be recommended by one EC Member and one any other Active Member who has cleared all its dues as on date of recommendation.

Allied: These members mean persons or organisations that are desirous of expanding their base and venture into business of organising and conducting overseas trips. Application for Allied member shall be recommended by one Active member and one any other member who has cleared all its dues as on date of recommendation.

Overseas Members: These are persons and organisations having principal office outside India and are in business of conducting outbound travel and tourism.

The National Tourism Offices/ Tourism Boards can apply under National Tourism Office category.

Honorary Members: These are persons/organisations to whom the Executive Committee decides to confer membership on an honorary basis. These shall be persons / organisations of repute, having expertise in the field of tourism/law/administration/economics/social service/ media/ business. Honorary members shall not have any voting rights though s/he is entitled to all other privileges available to an Active Member of OTOAI. No entry fee and or subscription fee is chargeable from Honorary members. The tenure of Honorary members shall be subject to renewal from time-to-time as decided by the working group of the executive committee.

The current fee structure is very reasonable and one time joining fee is INR 5,000 and annual membership fee is INR 6,000, which is total of INR 11,000 + GST. Once a member, then the yearly membership renewal fee is INR 6,000 + GST.

Q Much has been spoken about the potential of Indian outbound. How is OTOAI working in this direction?
For sure the Indian outbound is the golden goose for almost all the tourism boards and NTOs. The outbound industry is expected to touch 50 million tourists by 2020 as per UNWTO. This is a huge number and directly means so much more opportunities for the outbound tour operators. We are constantly working and creating opportunities for members to network with worldwide tourism boards, NTOs, DMCs, not only for the members in the main metro cities, but also in the Tier-II & III cities from where the next wave of Indian outbound will emerge.

Q Over the past few years, agent training has undergone a sea change with the advent of technology. How is OTOAI working towards ensuring agents remaining relevant?
Of course, technology is playing a very positive and active role in all spheres of our lives these days and the outbound industry is no exception. At our own end, we are conducting training seminars in soft skills, conducted by professional and experienced trainers for the benefit of members. We have had such trainings (2 each) in Delhi and Ahmedabad for the benefit of the members. The topics covered for e.g. are ‘Professional Selling Skills’, ‘Customer Service as a Competitive Edge’, ‘Soft Skills & Client Handling.’ The members who are participating in these training are also handed over a certificate for the same. In Ahmedabad we have tied up with TRS Skill Academy, license holder of The Travel Institute of USA.

Q What measures are being taken to address key issues on the taxation front with the GST Council and Ministry of Finance?
At OTOAI when GST was going to be implemented we had appointed Ernst and Young as our consultant to represent us and we did manage to get them to look at a lower rate of GST for outbound tours. However more needs to be done and we need a stronger and collective voice from the industry to make the government look at our concerns more practically and positively. We have not given up hope and will keep trying our best through all possible channels to get more benefit for the outbound industry.