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Friday, 22 May, 2020, 14 : 10 PM [IST]

NTOs at ‘The Outbound Rebound’ upbeat about revival of long-haul travel from India

At the TravelBiz Monitor e-panel discussion ‘The Outbound Rebound’ in association with Zanzibar Tourism Promotion Centre (ZTPC), representatives of key overseas tourism boards, destination marketing agencies and industry association were confident of long-haul travel to resume from India since these destinations with their outdoors and vast landscape coupled with less population density would be effective in maintaining social distancing. Each of them was unanimous in their opinion that their focus on India will continue, and their trade strategy would be stronger than ever before. 

The panel discussion began with Co-Moderators Sheldon Santwan, Editor & CEO, TravelBiz Monitor and Rajiv Duggal, Director, Travel Specialists LLP welcoming the delegates. Santwan opened the floor asking the panelists their view about demand for short-haul vs. long-haul. 

According to Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Indians consider the opinions of their families in making decisions, and this would be a critical factor while deciding on their travel plans. “The thought process is going to change, and agents are here to stay. Tourism boards, therefore, should effectively use virtual reality for effective promotion messaging. Travel will continue, but we need to reinvent, restructure contracts and ensure effective messaging for confidence-building.”

Preparing the agent community for the immediate future, Sheema Vohra, Managing Director India. Representing Brand USA in India, Sartha Global Marketing, spoke about their current series of webinars. “We are very bullish on the Indian market, and are committed to the travel trade. It’s a partnership we consider important; we are using this period for imparting product knowledge. We have created our own platform to inspire consumers, GoUSA TV that offers authentic content from the voice of locals across USA.” 

According to Sheetal Munshaw, Director, Atout France India, the discerning travellers will be the first to travel. “The industry collectively will have a strong part to play along with our government bodies to revive tourism. We have to learn to respond to the crisis. The focus on India remains and we have seen markets diversifying. We work closely with agencies of all sizes across the metros and Tier-II and III cities. Every activity of ours is based on alliances, and that will continue, going ahead.” 

Paramjit Bawa, Regional Manager – India, Destination New South Wales, has a bullish view about long-haul travel from India. “The way I see it is that it is going to be a new normal to travel long-haul since these destinations with lesser population will be the first to bounce back. Social distancing won’t be a problem, because the bright, sunny atmosphere and outdoor activities would be crucial for travel.”

Echoing similar views, Carl Vaz, said that people are going to look for destinations where social distancing is easy with wide open spaces. “Canada with its large greenery and outdoor on the countryside offers huge opportunity to go back and indulge. India will continue to remain the top 5 markets; however, going forward the implications of lockdown, travel protocols, entire ecosystem needs to be taken into consideration.”

According to Jilesh Babla, Director, Zanzibar Tourism Promotion Centre, the months of April and May are lost for businesses due to lockdown. “However, I expect things to restart by the festival season of September October. I am very confident that will happen.” 

In his concluding remarks, Duggal said, “Long-haul still continues to remain our key bread earner. Smaller agents are looking for help since many of them fear being wiped out. They feel big destinations won’t work with them because of their size. However, the views of the panellists are reassuring since long-haul is a key for tourism.”

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