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Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 11 : 45 AM [IST]

Making 'Creative' Strides

A pioneer in the development of the Indian travel and tourism industry, Creative Travel has come a long way from the time of its inception nearly four decades ago. Anish V Punnackattu tracks the company’s growth over the years, business strategy and future plans
To take the initiative towards bringing a neglected sector to the forefront and leaving an indelible mark in the same field is no mean feat, and involves a good level of creativity. This is exactly what Ram Kohli had strived for when he started his own travel company in 1977, aptly named Creative Travel Pvt. Ltd. Just before taking the leap of faith and deciding to move to India, along with his family, Kohli was  heading the North American office in New York of the then largest company in India, Travel Corp. of India (TCI). “When I founded Creative Travel, it was an era of closed economy in India with little or no help for the tourism sector from the government. Public Private Partnership was a misnomer. Tourism had great potential, but was nowhere in the government’s scheme of things. And therefore starting a new business in the sector was a daunting task,” stated Kohli, who is the Chairman and Managing Director of Creative Travel.

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Kohli started with his own venture with little support, but has managed to earn the company the reputation of being among the country’s leading family-owned Destination Management Companies (DMCs). “My greatest achievement was that I was able to deliver what I promised and build long-term relations. It comes from the way we treat our clients. It’s about integrity and being fair and these form the basis of what we do at Creative Travel,” he said. Creative Travel was awarded the National Tourism Award in the very first year of starting operations after it was recognised by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. “We were awarded the first prize in Category III, and even today I am very proud of our first National Award. Today our brand equity is the strongest in our area of operation,” Kohli added.

Creative Travel is today being managed by Kohli’s sons, Rajeev and Rohit. Talking about his sons’ abilities and achievements after taking over the reins of the company, Ram Kohli said, “I can clearly foresee the great story they are scripting for the company. They have established the company on much more stronger footing that has resulted in a number of awards and recognitions, both in India and abroad. Besides, they have displayed great commitment to the industry. Rajeev is closely associated with industry bodies like IATO (Indian Association of Tour Operators) and ICPB (India Convention Promotion Bureau), while Rohit is on the advisory boards of various international hotel chains and is widely considered an expert on industry issues.”

Awards won by Creative Travel in 2013
  • World Travel Award for Asia's Leading Destination Management Company
  • World Travel Award for India's Leading Destination Management Company
  • TTG Travel Award for Best Travel Agency in India
  • Site Crystal Awards Recognition Program for Exceptional Motivational Travel Program – Best in Class by Global Region – Asia/Pacific

When Rajeev and Rohit joined Creative Travel in 1994, the company had a turnover of about Rs six crore. Today, it stands at close to Rs 100 crore, increasing year after year. This achievement can be attributed not only to the hard work put in by the team, but also the strategic thinking and planning executed by the company.

Over the years, Creative Travel embraced its core skills in handling Inbound Tourism and extended its reach to niche segments. “Today, we are one of the strongest players in the Incentives and Conferences segments, with more global awards than any other company in Asia,” Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel, said.

The company has launched a specialist wildlife brand, Jungle Sutra, which showcases the country’s wildlife offerings, and a conference management team, Plan it!. “All of these have been done without sacrificing our core business, which has grown year after year,” Rajeev Kohli stated. “Today, our business has a healthy mix of Inbound, Leisure, Luxury and MICE travel. This has allowed us to consistently grow and to leverage on our expertise across the world,” he added.

Business Strategy
Speaking about the business strategies adopted by the company so far, Rohit Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel, said, “What we have been doing over the years seems to be working. So we will build upon those successes and push forward in this uncertain market. Use of trade shows, international representative offices and sales trips form a mix of the marketing tools we use.”

Future Plans
In the next 18-24 months, Creative Travel plans to embark on outbound projects and expand into international markets. The company will also work towards growing its education arm, Creative Academy of Tourism, which they have established last year. “We do not believe in growing or expanding for the sake of it. We will expand our footprint only in ways manageable and which make strategic sense. We are known for being specialists in quality and will strive to keep it up,” Rajeev Kohli informed.

The company aims to shift to its new, state-of-the-art, 50,000-sq-ft office in the outskirts of Delhi in October this year.

Speaking about the four international awards that the company won last year (see box), Rajeev Kohli said, “It is a great motivator for the people who work behind the scenes in making the objectives of clients come true. To be recognised by one’s peers is truly the greatest honour that we can receive in this industry.”
 
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