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Tuesday, 09 December, 2014, 14 : 30 PM [IST]

Setting the ‘Benchmark’ in Representation

Starting off with just one client, in a span of less than five years, Mumbai-based Benchmark Travel Representations Pvt. Ltd. (BTRPL) has not only expanded its portfolio, but also carved a niche for itself among the Indian travel trade. Rashmi Pradhan charts the growth and evolution of the company and its success mantra
After having spent over two decades in the travel and tourism industry in India, working with leading travel companies (Kuoni, Beacon Holidays, and  Mosaic Holidays to name a few) in the travel and tourism industry, and specialising in selling outbound holidays to the Indian travel trade to offbeat destinations, Savio Pereira, Director, Benchmark Travel Representations Pvt. Ltd., forayed into travel representation and set up his own company, BTRPL. He started operations with a two-member team and the company was registered as a Pvt. Ltd. company in January 2013. Over the years, Pereira has not only expanded his team, currently nine full-time employees and portfolio, but has also consolidated BTRPL’s position as a marketing company, connecting its partners to the Indian travel trade and offering the latter an opportunity to add offbeat destinations to the range of packages they sell.

BTRPL currently represents international DMCs worldwide. These include Pacific Destinationz - New Zealand; Spaintop – Spain, Missing Italia – Italy, Trails of Indochina – Indochina Region, Sun Islands – Hawaii, 7 South – The Seychelles, Albatros Travel – South Africa, Emilio Travel – Jordan, Latin America Travel Concept – South America, Fremad – Russia, and Tailormade Tours – Israel.

periera_with_his_team_members.jpg“It was my belief that the industry was ready for a representation company that could introduce innovative, professional and committed DMCs handling newer destinations to the Indian outbound traveller. Unlike conventional representation companies whose focus is primarily in marketing and public relations, BTRPL is essentially sales-driven. In a business that is dynamic and bottom line-driven, we offer our partners measurable access to the Indian outbound market,” stated Periera.

Bringing Value to the Relationship: At the time when Pereira ventured into representation, the awareness and interest levels for ‘newer’ destinations was beginning to blossom. He informed, “Discerning travellers, having been to the Far East, Dubai and even escorted European tours, were now looking for unique experiences to be found in standalone destinations such as New Zealand, Spain and even Vietnam. While exotic international holidays were already being considered an aspirational lifestyle statement, the upwardly mobile Indian travellers were now looking for destinations beyond traditional favourites.”

Enlightening on the scenario of travel representation in India during inception of BTRPL, Pereira said, “When we began, the travel representation business was looked down upon by the travel trade as well as international travel and tourism entities. In our case, representation companies were considered an unnecessary addition in the link between final consumer and DMCs. It was a challenge to convince the travel trade and DMCs that we as a representation company can bring value to the relationship. By operating as the sales office of the DMC, in addition to disseminating destination knowledge and ensuring hassle-free operations, we also liaise with the travel trade in an endeavour to close sales. Therefore we are directly involved in increasing productivity.”

halong_bay_vietnam.jpgBTRPL specialises in providing turnkey representation and marketing services to international travel and hospitality companies looking to establish themselves in the key source markets of India. Pereira said, “Our services are designed to cater, primarily to DMCs, hotels as well as hotel marketing companies and tourism boards. Importantly, unlike conventional representation companies, we are a sales-driven company and our core expertise lies in experiential travel products. Moreover, with our access to effective B2B distribution channels, we are able to provide the ideal mix of creating awareness and sales.”

Elaborating on the strategy to help their client to market in India, Pereira said, "When we first launched Vietnam for example, the awareness level was extremely low. This was primarily due to the fact that there was no tourism board present in India. Our first step was to reach out to the travel trade and educate them about the destination in terms of what was on offer for the Indian traveller." He added, "Unlike tourism boards, DMCs usually do not have the luxury of a large budget that would enable us to host roadshows and workshops. So we opted for a series of one-on-one sessions, beginning with our key agents where we presented and highlighted attractions in Vietnam. We complemented the sessions by equipping the travel trade with suggested programmes that they could use as entry-level products to offer their clients." One of the USPs of BTRPL is that the company offers travel agencies to meet their clients along with them in order to assist with counseling the clients about the destination and closing the sale. This is of immense value, particularly to smaller travel agents who do not have the manpower nor requisite product information. Clients are able to get first hand clarifications to their doubts and queries, the benefits of which are reaped by the agency in the form of a booking.

halong_bay_vietnam_1.jpgVision: Despite its short journey, Benchmark is committed to being a pan-India player and the endeavour is to have presence in at least three other metros by the end of next year. “By mid-2016, we will be looking at increasing our footprint in Sri Lanka and the UAE,” Pereira informed. Commenting on the Indian outbound travel market scenario, Pereira said, “The Indian tourism industry and particularly outbound travel is now in growth mode. To use a cliche, it is one of the world’s largest outbound markets but it is also an immature market. In my opinion, it is a myth that the Indian outbound market is price sensitive. In fact the market is price conscious, like any other market, which means that we are not prepared to pay a premium for any travel product or service.”

Speaking of his experiences in the industry, Pereira said, “The market is extremely competitive and price conscious, however it does not imply that only “cheap holidays” sell. We learnt early enough that we cannot be everything to every one and therefore it is our endeavour to focus on those travel agents who work with discerning travellers. Our objective is to be able to offer the travel trade and their clients - value for money and quality holidays”.
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