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STIC Travel Group, Celebrating 5 Decades of Evolution

Established on September 14, 1973, as a Student Travel Information Centre, STIC Travel Group, has emerged into a company with focus on all aspects of the travel & tourism value chain. “Today, our journey encompasses partnerships with 12 international airlines, 4 cruise companies, and 3 car rental brands. Our portfolio has grown exponentially to encompass a spectrum of services in the MICE and Luxury sectors, solidifying our position as industry leaders,” said Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Travel Group.

Talking about his vision, he said, “Establishing STIC five decades ago has been an incredible odyssey, one that spans a lifetime in individual terms, but merely a chapter in the history of an organisation. Looking back, it’s astonishing how this venture, rooted in my passion for travel and tourism, has flourished beyond my wildest dreams… Our journey is a testament to the power of vision, adaptability, and a passion that remains as fervent today as it was 50 years ago.

In 1970, as a student leader representing Delhi University Student’s Union at a conference on Youth Unrest in Israel and London, I witnessed the freedom of travel enjoyed by students from around the world. This contrasted starkly with the limitations faced by students back home. The experience left an indelible mark, igniting a determination to enable Indian students to explore the world just as their global counterparts could.”

This experience and the seed of entrepreneurship took root, when Goyal led his first student group expedition to Japan. “Not only did I traverse foreign lands at no cost, but I also managed to earn a considerable commission of INR 1,000/- per person – a substantial sum in 1970.”

Unifying Travel Business

The travel booking landscape was fragmented back then. Interestingly, the choice to establish a travel business wasn’t a deliberate decision; it was more akin to destiny given Goyal’s family background in book distribution and publishing. “In those initial years, our company garnered recognition through efforts that resonated with the likes of renowned travel guides such as Lonely Planet and publications like ‘India on Dollar 5 to 10 a Day’. An emblematic achievement was securing sole representation for the UNESCO-endorsed International Student ID Card, which we continue to uphold.

As our network expanded, we noticed a shift in clientele. Our once-student travellers had now become leading professionals from the business and government sectors. Their loyalty drove the creation of ‘STIC Travels Pvt. Ltd.’, catering specifically to non-student and business travellers.”

The first step in STIC’s evolution was grabbing the opportunity to represent Air Ceylon (SriLankan Airlines) as a General Sales Agent. This made STIC pivot to a new business model altogether. “Our approach was not just to meet, but exceed airline expectations. This mindset helped us build a track record and other airlines soon sought our marketing and representation services.

Through these strategic steps, STIC Travel Group navigated from a singular focus on student travel to a comprehensive portfolio encompassing GSA representation, tours, etc.

The subsequent decades witnessed remarkable expansions. During the 70s and 80s, STIC introduced both outbound and inbound tour divisions, propelling it into a comprehensive tour operator role. With the advent of economic liberalisation in the 90s, STIC sensed the need to diversify our offerings. “In response, we ventured into the cruise marketing sector, rejuvenated our student and youth travel segment, and explored new verticals.”

Over the last five decades, STIC has pioneered diverse travel-related ventures, catering to the ever-evolving needs of the Indian traveller. “Our journey began with the development of robust inbound and outbound tour divisions. From Nepal and Sri Lanka to captivating destinations such as Khajuraho, Kerala, and Kashmir, we ventured into unexplored territories. Expanding our horizons, we facilitated journeys to other markets like Africa, South America, and the Far East. Our travel offerings span the spectrum, encompassing everything from tours and MICE to cruises and expeditions.”

STIC’s growth can be attributed to the innate capacity to adapt. It consistently focused on pioneering niches that introduce fresh experiences or innovative products to the market. “This strategy has steered us toward specialisation, a trait that sets us apart. The ability to discern and respond to changing traveller preferences has driven us to establish ourselves as pioneers in numerous travel sectors.”

In 2021, Goyal appointed his daughter, Isha as CEO and Executive Director of STIC Travel. She formally joined the company in 2004 after completing her MBA. “As we celebrate our company’s 50th anniversary, I believe that our greatest learning in this journey so far, lies in understanding that success is transient and learning is perpetual. Looking forward to the next 20 years, our commitment to innovation and excellence has been the foundation of our success, and it will continue to guide us. Over the next two decades, our vision is to not only maintain our leadership in the industry but also to set new standards of excellence. We’re dedicated to creating a positive impact on our customers, employees, and the communities we serve,” she said.

Isha Goyal lists key pillars for STIC’s vision:
1. Innovation: STIC will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, chasing and bringing new brands and travel experiences to the Indian audience.
2. Global Reach: In the next two decades, the aim to expand reach further, exploring new markets and partnerships to bring our offerings to even more customers worldwide.
3. Talent Development: Our people are our greatest asset. As we look ahead, we’re committed to fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth. We want to attract and retain top talent by providing opportunities for development and advancement within our organisation.
4. Customer-Centric Approach: Our customers have been the driving force behind our success. In the coming years, we’ll deepen our understanding of their evolving needs and deliver solutions that exceed their expectations, providing exceptional value and service.
5. Digital Transformation: Embracing the digital age is paramount. We’ll leverage technology to enhance our operations, improve customer experiences, and drive efficiency across the board.
6. Partnerships: Collaboration will be a cornerstone of our journey. We’ll actively seek out partnerships with like-minded organizations, startups, and industry leaders to leverage collective expertise for mutual growth.

At STIC, the strategic integration of technology is fundamental to its continued success and expansion. Isha said, “We’ve woven technology into the very fabric of our operations, employing it to enhance every facet of our business. From the moment a customer engages with us to the final service delivery, technology is a guiding force. Our CRM systems leverage data analytics to provide us with deep insights into customer preferences, enabling us to tailor our services to their specific needs. This personalised approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters lasting relationships.

Moreover, STIC is investing significantly in data analytics and artificial intelligence. “These technologies allow us to forecast travel trends, optimise pricing strategies, and enhance overall decision-making. This, in turn, empowers us to stay ahead of the curve and offer cutting-edge services that resonate with the evolving needs of modern travellers,” she said.

While airlines have been a cornerstone of its business, STIC’s vision extends well beyond. One of our major areas of focus lies in growing the cruise vertical. “We recognise the growing interest in cruise travel and are committed to becoming a leading conduit between exceptional cruise experiences and eager travellers. Our aim is to providing industry with an array of cruise options that cater to different preferences and destinations.”

Talking about expansion via M&As, Isha said, “We are continually evaluating opportunities to enhance our business and explore avenues for growth. Our strategic decisions are rooted in a comprehensive analysis of market dynamics, customer needs, and industry trends. Our primary focus is to ensure that any step we take aligns seamlessly with our long-standing commitment to excellence and value creation. As we move forward, we remain open to avenues that contribute positively to our journey while maintaining our steadfast dedication to our mission and values.”

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