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EDITOR’S NOTE

Meeting of minds

T

here seems to be something unique about the Indian travel and tourism fraternity. Stakeholders and professionals connected to this sector can be easily described as patient and resilient. They have been diligently pushing the cause of tourism year on year, through conventions, conferences and other forums with some hope to hear favourable news. Some appeals have been addressed and answered, while few are yet to receive serious attention from governmental bodies. But the fact remains, the industry is still pushing its case, as newer challenges emerge with changing times and technology. New players, the likes of Paytm are venturing into the travel space. This September will witness a series of industry conventions, wherein once again industry thought leaders will gather to ponder on the best way forward to bring in the desired growth and business resurgence. From the ICPB Convention in

HEAD OFFICE MUMBAI EXPRESS TRAVELWORLD® The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Business Publication Division 2nd Floor, Express Tower, Nariman Point Mumbai- 400 021 Board line: 022- 67440000 Ext. 527 Branch Offices NEW DELHI Prabhas Jha The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Business Publication Division Express Building, B-1/B Sector 10 Noida 201 301 Dist.Gautam Budh nagar (U.P.) India. Board line: 0120-6651500. Mobile: +91 9899707440 BANGALORE Mathen Mathew The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Business Publication Division 502, 5th Floor, Devatha Plaza, Residency road, Bangalore- 560025 Mobile: +91 9840826366

“As we follow the industry proceedings closely,it is desirable if the industry works together as true partners.PPP solutions cannot be piecemeal but should be prudent and pragmatic”

6-3-885/7/B, Ground Floor, VV Mansion, Somaji Guda, Hyderabad – 500 082 KOLKATA Ajanta Sengupta The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Business Publication Division JL No. 29&30, NH-6, Mouza- Prasastha & Ankurhati, Vill & PO- Ankurhati P.S.- Domjur (Nr.Ankurhati Check Bus Stop), Dist. Howrah- 711 409, Mobile: +91 9831182580 Email id: ajanta.sengupta@expressindia.com KOCHI Mathen Mathew The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Ground Floor, Sankoorikal Building, Kaloor – Kadavanthra Road Kaloor, Kochi – 682 017 Mobile: +91 9840826366 COIMBATORE The Indian Express (P) Ltd. No. 205-B, 2nd Floor, Vivekanand Road, Opp. Rajarathinam Hospital Ram Nagar, Coimbatore- 641 009

Hyderabad (August end) to the IATO Convention in Bhubaneswar, from the IAAI Convention and ATOAI Convention in Kerala to that of the FHRAI Convention in Bengaluru and the OTOAI Convention in Ras Al Khaimah, industry minds will meet at various locations to look, relook, learn and unlearn what's best for their associations and hopefully look at what's best for the industry in general. Discussions, that hover around PPP models and industry investments should be concrete rather than just comforting words. As we look at and follow the industry proceedings closely, it would be desirable if the industry works together as true partners and not those just on paper. PPP solutions cannot be piecemeal but should be prudent and pragmatic. Here's wishing the industry a fruitful meeting of minds.

AHMEDABAD Nirav Mistry The Indian Express (P) Ltd. 3rd Floor, Sambhav House, Near Judges Bunglows, Bodakdev, Ahmedabad - 380 015 Mobile: +91 9586424033 BHOPAL Prabhas Jha The Indian Express (P) Ltd. Business Publication Division 2nd Floor, Express Tower, Nariman Point Mumbai- 400 021 Board line: 022- 67440000 Ext. 527 JAIPUR Prabhas Jha The Indian Express (P) Ltd. S2,J-40, Shyam GHP Enclave, Krishna Marg, C-Scheme, Jaipur - 302 001 Mobile: +91 9899707440

REEMA LOKESH Editor editorial.etw@expressindia.com

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CONTENTS SPOTLIGHT Vol 12 No 8 September 2017 Pages 40 Chairman of the Board

Viveck Goenka Sr Vice President - BPD

Neil Viegas Editor

Reema Lokesh* Assistant Editor

Steena Joy

ODISHA’S TOURISM TREASURES

26

UNFOLDING A DREAM AT CHILIKA For the CMD of Swosti Group, the Swosti Chilika Resort is more than just another addition to his portfolio of products. It was a vision to give the state of Odisha an eco tourism luxury experience for the discerning traveller

Sr. Associate Editor

Sudipta Dev CONTENT TEAM New Delhi

Saloni Bhatia DESIGN National Design Editor

IN FOCUS

Bivash Barua Assistant Art Director

Pravin Temble

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Senior Artists

Ratilal Ladani, Rajesh Jadhav SCHEDULING & COORDINATION

Ashish Anchan Photo Editor

Sandeep Patil WHERE ARE THE ARRs HEADING? One of the most-awaited highlights of every FHW exposition is the Hospitality Think Tank - GM’s Conclave. FHW Bengaluru this year saw the GMs of six well known properties in the city share their forthright views on the subject

MARKETING Regional Heads

Harit Mohanty - East & West Prabhas Jha - North Marketing Team

Debnarayan Dutta Ajanta Sengupta Mathen Mathew

Scenic. Serene. Sublime. Odisha, a land of myriad marvels has everything to offer the discerning global traveller - from lakes to temples, festivals to eco tourism hotspots. As the state prepares to play host to the IATO Convention and the Odisha Travel Bazaar, ETW explores this multi-faceted destination

CIRCULATION

Mohan Varadakar

(21-25) LIFE

PRODUCTION General Manager

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MARKETS

B R Tipnis Manager

Bhadresh Valia Express TravelWorld® POSTAL REGD. NO. MCS/163/2016 – 18 RNI Reg. No.MAHENG/2005/15993 Printed by The Indian Express (P) Ltd. and published by Ms Vaidehi Thakar on

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INTERVIEW WITH M P SIVADATTAN, DIRECTOR – KERALA HATS (HOMESTAY AND TOURISM SOCIETY)

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HONG KONG TO REVIVE INDIAN TOURIST ARRIVALS HIT BY DEMO, GST

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JORDAN TOURISM BOARD HOLDS EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS IN KEY INDIAN MARKETS

behalf of The Indian Express Press, Plot No. EL-208, TTC Industrial Area, Mahape, Navi Mumbai - 400710 and Published from Express Towers, 2nd Floor, Nariman Point, Mumbai - 400021. (Editorial & Administrative Offices:

P03 : EDITOR’S NOTE P35 : MOVEMENTS

Express Towers, 1st Floor, Nariman Point, Mumbai – 400021)

A PEOPLE’S MAN Ashwani Lohani, new chairman of the Railway Board, and former head ITDC, MP Tourism and Air India

P36 : WEEKEND

Copyright © 2017 The Indian Express (P) Limited. All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner, electronic or otherwise, in whole or in part, without prior written permission is prohibited. *Responsible for selection of news under PRB Act


IN THE NEWS

Govt aggressive on cruise tourism industry Mohit Rathod Mumbai THE GOVERNMENT of India, identifying cruise tourism as a major industry driver in the future, will be leveraging upon this segment during the next few years. Recently, the Ministry of Shipping, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, had announced reforms to the regulatory processes governing the cruise tourism industry in the country. The reforms – simplifying the rules and procedures pertaining to various aspects of cruise port operations like security, immigration, and customs – reforms are based on the recommendations of a global consultant engaged by the ministry to draw up an action plan for providing a customer-friendly and hasslefree logistics process for the

cruise tourism industry. At a recent event in Mumbai, Mumbai Port and Ministry of Shipping launched three reports 'Mumbai Port SoPs for Cruise Operations', 'Roadmap for Sea Cruise Tourism' and 'Cruise Terminals in India'. Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said, "Now is the new era for cruise tourism. Mumbai recorded 60,000 cruise passengers, but the city has the capacity to attract 300,000 cruise passengers, which is an opportunity that needs to be utilised. India will soon launch e-visa and elanding card for cruise industry." On national level, the shipping ministry and tourism ministry have identified that India has potential to attract 40 lakh cruise tourists annually. Whereas, the reformatory initiative is expected to

fetch revenue gains of around INR 35,500 crore. Additionally, the number of cruise ships to India can also grow from 158 to 955 per year. Also recently, Costa Cruises had announced its shorter (three and four night sailings) from Kochi and Mumbai. Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Destinations (representative of

Costa Cruises in India), said, "The shorter sailings have been introduced to customer demand here. Indians want to cruise, but they prefer shorter itineraries. The cruise industry in India is changing and the new initiatives will benefit the industry." Rashmi Verma, secretary, Ministry of Tourism, com-

mented, "With the growth in experiential travel's demand, the cruise segment will fit well in this segment. India's potential remains untapped. We have a vast coastline. The growing affluence of the middle class is also a positive factor for cruise tourism's growth." She further pointed out that currently Indians have to sail from Dubai and Singapore, and more cruises from India can strengthen the country's position in this segment. The Ministry of Tourism has classified cruises as niche products, which needs special attention. There are also plans to develop more port destinations other than Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai. New infrastructure development at Mumbai, at a cost of INR 300 crore, will be also undertaken.

ScoutMyTrip : Driven by community Sudipta Dev Mumbai TRAVEL TECH startup ScoutMyTrip, was launched by Deepak Ananth and Vineet Rajan, to help travellers plan their road trips in the best possible way, across India. The platform today has a 25,000 strong community that provides real-time information to users, free of cost. “People want to take road trips, but there is lack of structured information. Google shows you the map and how to get there. Tripadvisor tells what you can do when you get to the place, and multitudes of hotel aggregators provide the

accomodation options. We bring all this information on a single platform,” said Deepak Ananth, CEO, ScoutMyTrip. Pointing out that roadtrips have always been a part of our lives, Ananth stated, “At every destination you always have to take a car to explore the place. That’s the journey we want to be a part of. It does not have to be a journey of 5000 km, it can be 150-200 km. We want you to explore the countryside a little bit more better and efficiently and make it safer for you, by giving you all the information at ScoutMyTrip.” The system is built on a robust technology platform,

Deepak Ananth

which picks up where a traveller is at that time, and shows the routes and condition of the roads. From night halts to things to do (trekking, temples, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, haunted places, etc) along the highway at 15 km radius is shown. Toilets, petrol pumps, places to eat (including type of food) are all highlighted. “All the information is given by travellers, we have tapped into the community that we are part of because of the amount of travel we have done,” remarked Ananth. The information and usage is free, the charge is only when services are booked on the platform, for example hotel

rooms, car bookings, insurance and other ancillary services, like camera rentals, etc. OYO Rooms is a partner which has in fact given a call centre number for personalised highway related rooms. ScoutMytrip also connects brands with consumers , like it recently organised the highest blogger meet at Khardung La pass in Ladakh - a brand activity with OYO Rooms. A similar activity was done when OYO Rooms was launched in Nepal. “We did a cashless roadtrip when demonetisation came in with Kotak,” said Ananth, pointing out that they are also doing curated trips.

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IN THE NEWS

‘KANNUR WILLBE THE NERVE CENTRE OFTHE NEWMALABAR CIRCUIT’ P Bala Kiran, director, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, outlines his plans to make God’s Own Country the new adventure hub of the country By Steena Joy How can Kerala be developed as an adventure tourism hub? Kerala, which is known to be the God’s Own Country, is blessed with a wide range of natural and scenic beauty which support diversified adventure activities such as trekking, surfing, wildlife safaris, paragliding and aquatic sports. Kerala offers the thrilling experience of adventure activities to the domestic as well as foreign tourists. The Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala is following a robust development plan in order to promote the adventure tourism of the state as it has huge potential and can substantially contribute to the overall growth of the tourism sector. With the prime focus on developing new possibilities to drive adventure tourism, the tourism board is keen on working closely with the forest department. The endeavour of joint efforts with the forest department will result in the growth of adventure tourism without harming the environment. With the promotion of adventure tourism, Kerala will be re-branded as ‘the land of adventure’ to woo the younger generation by offering them activity and water-based tourism. Emphasising on water based activities, the tourism board plans to develop water parks. Which destinations in Kerala have the potential to attract adventure enthusiasts? India’s most happening destination, Kerala has in store an array of adventure packed destinations, including gushing rivers, high-altitude mountains, dense forests and vast

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stretches of the sea. The state offers vacationers a lot of opportunities and experiences to unleash their adventure spirit. One of the popular places that foreign and domestic tourists prefer to visit is Wayanad, which is famed for its rich biosphere of the Western Ghats. It is the base for various walking trails and trekking routes. Tourists also prefer to indulge in adventurous activities like climbing to Chembra Peak and treks across the Brahmagiri hills and Meenmutty. Another prominent destination that tourists are opting to experience adventure tourism is Thekkady, which is wellknown as Kerala’s biggest sanctuary. The widely known Periyar National Park is one of the world’s top 18 biodiversity hotspots. The state has witnessed escalated number of vacationers over the couple of years for alluring adventure activities such as bamboo rafting, night trekking, boating, camping, and wildlife spotting. Moreover, the tropical rainforests has a lot to offer in terms of adventure tourism. Thenmala is famed for vibrant rubber and tea plantations at the foothills of the Western Ghats in Kollam district. This place is a great eco tourism hotspot, with the privilege of being India’s first planned eco tourism project. Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary offers exciting wildlife sightings and boating experiences to travellers. In addition, adventure enthusiasts can also experience nature walks, rock climbing, guided treks and river-crossing activities in the

plans to promote its Malabar region, including Kozhikode, Wayanad, Vekkal and Kannur aggressively through a `325 crore project. Kannur will be the nerve centre of the new Malabar circuit, which will be linked through a river cruise project – called ‘Malanadu cruise’. The activity-oriented tourism would help the state to achieve the target of doubling foreign tourist arrivals and increasing domestic tourist arrivals by 50 per cent by 2021. P Bala Kiran

Adventure Zone. Munnar is another preferred destination to visit in Kerala, especially in the months of autumn. Sightseeing of the tea plantation and visits to a tea factory and tea museum are the some of the rewarding adventures for travellers. Climb at Anaimudi Mountain, boating at Madupatty and Sethuparvathipuram Dam and wildlife safari at the nearby Eravikulam National Park offers fascinating adventurous activities to vacationers. Kuttikanam near Peermedu in Idukki is one of the best places for adventure seekers. This picturesque hill station is surrounded by lush green tea plantations. Has the tourism department allocated any promotional budgets for developing this segment? The state is following a vigorous promotional campaign in order to drive growth of adventure tourism with the promotion of Northern Kerala. Under the campaign, Kerala Tourism

What role can the ATOAI play in growing the adventure tourism segment in God’s Own Country? Adventure Tour Operators’ Association of India (ATOAI) has always been keen on promoting adventure and ecotourism in India in order to create awareness about the immense potential for adventure tourism. ATOAI has been a strong support to the tourism department of the Government of Kerala by promoting adventure tourism in an environment friendly manner. The interest of travellers is increasingly gravitating towards adventure tourism offerings, including expanded worldview, nature and discovery, physical health, fun and thrills, unique and meaningful experiences. With the aim to celebrate, highlight and deliberate on these new pathways, Kerala is hosting the 13th Annual Convention of ATOAI, which is scheduled for September 18-21, 2017 at Kumarkom in Kerala. With the aim to drive the growth of adventure tourism, the adventure travel fraternity will come together to emphasise its commitment to

activity and adventure based tourism. Is Kerala Tourism working on safety guidelines for adventure tour operators in the state? With the aim to promote adventure tourism and increase the tourist footfall in the state, Kerala Tourism has inculcated several stringent safety guidelines for adventure tour operators. These guidelines have been developed in tune with international standards post discussion with various departments such as ports, police, fire safety, minor irrigation and health. Collectors of all the 14 District Tourism Promotion Councils are responsible for the implementation of the safety guidelines. Periodic checks have been conducted in order to ensure compliance. Through taking preventive safety measure, it is estimated to build confidence among tourists and adventure enthusiasts. Some of the fundamental guidelines for tour operators are as under: ● Prepare definite pre-departure programmes ● Awareness modules to be distributed among the tourists before their departure to the destination ( including culture, history, food habits, climate, responsible travel tour programmes, healthcare, do’s and don’ts, dress code, etc.) ● Fix group size for all programmes taking care the carrying capacity of the destination. All escorted tours should have tour managers. ● Detailed information to be given to tourists on arrival at the destination.


IN THE NEWS

Time to reinvent IATO in Odisha The 33rd Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) convention is going to be held in Bhubneswar, Odisha from September 7 to 10 at the Mayfair Convention Centre. The theme for this convention is 'India Tourism- Time to reinvent ourselves'. Moving past the challenges of the industry the association has decided to plan ahead and discover new ways of growth through this convention

Pronab Sarkar

Rajeev Kohli

Lally Mathews

S

connectivity has been solved with Air Asia starting their weekly service to Kuala Lampur which will soon turn into a daily flight. Spice Jet has also shown interest in starting a weekly service connecting Bhubneswar to Sharjah which will add to our international connections. We have proposed to add three areas of Jeypore, Rourkela and Rajgarh under the Udaan scheme which shall help increase regional connectivity and also promote tribal tourism. Odisha has also been sanctioned 80 crore in the Swadesh Darshan Scheme which shall trigger further developments.” Pronab Sarkar, president, IATO informed, “Our last convention in Odisha was during the year 2008 and I must say a lot has changed in the state from the perspective of tourism. There have been some landmark changes in its infrastructure development and new products have been added to its offerings. We look forward to raise more awareness about the destination

through our convention which can give the state well deserved attention.” Lally Mathews, honorary secretary, IATO mentioned that there had been tremendous efforts from the government of Odisha to bring the convention to their state. Mathews added, “It feels great to see such active support from the government. It shows they understand the importance of tourism and are deeply involved in the development process.” This year the sessions have been planned in a different manner in order to involve the audience views stated Rajeev Kohli, senior vice president, IATO. He added, “This is the first time we have deviated from traditional format and made it more interactive. The panel session will involve half hour of Q and A where the audience can add their views and ideas to the subject.” Elaborating on the sessions planned, Rajiv Mehra, convention chairman, informed, “The first day will include sessions on India as a brand, new mar-

ince its inception, the association has brought forward industry stakeholders on a single platform to broaden their learning horizons. One of the main motive of the IATO convention is to come together as a team and identify the potential that lies within the country. The efforts continues as the association hosts its 33rd convention in the state of Odisha directed by a theme that would help them grow in the long run. The government of Odisha has shown tremendous support in inviting delegates to the convention. Ashok Chandra Panda, minister of tourism and culture, government of Odisha was himself present during a press meet to officially announce the convention. Commenting on the recent growth in the state, Panda, stated, “A lot has changed in the state over the years and our latest tourism policy introduced last year gives more investment opportunities to the private players. The problem of international

Rajiv Mehra

Amaresh Tiwari

We need to reinvent ourselves and move beyond the cultural and heritage aspect of our country. We have a lot to offer and it is time to showcase our potential in order to compete with international destinations keting goals, Odisha as a destination while next day shall highlight the new generation in the industry, moving beyond cultural heritage and also a special presentation by Facebook. The three days will be highly interactive where the agents shall grasp new things and also discuss the way forward post GST.” Amaresh Tiwari, hony, treasurer, strongly feels that one major takeaway from the convention will be a new outlook towards the industry. “We need to reinvent ourselves and move beyond the

cultural and heritage aspect of our country. We have a lot to offer and it is time to showcase our potential in order to compete with international destinations,” he said. Odisha has been highly active on the tourism front in the last few years. They have not only been developing their tourist spots but have also focused on different aspects of travel like eco-tourism, tribal tourism, heritage tourism among other things. IATO has compiled the best mix to be presented through this convention.

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IN THE NEWS

ADTOI convention to be held at Vizag from November 17-19 Saloni Bhatia New Delhi ASSOCIATION of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) will be hosting their this year's convention in Vizag from November 17-19. The two day convention has been planned with the support of Andhra Pradhesh government in order to promote the port city along with some neighbouring tourist destinations. The association is expecting participation of more than 300 members from the travel and trade industry. Rajat Sawhney, vice president, ADTOI has been nominated as chairman convention and Dalip Gupta, joint secretary, ADTOI will be the co-chairman of the convention.

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The convention themed as 'Explore India- One Country, Many Worlds' will be held at the Novotel Hotel at Varun Beach. Speaking to Express TravelWorld, PP Khanna, president. ADTOI informed, “Vizag is one of the cleanest cities in India and has tremendous opportunities lying untapped. The beaches are exceptional with some new tourist spots. Even the hotel where the convention is being held is located a prime beach location where all the rooms are sea facing. Through the convention we shall bring this new destination to light and promote it to our best ability.” Vizag also known as Visakhpatnam is the financial capital of Andhra Pradesh. One of the largest city in the state, it lies

amidst the Eastern Ghats facing the Bay of Bengal. Blessed with natural beauty of the hills and some pristine beaches, it can be a new destination for the Indian travellers to explore. The city is surrounded by three hills, Sri Venkateswara Konda, Ross Hill and Dargah Konda. It is referred to by many nicknames such as, Goa of the East Coast, The City of Destiny, The Jewel of the East Coast. Being developed as one of the smart cities under the Smart Cities Mission, it has also been ranked as one of the cleanest cities in India. The ADTOI convention held at the city will give it the much needed promotion on the domestic front and help gain the attention of new age travellers.

IAAI's new revenue model i-Top to be launched at ICON-2017 in Kochi Steena Joy Mumbai THE IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) will be organising its Annual Convention – ICON 2017 – this September in Kochi at the picturesque Cherai Beach. The theme for the Convention is – “Travel Agents by 2030 – Protocols Redefined”. At the convention, IAAI is all set to launch iTop (Indian Travel-Agents Own Portal), a new revenue model that would safeguard the interests of its members from all the present challenging market conditions. Elaborating on i-Top, Biji Eapen, president, IAAI said, “Today, in this ‘zero’ commission scenario, i-Top will provide users a guaranteed opportunity to earn substantial commission for the sale of NDC airline tickets and also significant remuneration for other services like cancellation, refund, rerouting, date change etc, for which airlines used to charge penalties without giving a share to travel agents. The direct connectivity to airlines will also result in a substantial reduction in Agent Debit Memos (ADMs), since in an NDC environment, the airline makes the offer directly to travel agents.” He added that i-Top truly represents the changes that are taking place in the Global Information Technology and it can be integrated with IATA functionalities, BSP billing and payment systems or interlining with the NDC and the XML models. Explaining on how i-Top will offer flexibility to member agents, Eapen in-

Biji Eapen

formed, “i-Top shall be integrated with overseas medical insurance companies, forex, rail & bus reservations, tour packages, cruise, car rental and all such facilities. i-Top will also facilitate consolidators, OTAs or even any member agents to sell their own products through iTop to the network users and the user agents will have the flexibility to display all such related services, compare quality, services, trustworthiness, pricing and remunerative benefits that will help them to promote products without any compromise.” The agent-friendly i-Top offers flexibility for B2B, B2C and B2D and is openly accessible to IATA agents in the ‘Active Member’ category and, with certain limitations, also to the ‘Trade Partner’ category members (tour operators and non-IATA agents). IAAI has recently signed an exclusive contract with Verteil Technologies for access and distribution of NDC listed airline products through its direct connect platform, “VDC” (Verteil Direct Connect) which is integrated with i-Top.


IN THE NEWS

OTOAI convention to showcase Ras Al Khaimah's luxurious offerings Saloni Bhatia New Delhi OUTBOUND TOUR Operators Association of India (OTOAI) will host its annual convention in Ras Al Khaimah from September 13-16, 2017. The three day event will feature cutting edge knowledge sessions, networking opportunities and a deeper insight on what Ras Al Khaimah has to offer to the India market. Guldeep Singh Sahni, president, OTOAI, and Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah

Guldeep Singh Sahni

Tourism Development, signed a MOU for the same earlier this year. Sahni said , “Ras Al Khaimah has been selected with the intention to add new products to the kitty of tour agents. We see it as an upcoming market in the UAE and feel it has a lot of potential. We will look at tapping the wedding segment and it can also be added as a package deal with Dubai.” Riaz Munshi, vice president, OTOAI and Gurdeep Gujral, joint secretary OTOAI have been selected as the

chairman and co-chairman respectively. Commenting on the latest advancements, Munshi, mentioned, “The association is expecting close to 200 delegates for the convention. Themed as 'Changing Times: Creating Opportunities' it will unfold what new possibilities lie ahead for India's outbound market. A white paper will also discuss India's outbound tourism potential and what new can agents tap on. Looking at the technical aspects, the convention will also feature discussions on digital me-

dia and how to shift online." He further added, "Ras Al Khaimah as a destination offers some unique luxurious resorts. Some of which are located away from the city and easily accessible via Dubai. We wish to showcase these offerings to our members." The post convention tours will also include a two night stay at Hotel Shangri- La in Dubai for delegates. OTOAI’s last year’s annual convention was held in Bali and this year it has decided to explore the UAE market.

13th ATOAI convention to focus on destination Kerala ETW Staff Mumbai ADVENTURE Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) convention will hold its 13th Annual Convention at Backwaters Ripples Resort, Kumarakom, Kerala from September 18 - 21, 2017. The theme for this year’s edition is 'Emerging Pathways'. The global tourism industry is undergoing significant changes, with travellers increasingly preferring adventure and active holidays. The niche has not only become mainstream but is now leading it. The annual convention is supported and hosted by Kerala Tourism but ATOAI is inviting all stakeholders to contribute in its resolve to make India the adventure capital of the world. These include Government, tourism boards,

ATOAI has ensured that its annual convention and events travel to different parts of the country to connect all stakeholders in the adventure tourism and to draw attention to host destinations Swadesh Kumar

industry, experts and media. The agenda will include sessions on how to achieve these goals, networking amongst delegates, exhibits by state tourism boards and industry players, and FAM trips and a day of adventure to showcase Kerala as a

unique tourist destination. ATOAI has ensured that its annual convention and events travel to different parts of the country to connect all stakeholders in the adventure tourism and to draw attention to host destinations. Capt. Swadesh Ku-

mar, president, ATOAI is optimistic that the new destination will give a fillip to adventure tourism in the country. There are different kinds of adventure possible within Kerala. Hills in the state make it possible to experience different forms of

trekking including tiger wilderness camping, valley treks and forest treks as well. The best places for this include Periyar, Meeshapulimala and Korangini. The backwaters take up a large section of the state of Kerala, and are hence a great place for lots of action. Backwater kayaking is popular at Alleppey and Kuarakom. There is also a unique opportunity to try some white water rafting at Bhoothathankettu. River kayaking along the Periyar and Thekkady sanctuaries offer the perfect backdrop. Biking is an incredible form of recreation and also adventure in Kerala. You can bike through the hills, along the plantations and even the backwaters to give you a sense of the spaciousness and also the beauty of the state.

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IN THE NEWS

India a priority market: Oman Convention Bureau Sudipta Dev Mumbai OMAN CONVENTION Bureau has the responsibility to develop the MICE industry in Oman and promote the country as a niche MICE destination in major source markets. “One of the priority source markets for us in the next three-five years is India,” said Khalid Al Zadjali, director, Oman Convention Bureau, who was in India recently to promote the destination in the India market. The launch of the second phase of the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC) will give a fillip to MICE tourism. “Many hotels in Muscat have facilities for hosting MICE events. Upcoming properties will add 3000 rooms by end of 2018 including number of international chains like W

Khalid Al Zadjali

Hotel, Jumeirah Hotel, JW Marriott, Rotana, Kempinski, Crowne Plaza. All the properties have good MICE facilities,” stated Zadjali, adding that rebranding of Oman Air and expansion of its routes will contribute to the MICE market - there are 150 flights

weekly from different destinations in India to Muscat. Zadjali also expects the unique aspects of the destination – from history and heritage to beaches and natural beauty, to add to the attraction for a MICE traveller from India. “Oman offers an authentic Ara-

bian experience,” he mentioned, pointing out that delegates can explore nearby places like Jabal Akhdar, which is a hill station with properties like Anantara and Alila ; then there are camps in deserts – from luxury to budget. The second phase of Oman

Convention & Exhibition Centre is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018, and will include a major convention centre hall, 40 meeting rooms, two ballrooms for events, special occasions and weddings. Attached to that will be two hotels – JW Marriott with 300 rooms which will open at the same time; and a 300 keys four-star Crowne Plaza. Zadjali is confident that with the coming up of the new infrastructure, Oman Air’s expansion and the government supporting the MICE industry, Oman will take its position as a major MICE destination in the region. In India, Oman Convention Bureau is planning strategic partnership with some MICE houses. There is also a focus on promoting Oman as a wedding destination.

Bahrain taps on India's destination weddings to increase arrivals Saloni Bhatia New Delhi AS PART of the plan to highlight Bahrain’s overall tourism offering, the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) unveiled a new segment to promote the kingdom as a ‘prime wedding destination’. Seeing the huge potential in India's destination wedding segment, Bahrain plans to promote its numerous offerings like the island resorts, heritage, beaches and the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) to the India market.

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BTEA participated in the recent Vogue Wedding Show in New Delhi to unveil its exclusive offerings. Speaking to Express TravelWorld, Ali Hassan Folland, advisor, Bahrain Tourism Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), said, “In our startegy for 20152018 we had listed that we will increase our tourism contribution from 4.6 to 7 per cent in the non oil economy. In order to maintain the steady growth we have come up with several development projects for beaches and other tourism facilities.

One of projects is to promote Bahrain as a island wedding destination which started about 15 months ago. We focused on two main markets namely Saudi Arabia, which contributes to 60 per cent of our inbound tourists and India which holds immense potential for the near future.” He further added, “India market is now looking for newer destinations moving away from the conventional ones like Thailand, Dubai, etc. Bahrain as a destination offers a lot in terms of its historical con-

nect with India and close proximity. BTEA as the facilatator can assist these wedding functions by easing the arrival and transportation process to give a unique experience to the families.” Bahrain recently hosted a major Indian wedding for 1300 guests where the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons were completely booked for three days. They have already received booking for weddings in November, December and March next year. Apart from major hotel chains like Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton,

Movenpick, Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Sofitel among others, Bahrain also offers stadiums and restaurants for different shows. The Al Noor Tents, Oliveto, Capital Club Bahrain, BIC and the Royal Gold Club Bahrain to list a few. Their online website lists series of wedding planners, jewellers and fashion designers to assist with the planning. The upcoming destination is already tapping new international markets through other representation offices in Riyadh, China, Moscow, London, Paris and Frankfurt.


IN THE NEWS

China Southern Airlines begins direct flights from New Delhi to Sanya

Higher airport charges and taxation shackle airline industry: Naresh Goyal

Saloni Bhatia New Delhi

ETW Staff Mumbai

STARTING August 15, China Southern Airlines started a direct flight to Sanya with one stop layover in Guangzhou. In order to raise awareness about the destination in the India market, Sanya Tourism Development Commission (STDC), China, hosted a special event in New Delhi. A delegation of 17 members including hotels, agents and tourism board were present to answer various queries from Indian agents. Zhang Yue Thomson, vice director, STDC, Marketing Communication Center and Zhang Yang, executive chairman, Sanya Tourism Association represented the government body promoting tourism. Announcing the introduction of direct flights by China

Southern Airlines, Yang, shared, “This is the first time the government has invested resources to develop tourism as a prdocut for the economy. With the best air quality in China, Sanya offers a fusion of a suitable living environment, natural rivers and city life pleasures. We had introduced a long term rewrd policy to open international direct flights to the city and China Southern Airlines tapped on the great opportunity.” “With the introduction of direct flights and increased awareness we are looking at increasing tourism flow between the two countries. One of the main reasons for a large delegation to come for this event was to connect with the India market and understand their needs,” added Yang. Sanya is a small tropical

beach destination in Hainan Province in south of China. Sanya is also known as China’s Hawaii with 20 km long stretch of beach line and packed with lot of activities for tourist like golf courses, natural scenic beauty, ethnic cultural experience, water sports such as snorkeling and jet-skiing, rainforest hiking to name a few. Sanya has 256 hotels, with 46 international brands with as many as 100 hotels on the beach. China Southern Airlines Company, InterContinental Sanya Resort, Hilton Sanya Yalong Bay Resort & Spa, Binglanggu Hainan Li & Miao Cultural Heritage Park, Grand Hyatt Sanya Haitang Bay; Mandarin Oriental were also part of the Chinese delegation representing Sanya.

RAISING the issue of increasing airport charges and levies along with high taxation, Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal has said such factors continue to “shackle” the airline industry. Goyal, in the airline’s annual report for 2016-17, sent to the shareholders ahead of the company’s AGM next month, also said the existing airport infrastructure has not been able to match with the rapid growth in passenger volumes and aircraft movement. Goyal, however, maintained that the domestic aviation sector remains robust and holds out significant opportunities to the players in the space. “For aviation to truly realise its potential, several areas must be addressed. Escalating airport levies, surcharges and high taxation continue to shackle the industry, ” Goyal said. The current airport infrastructure is unable to keep pace with the breakneck growth in capacity and traffic, he said adding, “Addressing these issues is the most urgent need of the hour.” However, these challenges notwithstanding, the domestic aviation market is set for a bright future, he added. Goyal also said government’s UDAN scheme will further boost air connectivity across the country. Significantly, Jet Airways along with some other domestic carriers did not participate in the first round of bidding for operating

flights under UDAN scheme. In the first phase, five air operators –Alliance Air, SpiceJet, TruJet, Air Deccan and Air Odisha – bagged the flying rights to operate on 128 routes connecting over 30 underserved airports under the scheme. “I am convinced that the Indian aviation sector remains robust and holds out significant opportunities with political and economic stability, growth in GDP, higher disposable incomes and a young and aspirational population contributing largely to the potential of aviation,” Goyal said in the report. The Mumbai-based full service carrier will also announce June quarter results next month along with its AGM as it is adopting new accounting standards from this fiscal. “Since the company is adopting the Indian Accounting Standards (Ind AS) from the financial year 2017-18, the company may submit its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, 2017 to the stock exchanges by September 14, 2017,” Jet Airways had said in a regulatory filing earlier this month. Ind AS is converged with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Under SEBI regulations, a listed company is required to submit its quarterly financial results to the stock exchanges within 45 days of the end of a quarter. Jet Airways group had reported a net profit of `438 crore for the financial year ended March 31, 2017. (PTI)

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IN THE NEWS

Minor Hotels keen to expand brands in India Sudipta Dev Mumbai THAILAND headquartered Minor Hotels, that has a strong presence in APAC and the Middle East had launched Oaks Bodhgaya early this year in India. The hotel group is in fact one of the three investors in the property. “We have guests from Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka and India, we are familiar with these markets. Also, there are no good properties in the local market, and there was a need for quality accommodation,” said Marion Walsh Hedouin, VP marketing and PR, Minor Hotels. The centrally-located property has 74 rooms and four suites, along with meeting facility, meditation area,

and other facilities. “We would love to see the expansion of our brands in India, in particular Anantara, which is a special brand that fits the DNA of India,” said Hedouin, adding that it is about finding the right opportunities for the brands. “We are in discussion with various partners,” she revealed. India being a key source market for Minor Hotels, the properties in many countries have been drawing Indian guests, not just families and couples but also the wedding segment and MICE. The hotels in Sri Lanka have a significant focus on the India market. Thailand properties also have been popular with the India market, in particular two in Bangkok – Anantara Riverside

and Anantara Siam. “Both welcome a lot of Indian guests – for leisure and for destination weddings. We have a lovely property in the south of Thailand called Anantara Si Kao, where we again welcome a lot of Indian guests, particularly for destination weddings. We are receptive to what a guest wants

and have Indian chefs in a number of our hotels,” mentioned Hedouin. Anantara Riverside is adjacent to Avani Riverside, both properties together have 500 rooms, and the meeting space can accommodate upto 1000 people. With increased air connectivity to secondary cities in

India, Anantara Siam has also seen a significant rise in highend MICE groups in the last one year. Remarked Hedouin, “India is a solid market for us, in Thailand there have been some upheavals in the past but that has not affected the Indian guests, who are very resilient and keep coming.”

'THIS IS THE RIGHTTIME FOR DREAM HOTEL GROUPTO EXPAND IN INDIA' Dream Hotel Group recently signed a hotel management agreement with Viiking Ventures, to open Dream New Delhi in 2019. Jay Stein, group CEO, Dream Hotel speaks about the brand strategy plans for the India market By Sudipta Dev What will be the unique brand positioning of Dream Hotels in New Delhi's luxury hospitality market ? Dream Hotels are unlike anything else in New Delhi's luxury hospitality market, because we are focused exclusively on lifestyle – and have been focused on lifestyle since 1996, 20 plus years of experience. Our forward-thinking design and innovative F&B experiences sets Dream apart from the competition.

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Will this be the beginning of your second entry and expansion plans in India ? We are excited about our first Dream Hotel in New Delhi, which is due to open in 2019. It will be an iconic property and we are working closely with the owning company to develop what will be a flagship for the Dream Hotels brand. With the growth India is experiencing and its positive outlook, we believe there is a strong rational for us to

bring our brands to the region including Dream, The Chatwal, Time and Unscripted.

Jay Stein

Are you looking at any other destinations in India for your different brands ? We think this is the right time for Dream Hotel Group to expand in India. The market is now fully ready for lifestyle brands such as Dream and Unscripted as well as boutique luxury hotels such as The Chatwal.

What kind of interest are you seeing from developers in India ? We are seeing a great interest from developers to develop different hotels with a different offering. We strongly believe that our brands and operating philosophy will directly cater to this gap in the market. We have a number of active discussions with major regional investors to develop each of our brands in the region.


IN THE NEWS

'WE WANTTO BRING MORE CLASSIFIED HOMESTAYS UNDER ONE ROOF' The Homestays & Rural Tourism Travel Meet 2017 will be held from September 15-17 at Bolgatty, Palace Convention Centre, Kochi. M P Sivadattan, director – Kerala HATS (Homestay and Tourism Society) spoke about the future roadmap for HATS By Steena Joy What is the main purpose behind holding this Meet? The main objective of the three day Travel Meet -2017 is to be prepare the tourism industry to understand the value and importance of rural tourism and homestays and offer a rare opportunity to exchange marketing ideas between buyers and exhibitors. How many exhibitors do you expect at this Meet?

In the last edition, 250 plus exhibitors and 300 plus buyers participated. This year we are expecting over 400 exhibitors and more than 600 buyers. Do you think a classification system will help in rooting out spurious players? Certainly. Kerala Touirsm has issued a directive with regard to the homestay classification in 2006. The three types of classification are Class A (Dia-

mond House), Class B (Gold House) and Class C (Silver House). What is the role of Kerala HATS? Kerala HATS is an NGO registered in 2008 under the charitable act of Kerala. The society has been formed basically to serve as a consortium of tourism activities in Kerala and also to ensure qualitative and competitive services and to

help homestays in promoting the local culture, ethnic homely food, family oriented hospitality and service. What is the future roadmap for Kerala HATS? We want to bring more classified homestays and serviced villas under one roof and to sort out the difficulties this industry faces from different departments in our country.

M P Sivadattan

Active Holiday Company continues efforts to promote adventure tourism Mohit Rathod Mumbai ADVENTURE AND ACTIVITY-BASED travel company, Active Holiday Company is focusing on creating greater awareness about the segment in the Indian travel industry. The company, in association with UK-based Exodus Travels, recently conducted an educational seminar in Mumbai, highlighting Exodus' product offerings and educating adventure tour operators. Speaking at the seminar, Andrew Appleyard, international sales manager, Exodus Travels, said, "We have started to see a good amount of bookings from India. There has been a growing appetite for adventure and soft adventure in the India market. Adventure travel has evolved

over the years with enhanced facilities. We have a good presence India; we bring thousands of cyclists into India each year. Exodus Travels, 43-year-old, is the oldest adventure tour operator in the UK", adding, "India has always been on our offerings. We support the local communities; we believe in responsible tourism and take care of the environment. Additionally, we also conduct training and community projects." Exodus Travels' trips involve only small groups, which encourage more interactions and help to provide greater cultural experiences. The average size of the groups is 12 people. The company offers over 600 options across 100 countries. Speaking on the new trends, Appleyard commented, "We have seen an increase in solo fe-

male travellers – 66 per cent in 2016 from 40 per cent in 2015. Some of the other products that have seen growth include centre-based holidays and point-to-point walking tours. Cycling tours in Bhutan are also emerging, which also include cultural journeys. Agents have started realising the in-

creasing demand for adventure tourism, and they have already started getting many clients." Elaborating on the current market position of adventure tourism in India, Gauri Jayaram, director, Active Holiday Company, said, "Adventure and activity-based tourism in still a niche market in India, but

it is growing quickly. More and more people are going for outdoor experiences. Italy continues to be a favourite destination among Indians, but they are also looking at Peru, Croatia, Jordan, Vietnam, Germany and more. A large proportion of adventure travellers still come from the metro cities in India. A lot of people think that adventure is for the young, but the last three years we have seen that people from the age group of 35-45 are taking up adventure travel." Jayaram added that there's lack of knowledge and awareness in the Indian adventure travel space. There also numerous myths surrounding adventure travel and this needs to change. Travel agents also need to understand their customers' interest.

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IN THE NEWS

Hong Kong to revive Indian tourist arrivals hit by DeMo, GST Mohit Rathod Mumbai HONG KONG TOURISM Board (HKTB) is channeling efforts to recover decline in Indian tourist arrivals, caused last year and in the first half this year, following demonetisation and GST impact. Total Indian tourist arrivals to Hong Kong in 2016 have been recorded at 480,000. Whereas, from January to June 2017, there has been a 15 per cent decline. Peter Hoslin, regional director – Europe and new markets, Hong Kong Tourism Board, said, "We have seen spectacular performance over the last five-six years. However in 2016, the India market faced a slowdown due to demonetisation, but we are rebuilding travel trade relations and are focusing on our strategies. The first half of 2017 has also seen a decline from the India market, due to GST and other factors. This year we have been engaged in strengthening our connect

Peter Hoslin

with the Indian travel trade, and educating the industry." As part of its trade mission in 2017 in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata, HKTB brought 31 industry partners from Hong Kong. Currently China is

biggest market for inbound tourism in Hong Kong, but HKTB is working on bringing India into out list of top 10 markets. "Our focus in 2018 will be targeting young travellers

(mid-20s to early 40s). Youth is our primary target, but we will also be focused on families. We will reach out to the young segment through social media and digital campaigns, and creating synergies with OTAs. We will

also be pushing travel troughout the year. Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru will be our prime focus markets in India, due to their young population. MICE is a significant industry for Hong Kong, but we are still a leisure-oriented destination," added Hoslin. Elaborating on the trending tourism offering in Hong Kong, he said that cruise tourism is a strong segment in Hong Kong, and the tourism board is expecting that new cruise offerings will attract more Indian travellers to Hong Kong.

Israel expects 55,000 Indian tourist arrivals in 2017 ETW Staff Mumbai ISRAEL, WHICH WITNESSED seven per cent increase in tourist arrivals from Asia in 2016, is expecting 55,000 Indian tourist arrivals in 2017. India currently ranks as the second biggest market for Israel in Asia. From January to July 2017, the destination has recorded 34,300 Indian tourists, which is expected to touch the 55,000 mark by yearend. Througout 2016, Israel welcomed 44,672 Indian tourist arrivals. From January to July

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2017, overall international tourist arrival in Israel has been recorded at 2.1 million. Hassan Madah, director, Israel Ministry of Tourism India, said, "We are creating awareness and exploring new markets in India to promote Israel. Leisure is the main segment in Israel, however, MICE tourism is also doing good. We have also been witnessing growth in agrotourism from Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat", adding that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s to Israel has sparked a renewed interest among Indians to visit Israel.

Hassan Madah

Expressing optimism about Air India's flight to Tel Aviv, Hassan informed that an Israeli airline is also planning to

launch flights to India. Currently, El Al Israel Airlines operates direct flight from Mumbai, whereas, Turkish Airlines operates from Mumbai and Delhi via Istanbul. Hassan said that Israel Ministry of Tourism is encouraging increased air connectivity to boost tourism. Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, Eilat, Dead Sea and Masada are the most popular destinations among Indians. "I am pushing Israel Ministry of Tourism to ease visa process for Indians, such as online visa. We are already in the process and it is ex-

pected to happen in th next few months. Tourist spend by Indians has also increased , an average India FIT spends US$ 2,500. As part of our promotional efforts, we will also promote Israel packages among OTAs, alongside the Indian travel trade. We still have to develop in the India market, and these roadshows are proving beneficial," added Hassan. The Israel Ministry of Tourism recently conducted its second roadshow for 2017 in India – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai.


IN THE NEWS

Jordan Tourism Board holds educational seminars in key Indian markets ETW Staff Mumbai THINK STRAWBERRIES, JORDAN Tourism Board’s representative office in India, held multi-city educational seminars in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru recently. The seminars were conducted to reach out directly to the travel agent and tour operator community and to make Jordan a strong contender in their itineraries for the coming season. The event was attended by Majd Abuarqub, the India market in-charge from Jordan Tourism Board and Ashit Taneja, country manager, Jordan Tourism Board’s

representative office in India along with Think Strawberries team. Abuarqub said that the seminars helped Jordan

Tourism Board to enrol almost 400 visitors at the end of the seminars. A presentation was conducted for the visitors to educate them on the various

offerings and USPs of Jordan, highlighting the important factors like the Jordan visa on arrival policy, the Jordan Pass, and the Jordan Specialist programme in addition to the multiple infrastructure developments which are taking place. Taneja began proceedings with a welcome note which was followed by a presentation on Jordan where he highlighted various aspects about the destination, especially the visa on arrival which Jordan offers for the Indian tourists. He said, “We are delighted that our company Think Strawberries has been chosen as the India representative office for JTB

for the past five years as we have shown a positive growth trajectory for the destination from India.” During the roadshow, a film showing the virtual reality project shot in Jordan was also shown. “We have established Jordan as a year round destination with top of the mind recall for Indian travellers and is a destination that caters to all segments of Indian traveller. There is a growing interest in Jordan as a wedding and honeymoon destination as well thanks to its close proximity to India; value for money offerings and visa on arrival for Indian traveller,” added Taneja.

Qatar waives off visa for 80 countries,including India ETW Staff Mumbai QATAR’S MINISTRY OF INTERIOR (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways have announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries including India, effective immediately. Citizens of those countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-ofcharge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket. Depending on the nationality of the visitor, the waiver will either be valid for 180 days, from the date of issue, and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver); or it will be valid for 30 days from the date of issue and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of ap-

plying for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days (multiple-entry waiver). These developments come as part of a series of measures that Qatar has taken to facilitate visitor access to the country. Last month, Qatar launched an e-visa platform, through which travellers of all nationalities can apply for tourist and visitor visas with more efficiency and ease. The country is also considering further enhancements to its visa policy, such as waiving visa requirements for holders of a residence permit or a valid visa from the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Schengen countries. This waiver would allow eligible visitors to obtain an electronic travel authorisation by completing a simple online application at least 48 hours prior to travel.

Akbar Al Baker, group chief executive, Qatar Airways, said, “This announcement places Qatar as the most open country in the region. This is a momentous occasion for Qatar, making the number of nationalities eligible to enter our country without a visa the highest in region, which is something that we are very proud of. Qatar Airways is the patriotic flag carrier for Qatar and as such we are extremely honoured to bring millions of people each year to our

beautiful, welcoming and historic country. This important initiative will provide an opportunity to welcome even more visitors, from even more countries, to experience the many exciting attractions that await them.” According to Hassan Al Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at QTA, visa facilitation is a critical component of the national tourism sector strategy, which QTA is currently reviewing in partnership with

stakeholders from the public and private sectors. With renewed focus by the country’s leadership on diversifying the national economy, a revised strategy which empowers various players to boost the growth of tourism is set to be launched on September 27, 2017 when Qatar hosts the official celebrations of World Tourism Day. Al Ibrahim said, “Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry. With this announcement we are already turning the pages of the next chapter of Qatar’s journey towards 2030. Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we have examined all of the elements needed to create a smooth and enticing experience that can attract visitors from around the world. There is no doubt that facilitating and streamlining access at all ports of entry are key factors in creating a positive first and lasting impression of Qatar.”

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IN THE NEWS

Meghalaya state police issues cleanliness guidelines for tourists ETW Staff Mumbai TOURISTS VISITING MEGHALAYA could land themselves in jail if they are found littering the roads or tourists spots, according to an advisory from the state police. Citizens are to keep order on public roads, streets and all the tourist spots and desist from causing obstruction, injury or annoyance to passersby, or cause pollution and littering in any public roads and tourist spot, East Khasi Hills district superin-

tendent of police Davis N R Marak said in a statement. He said that any person not obey-

ing the orders is liable to be arrested under sections of Meghalaya Police Act, 2010

and on conviction by a court of law will be liable to be fined ` 5,000. The advisory is being enforced by the state police in East Khasi Hills district, which attracts major tourist inflow in the state. Tourists visiting the tourist spots are also advised to carry garbage bags in their vehicles to throw wrappers of food materials and water bottles and finally dump them in appropriate bins, it said. Tourists footfall in the state has doubled in the last 10 years according to the tourism department and the amount of

trash being dumped by visitors could create trouble for the hill state. In 2006, a little over four lakh domestic tourists visited the state while in 2016, there were 8.3 lakh of them. During the period the number of foreigner tourists increased from a little over 4,000 to nearly 8,500 till December last year. A tourism official said that there was steady increase of about 50,000 tourists in Meghalaya every year and going by the current rate their number is likely to double within the next five years.

Speedwings and APTourism empower tourism professionals with training and certification ETW Staff Mumbai SPEEDWINGS AVIATION ACADEMY, the first and only IATA authorised training centre in Andhra Pradesh recently graduated 30 youths in the IATA certification programme. Aiming to develop quality tourism and services, AP Tourism Authority in collaboration with Speedwings developed the internationally recognised ‘IATA Serving the Customer’ training programme to empower young professionals in Andhra Pradesh. Addressing the convocation ceremony, Biji Eapen, chairman and CEO, Speedwings, said, “IATA has awarded Speedwings the ‘Industry Professional title in 2017’, and with our 23 years dedication and professionalism, we have proven that we can play a key role in changing the traditional tourist customer service quality of AP Tourism

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to an internal standard and excellence.” Himanshu Shukla, tourism commissioner and CEO, AP Tourism Authority, inaugurated the convocation ceremony and distributed the certificates. In his speech, Shukla said, “Tourism has always been the forerunner in attracting the largest number of tourists as it boasts of tourist destinations that are treasures of visual treat and Andhra Pradesh has been declared as the best

tourism destination in India. Dr Samba Siva Raju, assistant director, AP Tourism Authority; Deepak Pagadala, HR head, Speedwings; Mohamed Ashraf and Rakesh O S, Speedwings also spoke on the occasion. Student representatives Vivek and Manoja expressed their gratitude to AP Tourism and government for providing them such a “world-class” training and affirmed that they are dedicated to the country and will work as the real am-

bassadors of AP Tourism and thanked Speedwings for providing them such an “excellent world -class” training. Speedwings is the only IATA authorised training centre in AP to conduct travel and tourism, cargo and aviation courses, which are mandated internationally as the basic certifications for any job in airline or airport sector. Speedwings is also an IATA and DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) accredited training school (ATS) for dangerous goods in India to conduct and certify all the 12 categories for chemical manufacturers, shippers, packers, forwards, airlines and ground handling companies. While releasing the IATA accreditation to Speedwings Vijayawada branch as an IATA authorised training centre (ATC), Shukla said, “AP Tourism needs more professionally trained youngsters to be the role mod-

els and I request Speedwings to expand and conduct similar courses in Visakhapatnam also. We need more youngsters to be trained in tourism as a part of development programme and road shows planned for the future in and out of the country. We also request interested young candidates to contact AP Tourism Authority in Vijayawada for registration.” The academy offers a diverse curriculum of 43 IATA aviation courses encompassing ground-handling activities from passenger and cargo reservations, shipping perishable cargo, live animal regulations, airport security awareness, cargo security awareness, SMS and ULD handling, load control and weight and balance of an aircraft. The specially designed courses will guide students from both aviation and non-aviation backgrounds to grow into certified airline professionals.


IN THE NEWS

Cox and Kings looks at SOTC launches over 12% growth in Darshans,crafted spiritual experiences revenue in FY18 ETW Staff Mumbai HOLIDAYS AND EDUCATION travel group Cox and Kings is eyeing over 12 per cent expansion in revenue this financial year on the back of growing domestic travel industry. “This year the quarter one has been good and we expect to achieve over 12 per cent growth in revenue in FY18, mainly on account of robust domestic business,” said Peter Kerkar, group CEO, Cox and Kings. The company’s revenue stood at `7,176 crore in FY17. The company, he said, is focusing on increasing the franchise base and also band promotions through a tie-up with Bollywood. “Going forward, we are focused on increasing our franchise base in the country from the current 150 cities. We will also promote our brand through a tie-up with Bollywood projects,” he added. Kerkar said the company’s MICE business, both in the domestic market and overseas, was robust. “Our MICE business is robust. In India, destinations like Hyderabad, Kochi, Bengaluru, Goa, Jaipur, Agra,

Going forward, we are focused on increasing our franchise base in the country from the current 150 cities and also on brand promotions with Bollywood Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha are much in demand. For overseas destinations, corporates mostly prefer short haul places. However, long haul countries like the US, Europe, South Africa and Australia are also much in demand,” he added. Talking about its arm Meininger Hotels, Kerkar said Cox and Kings is planning to have 15,000 beds by 2020. Meininger currently operates 17 hotels with up to over

8,000 beds in 11 European cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, London, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Copenhagen, he added. The company is a subsidiary of Holidaybreak, a travel group specialising in educational and activity holidays. Holidaybreak is a subsidiary of Prometheon Holdings (UK), which is a part of Cox and Kings. “For Holidaybreak expansion, we spend around `200 crore a year or every other year on capex. Recently, we have acquired three new properties. One is in Suffolk, one is in Yorkshire and the third was in Australia. Our ambition is that if we can put on five per cent capacity every year, that is a pretty good growth rate to look at in terms of capacity,” he said. Talking about Holidaybreak in India, he said land is an issue but there is always a market here. “We have been looking at India for a long time. However, to set up here we need land, which is an issue here. There is always a market here,” he added. (PTI)

VFS Global completes acquisition of TTServices ETW Staff Mumbai VFS GLOBAL HAS completed the acquisition of visa service provider TT Services (TTS). The transaction enables VFS Global to leverage on core competences and brands and to further enhance operating performance. TT Services is a provider of integrated visa processing solutions

with global presence and a comprehensive portfolio of services. TT Services is headquartered in the United Kingdom and operates 51 application centres in more than 35 countries. Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global Group, said, “TT Services has, like VFS Global, extended industry experience of more than 15 years and is a trusted service delivery part-

ner for its clients. I see a strong fit by TTS joining VFS Global. This will enable us to further enhance and extend our services towards our client governments and visa applicants.” The change of control will have no bearing on the business operations of the parties and act as a catalyst to improved services and enhanced client and customer satisfaction.

ETW Staff Mumbai THE NATIONAL SAMPLE Survey Office (NSSO) report has showed that between 2007 and 2015, the share of respondents in India who perceived religion to be very important increased by 11 per cent to 80 per cent now, and the average expenditure on religious trips has more than doubled during this period. According to National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) half of the package trips were made for religious and pilgrimage purposes and about 28 per cent for leisure and holiday purposes. To cater to this growing demand of spiritual tourism in the country, SOTC has introduced Darshans in association with ePuja, India’s first online portal for religious ceremonies. Darshans by SOTC is a selection of over 40 specially designed religious and spiritual experiences across 60 holy destinations in

India. The tours have been designed keeping in mind the specific needs of the travellers to seamlessly aid their spiritual journey. The package includes peaceful, quick, convenient, hassle-free religious experience, pooja, special ‘havan,’ abhisheka, assisted temple visit amongst others. Speaking about the launch, Vishal Suri, managing director, SOTC Travel said, “Spiritual tourism is the single largest category in domestic tourism which is an untapped, fragmented industry opportunity. Indians are seeking a pre-planned, organised, comfortable, spiritual travel experience. SOTC Darshans, offers customers this very service. Religious travellers can now explore a new way of travel that aids their spiritual journey. Pricing of our products has been worked around to suit every budget, offering travellers a seamless spiritual journey.”

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The connected business traveller BUSINESS TRAVELLERS FIND they are very productive while on the road due to more technology options, according to the CWT Connected Traveller Study The CWT Connected Traveller Study, released by Carlson Wagonlit Travel reveals that business travellers are bringing more devices, and feel more productive as they are on the road conducting business. The survey of more than 1,900 business travellers found that on an average they carry four different types of technology (mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.), with the smartphone being the one “travel tool they can’t live without,” as more than 80 per cent of travellers across the globe rely on their phone to conduct business.

Study findings With technology, most travellers (88 per cent) believe travel is easier to navigate today. This has led a significant majority of travellers (78 per cent) to seek opportunities to travel for work and nearly as many find business travel to be stimulating (72 per cent). Business travellers in India like to travel and an overwhelming majority (92 per cent) said they look forward to business travel and an almost equal amount (89 per cent) said they seek out opportunities to travel for work. Additionally, more than any other country in the region, Indian respondents (72 per cent) travel more to both domestic and international destinations. Today’s travellers are experienced and use that knowledge to plan their trips. More than half (55 per cent) of travellers rely on prior travel experience while planning trips, in addition to hotel websites (54 per cent) and airline websites (50 per cent). Airline and hotel apps make up the bulk of app usage for travelers (45 per cent) while map apps also see heavy use

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(41 per cent). “The business traveller can be so much more productive than even five years ago thanks to technology,” said Simon Nowroz, chief marketing officer, Carlson Wagonlit Travel. “Think about the advances where a business traveller used to have so much down time between a flight, taxi and hotel. Now, they can login and work while on the plane or wherever they happen to be. With the continued emergence of the tablet, as well as numerous apps, travellers don’t feel out of touch as they carry out business,” HE SAID. According to the study, work-based relationships and productivity are strengthened through business travel. Nearly nine in 10 business travellers (86 per cent) said travel helped

them build new knowledge and perspective, while 80 per cent said business travel boosted their productivity. Additionally, more than nine in 10 (93 per cent) said that travel positives outweighed negatives when it comes to building and maintaining relationships at work, while nearly eight in 10 (77 per cent) say the same about their home lives. Resonating with the global findings, significantly more respondents from India (87 per cent) also said that the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to building and maintaining relationships at home.

Areas of concern Two-thirds (67 per cent) of travellers said they believe travel is safer today. However, nearly half (46 per cent) remain

concerned about their safety. This has led more travellers (68 per cent) to “sometimes or always” purchase travel insurance. Business travellers also have difficulties maintaining routines and wellness. More than half of traveLlers (54 per cent) say that their exercise and wellness habits are disrupted when they travel.

Regional differences There were similarities across the Americas, EMEA and APAC. However, APAC travellers felt more in control (84 per cent) in being able to manage their responsibilities compared to Americas (76 per cent) and EMEA (73 per cent) travellers. Those from APAC (53 per cent) were also more likely to say that travel took time away from other work,

causing their co-workers to pick up some of the slack. When it comes to personal relationships, around a quarter of travellers from the Americas felt that travel strained their relationship with their spouse or significant other (27 per cent), more than their EMEA and APAC counterparts (22 per cent). This is likely the reason that travellers in the Americas tried significantly harder to stay connected with family (50 per cent) than APAC (31 per cent) and EMEA (27 per cent) travellers. “There are many variables that can make a business trip a success or a failure in the eyes of the traveller,” said Nowroz, adding “The easier we can make it for travelLers to be organised, the more we help them have a better overall experience.”


IN THE NEWS

Increase in overnights for Nova Scotia tourism operators ETW Staff Mumbai TOURISM STATISTICS RELEASED recently show an 11 per cent increase in non-resident, overnight visitors to Nova Scotia in June. This is the fourth straight June that tourism numbers have gone up. “Compared to last year 23,000 more people visited Nova Scotia in June, which is great for Nova Scotia tourism operators. Our focus at Tourism Nova Scotia is to attract out-of-province visitors and grow export revenues. We’re happy to see this increase and expect strong numbers for the remainder of the year,” said Michele Saran, CEO, Tourism Nova Scotia.

Visitation by air was up 18 per cent compared with June 2016 while visitation by road increased eight per cent. Nova Scotians and non-resident visitors bought 283,000 licensed room nights in June, an increase of three per cent over June 2016. The occupancy rate increased by four percentage points to 52

per cent. Halifax sold the most room nights (145,000), followed by Cape Breton (52,000) and Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley region (35,000). June 2017, non-resident, overnight visitation to Nova Scotia is up eight per cent compared with 2016. Visitation by road is up seven per cent and

air visitation is up nine per cent. Most of the increase in visitation is from Canada, specifically Atlantic Canada (up 26,000), followed by Ontario (up 25,000). Visitors from the United States increased by 6,000, while visitation from overseas markets increased by 1,000. Through June 2017,

1,090,000 licensed room nights were sold in Nova Scotia, up two per cent compared the same period in 2016. The occupancy rate, increased by three percentage points to 47 per cent. The preliminary estimate of tourism revenues for the year so far is $972 million, compared with $929 million in 2016.

Saudi Arabia launches digital platforms for Hajj Hajj2017.org and SaudiWelcomesTheWorld.org to provide updates to pilgrims, worldwide audiences and media ETW Staff Mumbai THE MINISTRY OF Culture and Information (MOCI) of Saudi Arabia has launched two digital platforms in the lead-up to the Hajj, which will provide information and insights to pilgrims in Makkah, worldwide audiences and local and international media. SaudiWelcomesTheWorld.o rg conveys a message of compassion and inclusion to the entire world, both near and far. It tells the stories of the millions of pilgrims of every ethnicity, race, colour, and culture, who undertake what is for many the height of their spiritual lives. The platform provides an open window onto

their journeys and invites the world to learn and share in the true values of Islam.

It complements the media portal www.Hajj2017.org which provides information,

updates and news about Hajj 2017. Through this portal, journalists will be able to ac-

cess and download media materials such as images, infographics and press releases. The portal will also allow users access to all official live stream channels. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and comprises a journey to Makkah to perform religious rituals described in the Koran. Every adult Muslim is obligated to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives provided that they are physically and financially able. More than 1.5 million pilgrims have already arrived - in Saudi Arabia and some 500,000 more pilgrims are expected to come to perform Hajj, which starts on August 30 and ends on September 4.

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IN THE NEWS

Dr Venu Vasudevan launches a book on the business of tourism Saloni Bhatia New Delhi PRINCIPAL SECRETARY OF TOURISM, Government of Kerala has recently launched a book titled 'An Introduction to the Business of Tourism'. The book offers a fresh perspective of the skill-oriented, knowledge-based and multi-disciplinary arena of the tourism business. Dr Shashi Tharoor, member of Parliament released the book along with former Union Tourism Secretary Rathi Vinay Jha, who served a stint as director general of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), and Sage India’s managing director Vivek Mehra. Co-authored by Dr Vijayakumar B, former principal, Kerala Institute of Travel and Tourism Studies (KITTS) and

Saroop Roy B R, assistant professor, KITTS, the book presents a balanced mix of the basic principles and concepts, their application and policy implications as well as the business realities and operational aspects of the tourism industry. During his address, Tha-

roor shared his insights on the tourism industry and how the book highlights some crucial aspects. He mentioned, “Tourism is a significant contributor to the Indian economy, but sadly 88 per cent of our tourism is purely domestic. Despite being an amazing job gen-

erator there is huge difference between India's inbound numbers vs some international countries. Instead of 'Make in India' we should promote 'Visit India' to attract more international tourists. While I was absorbed by major chunks in the book, I wish it also highlighted

the lack of infrastructural standards in our country.” He felt that the book will also help the industry professionals to learn more about the industry as it can serve as a guidebook. Thanking Tharoor, Vasudevan took the stage and shared his idea behind creating the book. He stated, “Tourism as an industry welcomes everybody who does not have a formal education of the tourism industry. This book will not only help the graduates but also industry professionals to understand the business of tourism.” Apart from elaborating on topics like destinations, attractions, marketing, and government bodies among many others the book also features some case studies to create better understanding of that particular subject.

MakeMyTrip launches ‘MMTMyBusiness’ ETW Staff Mumbai MAKEMYTRIP HAS ANNOUNCED the launch of ‘MyBusiness’ to tap the growing corporate travel segment in India. MyBusiness will provide a convenient, transparent and efficient self-booking tool that employees can use from the same MakeMyTrip app for their business travel. Giving the power of choice in the hands of the traveller, the tool will help keep control in the hands of the company while providing corporate travel benefits and savings for all. MyBusiness will make businesses of any size avail good corporate travel deals and will also bring down friction in the expense process. By introduc-

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ing the new corporate wallet on MyBusiness, the companies will be able to reduce payment inefficiencies, liabilities and potential corporate card abuse – in turn providing employees and companies greater flexibility. This would be supported via dedicated corporate helpdesks which will be operational 24x7. Rajesh Magow, co-founder and CEO-India, MakeMyTrip said, “MakeMyTrip has always been an enabler of change in the way Indians travel, our focus and investment in MyBusiness underlines our sense of purpose in changing the way corporate India moves. We have an aggressive plan in place to tap into this fast-growing business travel market by moving com-

MyBusiness will make businesses of any size avail good corporate travel deals and will bring down friction in the expense process. Companies can reduce payment inefficiencies, liabilities and potential corporate card abuse plex offline processes to a convenient and efficient online booking experience for employees and employers alike.” Ranjeet Oak, chief business officer, MakeMyTrip said, “For most organisations, business travel spending is the second

largest expense, and the entire process allows certain amount of discrepancies and reimbursement issues later on. SME corporates are contributing to 70 per cent of the flourishing Indian corporate travel business and with MyBusiness,

we are empowering the entire ecosystem, by establishing the ‘choice’ with the traveller, ‘control’ with the company and ‘benefits and savings’ for all.” With growing need of organisations to enable business travel, MyBusiness will be helpful for SMEs that cannot afford to set up a travel desk in office. The self-booking online tool makes it easy to move complex offline processes - approval metrices, travel policies, payment options – online; making travel booking efficient and experience seamless. In addition to the existing benefits, companies stand to claim GST Credit and save upto 18 per cent of total travel transaction in a clear and transparent manner, making this offering a win-win for all.


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THE MAIN FOCUS

ODISHA’S TOURISM TREASURES Scenic. Serene. Sublime. Odisha, a land of myriad marvels has everything to offer the discerning global traveller - from lakes to temples, festivals to eco tourism hotspots. As the state prepares to play host to the IATO Convention and the Odisha Travel Bazaar, ETW explores this multi-faceted destination

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cover story)

HERITAGE

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he architectural heritage of Odisha is an eclectic mix of Hindu temples, Buddhist and Jain monuments that have fascinated travellers since time immemorial, with their sheer beauty and grandeur. The most famous is of course the world famous UNESCO World Heritage Site - the Konark Sun Temple. Located 35 km from Puri and 65 km from Bhubaneswar, the temple is built like a gigantic chariot. The temple was built by King Langula Narasimha Deva in the 13th century AD, and was a beacon to mariners in medieval times. The capital city Bhubaneswar is itself called a 'City of Temples', on account of its many beautiful edifices. Every traveller should go on a city tour of Bhubaneswar to see and experience the stunning monuments like the temples clustered around the Bindusagar Tank. The lake which is fed by a natural underground spring is associated with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Of the original 7000 only 500 remain dating from the seventh century to the 11th century AD. The most famous temple is of course the 11th century Lingaraj Temple. The 10th century beautifully decorated Muktesvara Temple is also an important draw. Some of the other temples in the area are - Mohini temple, Ananta Vasudeva, Markandesvara temple, Uttaresvara temple, and many others. The 11th century Rajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar is famous for its erotic carvings. There is no presiding deity in the temple, but it is considered of Shaivite origin because of

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certain specific features. One of the most sacred pilgrimage spots in India is the temple of Lord Jagannath ('Lord of the Universe') at Puri. It is one of the four great 'Char Dham' pilgrimage sites. The main trinity of deities worshiped at the temple are - Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. The temple complex covers a huge area of over 400,000 sq ft. The temple tower, built on a raised platform of stone to a height 214 feet above the inner

sanctum, dominates the surrounding landscape. Outside the city limits are the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, which are situated on two adjacent hills. It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. In Udayagiri, Hathigumpha (cave 14), Ganeshagumpha (cave 10) and Rani ka Naur (Queen's Palace cave, cave 1) are particularly known for their carvings and sculptures. Dhauli near Bhubaneswar is an important Buddhist site, which has a set of rock edicts left by emperor Ashoka about 260 BC. Along with the Ashokan Edicts, the Peace Pagoda and modern Buddhist Monastery, Dhauli offers the visitors small-rock cut caves, Hindu temples of early medieval period and a renovated Shiva temple known as Dhavalesvara. The 'Diamond Triangle' of the RatnagiriUdayagiri-Lalitgiri complex is part of Puspagiri University.

Udayagiri is the largest Buddhist complex in Odisha. The archaeological remains at Udayagiri consist of a brick stupa, two brick monasteries, a beautiful stepped stone well

with inscriptions on it, and rock-cut sculptures at the top of the hill behind. Udayagiri provides visitors a grand sight with its newly excavated sprawling monastery

complex. The excavations of Ratnagiri also unearthed two large monasteries, a big stupa, Buddhist shrines, sculptures, and votive stupas.


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THE MAIN FOCUS

COASTALTOURISM

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ordering the Bay of Bengal in the East, Odisha enjoys over 480 km of coastline dotted with beaches such as Chandipur, Konark, Puri, Gopalpur, etc. Leveraging upon the state's coastline, Odisha Tourism has identified coastal tourism as one of the major tourism offerings. Chilika, Asia's largest brackish water lake, which is a haven for millions of birds, is also one of the few places in India where one can spot dolphins. Situated about 16 km from Berhampur, the Gopalpur Beach boasts deep and clear blue water. White surf splash-

beach is known among tourists for watching the sunrise in spectrum of colours. With an array of beach facing hotels and resorts, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot for relaxation. Located eight km from Puri, Balighai beach is a popular picnic spot. Visitors may also get a glimpse of the Baliharina, a kind of deer who inhabit the area. The Sea Turtle Research Centre is another attraction near the beach. A small but serene, Astaranga is another beach located 91 km from Puri. The beach is especially known for offering multi-coloured horizon during sunset. Backed by casuarinas trees and creeper over the sand dunes, Chandipur beach is said to have a unique distinction on its own. Unlike other beaches, the sea water here recedes

Leveraging upon the state's coastline, Odisha Tourism has identified coastal tourism as one of the major tourism offerings. Chilika, Asia's largest brackish water lake, which is a haven for millions of birds, is also one of the few places in India where one can spot dolphins away from the shore line about five km twice a day, an unusual phenomenon. When the waters disappears, one can even take a jeep ride on the beach. The beach also features small red crabs, sea shells and drift wood. About two km from Chandipur beach lies Balaramgadi where the river Budhabalang meets the sea. Close to

the famous Sun Temple of Konark, Chandrabhaga Beach with a long stretch of clean sands and cool blue water offers its own serenity. In the past river Chandrabhaga joined the sea here but now only the confluence remains to be seen. Religious tourists in large number take holy dip in this confluence on

the Magha Saptami day. There is also a functional light house. While these widely known coastal attractions draw a significant proportion of tourists, Odisha also has some lesser known beaches such as Talasari, Ramchandi, Pat-Sonapur, Beleswar and Aryapali.

ing on the golden sands makes Gopalpur as one of the finest beaches on the eastern coast. Objects made of seashells are also available for tourists to buy as souvenirs. The area is also known for its sea food, especially fish from the deep sea. Gopalpur was also once popular for maritime activities and was one of the outlets through which early settlers of South East Asia sailed off. Another famous coastal offering, the sunny beach at Puri has been the destination for numerous pilgrims taking the traditional purifying dip. However, over the years, both Indian and foreign beach lovers have it to their list of places to visit in Odisha. The

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ECO TOURISM

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rapidly growing segment of the travel industry, eco tourism is based on nature lovers’ seeking new and unique experiences in the wild. Nowadays, many tourists travel to interact with nature in best possible manner to get solitude from the busy life. Located on the eastern coast of the country, Odisha is blessed with natural wildlife and rich fauna. The tourism department of Odisha has also shifted its attention to this growing segment by developing hotspots that hold great potential for eco tourists. Some places like Tikar Pada, Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary, Chilika Lake, Koraput hills, river beds, national parks and Debrigarh eco tourist spot

fall in this category. In order to protect these natural reserves, the Government of Odisha collaborated with the locals to convert areas of Simplipal and Bhitar Kanika Sanctuary into a national park. The locals were made aware about the benefits and how it would also protect the environment. Therefore new packages

were launched announcing these areas to the nature lovers who could promote it as a destination. Apart from receptions and help centres, trained guides now take the tourists around the central areas. Clean drinking water, proper lodgings, better network facility, quality food are some of the major factors attract-

ing more tourists to these destinations. The forest department has also undertaken certain special measures by opening up areas for development and collaborating with the locals. Some of the other hot spots are Satkosia Sand Resort, Olasuni, Ansupa, Saptasajya, Sidhamula, Nature Camp Chermaria, Chandaka

The tourism department of Odisha has also shifted its attention to this growing segment by developing hot spots that hold great potential for eco-tourists. To protect these natural reserves, the Government of Odisha collaborated with the locals to convert areas of Simplipal and Bhitar Kanika Sanctuary into a national park

Godibari, Nandankanan Sanctuary, Jaydev Batika, Chandaka-Deras among many others. Many camps and housings have been set up in these areas for tourists. However, the forest department is planning to work with the private players to look into the development of more places in order to offer some unqiue unparalled experiences. One of the most visited and a known place is the Chilika Lake. It is an estuarine lagoon, the largest brackish water wetland in India. The 32 km long, narrow, outer channel connects the main lagoon to the Bay of Bengal, near the village Motto. It is known for sightings of migratory birds that make for a beautiful memory. The lake is also dotted with numerous islands that can be visited by boats. In 1992, the Government of Odisha, concerned by the

degradation of the lake's ecosystem and cognizant of significant numbers of people who were dependent upon the lake's resources, set up the Chilika Development Authority (CDA). CDA is now responsible for taking care of the land and plan activity areas near the lake. The Government of Odisha realises the true potential of eco tourism and its power to attract tourists. Looking at the lush greens, eco parks, natural wildlife spots, the government is sure to turn it into a strength for improving tourism numbers to the state.

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THE MAIN FOCUS

FESTIVALS

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disha, known to be the land of myriad marvels is equally diverse with its cultures leading to the celebration of numerous festivals in the state. The Odiya festivals or Odia Parba are spread all through the year celebrating the varied cultures, norms and beliefs of the local people. Most festivals are observed as part of the Hindu religious faith, therefore the dates are pre-determined by the Hindu calendar. Families come together, members wear new clothes and special dishes are prepared to enjoy these festivals. The major two festivals celebrated across the region is the world popular Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra and Durga Pooja. The Chariot Festival or Rath Yatra as it is called is celebrated in the month of Asadha, on the second day of the lunar fortnight that falls during June-July. On the main day of the festival, the wooden idols of Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra are taken out for a procession on their chariots to their summer temple for a week. The preparation begins two months in advance as the main chariot is about 14 meters high led by 16 wheels. The day of the procession millions gather to be part of the holy ride and seek blessings from the Lord. Similarly, Durga Puja is celebrated with much fervour and enthusiasm like in its origin state. Many visit the traditional pandals to worship Goddess Durga and also enjoy the delicacies prepared during the festival. On the tenth day which is called ‘Vijaya Dasami’, a procession is carried out toward a river for immersion of the image.

Some other traditional festivals are Raja Parba, a coastal festival; Mahabisuva Sankriti, beginning of new year; Akhoya Trutia, oldest agricultural festival; Chaiti Parba, festival of the fisherman community and Chhau festival, a war dance. The state is already known for its delicious cuisine but during these festivals some unique sweets are prepared from milk including small cakes known as Pitha, Poda cake and many more. In order to retain the vibrant cultures of the state the government has also planned

One of the latest additions is the International Sand Art Festival which is organised alongside the internationally famous Konark Festival from December 1 to 5 on the sandy beach of Chandrabhaga (three km from Konark). The Konark Dance Festival which is held in the backdrop of the Sun Temple beautifully showcases India's cultural depth some festivals along the unique places. Konark Festival, International Sand Art festival, Mukteshwar Dance Festival, Rajarani Music festival and Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav are all examples of such festivals. One of the latest additions is the International Sand Art Festival which is organised alongside the internationally famous Konark

Festival from December 1 to 5 on the sandy beach of Chandrabhaga (three km from Konark). Konark Dance Festival which is held in the backdrop of the Sun Temple beautifully showcases India's cultural depth through various dances. The Raja Rani Music Festival celebrates Indian classical music. Started in the year

2002, the three-day festival is now held every year in the backdrop of Raja Rani temple in Bhubaneswar. Similarly, the other two festivals also boast of India's traditional dances and classical music. Odisha has always been ahead with the celebration of its local culture and these festivals are the best way to experience it live.

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SPOTLIGHT

Unfolding a dream at Chilika For the CMD of Swosti Group, the Swosti Chilika Resort is more than just another addition to his portfolio of products. It was a vision to give the state of Odisha a eco tourism luxury experience for the discerning traveller, both national and international By Reema Lokesh

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ate: July 26, 2017, Time: 11 am, Venue: Swosti Chilika Resort. This event meant more than just an inaugural of a high end resort experience for the owner of the Swosti Group, J K Mohanty. The CM of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, did the honours as chief guest along with a host of delegates from both the public and the private sectors of the state. A project that brought in design experts from Thailand to translate the vision into a real view, has been inspired by nature, being built in-sync with the surroundings, that which is one of the most rich in biodiversity, the very exclusive Chilika Lake area. The resort is also strategically located close to an interesting water sports activity zone at the Biju Patnaik park, which was also inaugurated that very day. The jetty service takes you over to a unique experience on the Chilika Lake and if luck is with you, you can spot the rare and stunning sight of the Irrawaddy dolphins. For bird watchers, this resort is ideal as the entire belt offers some special experiences with respect to exotic migratory birds. The resort is being positioned for the discerning

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SPOTLIGHT

traveller, both for leisure and for MICE. For those who wish to literally get away from chaos and clutter, Chilika and the resort serves well for the mind, body and soul. The resort offers its guests a spa tastefully placed called Ekayaa. It offers its guests traditional Indian wellness therapies, equipped with single and double treatment suites, beauty treatment rooms, meditation and relaxation decks. The resorts offers living facilities across four categories, namely The Sanctuary one Presidential Suite, five Millpond - The Pool Villas, 36 Windchime - The Quad Villas and 36 Midlake County - The Hotel Blocks. For those who prefer the outdoors and activities, the resort has game zones, a cycling pad and other soft sports activities. When it comes to the palate, the restaurants at the Swosti Chilika Resort offer an array of local delicacies and the choicest of international cuisines amidst a pleasant ambience. However, it is the dusk and the evening set up that gives a unique appeal to the place. Concluding in the words of the owner, “For me this resort is a dream, which has unfolded. We went through a lot of planning, on and off the drawing board, the how and the look of it and more. I was clear in my vision and waited for the right partner who could understand it and convert it into a reality. We are here to welcome our guests to our authentic hospitality as the locals here are warm and welcoming. We are proud to be the recognised as a leading eco tourism resort and as the son of the soil, I am proud of my region and would only wish to welcome the world to this part of India.�

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TECH BYTES

Standardising data Zumata uses AI to help hotel booking platforms like Expedia manage listings efficiently

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o the layperson, a hotel booking platform like Expedia is simply a marketplace that aggregates a list of available hotels based on their personal preferences. But what goes on in the backend, specifically the distribution chain, is actually pretty messy. The hotel business essentially operates like most conventional industries. On the first layer, the hotels are the manufacturers of the product, then the middlemen - wholesalers and distributors stores, organises and sells the

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inventory to the hotel booking platforms, which are the end retailers like platforms such as Expedia. “The middlemen market is actually defined by old technology and zero standardisation and really bad data quality. For example, supplier number one has a hotel called the Changi Crown Plaza, supplier number two has Hotel Changi Crown Plaza at Singapore. It’s the same hotel and you and I can figure that out. But programmatically that’s very difficult,” says Josh Ziegler, CEO and cofounder of Zumata, an AI-

powered hotel distribution company. Each hotel supplier has a different naming convention for the hotel — they have different addresses and different images. Thus, mapping the data accurately is challenging. Having run discounts publisher Good Times for seven years in Hong Kong, Ziegler received feedback from numerous corporate clients asking for discounts on travel products. He then looked into how to build a travel programme and realised that, in order to achieve continual discounts, he had to work with

multiple suppliers and map the data together to compare supply and retail prices. The concept of Zumata was then born. In a nutshell, it aims to normalise and standardise disparate sets of hotel data. Having a unified set of data gives hotel booking platforms the ability to access a larger inventory and reap better margins, since they are able to compare prices from more suppliers. “They can then dynamically adjust their prices and their margins and steer customers to the ones that make them the most money,” he says.

Standardising data sets There are two layers to Zumata’s system of mapping data. First, it uses programmatic tech to find and match keywords. Then the expert systems kick in to exclude words such as brand name or the word ‘hotel’. Machine learning and deep learning are then applied so that patterns can be identified more effectively and quickly. Ziegler says the AI is trained to think, act, and understand like a human. So the system of quantifying and arranging data sets becomes


TECH BYTES more concept-based than keyword-based. This picture may look rather abstract, but to provide a real world example, imagine that the 15 suppliers offer rates at the Changi Crown Plaza. All of their data points could be totally different. So what Zumata will do is map all these data to one common name, then match every other of these 15 suppliers into that unique classifier before passing it to the end user.

Unifying the data For the end user, it is imperative for them to be able to search for hotels using generic words, and this is where Zumata’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) tech comes in. “So you can either speak or you can type: ‘I want a hotel that’s within walking distance

to the Eiffel tower, it should have a gym and let’s say, good value for money’. So you can type in those types of things. And what it is going to do is parse that sentence, to understand what is the intent of what you’re asking for,” says Ziegler. “So Zumata is going to say to recognise the Eiffel tower as a point of interest. And it says basically ‘here is a radius that is walking distance, so we have narrowed it down to those hotels’,” he says. “Number 2, you have asked for a gym. So you probably want to see what the gym looks like. Maybe you’d like to run on the treadmill or lift weights so if you see an image of the gym, you will be able to decide if that’s the gym you’re looking for. And so we present the image of the gym straight

away. Image recognition basically tags every image that we have - we have 300 million images - and then compares them to concepts that you were asking for.” Finally, with regards to “value for money”, since there is no dollar amount specified, Zumata trawls through reviews, blogs and news articles where people talk about their experience at these hotels and the value they received. The NLP is then able to filter out all the irrelevant hotels and match the right ones according to the user’s intent, organising them from most relevant to least relevant. NLP is also incorporated into the customer service layer. Instead of human customer officers handling all the queries, chatbots embedded with NLP capabilities

can answer generalised queries, such as hotel cancellation deadlines, more efficiently. “It’s a much better experience and they (customers) get their answers quickly; and the operator benefits because they have lower overheads. It’s easier to train, you won’t have sick days, it’s on demand and it’s in multiple languages so you don’t have to maintain different customer officers,” says Ziegler.

Solving big problems Zumata works with Expedia, as well as large hotel distribution companies such as Dhisco, which handles 13 billion hotel transactions a year; and Amadeus, which is used by over 400,000 travel agents. “These are the largest players in the industry, and we’re

solving problems for them. So you can just imagine if it’s a challenge for them, tier 2 and tier 3 players have no idea how to even begin. It’s pervasive across the entire industry,” says Ziegler. Not all travel products suffer from this problem. Ziegler says airlines generally have much cleaner and more standardised data sets. But for car rentals, tours and transfers, organising data is equally messy. “The most difficult part, on the distribution side, the hotel part is really the technology that exists, so within the travel business of Asia. I would say it is about 20 years behind. So where we are at is a huge leap from where they are today. In Asia it’s much more of an educational process because they are so far behind,” he concludes.

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SPOTLIGHT

HIDEAWAY IN BLUE PARADISE Whether seeking a rejuvenating holiday or active adventure, an exotic backdrop for pre/post wedding events or a family staycation, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa is an idyllic haven in the blue paradise called Maldives, just an hour and a half flight away from India By Steena Joy Michael Wieser

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short speedboat ride away from the Hanimaadhoo International Airport in Maldives, lies Dhonakulhi, a large crescent-shaped island which is home to one of Asia's most exclusive all-suite beach resorts, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa. Nestled amidst the impossibly blue and green waters that Maldives is known for, the resort is also accessible by seaplane, and yacht owners who choose to cruise and arrive in style directly to a world-class marina on the island. The domestic airport was upgraded to an international airport in February 2012, with the introduction of direct flights to Thiruvananthapuram in India by Maldivian, the national airline of the Maldives. Talks are also on about an Indian low cost carrier (LCC) planning to start chartered flights to Male, the capital city soon. Space and privacy is a hallmark at Hideaway which has some of the largest luxury beachfront villas in the Maldives. The 103 suites are either set on the beach amongst coconut groves and lush vegetation or on stilts over the beautiful lagoon on the Haa- Alifu Atoll. Michael Wieser, CEO, Lily Hotels, the flagship company that owns the Hideaway brand, says, “The resort is 19 years old and has been recently refurbished. Our main feeder market used to be Europe but not anymore. This season we had

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guests from China, Korea, Taiwan and also from India. Middle East is also strong on numbers - many guests from Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait.” He feels that being far away from Male is a big advantage. “We are far from the hustle and bustle of city life. But this ensures absolute privacy which is our USP. Marine life is exceptional. Villas in other properties are very close to each other, but here they are far apart. Only eight per cent of the entire land is built up.” The guest to staff ratio is very high - 1:5 (one butler and four housekeeping staff).

Exclusive privacy Each of the resort's 103 villas offer uncompromised privacy. The 10 categories of villas, ranging between 130 sq m and 1420 sq m, with private beach areas ranging from 320 sq m to 1150 sq m, are amongst the largest in Maldives. There are seven units of the sunset beach villas and 50 units of the deluxe water villa with pool. Raised on wooden stilts over Dhonakulhi Island’s blue lagoon, the deluxe water villas are very popular with guests from the India market. Then there are the seven units of the deluxe sunset beach villas with

pool admeasuring 190 sq m each. For bigger families, there are three 1200 sq m units of family two -bedroom villas with pool. Then of course there are two Hideaway Palaces that represent the epitome of exclusivity, privacy and refinement. The Hideaway Palaces measuring a total area of 1,420 sq m each, feature a spacious indoor dining pavilion with a roof-terrace. Speaking of India, Wieser says, “India is a big potential market for us, especially due to its proximity (just a one an a half hour flight from Thiruvanathapuram). Last year we had 200

room nights from India. This year we expect to touch 250 room nights.” Ricardo Leal, general manager of the resort adds, “The India market has a huge potential for the Maldives in general, and for Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa in particular. And for sure, we are the right choice for the affluent Indian traveller. For one, due to the direct flights from Thiruvananthapuram to Hanimaadhoo, our local airport, from which it takes you only 20 minutes by speedboat, but for sure also thanks to our Indian culinary delights and


SPOTLIGHT our knowledge of the Indian culture and their likes and dislikes.” The resort is keen to focus on MICE. “Recently we hosted a big wedding group from China. We can even rent out the whole island. We can accommodate upto 200 to 300 pax. For the India market, we also serve Jain food,” Wieser informs. Most of the resort's food supplies come from Male or are imported. “We import most of our fruits from Dubai and Germany. We have our own island where we do farming for the hotel - vegetables, poultry and fruits. The surplus is sold in Male. We are also looking to farm our own organic vegetables,” Wieser adds. The resort has varied F&B options to suit every palate and each of these make very interesting spaces for holding events and wedding functions. Matheefaru restaurant offers a wide choice of refined international cuisine, themed buffets at night featuring live cooking stations as well as two private over water pavilions for intimate dining. A casual place to unwind by the pool, Meeru Bar & Grill has one of the largest whisky and fine champagne collections in the Maldives. Samsara, the Asian restaurant has an open-air

terrace, perched over the blue lagoon. The menu offers a fusion of Thai, Indian and Japanese influences. Another interesting dining spot is the Sunset Pool Café - Beach Club which serves Mediterranean cuisine and has a poolside that offers stunning views of the sunset and is therefore very popular with honeymooning guests. The resort also offers tailor-made culinary experiences where guests can stroll out to a nearby tiny, unmapped sandbank to enjoy a private romantic candlelit dinner under the stars. Couples who want to leave a testimony behind can buy signposts of little wooden hearts carved with their names on it. As one drives around in the buggies, one can see these signposts placed all over the property. The resort is also known for pre-wedding and post- wedding photoshoots. There is even a Rolls Royce wedding buggy for that authentic and exclusive image. Wieser adds, “We are not an international brand so we have to fight much harder for the market. And we have to let the world know about our wonderful product. Seventy cent of our guests are repeat customers. Guests come back to us because of the total privacy we offer.” The resort is also home to one of

Asia’s award winning spas with intimate treatment rooms and trained therapists.

Adventure ahoy! The resort offers a range of activities. Diving and snorkelling are of course the most popular. Apart from all inclusive packages for divers, the Meridis Dive Boutique offers snorkeling and diving equipment for a very nominal fee. For those who are novices, the dive centre also offers the services of a trained guide. While indulging in these activities, couples with kids can leave them at the Tender Hearts kid's club where babysitting by a trained nanny is provided on

request for a fee. For those who are less adventurous, there is the cruise on the Hideaway Princess, a luxury yacht. Guests can indulge in traditional hand line fishing and be served the catch of the day. Dolphin watching on the high seas is another thrilling activity. Kids will love riding in the Penguin, the Maldives’ first semi-submarine (can hold upto five pax) offering amazing views of the reef and the marine life therein to kids who don't want to get their feet wet! The resort is also very close to Utheemu Island, just a 10minute speedboat ride away.

Utheemu is the historical and cultural capital of the Maldives with its palace and history of uprising against the Portuguese 200 years ago. Guests can visit the Utheemu Palace on a guided tour and later walk around the village, the village school and a virgin beach, taking short breaks on rope hammock chairs that are typical of Maldives. With 20 more resorts planning to come to Maldives including Ritz Carlton, Rosewood Hotels and Kempinski Hotels, Wieser is apprehensive for the island country. “I don't think the government has a proper Master Plan. My advice to them is, please do not overdevelop,” he concludes. With a lot of international hotel brands making a foray into Maldives, what will be the strategy to stand apart from the competition? Leal informs, “Well, I do believe that we, as an individual and privately owned resort, are more flexible and quicker in adopting our strategies to the changing market conditions than some of the big brands. We can react faster and be much more personalised to the demands of our partners and guests, without having to satisfy, or sacrifice international brand guidelines.”

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IN FOCUS

Where are the ARRs heading?

One of the most-awaited highlights of every FHW exposition is the Hospitality Think Tank GM’s Conclave. FHW Bengaluru this year saw the GMs of six well known properties in the city share their forthright views on the subject By Sudipta Dev

T

he highlight of the first day of FHW Bengaluru 2017 was the Hospitality Think Tank – GM’s Conclave on 'Where are the ARRs Heading?'. The properties represented at the forum were an interesting mix across categories. The GM’s participating in the panel discussion included: Kunal Chauhan, GM, The Leela Palace Bengaluru; Gaurav Taneja, GM, Radisson Blu Atria Bengaluru; Mitesh Narula, GM, St Mark's Hotel, Bangalore; Dev Mohanty, hotel manager, The Zuri Whitefield; Prakash Mahato, GM, Golden Tulip Bangalore; and Gangadhar P B, GM, The Fern Citadel Hotel. At St Marks, almost 65 per

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To change the ARRs, luxury hotels have to move the rates up, then only can the mid market segment move up their rates. Our hotels should get more than what we get, the entire disruption happened due to the budget and mid market category cent of guests are repeat customers. Recounting the past, Narula said, “Fifteen years back it was a classical case of supply and demand – the supply was limited. With increasing number of companies setting up base in the Silicon Valley of India, hotels then

commanded ARRs, which shot up between 2008 and 2009. From 2010 onwards a huge inventory came in.” Pointing out that current travellers who are millennials appreciate quality, Narula stated that it is important that quality is maintained. Reminding that Bengaluru is a

seasonal market, he added, “When major tech events and Aero Show happens in the city, it helps our cause.” The Leela Palace Bengaluru is one of the iconic properties in the city, and has six categories of rooms. Chauhan believes that a property like his

should command US$ 400 pricing anywhere in the world. Acknowledging that today ARRs can be pushed to a limit, Chauhan stated, “We need to charge a bit more for the product and services we offer. Breakfast should be charged. We should benchmark ourselves as per international markets.” The ARR at Leela Palace Bengaluru is `12000. Pointing out that a place like Bengaluru can do so much in terms of tourism, he stated, “There is no tourism in the city. We are affected by the American schedule as that is the main business line.” Though a significant number of guests in all Bengaluru hotels are corporate customers, the GM of The Leela Palace


IN FOCUS

Mitesh Narula

Dev Mohanty

Kunal Chauhan

Prakash Mahato

Gangadhar P B

Gaurav Taneja

Bengaluru also sees great potential in destination weddings and medical tourism, on account of the unique architecture and positioning of his property.

Competitive business An all suite hotel, Golden Tulip Bangalore boasts a high occupancy level of 80-81 per cent. Mahato remarked with absolute honesty that hotels often eat into each other's business, “It is fighting for the same pie of business. Though ours is an all-suite property, the moment we try to hike our rate, we are told by the customer that a nearby hotel is giving the same rate though they have standard rooms. Consequently, I am not being able to hike the rate.” When The Zuri Whitefield opened in 2008, Bengaluru had 8000 rooms, currently the rooms inventory in the city is close to 12000, a significant number from budget hotels. Pointing out that ARRs have been driven by the luxury segment, Mohanty remarked, “To change the ARRs, luxury ho-

All panel members look to strong support from the government for the sector.The issues ranged from better infrastructure to reduction of licenses for hotels. GST rates for hotels (luxury and budget segment) should be the same as airlines (12 per cent for business and five per cent for economy) tels have to move the rates up, then only can the mid market segment move up their rates. Our hotels should get more than what we get, the entire disruption happened due to the budget and mid market category.” According to Gangadhar P B, the price war is such that it is not only the mid segment which is coming into the `2500 to `4000 range, but even upscale hotels are falling into the bracket. He said, “If we do not do 80-85 per cent occupancy then the GOP

goes down. Fern Citadel is doing good business. What is not common is the ADRs.” Every market has a different ADR irrespective of brand or offer. Regarding prevalent undercutting, Taneja added, “People say it is not a good practice. The question is – as a hotelier I look at longevity and relationship with the guest, and think about next year when I sit on the table with the booker, how much more can I charge. Hotel occupancy and ADRs is a mix of various segments – there is

a base occupancy which you build, and then retail and other segments add to it.”

GST impact All panel members look to strong support from the government for the sector. The issues ranged from better infrastructure to reduction of licenses for hotels. “There are too many licenses which have to be renewed every year, there are trade licenses also. The government also needs to relook at GST,” shared Mahato.

Regarding GST, Taneja added that till date clarifications are being sought on various aspects of doing business. Mohanty affirmed that it is too early to know the ramifications of GST. He however felt that GST rates for hotels (luxury and budget segment) should be the same as airlines (12 per cent for business and five per cent for economy). “About five-six years ago room tax was 12 per cent, now it is 28 per cent,” he stated with regret. Giving an optimistic view, Chauhan said, “As a hotel I am not paying more, but collecting more for the customer. From GST point of view, the cost does not get affected much.” He however believed that high GST of 28 per cent will affect India as a tourism destination, as in other countries the tax ranged from four per cent to 10 per cent. Chauhan is looking at increasing the ARRs marginally, and so are most other GMs who have strategies in place for enabling this.

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September 2017


HUMAN RESOURCES

A people’s man What stops a high profile career bureaucrat from leaving the power corridor and stepping into the lucrative boardroom of the private sector? The reasons could be wide ranging, but for Ashwani Lohani, new chairman of the Railway Board, and former head ITDC, MP Tourism and Air India, it was only the genuine warmth and affection of his staff, especially the frontline that stopped him from making that move. By Reema Lokesh

"W

hen a sea of people, your precious staff gather to bid you a tearful farewell, (during my previous posting with the Railways), you clearly know deep down that you are doing something right and that you are responsible as a bureaucrat to give your people their due and credit. No top paying private sector offer can be compared to this unadulterated warmth," shares Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Indian Railways. Putting the right value systems in place is the hallmark and foundation for the success of any organisation, says Lohani, who firmly believes in decentralisation. He has a few interesting nicknames to his credit with one of the most popular being 'the turnaround man' . It is no news that he was hand picked by the PM of India to turn around the loss making Air India. His two years with the national carrier did well for the Maharajah. From staff morale to clearing debts, he did his bit and more before leaving the wings for the tracks. Apart from Air India, he was known for his exemplary work at ITDC, which was steeped with challenges. His work as the leader at Madhya Pradesh Tourism, at different times in his career, made a huge impact on that tourism board. The transformation of MP Tourism is worth writing about. It can easily qualify as a case study of a team and its

34 EXPRESS TRAVELWORLD September 2017

leader who worked relentlessly to transform a near shambles, loss making unit into a swanky, profit making organisation that proudly invites people to ‘Hindustan Ka Dil’. In 2004 MP Tourism called a small dingy space in a shopping complex in Bhopal, it's home. The office was depressing, the company was running into losses, the hotels were in an unpleasant state, and the overall morale rather dampened with just about a `12 crore turnover. However, the destiny of the unit changed when Uma Bharati, who was the tourism minister of Madhya Pradesh then, decided to bring in a bureaucrat who was known for his no nonsense attitude with his previous performance at the ITDC and Indian Railways, to revive and rejuvenate a place that was hidden behind the cobwebs of regular bureaucratic lethargy. Lohani took up the challenge positively with a single minded mission to get the place up and running in record time. He made changes on a daily basis that was visible and he worked from the grassroot level which reflected in the performance. This created a buzz that he was here to deliver as action could be seen happening actively within the corporation. “The first thing I did was actually get down and clean up the place literally. How can one sit and ideate on tourism in a place that was unclean and depressing? I cleaned up my office and my chamber

Ashwani Lohani

Complete decentralisation and power to his people is what Lohani firmly believes in and implements. This gives him time to think on bigger plans and then went on to chalk the MP success story steadily and surely,” says the former MD and commissioner of MP Tourism. Complete decentralisation and power to his people is what he firmly believes in and implements. This gives him time to think on bigger plans and strategise for the future. Empowering his staff and making them feel proud of their work and the company was crucial for the success of the organisa-

tion and he says this with absolute clarity. Change has to be brought about by one person who can lead from the front, following which trust and team work is highly vital for the success of any organisation. “I want my corporation to work better than a private sector one and I am confident we will achieve that,” Lohani had said. His vision was clear – to bring in year-on-year profit for the organisation and aim for a 40 per cent growth across busi-

nesses. MP Tourism also runs its own hospitality properties across the state. Hotel Palash in Bhopal was also refurbished by the corporation and converted into a profit making venture. Other units like the one in Bhimbetka, was also redesigned in record time to make it functional for tourists along with quality F&B service. He changed loss making ‘Dhabba’ units into successful businesses through quick decision making. He works fearlessly towards his goal. He is a bureaucrat who does not believe in sitting on files. His quick thinking and clear decision making ability helps everyone in the organisation. ‘File called for, case quashed’ is a famous term in the organisation. “ “I believe in doing the right thing the right way with respect and dignity. For me my people are very important and I feel HR is very critical in an organisational set up. If your people are happy, it will reflect in their work. I am here to work and bring about change that is concrete. Even in my previous tenures I have worked diligently and was also sacked for my best performance ever when I served in ITDC. But, I have no regrets and only believe in walking strong,” asserts Lohani. Now he is back to where he belongs, to get the Railways running without much delays and derailments. (Excerpts from a tete-atete in 2015, when he was MD and commissioner tourism, Government of Madhya Pradesh)


MOVEMENTS Railway Board, Air India ASHWANI LOHANI has been moved to the Railway Board as its chairman from Air India, while giving interim charge of the national carrier to senior IAS officer RAJIV BANSAL. Lohani replaces A K Mital on the Railway Board. While Lohani has been associated with railways in the past, his successor at Air India Bansal also spent nearly two years at the civil aviation ministry between 2006 and 2008. Bansal has been appointed as the chairman and managing director of Air India for three months. Presently, he is additional secretary and financial advisor at the petroleum ministry. Bansal is taking over as Air India CMD at a time when the government is working on the modalities for the disinvestment of the lossmaking national carrier.

Sabre Holdings. She was most recently special advisor on government affairs for the centre on health and the Global Environment at the School of Public Health, Harvard.

India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) RAVNEET KAUR, IAS Punjab Cadre, additional secretary is the new chairperson and managing director (CMD) of ITDC. She became the first woman to be appointed as a full time CMD at ITDC. Ravneet Kaur, an IAS officer of 1988 batch, Punjab cadre, was joint secretary in Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion

World Travel & Tourism Council The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has appointed GLORIA GUEVARA MANZO as president and chief executive officer (CEO). Guevara served as secretary of tourism for Mexico and CEO of the Mexican Tourism Board from 2010 to 2012, minister in the cabinet of president Calderón. Prior to that she worked for Sabre where most recently she was CEO of Sabre Mexico, reporting to the board of directors of a joint venture between Aeroméxico, Mexicana and

Hahn Air Hahn Air has appointed AN NGO as director of global account management. She takes over the role from Ralf Masermann who has assumed the position of vice president TMC (Travel Management Companies) based at Hahn Air’s head office in Germany. Working closely with Hahn Air’s respective local service partners, Ngo will be responsible for supporting travel

Travel Food Services (TFS) India's Travel Retail Company recently announced the appointment of VIVEK PATANKAR as its chief financial officer (CFO). With a strong background of working across a wide portfolio of brands, Patankar's previous stint was as senior vice president of Snapdeal since April 2015. Prior to this, he had an extensive stint at Unilever serving various verticals and his last role there was as senior finance manager heading fi-

Cargo. Cole most recently served as vice president, Finance and Corporate Planning. A native of High Point, North Carolina, Cole holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting from North Car-

Ravneet Kaur

under Ministry of Commerce and Industry prior to this role. She has also worked as principal secretary in the Departments of Higher Education and Languages, Cabinet, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs with Government of Punjab. Earlier, in Government of India, she has served in the Department of Financial Services, Department of Economic Affairs and Department of Disinvestment.

Sabre

Gloria Guevara Manzo

strumental in key product, technology, business and investment strategy initiatives. Prior to joining Sabre, he cofounded Emerson/Anderson, a private investment fund focused on small cap businesses. He was also a partner at Bain and Company where he served as a leader of consumer products and performance improvement practices and led consulting engagements across many industries to drive profitable growth, operational efficiency and strategic differentiation.

Sabre Corporation, the technology provider to the global travel industry, recently named CLINTON ANDERSON as president of Sabre Hospitality Solutions (SHS). He will succeed Alex Alt who has accepted an executive position at another company. Anderson joined Sabre in 2014, and he currently serves as senior vice president of strategy where he has been in-

nancial planning globally for a 50 billion euro enterprise.

tions across IHG’s restaurants and bars (R&B) offering in IMEA, generating greater revenue and profitability for the company’s hotels. He will also be responsible for operational excellence and delivering great guest experiences across the region. He has led multiple regional franchises, including Chili’s, Caribou Coffee, Fuddrucker’s and Applebee’s.

Ginger Hotels

Shawn Cole

An Ngo

agents in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam with dedicated sales and marketing activities. She will also conduct trainings and deliver presentations covering Hahn Air’s ticketing services.

Delta Cargo SHAWN COLE has been appointed vice president of Delta

olina Agricultural & Technical State University. He earned his Masters of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

MANISH SINGH has been appointed as the corporate director, Travel Trade, Ginger Hotels. Prior to his new role, he was the sales head for The Ultimate Travelling Camp. He has also worked with Citrus Hotels where he was responsible for growing the timeshare business. Singh has an experience of over 25 years in the hotel industry.

InterContinental Hotels Group InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has announced the appointment of MARVIN ALBALLI as its new director of restaurants and bars, India, Middle East, Africa (IMEA). In his remit, Alballi will be focused on driving commercial opera-

Manish Singh

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September 2017


weekend

E V E N T S

ENTREPRENEURIAL DREAMS Lufthansa recently co-created and organised the 'Start-up Expo' in Gurugram

FASHION SOIREE Designer Manish Arora (second from left) with Neerja Bhatia, VP – Indian subcontinent, Etihad Airways, along with Etihad Airways crew at Lakmé Fashion Week Winter Festive 2017

LUXURY AT ITS BEST Seychelles Tourism Board recently organised a luxury familiarisation trip for Mumbai, Nagpur and Ahmedabad travel agents

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INDEPENDENCE DAY To mark the occasion of India’s 71st Independence Day, Lufthansa Group extended a warm Indian reception to passengers

MAKE IN INDIA Nucon Aerospace inaugurated its largest aerospace and defence component manufacturing facility in Hyderabad

TOURISM RUN District Tourism Promotion Council of Kannur recently organised the Paithalmala Marathon to promote the destination


weekend

E V E N T S

CONTINUED EFFORTS Visit Indonesia Tourism Office organised five-city sales mission in India, across Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Chandigarh

JOINING FORCES Alibaba Group Holding and Marriott International have announced the establishment of a joint venture to redefine the travel experience for Chinese travellers

CULTURAL EXTRAVAGANZA Celebrating its association with Kolkata, SriLankan Airlines recently hosted a cultural evening for its patrons and GSAs

SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE Boeing and flydubai celebrated the delivery of the airline’s first 737 MAX 8, making the Middle East carrier the first in the region to operate Boeing’s newest single-aisle airplane

NETWORKING THE WORLD Lufthansa Cargo emphasised long-standing connections with Indian airfreight market at a recent event in Mumbai

CELEBRATING BOND SpiceJet celebrated Raksha Bandhan by flying almost 50 sisters and families of army Jawans to meet their brothers posted on the western border and the national capital

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September 2017


REGD.WITH RNI NO. MAHENG/2005/15993,POSTAL REGD. NO. MCS/163/2016 – 18,PUBLISHED ON 11TH EVERY MONTH, POSTED ON 12TH,13TH,14TH OF EVERY MONTH, POSTED AT MUMBAI PATRIKA CHANNEL SORTING OFFICE,MUMBAI – 400001.

Profile for Indian Express

Express Travelworld (Vol.12, No.8) September, 2017  

India's Foremost Travel Business Magazine

Express Travelworld (Vol.12, No.8) September, 2017  

India's Foremost Travel Business Magazine

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