GST concerns plagued agents in 2017

TT BUREAU

Pooja Wadhwa, Partner, Avant Garde Consulting

This year has been exceptional for us as we received heart-warming support from the travel trade for the entire chain that extends to Dubai, Maldives and Seychelles, especially for JA Manafaru Maldives, which was a fairly unknown brand in the Indian market. We’ve also been very fortunate in being able to pursue our expansion plan further in the direction that we’d like for Avant Garde, with new partner hotels that share a similar ideology and ethos as us.

Dnyanesh Kale, Co-founder, Tiger Routes

We restructured our business this year, completely refreshed our products portfolio by diversifying into the volunteering and responsible tourism and given a fresh look to our website. We have now established presence in the UK with our new office. We have increased our marketing staff in key areas including Mumbai, Hyderabad and Nagpur. We have also increased our portfolio of properties exclusively offered through Tiger Routes by focusing on backward integration. The results have been impressive too.

K Swaminathan, Director (Service Business), Balmer Lawrie & Co

The industry was hugely impacted by the implementation of GST mainly on account of confusion about how invoices for tickets are to be raised. Most of our customers being corporates wanted to avail credit of GST charged by airlines. The finalisation of documentation and bringing in changes in IT systems took time which affected business. Fortunately for us, there was a double-digit growth in domestic travel. There has also been a spurt in demand for technology to meet the travel requirements. We have experienced a dearth of good talent.

Kunal Kothari, Executive Director, Rail Europe India

We were targeting a 15 per cent growth and so far we are on track to achieve it. At the same time, as a growing market, it is now interesting our partner railways and they are visiting India to understand the market with an eye on offering India-specific products and promotions. Even though the GST implementation had brought in a lot of confusion since July, travel to Europe isn’t really hampered.

GMJ Thampy, CMD, Riya Group

The year 2017 has been quite an interesting one as we managed to move towards uncharted territories. We have progressed well in our core business and at the same time, we have made substantial inroads into the US and Canada markets. We have also seen a fair amount of surge in sales in the smaller pockets in India. Overall, I would say that it has fairly been a good year for us.

Ruden Dias, National Sales Head, U&I Holiday

This year our top lines witnessed tremendous increase as compared to last year. Our objective to engage with Tier-II and III markets has paid us huge dividends. We conducted familiarisation trips for Bali and Maldives. This year we saw the number of nights for Bali increase from three to four and five nights. Our key partners have contributed over 60 per cent of our business but the last few months saw a dip in numbers due to Mt. Agung eruption

Rohit Vig, Regional Managing Director–India, Staywell Hospitality Group

The year 2017 was full of new opportunities and changes for the group and the industry as a whole. We collaborated with Prince Hotels Inc., one of the largest hotel chains in the world, and offers a diverse portfolio of properties across a combined network of 122 hotels worldwide. We have expanded our footprint in Rajasthan, India, with opening of Leisure Inn Shrey Jodhpur. For the first time in the history, the country has jumped 30 points to enter the top 100 club.

Joe Rajan, Chief Executive Officer, Harvey World Destinations

This year, we saw a shift in the booking and research pattern, with consumers booking well in advance. Despite the economy going through a tough period following demonetisation in November last year, its impact was short-lived and the industry continued to grow with healthy momentum. There was a dip in traffic in the first couple of days post the demonetisation announcement, but things were back to normal after that. I feel the government should encourage domestic as well as international tourism through policy and regulatory changes, and infrastructure developments.

B.A. Rahim, Founder & Group CEO, Akquasun

The year 2017 for me in three words was about learning, training and executing. After two years of developing our online platform, we launched it this year. We executed with live inventory and today 50 per cent of our business in Maldives and Mauritius is via the website. On July 1, 2017, we appointed professionals to study the execution of GST and this was passed on to our clients. This year also saw a major change in our approach to business wherein Akquasun obtained 100 per cent shareholding of all our DMCs.

Sanjay Temkar, Director of Sales – India, Trafalgar

The year 2017 was indeed ’Simply the Best’ year for Trafalgar. We saw a surge of 20 per cent on our volumes from India market. The trend is slowly changing and we now see more travellers who don’t want to risk disappointment booking well in advance and benefiting from our early booking savings. We see more guests who want to explore new destinations like Croatia, Balkans, Russia, Japan, Spain, and Portugal with our guided holidays.

Peter Kerkar, Group CEO, Cox & Kings, India Travel Award winner

It has been a rewarding year for Cox & Kings as we launched a few new initiatives in India. The first was Enable Travel, which is India’s only accessible holiday specialist and the second was the launch of Trip 360, which is a sustainable tourism platform that is redefining adventure tourism. All our businesses in India and overseas are performing very well. We signed agreements for six new Meininger hotel properties that will collectively add 2,756 beds to our inventory. At present, we have 17 hotels with 8,409 beds

Clevio Monteiro, CEO, Visa Lounge

We started only a year ago with UAE as the first country we offered visas for. Today, we are 18 countries strong to offer visas application through just one form on one platform. We have built a pan-India network of over 300 agents and corporate houses. This year, we have also launched our platform’s API and white label solutions for which we have been approached by several mid to large-sized travel houses. We have grown from staff strength of five to 20 and plan to grow to 40 by the end of the next financial year.

Alefiya Singh, Director, Iris Reps

This year has been a challenging as well as a rewarding year for us. We got new principals like Coco Collection, Vista DMC for Spain and Portugal, and MGM Macau. On the other hand, factors like demonetisation and GST were a hindrance. The lack of clarity in these issues created a lot of uncertainty in the market. But we opened up channels of unconventional sales and markets and spent less on marketing by doing targeted activities. All is well when you end well which is what 2017 has been for us and our principals.

Gagan Kumar, Director, STHI Group, India Travel Award winner

The year 2017 has seen an incline despite various roadblocks. However, 2017 has got the travel trade in tune with the government’s statutory requirement, which is being done and followed in letter and spirit. For the first time, since the inception of our destination management company, we were awarded for MICE in 2017. The volatile economy and various policy swings shook the entire industry but with our focused approach and due diligence towards our work, we were able to streamline things to our advantage.

Shoba Mohan, Founder- Partner, RARE India

For RARE India, 2017 was a tough year with many challenges, but it was also a year of great learning and innovation. In the last few years, the business in travel has leveraged our expertise and widened our horizons. However, ease of doing business is yet to happen in this industry. We hope that the next year brings with it new avenues of growth.

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