OTOAI embraces digitisation

Besides gaining knowledge about various tourism products of South Africa, agents agreed in unison that the need of the hour is to change and adopt digitalisation to remain relevant in business.

Kanchan Nath from Cape Town

Guldeep Singh Sahni, Founder Member, OTOAI & Managing Director, Weldon Tours & Travels

The networking as well as the B2B meetings went well. The convention brought all the tour operators together along with the DMCs here in South Africa. One can see the performance of tour operators in the next one year who have to sell South Africa in their itineraries. For the next year’s convention, we are considering about 15 destinations. As our priority, we will definitely come out with one of the partners where we think the tour operators need more education and exposure to. As far as digitalistion is concerned, we do not have to panic but act.

Shravan Bhalla, EC Member, OTOAI & CEO, High Flyer

About 175 Indian delegates attended the OTOAI convention. Over and above, more than 70 per cent of them were visiting South Africa for the first time to meet suppliers and gain knowledge in exploring and experiencing the product. It was a great opportunity for tour operators of Tier-II and III cities to explore Cape Town by joining on their pre and post FAMs and explore the beauty of South Africa. We were keen to take visa challenges and encourage the tourist authority to adopt the e-visa mode for a faster and seamless process. We also want to encourage more airlines to enter this market as well as re-launch direct flights to major hubs to enable increase in numbers to this country.

Ajay Sengar, Chairman—Western Chapter, OTOAI

The DMCs at the convention were excellent as they provided us with relevant information and product knowledge. The lectures and sessions were educative for travel agents. It is important for all of us to adopt digitalisation so that we can improve our business. OTOAI did a commendable job by organising its convention in Cape Town. South Africa is a destination to be explored in all its beauty. All the EC members of the association have undertaken a lot of efforts to deliver a successful event. Next year, I think we should head to Australia or New Zealand for the convention.

Manish Kriplani, Chairman—Southern Chapter, OTOAI & CEO, Baywatch Travels

Overall, there has been a good feedback from travel agents from the southern region about the convention. Most importantly, agents liked the destination. Agents were updated about the latest tourism trends and informed well through B2B meetings. We also learnt a lot about the various tourism products that South Africa has to offer. The convention is evolving with each event. In the last few months, a few meetings were held in the southern region. With just 38 members, we are very selective about our members and ensure they are genuine tour operators who are involved in good quality business.

Dev Karvat, CEO-Emerging Markets, Cover More

OTOAI convention had some great speakers this year. The subject chosen is also very apt for what is happening back home. The association put its best foot forward in terms of arrangements; it does not seem like it’s their fourth convention. Travel insurance now has become a commodity. Everybody can buy travel insurance, what’s going to really differentiate is the assistance. The way we are going to differentiate one from the other is the key. How it reaches out to the end customer is going to be through artificial intelligence, where the customer dynamically gets the right product to where he is travelling rather than a static product.

Surinder Lidder, Managing Partner, Holiday Bash International

This is my second OTOAI convention. I must compliment the association in doing a commendable job. OTOAI is an excellent organisation and its going to go to great places. Outbound agents have a lot of common issues that need to be addressed and I think that OTOAI has filled the void to a certain extent. We needed one common voice to stand up and address the outbound trade’s concerns and grievances. Digitalisation is definitely the future and its good they are working on this at this point of time; it’s only going to help the members. I am taking a lot of knowledge back home.

P Pathinathan, Managing Partner, World Wings Tours and Travels

On the first day of the convention, we got an opportunity to interact with the MPs and the Minister during which we put across the demand for the electronic visa. That was the highlight because it is very difficult to interact directly with the Minister otherwise. The implementation of electronic visa will become much easier for Indians to visit South Africa. The hotel, Taj Cape Town is wonderful, and arrangements were also well done. Coming here till Stellenbosch, one has become familiar with the wine country. Next year, I feel the association should take its convention to Australia. Members of OTOAI will now surely give more business to South Africa.

K Chandran, Managing Director, Emperor Traveline

The OTOAI Convention has created an opportunity to learn more about South Africa. It has been an eye opener to plan and face competition in the era of digitalisation. The involvement of South Africa tourism, Ministry along with the Indian consul has strengthened our confidence to market South Africa in India. The speakers delivered valuable information relevant to our industry’s growth. The Fam trip was useful in gaining knowledge about the products ready for sale to the Indian customers. As a south Indian outbound tour operator, I could see more of adventure tour possibilities as adventure activities are not easily available in South India.

Sandhya Pandey, Director, Network Air

OTOAI Convention had the right vendors, speakers and senior officials from the South African tourism board. The takeaway was embracing digital technology in the travel business. It was encouraging to learn that travel business is growing rapidly and is poised to grow by $3 million in about three years. We could feel the close ties of South Africa with India. A direct flight from Delhi to Cape Town will definitely help in this regard. Post-convention Fam tour gave us the chance to see the beautiful spots in and around Cape Town. South Africa has the right mix of culture, natural beauty and hospitable people.

Shabbir Dalal, Director, Shums Air Travels

My heartiest congratulations to the working committee of OTOAI
for zeroing in on the beautiful destination. South Africa entails all possible features that a tourist would look out for in their holiday. I am sure the committee workers of the association must have had their share of challenges in working out the different itineraries, but all in all, the travel fraternity has recognised and understood the potential of this beautiful destination. So, the purpose and mission of OTOAI is well accomplished!

Harish Verma, Director, Reisen Tours

The comment by James Vos, Foster Tourism Minister, South Africa at the inaugural event which highlighted OTOAI Convention as a great opportunity for everyone to network and find out the best practices in the industry, was praiseworthy. He also mentioned the plan of introducing e-visa for travellers to South Africa to boost tourism. The pre- and post-familiarisation trips to different locations was effective to understand and explore the destination. It was a great exposure to meet 30-40 sellers from South Africa with whom we got the chance to meet under one roof, exchange ideas, new concepts and methods.

Chitra Bhatia, General Secretary, OTOAI & Managing Director, Aashman Air Travels

I think the event was brilliant; it went off very smoothly. The place, the business sessions and B2B meetings went really well. OTOAI has gone to such a far-off destination for the first time. South Africa is a beautiful destination to sell, there is adventure, nature, wildlife, deserts and it’s also perfect for honeymooners. As far as digitalisation is concerned, we have no option but to start taking baby steps now.

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