Ras Al Khaimah hosted the 3rd OTOAI Annual Convention where the travel trade discussed new opportunities and efficient use of technology in tourism to allow its members to implement it to grow business. Attendees at the convention share their experiences of the destination with TRAVTALK.
ANKITA SAXENA FROM RAS AL KHAIMAH
Shravan Bhalla, General Secretary- OTOAI, and CEO, High Flyer
The convention has been a congregation of quality travel agents and tour operators from across the country, discussing new opportunities for travel professionals. I feel that with changing times, the regular itineraries will not do well as today everything is available online; anyone and everyone can package their own tours. The key is to tap into newer, unexplored destinations, where the travel agent holds a monopoly and also diversify the segment of travel. One has to create customised, niche itineraries and venture into segments like events and weddings where the hand-holding and physical presence of the agents is required to grow the business.
Rajeev Sabharwal, CEO, Gaurav Travels, and Head-Finance and Events-OTOAI
The biggest achievement of the convention has been the theme. The intention was to deliberate and educate the association members on the new opportunities available to them in the market and how they can make the most of it in order to grow their business. The convention was also instrumental in allowing the members to explore a new destination like Ras Al Khaimah, which they can now learn about and add to their list of products.
Gurdeep Singh Gujral, Joint Secretary-OTOAI and Co-chairman, OTOAI Convention
We received a very positive feedback for the convention. We hosted participants from across India including the four major metros and Tier-II cities of Nagpur, Jamshedpur, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. The reason we chose Ras Al Khaimah as our convention venue is that this is the third emirate which has high tourism potential apart from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which are frequented by Indian travellers. The pristine coastline, high-value tourism products, along with new upcoming projects, Ras Al Khaimah certainly offers good value to travellers. With the changing times, it is very important for the outbound tour operators to explore newer sectors and create opportunities which will be beneficial for business in the long run
Sujit Nair, Founder and Group Managing Director, Akquasun Group
OTOAI conventions have always been very good. This is one of the serious conventions that take place every year in the tourism and hospitality industry. This year, I feel every participant has got an update about the current trends in the outbound market. The convention touched upon all the challenges faced by the travel agents from across the country and have also managed to deliberate on the solutions and way forward, which has been very helpful. In the times to come, mobile applications will be the future for travel.
Anjum Lokhandwala, Founder and Director, Outbound Konnections
The convention was very well organised as well as well attended. We had the opportunity to network with our existing partners and fellow travel agents but more importantly, we were able to meet members of OTOAI from across the country. I loved the session on technology as it was an eye-opener. I have learnt how to work with a database and make use of social media. We have been active on Facebook and Instagram for personal purposes but the sessions gave us information on how we can make use of these platforms for the benefit of our business and grow them further.
Tejbir Singh Anand, Founder and Managing Director, Holiday Moods Adventures
I felt that this year’s convention has been unique not only because of the informative sessions conducted through the day but also because of the destination. Earlier, when the convention was proposed, we were not convinced as to what Ras Al Khaimah can offer us. However, after visiting the destination and listening to the destination presentation at the convention, we are happily surprised. I feel if the right months are chosen to travel here, this destination will be a bestseller.
Gursahib Singh Sethi , Chief Operating Officer, Sahibji Travels and Tours, India Travel Award winner
The convention has been an informative platform to gather knowledge about the various trends in the industry. The highlight for me was the fact that the convention deliberated on solutions more than on problems. The most important part is that we could listen and discuss with senior players of the industry what can be done to overcome the challenges in business. The destination chosen for the convention has been excellent and will surely become more popular among Indian clientele.
Mahendra Vakharia, Managing Director, Pathfinders Holidays, and Chairman-Western Chapter-OTOAI
The highlight of OTOAI convention is that it is focused, compact and we do not believe in numbers but in targeting the right audience. Even the sessions have to be interesting, appropriate and interactive for the participants. Presently, we are going through interesting times in the outbound tourism industry. With the new regime of GST, all of us will have to be ready to change our business model and adapt. I feel this will be a good change as it will create a level playing field for all and it will ensure a long run for those who want to do ethical business. Not only the Tier-II and Tier-III markets, I feel even the Tier-I market is not ready to accept technology or embrace it into the system. We should have adapted to technology a few years ago but we can still catch up as it is the only way forward
Adl Karim, Director, Creative Tours and Travels (India)
The convention was very informative and offered a good platform to meet and greet fellow travel industry peers and colleagues. Since the convention is organised in a different country every year, especially an emerging destination for outbound travel, we get to learn about a new destination which can be tapped for business. We could enlighten ourselves with the current industry trends and products as well
Vineet Gopal, Chairman-Northern Chapter, OTOAI
The convention was awe-inspiring! The key focus of the convention was to address the insecurities of the industry members regarding the future of travel business. Various speakers during the sessions highlighted the challenges especially after demonetisation and GST and also deliberated on the way forward and how to create newer avenues for business. Ras Al Khaimah is a new and unexplored emirate and given the fact that tourism between India and the UAE is thriving, RAK can easily be an added product to the itineraries.
Sajan K Gupta, CEO, Vayu Seva Tours and Travels & Chairman-Eastern Chapter, OTOAI
The convention for me was an incredible experience. It is a known fact that the outbound travel market from India is booming and travellers are looking at new destinations for their holidays. In such a scenario, I feel Ras Al Khaimah will definitely change the landscape for Indians who are travelling abroad. It will soon become a must-do destination for the clients who visit Dubai.
Dhruv Raj Gupta, Co-founder and CEO, Tripshelf
This is my first time at OTOAI convention. For me, this is a concentrated platform where I can meet all my industry partners in one shot. It is a three-day affair which is very convenient. The accommodation and venue for the convention, Waldorf Astoria, has been phenomenal with its luxury offerings. The highlight of the convention for me is that it is a one-stop-shop where we get to network and interact with the industry. It definitely fulfilled my agenda and purpose of attending a convention
Manish Kriplani, CEO, Baywatch Travels and Chairman-Southern Chapter, OTOAI
In today’s time, the world has become a much smaller place and with technology, this phenomenon is taking place at lightning speed. In terms of creating opportunities with the fast-paced times, I feel we are networking a lot more. Now there are many shows of similar nature like the convention where we get a chance to meet the right kind of people for business which is a major advantage.
Farida Attarwala, Director, Butterflyers Holidays
This is the first time I’m attending an OTOAI convention and it has been a learning experience. We had abundant interactive sessions and networking opportunities with fellow travel agents. It has been a very well-managed event and the location chosen for the convention– Ras Al Khaimah–has given us an opportunity to explore a new destination which can be easily combined with Dubai, a favourite with the Indian clientele for a weekend holiday. Also, the ease of visa from India will add to the popularity of this destination in the Indian market.
Sangeeta Barera, Founder, World of Astral
Despite 20 years of experience in the travel industry, this is the first time I have travelled for a convention. The destination chosen is new and in its nascent stage. Thus, it is the right time to visit it and understand it before offering it to the clients. In three nights we could explore Ras Al Khaimah and absorb the essence and also look at it from various facets as clients, honeymooners, MICE, holidays, etc. apart from being travel agents. I could gather good product knowledge and the sessions and exchange of ideas was the need of the hour.
M. A. Sheeraz, Director, Sheeraz Tours
This year’s convention has been very different from its last edition in Bali. I have been to the UAE multiple times but this is my first time to Ras Al Khaimah. Bali is a destination that we have been selling from Lucknow to the Uttar Pradesh market for a long time but Ras Al Khaimah has come up as a new, unexplored destination. Today, the clients demand off-beat locations for their holidays as they have already travelled to South East Asia and European countries and I feel Ras Al Khaimah can be that next spot. We could see that this destination serves as an apt location for Indian weddings, FIT travel as well as honeymooners.