The tour operator’s first shot at initiating a serious discussion managed to do just that. It focused on three pertinent issues: visas for Indians, outbound from India, and inbound tourism.
Thomas Cook India Limited’s maiden edition of ‘India Travel Summit: Facilitating Travel in Turbulent Times’ was recently held in Mumbai. The half-day event was kept exclusive by making it a closed-door affair, which no doubt kept the numbers low but the quality high.
Three one-hour sessions focused on visas, outbound and inbound tourism with each topic having huge potential for a meaningful discussion. The tour operator plans to make it an annual event. The first session focused on visa issues and had Consul Generals from five countries on the panel. This was followed by a discussion on India’s outbound market with four India heads of NTOs.
The last and the most interesting session discussed inbound tourism with four speakers: Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India; Ragini Chopra, VP-Corporate Communications, Jet Airways; Renu Basu, Global VP-Sales, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces; and David Scowsill, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Madhavan Menon, Chairman and Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India), said, “We wanted this to be different from any other travel event. We had a mix of people like government officials, global tourism body in WTTC, tourism boards, airlines and hotels. We started off with discussing visa regulations. One of the biggest challenges we face is about visas. It is not because the visa authorities are being difficult, instead they work hard to help us. But we work in an environment where the accuracy of some documents is highly questionable. The second session involved tourism boards discussing traffic from India. Then we got into the regulatory topics like policies. We tried to create a variety which worked but we have set the bar very high.”
Speaking about the inspiration behind this initiative, Abraham Alapatt, President & Group Head- Marketing & Service Quality, Financial Services & Innovation, Thomas Cook (India), said, “We didn’t really have an India equivalent of WTTC’s Global Summit and saw the need to create a platform which would allow everyone in the eco-system to come together. We wanted a summit where we could get the opinion-makers and leaders of the industry to come together by invitation only. This year, it was in Mumbai but we are considering Delhi next year. We also got the Consul Generals on stage. These are people we hardly get a chance to listen to and even they hardly get a chance to talk on the public forum. We will be considering the feedback we have received to understand if we need to make any changes in format.”