Ushering 2018 with hope in sight

Following setbacks caused by GST and demonetisation, the tourism and hospitality industry is moving forward with a positive attitude to reverse the negative impact of these roadblocks. The aim is clear, to ensure India tourism thrives. TRAVTALK speaks with industry leaders to gauge the mood for the New Year.

TT BUREAU

Mahendra Vakharia, India Travel Award winner and President, OTOAI

As the President of OTOAI, I want to create a platform for the Tier-II and Tier-III regions of the country to be well represented and be exposed to outbound. Also increasing membership is on the agenda for 2018. On the business front, 2018 will be about consolidating the destinations which we are already promoting and expand the business with interrelated verticals within the company to complement the existing business. We would perhaps also consider expansion in other locations outside Ahmedabad.

Sanjay Narula, Vice President, TAAI

As the Vice President of TAAI, I’d be focusing on our industry events. We hope to make some big announcements soon. We recently had one office-bearers’ meeting. Looking forward, the business is going to definitely grow. TAAI members have been spending a lot of our time and energy in selling products, which are airline and hotel related. We need to look beyond and outside. My focus is going to be on a certain part of India for domestic tourism as well as international tourism for my clients.

Bharat Bhushan Atree, India Travel Award winner and Managing Director, Caper Travel Company

As 2017 draws to a close, we anticipate a fruitful season in 2018 with an increase in the number of tourists. We also are eagerly awaiting the launch of our software in 2018. The New Year will see us spread our wings further in the genres of the travel trade and ventures that have been brewing in the past year. Every year, we periodically add niche and traveller friendly products, and also expand product portfolios of our existing markets. New markets are being introduced to us through new and existing agents, thus providing us a platform to reach many more countries and travel destinations.

Ratna Chadha, CEO, TIRUN Travel Marketing

Government is diligently working on improving the ports and infrastructure and is serious to make cruise tourism a success in India. Major ports are set to cut berthing charges for cruise ships and there will be e-landing and e-visa facilities for the tourists. This year, the country witnessed 60,000 cruise tourists through 55 ships and there is a potential to increase it to 30 lakh cruise tourists in the coming years. As we all know that the cruise business is cyclical, we hope for promising years ahead.

Pankaj Nagpal, India Travel Award winner and MD, Travstarz Global Group

New Year 2018 is going to be special for us as we look forward to some interesting developments for the company. We are expecting to grow more than cent per cent this year as well as we expand our offerings and also our sales teams and presence across the Indian subcontinent. We are looking forward to launch our upgraded online system which has been in the works for over two years and will bring about some unique features to make us the best online product both in terms of offerings and technology

Neelu Singh, CEO & Director, Ezeego1

We, at Ezeego1, are looking at expanding our presence in the retail space significantly. We will be identifying markets and establishing our product in those regions by providing the best content and technology. We will also be evolving in the franchise concept across India. Home-based agents are another focus in India which is growing quite substantially, and we definitely want to be a part of it.

Vivek Sanghi, Founder, ecare Technology

While we explore the potential of new technologies surfacing, we are keen to embed Block Chain-based solutions for travel trade, including the CRM capabilities to fulfil the cycle and a universal solution which can cater to the offline travel agency business as well. We are considering a free-to-use core module for travel agencies to be able to run their operations smoothly. One of the important and critical areas we are focusing on is to enter into selected international markets to expand our reach and presence

Sonica Malhotra, JMD, MBD Group

We had a satisfactory 2017 and with our newly-renovated hotel, we aim to successfully reposition ourselves as a super luxurious offering. Three years before the renovation started, we were No 1 in RevPAR (Revenue per available room) in entire Delhi-NCR region and we hope to achieve this position by early April. Owing to the impeccable services and ambience we offer our guests, Radisson Blu MBD is now perceived as the ‘true value for money hotel’ in Ludhiana. And, this is having a great impact on our ARR (Average Room Rate) as well; in 2017 our hotel revenue performance had an upward graph.

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder & CEO, OYO

In 2018, we expect the trend of customer preference for brands over distributors to solidify further as their experiences and exposure increase. The lines between home-sharing and professional hospitality services will also blur further. In fact, hotels are likely to seek some form of alliances with home-sharing platforms, much like OYO has already initiated with OYO Home – India’s first homemanagement service. New trends are emerging as decisionmaking power shifts to the millennial generation

Debasish Bhowmik, Sr. Vice President, Hotel Clarks Shiraz

In the New Year, we have expectations from the Government to have many more tourism friendly policies, which will help to build better infrastructure and tourism friendly environment for growth and also sustenance, which is very important. A better global economic scenario will encourage people to travel more, thereby helping everyone to fulfil their targets and act as an incentives for further development and growth.

Manheer Singh Sethi, Co-founder, Travkart.com, India Travel Award winner

The New Year will be one of the most dynamic years, with the travel sector growth expected to touch the double digit mark. Other than Andaman, Goa, Kerala, Kashmir, Ladakh, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Maldives and Malaysia, destinations such as Hanuwantia in Madhya Pradesh, and internationally, Bhutan, Tashkent, Russia, Iceland, Balkan Region (Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Czech Republic) are gaining popularity. The economic changes have been more than beneficial barring some issues in the initial run

Rishantha Mendis, Director, Helanka Vacations

At Helanka Vacations, we have invested heavily in new infrastructure this year by moving into our own five-storey premises in Colombo. By utilising our full group strength, we expect to see extensive growth in this year and create new partnerships to support us with our targets.

Pradeep Saboo, Partner, Guideline Travels LLP

With the dust on GST now clearly settling down, I see 2018 as a year where travel shall simply rise to new heights. The year 2018 will see new peaks in the Indian travel industry with a booming economy and wellsettled trade parameters. We are targeting at least a 20 per cent growth year-on-year in 2017-2018

Kirsten Spence, Senior Manager- Emerging Markets, VisitScotland

2018 is a very exciting year for us as we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai being shot in Scotland. The Bollywood movie was released in October but we will be celebrating the movie throughout the year through various activities. We have come up with a trip planner to allow travellers to visit the filming locations throughout Scotland. We will also be working on consumer activities in collaboration with Dharma Productions and continue to offer highest level of content and experiences to sell to our travel trade partners in India.

Mahesh Shirodkar, India Travel Award winner, MD, Tamarind Global

Tamarind Global has drawn up a ‘Vision 2020’ which defines our strategy for the next four years. The four verticals of Tamarind Global—Tours, Events, Weddings and Corporate Services, have big plans for the coming year. The four verticals have clearly defined goals, in line with our vision, which is ‘to be the most desired brand, building sustainable enterprise value, by creating unforgettable experiences’. The plans include opening of three new international of- fices as well as expansion of our verticals in more locations in India. Weddings and high-end MICE business will be key drivers of growth for the coming year.

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