India needs aggressive marketing

Laying emphasis on inbound tourism into India, Ajay Prakash, National President, TAFI, believes that the country needs a new, clear-headed marketing campaign to re-establish itself as a tourist destination on the global map. The association plans to hold a few of its events this year within India to encourage its members to sell Indian packages.

Hazel Jain

Ajay Prakash, President, TAFI, has been a huge proponent of India. While the association did hold its annual convention in Malaysia, its first choice was India. Unfortunately, a lack of support from states forced it to hold its annual event outside India. Speaking his mind about inbound, Prakash says, “The only segment that has not really picked up yet is the inbound. I would say we are no more than 35 per cent at best of where we were pre-pandemic. Even the reopening of e-visas for British nationals came at a time when we had already lost half the season. Today, when everything is electronic, I fail to understand the rationale behind not allowing e-visas to so many of our biggest source markets. Over the last two and a half years, India has done almost zero promotion overseas. Although, the MOT did participate in WTM London, ITB Berlin, as well as FITUR. The Asian region and our neighbours have been much more pro-active. India has not been on top of everybody’s mind for travel this season. And of course, the high airfares have not helped. India needs to have an aggressive marketing campaign to re-stablish ourselves and make people aware all over again that India is a safe, attractive and friendly destination.”

He adds that we must get our acts together in terms of promotion. “We have lived off the Incredible India campaign for a very long time – I think it’s time to re-define, re-tweak, re-orient our global marketing strategy. Improve the perception of the country in terms of public hygiene and amenities. We need to address those at a ground level. We are getting a miniscule share of the global tourism traffic. We need to up that. While the outbound may be hit by the depreciating rupee, inbound may benefit. But it needs sustained efforts, it needs a clear-headed campaign,” Prakash says.

Mini conclaves in India

In the new year, TAFI is looking at doing a couple of mini conclaves in different parts of the country. “We have all discovered the value that domestic tourism brings. It is important for our members to experience these destinations for themselves. To build friendships and collaborations with the local service providers in these different states, we do want to hold some of our events within India,” he says. For its next annual convention, TAFI has already been receiving proposals from a few countries.

“Another thing we want to emphasise on is sustainability in tourism, which we highlighted during our convention as well. Tourism has to be more responsible; it needs to be more aware of its carbon footprint. It must be less destructive of nature. That is going to be the core of our thrust going forward. All things considered anything that happens in 2023 will only be better than 2021-22,” Prakash says.

Agility and awareness

For our part, Prakash says, the industry needs to be much more aware and agile now. “That is why we at TAFI have revamped our website and are offering over a 100 free courses to our members – on how to be a better travel consultant, tour planning and a whole lot of soft skills. It’s rich in content, including training on destination modules. No other association in India is offering something like this to its members. Upskilling and training have become critical,” he says.

Bilateral tourism with Greece

Sharing some more developments, he says that TAFI was also part of the World Travel Agents’ Associations Alliance (WTAAA) meeting held in Athens recently. WTAAA is the global body representing travel agencies and tour operators and has a membership of the largest tourism associations from five continents. Representatives of organised tourism from Canada, Australia, South Africa, the USA, Europe, Latin America, South Korea, Hong Kong, India and New Zealand attended this. They discussed international trends in tourism, resolving issues concerning tourism, and discussed a modern way of approaching and informing international tourists. “We have signed an MoU with HATTA (Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies) as well as the Federation of Hellenic Travel Agencies Associations to further develop cooperation and bilateral tourism between India and Greece. Greece is where democracy originated and India is the biggest democracy in the world today,” he says.

 

 

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