Is this the time for Halla Bol!

The picture of travel and tourism industry doesn’t seem to be as glossy as it looks. If we intend to go deeper we find that every day many agents are either incurring huge losses or are threatened by the online offers or are shutting down their shutters. In this scenario, the question is, are the online portals eating up the business of the agents who are doing business the conventional way? Is it an ethical way of doing a business where one section of the travel and tourism i.e. the online portals is doing pretty well despite making profits, whereas the tour operators are not able to compete with them, as per few tour operators. Let’s have a look.

halla bol

Sudipta Saha

‘Ethical’ is a big word in itself, the meaning of it doesn’t stand as simple as its pronunciation. Today, ethical is really losing its meaning, not only in regards to travel and tourism industry, but also in other verticals. The online portals are taking away the business of the tour operators which is being claimed by many of the tour operators these days, and Ethical Tourism Policy has become a buzz. Let’s first understand what ETP is and why this initiative has been started by a group of tour operators. Online travel portals which are armed with large foreign funding are squeezing hoteliers for lowest possible rate and have brought almost a monopolistic situation. They are in a way abetting unethical practices in the travel and tourism industry. Many Tour operators have to shut shop and many are on the verge of closure because Tour operators are not able to compete with the heavy discounting by portals.

But, is anybody making money in the process? The answer is, none! The whole beneficiary in this game of price war by travel portals is direct customer. The ARRs of hotels have gone down drastically, and the offline agents have literally swept out of business because OTAs sell inventory lower than their purchase price to kill the competition. Most of the tour operators want a permanent solution, else they will be forced to shift their business options, says the member of ETP group.

The group firmly believes that hotels should play the role of a principal and product supplier and frame rational sales policies for the tourism industry. The group basically wants to stop hotels to offer attractive special rates to offline or online tour operators producing results for them. All what they demand to hotels is to have strict ethical tourism policy. Firstly hotels should allow portals to discount the rates only on B2B portals and B2C portals should display selling price set by hotels.

The ETP under this model aims at benefitting the hoteliers as well. It says, hotel’s ARR will increase as discounted rates are not displayed and dot coms will be making better profits and will not squeeze hotels for lower rates. As the price war will be resolved, it will be create better profits for the hotels. It also states that hotel’s direct customer will not have any complaints from the hotels as display rates on portals will be higher than nett rates quoted to portals. This will result in gaining the confidence and enhancing hotels credibility amongst direct clients. Since discounted rates are going to be only b2b portals and display rates on b2c portals, travel agents, tour operators will be more loyal to hotels. Hotels will get their bulk sales from Dot Coms as tour operators will be routing their business through their B2B portals.

When it comes to portals, the ETP promises that they will also be benefitted. Since on b2c portals clients will see only selling price and will either book directly or will come through a tour operator. In both the options portals will be benefitted. If clients book on display rates, portals will make more profits, if client comes through an agent which again route his business through portals because of the heavy discounted price on the portals. So portals are getting benefit either ways. Portals will get a loyal team of professionals (i.e tour operators) with no cost which will further enhance their business as tour operators will provide personalised services to all clients. As of now they have to hire team and have that liability of paying them on monthly basis. One customer probably comes to portals may once or twice a year for his booking. But if agents start making profits through portals then probably each agent might be able to give two to 10 bookings a day resulting in maintaining or enhancing the high turnover model of the portals with better service standards. Portals can create their own team of loyal professionals (agents) at no cost and still be able to maintain their turnovers. This will probably convert into a model where agent’s offices can be claimed claim their own offices by portals and can provide all service of offline as well, such as payment collection, personalised services, etc, through the local agents of the specific locations.

The movement obviously intends to provide benefits to tour operators, affordability and easy access of technology at no cost using the portals for bookings. Else agents will have to spend crores of rupees which hardly anyone of the tour operators can afford. An ease of business will be created as portals will do all spade work of contracting and will upload on b2b where tour operators have just to login and conclude the booking procedure. Tour operators are running from pillar to post to get wide range of hotels and keep negotiating the rates will be reduced as portals will do all the contracting that too on a special discounted rates and with incentive schemes by portals. Agents will get their customers and profitability back as clients do not have excess to b2b portals and can see the common display rates on b2c portals only set by hotels.

ETP, a war between offline and online, better to be termed as a movement, is a step to bring in the industry i.e. hoteliers, portals and tour operators together and work as a team. The tour operators are on a verge of losing their business and concerned with the rising demand of online. It is important for all verticals of the industry to follow certain ethical practices so that interests of the industry as well as the clients are safeguarded.

What is (ETP) Ethical Tourism Policy?
ETP is not against any portals or technology it’s not about online vs offline, many are confused, rightly so as industry is going through transit. The aim of the policy is to use technology for the benefits of all industry partners in fact ETP welcome technology and suggest all members to adopt the technology for its better use. Under ethical tourism policy, hoteliers to stop only these few portals which are using their dominant position of having excess funds to under sell (selling even below their purchased cost) b2c portals to have common display rates (selling price) set by hotels. As many hotels could sense brand diluting by not getting the same profile of guests due to this under cutting of price by using different means of under cutting, discounted coupons, advertisement budgets etc.
ETP is against ‘Predatory Pricing’ which is illegal under CCI, (Competition Commission of India) Predatory pricing the act of setting prices low in an attempt to eliminate the competition. Predatory pricing is illegal under anti-trust laws, as it makes markets more vulnerable to a monopoly. Therefore Govt., allow 100 per cent FDI for market place with riders of predatory pricing, these OTAs must regulate else purpose of ETP is to approach govt and force regulation of such practices.
As of now it is a price war in our Industry, whereas the service standards have gone down drastically in the absence of respectable margins due to price war created by few OTAs. Market has become so vulnerable that news of defaulters and cheating has become very common which is not a good sign for any industry.

TTJ Feels
Ethical Tourism Policy is the new buzz in the tourism industry, where the online travel booking is taking over the conventional system. Well, we all will agree that today is an era of technology which has made everything easy and convenient. Online booking can be trouble-free, but often booking holidays through it cannot give a pleasant experience. Whether, it is tour operators, hoteliers or portals, all are the elements of the same industry and they should welcome the change as well as it is a high time to work as a team, and not step over each other shoulder to climb up the success ladder. We feel, all three should come together in order to offer better service to the consumer which in future will definitely lead to expansion and economic growth. The ‘price war’ should be resolved and better understanding amongst the hotels, tour operators and portals should be developed.
ETP is a great initiative, in order to save the dying business of the offline agents, but is a bunch of people enough to drive the mission. The answer is ‘NO’, if the entire industry is facing crisis, then it’s time to be united, come together and convert the movement into mass movement.

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The elementary motto to maintain and enhance service standards

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In the heart of Agra is located DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Agra offering breathtaking view of the legendary monument the ‘Taj Mahal’ from the pool area, and convenient access to Agra attractions such as the Agra Fort, Akbar’s Tomb and Sadar Bazaar. TP Sreejith, General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton shares more with TTJ.

This elegant Agra hotel provides the ideal setting for business events, social gatherings and memorable weddings. A 3,840 sq. ft. Grand Ballroom connects to an open-air pre-function area. Features include the 1,820 sq. ft. Coronation Room; the Concourse, a multi-function hall; two boardrooms; a 24-hour business center; contemporary A/V facilities and creative catering. Sharing on how the property did in 2015 and what are the expectations from 2016, Sreejith shares, “We did an average occupancy percentage for the year 2015. However, since 2016 would be our second year of operations, we are anticipative to do a much better business this time around,” he further adds, “Of course, there are challenges for occupancies. Majorly it is the pricing. The competition is not amongst just tier I but also coming up are newer properties in the tier II and III, vying for the same target audiences.”

Today the business has more challenges than just buildings. To sustain and enhance the revenues, more has to be input into the property. Tier II and III segments challenge the market on contemporary pricing and lower overheads. A successful revenue generation is to ensure that the ‘quality of life’ for the customer becomes exemplary during the stay at the property. With the increase of challenge there has been a wide demand of a smart workers but what is the current need of the industry ‘hard workers’ or ‘smart workers’. Commenting on the statement, Sreejith says, “As with any kind of workforce, the elementary motto is to maintain and enhance service standards. Thus, today we need ‘smart workers’, that are adaptive, multi-functional and raring to go.”

“DoubleTree by Hilton Agra is one of the very few hotels with Taj View Rooms. Our product and service standards are in line with CARE (Creating a Rewarding Experience) culture. It is also located minutes from the legendary mausoleum, The Taj Mahal,” concludes Sreejith.

ADTOI Convention 2016 – Bringing in new hopes for a brighter tomorrow

The heart of India ‘Madhya Pradesh’ invited the Association of Domestic Tour Operators, in the land of temples Khajuraho to host their 7th Annual Convention, which was organised amidst the presence of key players of domestic tourism. The theme of this year’s convention aimed and revolved around ‘Domestic Tourism: Billion+ Opportunities’. Innumerable topics and issues were discussed during the two day convention, now what is awaited, is the plan of action. A report.

adtoi members, adtoi

What would have been a better place than Madhya Pradesh to organise a convention of Domestic Tour Operators, the people who actually knows India by heart and project them to the world, influence the world to come and witness the grandeur of the country. The 7th ADTOI Annual Convention-cum-Exhibition was organised from April 9-10, 2016 at Hotel Ramada, Khajuraho, MP.
The first day of the convention took off on a very high note in the august presence of Shri Nagendra Singh, Member Parliament, Khajuraho as the Guest of Honour; Shri Vinod Zutshi, Secretary Tourism, Govt of India; Dr Venu V, IAS, Secretary, Govt of Kerala; Smt Kavita Singh, President, Nagar Panchayat; Tanvi Sundriyal, Addl MD, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism; Jyoti Kapur, President ADTOI; Sanjay Agarwal, VP & Convention Chairman; Anurag Agarwal, General Secretary, ADTOI; Subhash Verma, Immediate Past President & Convention Co-chairman. According to Hindu mythology, any auspicious ceremony is commenced with a Ganesh Vandana and thus following the ritual, the convention was inaugurated with the lighting of the lamp followed by Ganesh Vandana.
India has a wide range to offer from the Himalayas to the back waters of Kerala. The modern India needs to be experienced and explained for a better visibility. Through this convention ADTOI is taking a step forward to promote domestic tourism in the country. Why MP as a host state? Madhya Pradesh today is a leading state and is working hand in hand with ADTOI. While addressing the gathering, Shri Nagendra Singh said, “I am happy that ADTOI decided to host their convention in Khajuraho. Our Honourable Chief Minister Shri Shivaraj Singh Chauhan is very much keen on promoting tourism in the state. There is lot of opportunities in tourism sector, it not only helps in generating employment but also contributes in the development of the country. I would not go in numbers that how many people visit India every year but would rather focus on the small countries which have developed themselves and are receiving healthy number of travellers.” Tourism is one such sector which deals with many issues, few of them are connectivity, roads, and airport connections. There is a need to emphasis on building good hotels, security, cleanliness and improve mobile connectivity as well.
Adding on, Dr Venu V in his address mentioned that the association is doing pretty well. I have watched Madhya Pradesh very carefully and they have placed their future very firmly and marketed themselves for a brighter tomorrow. He further said, “We are talking about the biggest, but it’s time to harness the domestic tourism. If you think of future, then it lies in hotel bookings, if you have knowledge you will remain in the business and ADTOI is the right forum.”
Shri Vinod Zutshi congratulated the team ADTOI for their 7th Annual Convention and for hosting it in the temple town Khajuraho as it will boost the local tourism. He further in his address highlighted the initiatives which the Ministry of Tourism is taking and laid emphasis on the regional connectivity which in order will increase the traffic in the states. Apart from this, he also stressed on the 24X7 helpline recently launched by MoT, Swach Mobile application, etc. Ministry is going to play a major role in the promotion of domestic tourism and the Ministry is working towards creating a seamless connectivity, online payments, online license, etc.

adtoi members, adtoi

 

Day 1
The first session of the day was focused on ‘Domestic Tourism: Managing the next billion’. There is a major change in the thought process these days. Festivals such as Japan Literature Festival have been able to act as a major catalyst to attract tourists to the destination. We need to change as per time and create euphoria which proceeds to be a major attraction. The country is huge and each destination is unique, there is a need to enhance experiences and create experiences as well. During the session, it was also discussed that the need of the hour is to ‘create ideas and what extra edge can be provided’. Travelling now has changed, as it was five-six years back, niche tourism products are really doing wonders. One of the speakers also mentioned that all of us need to work collectively and together, whenever dealing with clients an extra edge needs to be provided. And minutest of the things should be taken care of in order to travel smooth. Well, the other speaker emphasised that wedding today is another major key player and it’s huge. Weddings will always give opportunity, so there is a need to build the market in order to promote destination wedding. Through this session, the gathering was enlightened on how to manage business; management is all about what we have today. We need to constantly innovate and keep allocating resources so that the old and new business thrives together. There is a need to specialise by market or by products or by services.
On the other hand, it was also discussed that unlocking the potential is also very important, such as forts and palaces can be converted into heritage hotels. Conservation and restoration is equally important. Another key elements are unlocking the market, think of new ideas, issues needs to be discussed together, capacity building in the hospitality sector. Think literally and then create a product.
The second session was on ‘ETP (Ethical Tourism Policy)’, an issue of price war. Online travel portals which are armed with large foreign funding are squeezing hoteliers for lowest possible rate and have brought almost a monopolistic situation. Many tour operators have to shut shop and many are on the verge of closure because tour operators are not able to compete with the heavy discounting by portals. The session was actually a debate between the operators and hoteliers.
The third and the last session focused on ‘Strategy Startups-The future of Domestic Tour Operator’. Today everyone is going online and travel has become special, personalised and experiential. Transparency is missing in the sector. The tour operators should realise that they are not selling deals, they infact are selling dreams. There is a need to create product or a story around it, which gives an insight of the place and helps attract travellers. The day ended on a very high note and exchange of knowledge.

Day 2
What appealed me most on the second day was the topic ‘Desh Dekho Desh Khojo’, which actually sounded quiet interesting. I would rather have thought of flipping the words and would not mind making it Desh Khojo Desh Dekho. But the idea behind this was to listen to the stories of the eminent travellers who have actually travelled and have been able to find out those small little interesting things which can be sold in the market and would rather attract visitors. India is a huge country, no doubt in it, but can we imagine this huge country apart from forts, palaces, sanctuaries and other tourism products. It also has many such interesting aspects which if projected in the international or domestic forum will make a huge impact. So whenever you are on roads try seeing your own country from a different perspective and then offer it to the world.
Some conventions are only discussion based, some are a knowledge sharing process but the 7th ADTOI Convention was mix of fun, networking and dialogue sharing. On one hand the city of temple in the heart of India, on the other some really good speakers, one could hardly find such combination where work becomes fun.

Buyer confidence in Fiji remains high

Fijian Tourism Expo, Buyer confidence in Fiji remains high, Fijian Tourism Expo 2016, Fijian Tourism Expo, Buyer confidence in Fiji remains high, Fijian TourismBuyer confidence in selling Fiji as an aspirational destination for business and leisure travel remains high, after Tourism Fiji closed registrations for international buyers and travel trade media for the third Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) to be held in Denarau next month.

FTE 2016 has attracted over 160 international buyers and travel trade media and a number of them will be selling Fiji for the first time, specifically from long-haul markets which are now more accessible with Fiji Airways’ opening up the Singapore route.

Fijian Tourism Expo, Buyer confidence in Fiji remains high, Fijian Tourism Expo 2016, Fijian Tourism Expo, Buyer confidence in Fiji remains high, Fijian Tourism

The recent devastation caused by natural weather events has not deterred quality buyers from Fiji’s traditional, new, and non-traditional tourism markets from as far as Italy, Pakistan, Spain and Sweden.

“Buyer confidence in Fiji remains consistently high and this is evident after Tourism Fiji received 148 buyer and 14 international media confirmations to attend Fiji’s premier tourism industry event,” Tourism Fiji’s Global PR Manager, Ms Patricia Mallam says.

“The last two months have been challenging for the tourism industry but we at Tourism Fiji have kept our guards up and continued to work behind the scenes to bring in the best people from all over the world to be part of FTE 2016 for the benefit of our industry and its stakeholders,” she says.

The international buyers and media are qualified by Tourism Fiji’s Regional Directors based in Tourism Fiji’s key source markets and in consultation with Fiji Airways, the Platinum Sponsors of FTE 2016.

“The programme for the three day expo is custom-made and prepared based on the feedback from participants in the first two event. It is kept compact to enhance B2B opportunities, promoting a win-win situation for everyone attending FTE,” Ms Mallam says.

She adds that FTE 2016, “will offer enormous networking opportunities during the evening networking events for connections with peers within the industry, decision-makers, buyers and exhibitors from all over Fiji.”

FTE 2016 will be held at the Denarau Island Convention Centre from 3-5 May 2016.

Deccan Odyssey: Romance India by Rail in 2016

Each journey on the Deccan Odyssey is an exploration of India’s diversity, exotic locales and discovery of her timeless traditions; where you breathe in the vibrancy, sounds and colours of India’s cities and her countryside. Mysteries, intrigues unfold as the train snakes her way through royal cities showcasing the opulence and extravagance of the palaces, the traditions and culinary wonders of cities and villages well protected from the sands of time.

 

Deccan Odyssey, Deccan Odyssey train, Deccan Odyssey luxury train

In 2015, Deccan Odyssey won a string of awards and amongst them are the World Travel Awards for Asia’s leading luxury train and The India Travel Awards for the Best luxury train in India.

The Deccan Odyssey gives you an unhurried and intimate introduction to the grandeur of India.  The traditional is beautifully juxtaposed with the contemporary through vintage cabins, gastronomic cuisines and lively off-board entertainment in each of the deluxe train journeys. Each journey on the Deccan Odyssey is an exploration of India’s diversity, exotic locales and the discovery of timeless traditions. Each journey on the Deccan Odyssey is an exploration of India’s diversity, exotic locales and the discovery of timeless traditions.

Deccan Odyssey insight

Cox & Kings Ltd ,the company which operates it has announced an enticing offer for journeys commencing October 2016.

The offer includes a 7-night journey at the price of 6 nights and would only cost US $ 7188 per couple, per journey, instead of US $ 8386. This also includes a complimentary 60-minute spa session for a couple. The train has been refurbished to reflect the changing needs of the new age traveler. The offer is limited to bookings done on or before 30th April 2016. The early bird offer is to pay for six nights and seventh night is free.

The Deccan Odyssey train boasts of unique features and amenities such as 24*7 Wi-Fi connectivity, cell phones & LCD TVs in every cabin, spa, gym, beauty salon, doctor on call, two restaurants and a bar. Deccan Odyssey has 21 coaches, out of which 12 are passenger cars that can accommodate 8 people per coach (10 passenger / deluxe Cars, 4 coupes per coach – 2 Presidential Suite Cars, 2 coupes per coach), 1 Conference/Entertainment Car, 2 Dining Cars, 2 Generator Cars with Luggage Store, 2 Staff Cars, 1 Spa Car, 1 Bar Car. The capacity of the train is 88 passengers.

Deccan Odyssey 2

The Itineraries set are:

Maharashtra Splendour: (Mumbai – Nashik – Aurangabad (Ellora Caves) – Ajanta Caves – Kolhapur – Goa- Ratnagiri –Mumbai) 7N/8D.

Hidden Treasures of Gujarat: (Mumbai – Vadodara – Palitana – Sasan Gir – Little Rann of Kutch – Modhera (Patan) – Nashik – Mumbai) 7N/8D.

Indian Sojourn (Mumbai – Vadodara – Udaipur – Jodhpur – Agra – Sawai Madhopur – Jaipur – Delhi) 7N/8D.

Indian Odyssey (Delhi – Sawai Madhopur – Agra – Jaipur – Udaipur – Vadodara – Aurangabad (Ellora Caves) – Mumbai) 7N/8D.

Jewels of the Deccan (Mumbai – Bijapur – Aihole – Pattadakal – Hampi – Hyderabad – Ellora Caves – Ajanta Caves – Mumbai) 7N/8D.

Maharashtra Wild Trail (Mumbai – Ellora Caves – Aurangabad – Pench (Ramtek) – Tadoba – Ajanta – Nashik – Mumbai) 7N/8D.

Bengal tourism to benefit from the Kolkata-Colombo direct flight launched by Sri Lanka’s national low cost carrier Mihin Lanka

Last year, Mihin Lanka announced the launch of its direct flight from Colombo to Kolkata, thrice a week. This has resulted in a higher tourist traffic in Bengal as the flight is not only time-saving but also economical. The flight operator had already announced its plan to join hands with local tour operators for tapping the local market. Around the launch of the new flight schedule, Mr Subhash Goyal, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators said “For a trip from the city to Colombo and back, Mihin Lanka is charging Rs. 15,500 as against Rs. 26,000-27,000 offered by other operators, whose flights, however, operate via New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore. We are focussed on providing customers with world-class travel facility at an affordable price.”

Mihin Lanka, Mihin Lanka airlines

As every year, last year too, the West Bengal tourism is tried making Durga Puja the most happening event and thereby maximize tourist footfall in the state. As per the bookings made by the private tour operators and hoteliers, 2015 saw a noteworthy rise in the tourist attraction in Bengal around the festive season of Durga Puja. Simultaneously, some special travel packages during Durga Puja and Diwali with attractive discounts on hotel rooms and sight-seeing was well thought over, and showed positive results. Other than Bengal, the flight has been significant in improving tourist footfall in nearby states too, such as, Odisha which shares a long history with Sri Lanka.

Recently, Mihin Lanka also announced its plan to commence its operations on the Muscat-Colombo route in October 2015. The flight operated four days a week initially, and then increase up to five days a month later. The airline provides direct flights to destinations across the Indian subcontinent, Asia and the Middle East including Dhaka in Bangladesh; Jakarta and Medan in Indonesia and Madurai, Kolkata, Gaya and Varanasi in India. It offers connectivity to further 20 destinations with code sharing partner SriLankan Airlines.

AAE travel appoints Jonathon Neal as CEO

Jonathan Neale, AAE travel appoints Jonathon Neal as CEO

Expedia, announced the appointment of Jonathon Sinclair Neal, as the Chief Executive Officer of AAE Travel, a joint venture between AirAsia and Expedia Inc. Jonathon will be based out of Singapore. In this new role, Jonathon will provide strategic direction to the Singapore-based online travel company that drives two brands, Expedia and AirAsiaGo, across 12 countries including India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. Jonathon will be responsible for managing PandL and business strategy in the Asia Pacific, aiming to capture the top slot for the brand. He joined Expedia in 2003 in London where he supported Expedia’s early European businesses.