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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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.

Mauritius records 18 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals in 2015

As per the statistics shared by MTPA, 72,145 Indian tourists visited Mauritius in 2015. This is an increase of 18per cent as compared to 61,167 tourists who visited in 2014. Speaking on this subject, Mr Sanjay Sondhi, CEO, OM Tourism said that the growth was due to the stupendous efforts of the MTPA India team. He further added “We are looking forward to an even better 2016”. Vivek Anand, Country Manager said “We have seen a remarkable rise of Indian footfalls to Mauritius from all target groups i.e. FIT, MICE, Wedding, Families and honeymooners.

Mauritious

I would like to thank all stakeholders for partnering MTPA in this endeavour. We have seen more wedding and MICE groups showing interest in Mauritius. We also initiated direct interaction with the consumers – promotions in malls and during Golf tournaments, Radio campaigns and a destination promotion series on NDTV Good Times anchored by Rocky and Mayur helped us to increase awareness about the destination. Anand added that “we expect the numbers to increase by another 20 per cent next year with more weddings and MICE groups visiting Mauritius. We will continue promoting Mauritius as a MICE, Wedding, Honeymoon, Adventure, Golf, Family and Luxury destination in 2016.”

Curtain Raiser: The TTJ Jury Choice Awards for Excellence ‘n’ Innovation

travel trade journal, curtain raiser, ttj, ttj jury choice awards

TTJ Jury Choice Awards hosted its curtain raiser in the capital at the Eros Hotel, with leading personalities from the travel and trade fraternity. In order to address the need for fair awards and establish a system that is credible, fair and transparent, the TTJ jury choice awards of excellence ‘n’ innovation in travel have brought back the independent jury system to under the guidance of an equally valuable advisory board and technical committee.

 

TTJ Jury Choice Awards for Excellence ‘n’ Innovation in travel offers a neutral and fair platform that acknowledges path breaking achievements, milestones and innovations that have made a difference across the travel and allied sectors.The event is being supported by Ministry of Tourism, Incredible India, IATO (Indian Association of Tour Operators), IAAI (IATA Agents Association of India), ADTOI (Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India), and many others.

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Mr. Ravi Sharma, Founder and the brainchild behind TTJ Jury Choice Awards, said “There will be great value attached to these achievements and perhaps even perks of replicating these best practices across board in different sectors. Your brand is associated with excellence and innovation and allied with a unique and wonderful opportunity that not only milestones in business administration and innovation but also with change for positive.”
The jury members constitute of eminent industry leaders having impeccable leadership qualities and business acumen along with technical experts and renowned ex-bureaucrats.

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The advisory board has on its panel the leading travel trade association heads and eminent personalities from the trade. The award function will offer recognition across 16 categories, including inbound, domestic, outbound, airline, airport, MICE, hotel, NTO, special product, State, Cruise service provider, travel technology, Tourist transport service provider, charter service provider, VISA facilitation and NGO.

 

Kerala Tourism to get global audience

Kerala’s nature, culture and cuisine are set to receive a global audience with two leading television channels deciding to air shows dedicated to the State. The crews of BBC World from the U.K. landed and the NTV Broadcasting Company of Russia is to reach here on January 15 at the invitation of Kerala Tourism. Both the shows, named ‘The Travel Show’ on the BBC World and ‘Let’s Go, Let’s Eat’ on NTV, will be shot at key locales.

kerala tourism, kerala tourism to get global audience

The BBC World team with the programme editor Mike London, producer Dawn Layke and presenter Henry Golding will showcase the backwaters, home stays, and village life, of Alappuzha and Kochi. To highlight Responsible Tourism (RT), the crew will capture the details on shell collection in Alappuzha before reaching Kochi to capture Kathakali make-up.