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Expert Opinions

According to one travel expert, "India is a country that is either loved or hated by foreign travelers; there is no middle path. Though there is lack of hotel accommodation, air travel, space and sanitation, it still is a great destination."

Says Mr M Narayanan, Managing Director, Tourism Finance Corp of India (TFCI) "Tourism is no more being seen as the rich man's past time. An increasing number of ordinary people are now going on holiday tours giving a fillip to the industry's growth."

Says Mr. Kavi Ghei, Director, TRAC Representations, "The government is concentrating on developing domestic tourism as disposable incomes in the hands of Indians are on the rise. There is a variety of options available for different strata of tourists- right from the affluent to those with on a shoestring budget. What has been lacking is an effort to market this spectrum of possibilities in the right way to potential foreign tourists. The government is now setting this wrong right by putting across these positives in the international marketplaces with the help of professionals. The ‘Incredible India’ campaign is a step in this direction."

Says a gleeful Dr Ramesh Kapur, MD, Radisson Hotels, Delhi, "We have achieved an average room occupancy rate of 101.7% in November 2003". However, Dr. Kapur is far from satisfied. He says, "India should be aiming at getting the kind of tourist inflows that countries like Singapore are attracting".

According to Mr. L. Prithviraj Singh, Chief Operating Officer-Leisure, Cox & Kings (India), "Around 2.5 million tourists are coming in while outbound is still a nascent market. The potential for growth in the latter segment is much more than for incoming tourists.'' In fact, the recent rise in airline seating capacity to India and increase in hotel rooms have spelt greater affordability for the foreign traveller.

"Unfortunately, foreign agents look upon India as a troublesome country - in terms of operations not in terms of safety. We have also got into this trap of India becoming an expensive destination - added to an expensive air fare - as there is `no open sky' policy. The entry points are the metros where hotel tariffs are very high. Basic infrastructure too is a problem.''

"One has to really bring tourism to its potential. We have not even scratched the surface. The need is to evolve a long term policy. Disinvestment of Government stake in Indian Airlines, Air India and ITDC in the long term will be a good thing and the privatised hotels will open up a new level of affordable hotels.'' says Mr. Singh, adding, "The problem in India is the absence of `open sky' policy. If there is one, prices will drop, capacities will improve and once that happens, all the other problems will be sorted out.''

Mr. Sunil Gupta, Head- Leisure Travel, Thomas Cook (India) says, "Inbound tourism is growing at a consistent CAGR of 6 per cent annually while outbound tourism is growing at 15 per cent year-on-year".

Mr. Ranjit Malkani, Chairman & Managing Director, Kuoni Travel India (KTIL)- "Growth in inbound travel so far has been due to tourists from West Asia, Latin America and Japan. The trend in European arrivals has been flat, though a 5-6 per cent growth is expected courtesy the rise in airline seat capacity.''

Industry Structure

The tourism industry is classified into outbound, inbound & domestic and there are different opinions about the size of the industry.

Inbound Tourism

Inbound tourism is concentrated largely in the North and Rajasthan. Industry sources say that even today, the South accounts for only about 25 per cent of inbound tourism. 'The first time traveller will invariably go to Agra and Rajasthan and not venture to other locales'. However, 'with the thrust given by Kerala, it is an exotic option and Gujarat too is a destination of the future'.

Domestic Tourism

Domestic tourism needs to be buoyed up. "Domestic tourists are looking at 3-4 holidays in a year in India and the concept of booking through a hotel directly is moving away and customers are increasingly coming to travel and tour agencies' avers an industry insider. The most favoured destinations continue to be the hill stations, Rajasthan and now, with the marketing thrust, Kerala is the largest destination for people in the West and South.

Outbound Tourism

India as a MICE destination

India is in a continual process of upgrading its MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) facilities. There are multiple plans on the anvil for more world-class convention centers, airports that contest with the best in the world and efforts to team the famous Indian hospitality with customization as per a visitor’s requirement. According to Peter Kerkar, director of Cox & Kings, the move to develop an international convention centre in Goa would attract huge conventions and conferences that do not consider India at the moment.

Take a close look at INDIA as your next MICE destination. India CAN deliver !!! For details feel free to contact us.

Industry Players

Among the leading players, Kuoni Travel (India) (KTIL) is the country's biggest, fully owned by the Zurich-based Kuoni Travel Holding. The company acquired Tour Club which caters to the outbound segment from West Asia to India. Inbound travel from West Asia has been growing at 15 per cent, among the highest growth rates in the segment. KTIL had already spent Rs. 200 crores in earlier acquisitions, which included travel majors SOTC (Kuoni's route to an Indian presence) and SITA World Travel.

Cox & Kings India too has an open mind on acquisitions both in the domestic and overseas markets. "We will look at niche companies overseas as well which we feel we can develop.'' The company claims the second largest share of the domestic pie after Kuoni in inbound and outbound travel. "What separates us is the charter segment which, for example, comes into Goa. We set up a subsidiary- Far Pavilions - to cater to this segment and that has made a fair amount of progress.''

Thomas Cook (India) Limited (TCIL) says increased investment in marketing leisure travel and expansion of distribution network is expected to yield significant benefits in the peak travelling period between May and July. There has also been continued investment in building businesses in Sri Lanka and Mauritius along with completion of back-office implementation of SAP, call centre infrastructure and telecommunication network. Earlier, TCIL was mainly in the business of forex dealing and travel and tours. "The domestic sector needs more focus and we realise that the customer wants quality service. Reliability is a major issue. A focus area for us is A/C rail charters where we book and pay for an A/C railway coach and tourists can visit different cities/ locations."


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