Thomas Cook (India) Ltd., India’s leading integrated travel and tourism related financial services company, hosted the first ever India Travel Summit -- an initiative that aims to provide a successful platform for exchange of ideas benefiting the travel & tourism industry. The half-day summit included three focussed panel discussions addressing challenges and highlighting opportunities related to security and consular assistance, outbound and inbound travel and repositioning India as a premium tourist destination on a global platform.
The panel discussions were moderated by Mr. Mahesh Iyer, Chief Operating Officer, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd., Mr. Vishal Suri, Managing Director, SOTC Travel Services Pvt. Ltd., and Mr. Dipak Deva, Managing Director, Travel Corporation (India) Ltd.
In his welcome address, Mr. Madhavan Menon – Chairman & Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Limited, said, “With economic uncertainty, terrorist attacks, political unrest being the ‘new normal’ it is challenging for the travel & tourism industry to facilitate a safe and unhindered travelling experience to travellers. India’s travel story is going to be much bigger and it is fast emerging as one of the most significant markets for tourism, both inbound and outbound; hence there is a clear need for stake holders in the travel ecosystem to plan the way forward, in sync with current realities.”
Mr. Menon elaborated, “The event has been organised with a strategic aim to provide a common and candid discussion platform for stakeholders and decision-makers in the travel & tourism industry in the country.”
Mr. Martin Oppus, Deputy Consular Chief, USA said, “We have close to 900,000 visa applications in a year and our approach is to focus on customer focus, which is why we have introduced certain measures like pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi— this is a unique travel model and we are planning to implement this in various other cities too.”
Mr. Colin Jones, UKVI, Regional Operations Manager, British High Commission, UK, added, “India is a key market for the UK and we witnessed an 11 percent growth in visa applications in 2015 and we are confident of touching a 15 percent growth figure in 2017. Brexit has not had an impact on the plans of Indian tourists and the travel process doesn’t change. We believe that there will be an increased effort towards digitization of the travel process as a result of this.”
Mr. G. B. Srithar, Regional Director (South Asia, Middle East & Africa) – Singapore Tourism Board, one of the panellists at The India Travel Summit, added, “The Indian traveller is ‘price conscious’ and yet wants something new and unique. Therefore, for us, it is all about highlighting the value proposition that Singapore as a destination offers.”
Mr. Urs Eberhard, Head of Markets for Switzerland Tourism, agreed that while Switzerland is on the bucket list of many Indians, a significant number are now travelling to the destination to explore unique experiences, “Yoga in the Alps or a spa retreat or even snowboarding… the global Indian traveller is setting new trends these days. This new age Indian traveller is also influenced heavily by social media and word of mouth, it is no surprise then that our India page has the highest number of members.”
Suman Billa, IAS, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, believes that India has the potential to attract a larger number of tourists than it does today. “Initiatives like visa on arrival are steps in the right direction,” he added.
Talking about taking a marketing approach in promoting tourism, David Scowsill, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said, “There lies a good opportunity for public-private partnerships to create a structure jointly and then having a professional marketing organization to go out and promote the destination.”