All the leaders of the global tourism industry were in India this January to partake in the major travel trade events held then. Every tourism board wants a slice of the exploding outbound travel story that is India. Destination Reporter caught up with many of them on the show floor and here is the low-down

Kenya Eyes the MICE Segment, Tier II Cities in India

India is the third largest market globally (outside of Africa) for Kenya. It is also the fastest growing market among top source markets and the number one in Asia. No wonder then that Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi, Director of Market Development, Kenya Tourism Board was in India in January.

“We want to demystify Kenya and tell the India travel trade that we are not just about wildlife. You can have yoga on the beach. You can ride a bike in a game reserve. You can experience cultural diversity and interact with the people of Kenya.”

Kenya closed 2018 at 1,25,000 visitors from India which is double the number they welcomed in 2017. As far as air connectivity is concerned there are two flights daily out of Mumbai to Nairobi operated by Kenyan Airways. Well-connected with tour operators, the Board is running joint campaigns, roadshows, e-learning programs and digital activations to drum up the numbers and attract new segments especially MICE and Weddings & Honeymoons. Weddings & Honeymoons is a small pie as of now but the Board intends to focus on it as well.

“India is big for MICE,” says Jacinta. Our strategy is to work directly with corporate companies. Last year, we brought corporate travel managers to Kenya so that they can experience what we have to offer from a MICE perspective.” L’Oréal India, Tata, Reliance have all held conferences in Kenya. Soon a large 400 pax MICE group from a leading paint brand in India is leaving for Kenya. Nairobi and Mombasa have world-class MICE infrastructure. The coastal regions also have good MICE infrastructure and ample hotel room capacity as well as proximity to the national parks.

“MICE delegations can indulge in trekking, hiking, sky diving, biking and village experiences along with locals apart from enjoying wildlife in their natural settings.”

The government of Kenya has waived visa for children below 16 years making the country attractive for family travel as well as edu-travel. For adults it is visa on arrival.

“We are also targeting tier II cities in India as they are showing tremendous potential,” informed Jacinta. Indian travellers usually combine Uganda and Tanzania when they plan to travel to Kenya. “They spend 3-4 nights now which is fine but the intent is to create a mono-destination so that length of stay can easily double. Kenya has so much to offer,” Jacinta signed off.

Pulling Out All the Stops to Draw Tourists

Thoyyib Mohamed has only been a few months into his new role as Managing Director of Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation. “I have a lot of priorities but am concentrating on a few for now,” he says. “What we have done in India could have been much better with millions of outbound travellers from India and we have got only 67,000! We are trying different strategies to double or even triple the number of arrivals from India.”

The world-class island beach destination attracts 1.3 million visitors a year. With air connectivity improving, the numbers can only increase. “Carrying capacity is not an issue,” confirms Mohamed. From India, LCCs like Indigo, GoAir and SpiceJet already fly to Mali. SriLankan Airlines and Maldivian also connect well. Oman Air has announced a summer schedule too. Maldives offers a 30-day free tourist visa on arrival.

According to Mohamed, the India market needs greater awareness about what Maldives has to offer – one island one resort; hotels; liveaboard experience; guest houses and more. “Our unique liveaboards are something between Kerala houseboats and super yachts.” Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation has tied up with AVIAREPS to promote the destination in India through trade fairs, roadshows and the like.

Want India in Top 20 Source Markets

When the new Istanbul airport becomes operational in March, Turkey’s strategic location will make it the perfect aviation hub for the Eurasian and Middle East regions. Indigo Airlines has announced its plan to commence direct flights from New Delhi and Ahmedabad to Istanbul. It is being reported that Mumbai-Istanbul is also on the cards very soon.

Turkey reported 1,35,000 Indian visitors between January and November 2018. Though official numbers for the full year are not yet released, the tourism board is certain it will cross 1,53,000 visitors. “This is a record,” says H Deniz Ersöz, Culture & Tourism Counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in New Delhi. In 2015, Turkey welcomed 1,32,000 Indians but the numbers fell drastically thereafter due to security concerns, touching as low as 87,000 in 2017. “Our 2018 numbers are better than our best performance in the past,” informs Ersöz.

Since 2018, MICE traffic from India has been growing. “We feel 20,000 people came for MICE in 2018 based on data from the DMCs,” says Ersöz. “We want to promote Antalya also for MICE.” According to the Tourism Board, Indians prefer to stay 7 nights max. India does not make it to Turkey’s list of top 20 source markets. “At least India should make it to that list. That’s my target,” concludes Ersöz.

Higher Value Travellers This Way Please

India is one of the top ten source markets for Oman according to Khalid Mohammed Al Azri, Assistant Director, Oman Tourism. However, he feels Oman needs to create greater awareness for its tourism attractions in India.

“We are specifically targeting adventure, weddings and honeymoons, and MICE segments from India,” he said. “We want higher value travellers.” Popular among evolved travellers, Oman mesmerises visitors with its authenticity, natural beauty and rustic adventure terrain. One must plan a trip to Oman to relax, rejuvenate and indulge in adventurous activities like sand dune bashing, mountain treks, water activities and much more. Be it fun at the geologically stunning wadis, rustic adventure in the majestic mountains, experiencing the wonders of Al Hoota Caves, scuba-diving or snorkelling along with kayaking or even glamping in the deserts.

The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, Muscat is a state-of-the-art infrastructure for any MICE requirement. That apart the many hotels offer ample room inventory and meeting facilities across star classification for MICE events of any size.

“We are planning more roadshows in India,” said Al Azri. Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Goa are on the radar apart from New Delhi and Mumbai.

Island Destination Neighbour Woos Indian Investments in Hospitality Sector

Sri Lanka’s tourism minister John Amaratunga was at all the major travel trade events in January. Kumar De Silva, chairman, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau and Felix Srimal Rodrigo, senior advisor to the minister of tourism accompanied him.

The island destination clocked 4,50,000 Indian visitors in 2018. “We need at least 1 million tourists from India in 2019,” said the minister while interacting with travel trade media in New Delhi. Considering the short haul proximity, online e-visa and visa on arrival, and substantial air connectivity (123 flights a week) between Colombo and 14 Indian cities, the expectation is not unreasonable. “We are targeting business, leisure, MICE and luxury segments in India, even weddings and honeymoons,” informed the minister. In January, Bollywood star couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone travelled to Sri Lanka for their honeymoon. Even the Chinese are choosing Sri Lanka for weddings. “We recently did a nuptials ceremony for 100 Chinese couples, all at one time. We hosted 800 guests for two weeks for the mass wedding.” The minister said he wanted to invite Indian film production companies to shoot in Sri Lanka. He said already Hollywood and other foreign productions are filming on the island capturing the excellent locations on offer – hill stations, beaches, religious sites, tea plantations.

Religious tourism has always been an area of growth for Sri Lanka thanks to the presence of many shrines of Hindu faith. The government is banking big time on The Ramayana Circuit. The country is also open to Indian investments especially in the hospitality sector. The Sri Lankan Board of Investment (BoI) will facilitate such proposals including offering tax rebates. Land banks have been identified for this purpose, suitable for hotels and leisure infrastructure like theme parks in prime areas. 100 per cent ownership of business is allowed for foreign entities.

Think Macau for Delightful Cultural, Gastronomic Experiences

The Pre-Arrival Registration (PAR) introduced by Hong Kong for Indian nationals in January 2017 resulted in a decline in tourist arrival numbers to Macau, a destination 90 per cent of Indians usually pair with when they travel to Hong Kong. Till then Indian nationals enjoyed visa-free access.

“We saw a drop in 2017 due to rejections in PAR applications for Hong Kong. Macau being a paired destination for most Indians, paid the price. However, we did very well in 2018 and will register 8 to 10 per cent growth in 2019,” said Arzan Khambatta, India Head, Macau Government Tourist Office. Over 1,50,000 Indians travelled to Macau last year taking it to the 11th position globally among source markets. “Among long haul markets, India is doing well. But if we work hard we will be able to get India within the top 10 source markets,” feels Khambatta. Among short haul markets, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand top the list.

In India, Macau does not market gaming experiences as it is well known. “We are focusing on promoting Macau as a cultural destination. The Historic Centre of Macau, a collection of over 20 locations that witness the unique assimilation and co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures is a UNESCO® certified World Heritage Site. We are also marketing gastronomy experiences in a big way in 2019.” Macau was designated Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO®.

Yas Island to be a Family Destination

Abu Dhabi-based Miral is currently undertaking projects worth Dh. 6.2 billion on Yas Island to boost tourism and attract more visitors to the island. “We want Yas Island to be a top 10 family destination by 2022. We want to have enough attractions and facilities for families to enjoy the time on the island,” said Marina Cipriano, General Manager, Yas Island.

The Yas Bay project on Yas Island is set to be delivered in different phases. Yas Bay Arena, an 18,000 capacity multi-purpose venue for sports, cultural and business events, will be completed in 2019. Miral will also unveil CLYMB in 2019, a new sports and leisure attraction featuring the world’s widest indoor skydiving flight chamber and the highest indoor climbing wall that towers at 43 metres.

“In terms of visitations, India is the number one source market for Yas Island,” added Cipriano. “In 2018, we registered a growth of 20 per cent over the previous year but we want growth in terms of not just number of visitors but length of stay too as we continue to add new attractions.” The length of stay at Yas Island varies widely based on nationality. Local visitations – staycations are between one and two nights. If visitors are from Europe, then the length of stay can extend from seven to even 14 nights. Indian tourists generally stay for two nights in Dubai, followed by two nights in Abu Dhabi as they combine many experiences across the Emirates.

Mauritius a Hit Among Indian Travellers

For many Indian tourists, Mauritius is a world-class beach destination perfect for a honeymoon. At the 2018 World Travel Awards, Mauritius bagged the award for ‘World’s Most Romantic Destination’.

“But we are more than a beach destination,” says Arvind Bundhan, Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA). “Apart from beach tourism, Mauritius offers great experiences in culture and heritage, gastronomy, golf and ecotourism. India is a very important source market for Mauritius. It’s ranked fifth with 1,10,000 tourists visiting last year. “We grew double digit in 2018 and hope to maintain the same this year,” says a confident Bundhan.

The island is a very Europe-centric tourism market with France, Reunion Island, UK and Germany bringing in the visitors. Mauritius is undertaking very aggressive B2B marketing campaigns in India as also B2C activations along with airlines.

Air Mauritius flies direct from Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai. “There is no visa for Indians and air connectivity is good,” agrees Bundhan. “Our aim is to have a daily flight round the year. Currently, we only have a daily flight from Mumbai during high season in India.”

MICE traffic from India has been growing too. In 2018, over 10,000 visitors came to Mauritius for various corporate events.

Kingsbury, Amaya Hope to Lure More Indian Travellers

The Kingsbury Colombo has been registering YoY growth of 8 per cent in Indian visitor traffic for the last few years. It is an established brand amongst corporate travellers in India.

The two casinos are very popular among ultra high net worth individuals who fly in over the weekend for gaming.

Amaya Resorts & Spas (Sri Lanka and Maldives) has seen a little de-growth in visitor patronage from India in 2018. India is the biggest source market for both the hospitality brands.

“We want to get the message on The Kingsbury and Amaya across to all tier I and II cities in India,” said Amanda Weeraratne, General Manager – Sales & Marketing, The Kingsbury Colombo.

In November 2018, The Kingsbury- Amaya team visited Mumbai, New Delhi, Chandigarh and Hyderabad. This year, Bengaluru too will become part of the roadshow.

“We want all segments of travellers but more of corporate FITs and MICE,” said Weeraratne. “We are partnering with global representation companies in this regard. In India, we have LinkinReps as our partner. We want to penetrate the New Delhi market deeper and hence six market visits have been scheduled this year.”

Amaya Resorts & Spas is on expanding their Maldives property with another 20-25 keys. “We are seeing huge demand from CIS and China especially,” said Manishin Wedage, General Manager – Sales & Marketing, Amaya Resorts & Spas.

The Kingsbury Negombo which will open in late 2020 is a 500-key entertainment-themed property with a water park. In Maldives too, a new 150-room property is being checked out with the possibility of adding water villas to the Kingsbury inventory.

“We will be back in March for a roadshow in Chennai and Bengaluru,” informed Wedage, while also noting, “We will add a new city in October.”

More Roadshows to Promote Indonesia

In 2017, Indonesia welcomed 4,85,000 visitors from India. Official data for 2018 has not yet been released but tourism ministry officials are confident that close to 6,00,000 should have been achieved. “The target for 2019 is to touch 8,00,000 travellers from India,” said Dr. R Sigit Witjaksono, Director of Tourism Marketing – South & Central Asia, Middle East & Africa, Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia.

“To achieve the 8,00,000 number, we have to do more promotions,” according to Ade Sukendar, Consul General, Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia, Mumbai.

Picturesque Film Locales in Czech Republic Await Indian Production Houses

The Czech Republic welcomed more than 85,680 Indian visitors in 2017. “We don’t have the numbers for 2018,” said Tereza Matějková, Head of Trade Fairs, CzechTourism. “We aimed for 1,00,000 visitors in 2018-19 and we hope to have achieved it when official numbers get reported soon.”

CzechTourism has launched a new campaign ‘Gateways to Regions’ showcasing joyful heritage cities which are waiting to be discovered by tourists. The objective is to educate trade and travellers that the Czech experience is not limited to Prague. The message being, ‘Come visit Prague but explore further’. Cities like Brno, Ostrava, Kutná Hora, Litomyšl, Olomouc, Karlovy Vary and Liberec are being spotlighted under the new campaign.

With VFS Global as their partner in India, CzechTourism registered 20 per cent YoY growth. It has 16 visa centres in India and more are in the pipeline. “Indians have increasingly started to discover Central Europe – Budapest, Vienna, Prague combined. They come back too. We are not a mono-destination, which is fine,” adds Matějková. “We are performing well on the leisure side. MICE, families and film tourism are new focus areas. MICE-focused events are being planned this year in India.”

The Czech Film Commission is the single point of contact for facilitating productions. Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal was shot in Prague. To promote the Czech Republic as a filming destination, the Board participated in the India International Film Tourism Conclave (IIFTC) last year.

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