Saturday, February 16, 2008

Voyage to exhilaration!

With festivities on the anvil, the Indian tourism sector gets yet another reason to celebrate
Amit Gupta, a senior manager with a leading realty firm, says, “I have already applied for a week’s vacation at my company as I plan to celebrate this year’s Dussehra with my friends in Goa.” That’s quite an unusual concept during the festival season. Especially during the Diwali period, people take about three to four days breaks to be at home, which means religious rituals, lots of partying or just spending some quality time with their families. However, a new trend is emerging, especially among the young adults in metros, which Amit aptly represents. Rather than enjoying the festival in a traditional way, like staying at home and performing religious rituals, people want to spend their time at exotic locations with their friends, partners or even at times with their families. This new trend has really provided a much needed impetus to domestic tourism during the festive season.

The summer heat is almost over and the monsoons, too, are slowly bidding adieu to India. It’s the peak holiday season once again with plenty of festivals lined up to refresh your mood, the most popular among them being Dussehra and the festival of lights, Diwali, which are celebrated all over India with much anticipation & passion. And for those who have been procrastinating a vacation for long, this is the right time to put on your traveling gear. Miss out on this time; you will have only yourself to blame. No doubt, the tourism industry in India sizzles all round the year, but it’s the festival season that adds a lot of spice to it. The season serves as a huge opportunity for both travellers and the industry players. “There is always a jump in the domestic tourist market during October- November and this year won’t be an exception either. We are expecting a hike of at least 30% in the tourism market during this season,” asserts Manveer Choudhary, Chairperson, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India while speaking to B&E. Definitely a reason to smile for the various state tourism boards, tour operators and other industry players, who are going gung ho over it, and of course who can forget the tourists who are busy gearing up their back-packs to engage themselves in the celebrations. spokesperson from Hyatt Regency comments, “As part of our global strategy, we have started celebrating festivals for the past few years. This starts (especially in India) from Diwali and ends up with Christmas and we have special campaigns for our guests during the period... this time we are customising celebrations for each state keeping in mind the main festival of that particular state.” Indeed, in the service industry, the overall customer experience remains the most coveted and elusive goal for companies.

Festivities galore
Though the peak festival season has still not arrived, the regional festivals have already seen the introduction of new campaigns and special offers from the state tourism boards and tour operators. Kerala Tourism has just spent around Rs.12 million to make the most of the tourism opportunity that Onam, the biggest festival in the state, offers every year and is now preparing to further cash in on the upcoming series of festivals. “It’s too early to comment on what we have planned for the upcoming festival season but we would really be going hard to cash on the mounting opportunity,” P. A. Mohanan Nair, Deputy Director, Kerala Tourism shares with B&E. Arguably the hottest tourist destination in the country,Goa, is also bracing itself to give its patronsa fun-filled experience. “We have various events lined up in Goa to attract tourists in the upcoming festival season. We are organising a Chocolate Carnival during October-end that is expected to attract a large number of children followed by the Football Fest in November, Christmas and New Year’s celebration and then the Annual Wine Festival in January. We will also be doing something special for Diwali & Ganesh Chaturthi,” Armando Duarto, Manager – Travels, Goa Tourism Development Corporation shares with B&E. “We are branding Goa as a lifestyle destination largely because of the social climate of the place,” he further adds.

It’s not that just various state governments are going gung ho over the upcoming festival season; even the central tourism ministry is leaving no space for any battering. Just after showcasing the ‘Spirit of India Everywhere’ at a festival in Moscow and tantalising London’s premier Regent Street with the Indian flavour, the ministry is all set to give Uncle Sam a big bite of India. Well, all this aims at enhancing & maintaining the competitiveness of India as a tourist destination, with a special focus on the festival season. According to a recent report by Research & Markets, a leading research firm, the tourist infl ux to India is expected to increase at a CAGR of 22.65% between 2007 & 2011. Moreover, with disposable income of an average Indian growing at a CAGR of 10.11% during 2001-2006, domestic tourism has been on a fast lane for quite some time. Destinations like Goa, Kerala, Jaipur, Ooty, Darjeeling & Mussoorie are increasingly becoming popular. According to a recent survey by World Travel & Tourism Council, “Leisure traveler preferences are evolving away from packaged tours to individually bundled options.” In order to respond to this increasingly dynamic customer base, travel companies need to have the ability to fl ex their capacity, flex their distribution and fl ex their pricing strategy accordingly. So, whether it’s a new trend led by travellers or state tourism boards, it’s a trend that should stay. So while the pie grows larger, the customer becomes even more difficult to convince. But one thing’s for sure, if you offer the right package, money may not be much of an issue for the increasingly affluent Indian!

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