SKAL National Congress 2018
Promoting Kolkata as a MICE Destination
From discussing about business opportunities in the state to promoting West Bengal as a MICE destination; SKAL National Congress experienced it all.
Kolkata hosted its first SKAL National Congress, with around 200-300 SKAL members and delegates from all India SKAL clubs in association with West Bengal Tourism from August 17-19. SKAL being the organisation of tourism professionals, more than 250 delegates – tour operators, hoteliers, airline officials, etc., discussed about the tourism potential and what West Bengal could offer as a state in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and infrastructure.
Promoting MICE in the state
Being fifth highest in the line, Bengal attracted 152,000 foreign tourists in 2016, but is still not enhanced as a MICE destination. Delegates and panellist conjectured about the changing perception of tourism to the hindrance of its effectiveness in the state. The perception of tourism has changed over years. It has become more experiential. In today’s context society interacts and integrates with travellers to sell local experience. The members and delegates raised an important question as to why Kolkata as a destination is still not a hotspot for MICE tourism.
“Even though West Bengal has a lot of potential, we never see it as a hotspot for MICE, because we always had a perception of a communist government. Tourists from southern states look at Kolkata as a transit point of north-eastern regions. Kolkata has the potential to make such tourists spend couple of nights in the city if we focus on small familiarised tours like Sundarban, Shantiniketan or evening cruise tours,” said Ranjini Nambiar, the newly elected president of SKAL National Congress and CEO of Bengaluru based-Footloose Yatra Consultants while talking to India Outbound. Nambiar added that the West Bengal government is now positive in their approach and is focusing on promoting itself as a MICE destination.
Uzi Yalon, the president of SKAL International, Israel, feels that not just Bengal, but India also needs to focus more on promoting itself as a MICE destination and needs to expose itself even more. “To establish itself as a MICE destination, India has to be more visible in the global platform. MICE tourism is the best and most important sector,” Yalon told India Outbound.
Marketing key for ‘effective tourism’ Several panellists at the Tourism Conclave on August 18 discussed how ‘effective tourism’ can showcase India on a larger scale as a destination for international inbound tourists. Experts raised the need for flight connectivity, both domestic and international, to improve tourism in the state. Several delegates felt that benchmarking number of international arrivals will never be a solution to have ‘effective tourism’ in the state. “Domestic tourism should be the target audience. We not only have a good product but the country’s asset with population of 1.3 billion will always help tourism and business to enhance,” as pointed out by the founder of the Tree of Life chain of hotels, Himmat Anand.
The event also focused on a session for Young SKAL members who were guided through various fields of tourism and hospitality sectors. “Students between 18 -28 years of age from different branches can enrol for Young SKAL. They are mentored to understand their job opportunities and are offered internships from various tourism corporates,” added Nambiar. The event also saw presentations from Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal and other SKAL clubs. Coinciding with the event, a cultural evening was organised followed by a traditional wear dinner party.
SKAL Asia Congress 2019 is scheduled to be held between June 27-30 in Bengaluru, India.