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With this event OTOAI has set new benchmarks for the travel industry as it has yet again proven to be fruitful for all the sectors that had actively participated in the convention and shared a dialogue amongst each other.
“The Convention based on the theme of ‘India Outbound – The Game Changer’ was the result of the shifting industry dynamics and changing trends in outbound travel and the burning question of the trade – how do we remain competitive and create new opportunities through a combination of traditional and digital strategies?” said Riaz Munshi, Vice President OTOAI (Outbound Tour Operators Association of India), speaking about the idea behind the outbound tours’ convention held in Bali at Pan Pacific Nirwana Resorts from March 17-21, 2016.
The convention that was spread across four days had around 240 delegates in attendance from pan India. The number included tour operators, media people, hoteliers, tourism board, airline professionals and other valuable stakeholders. On the first day delegates were welcomed with a formal dinner that in itself was a platform to initiate a conversation with other members to build on a strong network. Along the lines, Guldeep Singh Sahni, President, OTOAI, formally declared the convention open by hitting a gong that is considered typical to the Balinese tradition. Explaining the idea behind the OTOAI convention, he said “Our intention is to recognise and bring the right kind of tour operators on this platform, who can showcase who they are and what kind of work they do. Subsequently they can work with us and take full advantage of this platform.” He also emphasised on the idea of imparting education and knowledge to all the members and provide them with whatever is required to penetrate tier 2 and tier 3 cities from where demand is coming for outbound tourism. “We want to reach where NTOs don’t go, so we are going to look at various things such as how we can support them, so that the reach is there to these cities. That was the intention behind OTOAI,” adds Sahni.
Staying true to its commitment second day kept all the delegates and the organising committee members on their toes as the day was full of various business sessions catering to different needs of the industry. The moderators and speakers addressing the first business session included OTOAI President, Guldeep Sahni, Emin Cakmak from the Turkish India Tourism Council – TITC, Umberto Calamudra from PACTO (ground handling partners), Dhananjay Saliankar from Starwood Hotels, Gilda Sagrado from Bali Tourism, Alka Jha from Tiger Airways, Rayomand Choksi from Mt Titlis & Hotels, Switzerland and Radhika Krishnan from GNTO (German National Tourist Office). While the first business session tried to bring in all the elements of the travel trade, second panel discussion was more focussed on the elements pertaining to outbound tour operators and had some of the eminent speakers such as OTOAI Western India Chairman, Mahendra Vakharia, Ankush Nijhawan from Travel Boutique Online, Arjun Shroff from Shroff Travels, Philipinnes, Sujit Nair from Aquasun, Himanshu Patil from Kesari Travels and Kanwardeep Singh from Travel Bullz. The inputs, ideas, analysis and experience shared during these sessions were valuable not only for the tour operators but for all the stakeholders present there.
Give and take of knowledge happened amidst regular breaks of tea/coffee and lunch that gave an opportunity to interact with Taufik Nurhidayat, deputy director, Ministry of Tourism, the republic of Indonesia, who graced the event with his presence and gave valuable insights on the free visa on arrival for Indians who visit Bali for tourism purpose. He along with Micky Irfandi, General Manager, Garuda Indonesia for Bali threw light on the plans to start direct flight from India to Bali soon, which would give a boost to the tourism between the two countries.
The convention saw a major development with OTOAI signing an MoU with TITC for bilateral tourism agreements between India and Turkey. After signing the MoU, Cakmak said, “Turkey government is looking very positively at the Indian market. OTOAI and TITC plan to meet twice a year – once in India and once in Turkey in order to sit down and map the details of the progress of their plans.”
To address the issues of the travel industry an open house session was also conducted that assured that all the suggestions and feedback were taken into consideration and the solutions be found. Post afternoon tea there was a Table-Top Session between the delegates and local suppliers from the hotel industry, which was a huge success and kept everyone busy as a bee as it was a perfect rostrum to build new contacts and forge potential business relationships. Later in the evening, Bali Tourism filled everyone with enthusiasm by hosting an onsite dinner that had cultural performances and also distributed some lucky draw prizes.
Local flavours of Bali
To bring in all the elements of outbound tourism, the very next day OTOAI along with its ground handling partner PACTO had organised an early morning Bali sight-seeing tour to a Balinese temple – Pura Luhur Batukau, with local cuisine and Indian food at a restaurant enroute. The evening again saw a grand dinner hosted by Starwood at Westin Resorts that had some really entertaining floor-shows and words of acknowledgement by the OTOAI president and other members. The formal dinner was a platform to interact with delegates who until the third day had become comfortable with each other and thus lead to a productive exchange of ideas.
In its endeavour to give all the delegates a fair idea of Bali’s traditions, a second early morning sight-seeing tour was organised on the last day of the event to the hill resort of Ubud where one could witness the local handicrafts of Bali and a museum. The same evening members were transferred to the 7 break-away five star hotels and resorts in Bali (Ayodhya Resorts, Bali Dynasty Resorts, Discovery Kartika Plaza, Grand Hyatt, Laguna Nusa Dua, Nusa Dua Resorts and Westin Resorts), for the delegates to enjoy a night’s onsite hotel inspection and stay with hosted dinners by hotels or the Queens.
All in all, this convention proved to be very productive for all the strata of the outbound tourism as it was a well planned event that along with various formal business sessions gave all the delegates a platform to develop their network and build on potential relationships that would bring results in the near future. Sharing the same thought Munshi adds, “At the convention, we had 240 delegates from different travel companies spread across states within India. People were not only in attendance but extremely active in discussion as evident during all the sessions. The sponsors and the media contributed immensely too to make this event a success.”