Travel & Tourism Fair (TTF), the oldest and one of the biggest travel trade shows in India which originated in Kolkata in 1989, celebrated its 30th edition in the city in 2018. More than 430 exhibitors from 28 Indian states and union territories and 13 countries participated on the fully packed show floors of Netaji Indoor Stadium and the adjacent Khudiram Anushilan Kendra, from July 6 to 8.
Thousands of travel trade members visited the show in the first one and a half days reserved for the trade. An even larger number of travel-hungry people of Kolkata and nearby places visited the show in the remaining one and a half days of the show, on the weekend, to plan their next Durga Puja and Diwali vacations! Durga Puja is the biggest festive season for the Bengalis living all around the world and Diwali can be termed as the national festival of India when holiday travel gets its highest momentum.
Over the years, TTF Kolkata had been receiving a large number of buyers and sellers from Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan in the vicinity.
On the one hand Bangladesh gets a large number of tourists from West Bengal, Assam and Tripura; on the other hand, Bangladeshi tourists also come to West Bengal in a large number for various purposes – business, education, medical, VFR (visiting friends & relatives) as well as tourism.
Speaking exclusively to Media India Group, A. K. M. Shahjahan Kamal, Minister of Civil Aviation & Tourism, Government of Bangladesh said, “TTF is the best opportunity for us to connect with the Bengali tourists planning to visit our country in search of their root. We have the same culture, same language, and same origin. Bangladesh displays its best products to attract tourists from Bengal in TTF Kolkata every year and has been getting an excellent result over the years. Measures have also been taken to increase connectivity through roads, rail and air, facilitating tourists from India to visit Bangladesh easily. We will now work on easing the visa process.”
With a very big delegation comprising big hotel chains like Jetwings, Aitkin Spence, as well as the national carrier SriLankan Airlines, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau did an aggressive marketing campaign targeting more tourists from the region.
Sutheash Balasubramaniam, Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau commented, “India continues to be our top source market. We believe that the potential of the Indian travel market is yet to be realised in terms of attracting longer stay and higher spending travellers. It is our fervent hope to make Sri Lanka the most preferred destination in Asia for the Indian travellers.”
Thailand and UAE also have excellent flight connections from Kolkata and participate in the show quite regularly. Macao has also joined TTF in the recent years and has continued this year as well. Other countries represented in the show are China, Finland, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam. Air India was the Partner Airline of TTF Kolkata.
Among the Indian states, Uttarakhand had the largest pavilion, followed by Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Odisha, Goa, Gujarat and Kerala who had set up large state pavilions, with their private operators.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim also participated to lure tourists to their states.
Pramod Kumar, Tourism Minister of Government of Bihar expressed his deep interest in getting more foreign tourists via Kolkata. He said, “we have been getting a number of tourists from south-east Asian countries. We need to work more closely with the neighbouring states and countries to popularise the Buddist circuit, Ramayana Circuit and other tourism offerings.”
West Bengal, the host state has been giving a strong effort to boost the Durga Puja carnival at the Red Road (Kolkata) for the last couple of years. The state is also trying to increase the number of foreign tourists and planning to ride on the wave of mass carnival of Durga Puja to attract more foreign tourists.
“Last year, we found that a good number of foreign tourists had come to Bengal to witness the Durga Puja carnival at Red Road. We want to showcase the beauty of Bengal to these tourists by taking them to explore different places before or after the event. So, we will be coming up with some attractive packages to woo the foreigners,” remarked Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal.
Joining TTF Kolkata for the first time, Cox & Kings was the Knowledge Partner, with a large pavilion of its own. The popular destination management company presented Vietnam, Finland and Baltic States through various packages and presentations.
“TTF Kolkata provides us with an opportunity to network with agents and tour operators from the city just before Durga Puja, which is one big opportunity in East India,” said Karan Anand, Head – Relationships, Cox & Kings.
TTF Kolkata has always been a must-visit event not only for the travel trade and tourists from Kolkata but also buyers from major cities in the east and north-east India. Thanks to the ‘look east’ policy of the Government of India, the states in the east and north-east India have seen an impetus in tourism in the region.
Namrata Thapa, Special Secretary, Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Government of Sikkim stated, “Sikkim is very popular among the travel-loving Bengalis. We get tourists from not only Kolkata but from all over India and abroad. We are here to promote the new products from Sikkim like home-stays and village tourism along with the popular attractions.”
W. Ibohal Singh, Director Tourism, Government of Manipur commented, “Kolkata being a centre of the east and north-east, gives us a lot of potentials. We want more tourists to visit Manipur during Sangai festival and other cultural events. We are using the TTF platform to promote Manipur’s culture and festival among the visitors.”
Buyers from all the major cities in the east and north-east India, as well as neighbouring Bangladesh, were invited to attend TTF Kolkata. In addition to the industry professionals, media and tourists from Kolkata who visit the show in thousands, buyers from Dhaka, Bhubaneswar, Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Asansol, Siliguri, Dhanbad, Raniganj, Durgapur, Gangtok, Guwahati, Shillong and Agartala came in huge numbers to visit the show.
“With the increasing importance of outbound and inbound potential in the east and south-east Asia, TTF Kolkata serves as a strategically important gateway for the industry. That is the reason it is a full-house show every year since last 29 years – a legacy that we are proud of,” concluded Sanjiv Agarwal, Chairman and CEO of Fairfest Media, the organisers of TTF.