​Industry leaders, policy makers converge to push country’s tourism agenda at India Travel Congress

India Travel Congress, organised by BITB, was held on 23rd and 24th of February 2018 at Pullman Hotel in Aerocity, New Delhi. The two-day event was aimed at bringing diverse stakeholders of the larger tourism industry on to one platform to create better understanding the of nuances of businesses, changing dynamics of the market and churnings in the domestic milieu which were impacting the course of business trajectory for the industry.

The event, spread across two days, was attended by over 500 delegates, representing senior echelons of policy makers and tourism industry. Key government representatives included Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS, Housing and Urban Affairs, GOI; Vijay Goel, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme, GOI; Ashwini Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board and Anurag Thakur, Member of Parliament, Hamirpur, among others.  

Hardeep Puri, in his speech, shared some of the initiatives taken by Housing and Urban Affairs ministry and detailed how they were aligned with the larger vision of the tourism industry. He suggested that the massive urbanisation and rejuvenation push, undertaken by his ministry, was a critical aspect of uplifting tourism in cities and asserted that it would help strengthening tourism and travel in its own ways. “This is a part of the government which will contribute to providing a quantum jump and exponential growth to the tourism sector,” he said.

Speaking on transforming railways in to a preferred means of transportation, Ashwini Lohani shared that railways was working on boosting rail footprints in hilly areas, including the Northeast – which was going to add more lustre to the profile of the region, making it more accessible to the masses. Speaking on the transformational change undergoing in the railways, he said “We are building freight corridors, high-speed railways, bringing in new coaches, besides improving sub-urban networks and signalling. It is at the cusp of a major chance, which will affect and give a big impetus to this wonderful sector.”.

There were several sessions, studded with star speakers, who deliberated on issues impacting the industry and the nation in driving stronger tourism numbers. In the plenary session, SK Misra, Former Principal Secretary to the PM, outlined the way forward for positioning Delhi as a world-class city for tourism. A panel consisting of pioneers in their respective fields also shared their insights on issues such as hotels, museums and cuisines and how they could be better positioned to attract more footfalls in to the capital.

Vijay Goel spoke on resurrecting Chandni Chowk and old Delhi for conserving heritage and transforming it in to a desirable tourism asset. He highlighted issues such as multiplicity of authority and a general sense of apathy for the heritage as reasons for the current state of the old Delhi region.

Anurag Thakur shared his experience of bringing cricket in to the Buddhist town of Dharamshala and argued that sports tourism was not only important in driving local economy, but it had also considerably arrested some of the other glaring social issues facing the Himalayan state.

There were sessions dedicated to deciphering trends in the hospitality segment. Also, finding ways and means to drive inbound traffic in to India was put under scanner. Hotel insiders asserted that while inbound was a lucrative proposition, domestic segment was the pivot around which businesses were expected to grow, indicating that the domestic segment had grown leaps and bounds, in terms of its spending capability and weightage as segment.

Churning in the online space was discussed at length too. Speakers shared their insights on the unfolding in the online space, suggesting that further consolidation by online majors was going to continue unabated and discounts as a means to attract more consumers was a trend expected to continue for at least another five years.

Gujarat Tourism was the Gold Partner of the event and showcased and promoted some of its key destinations and products among delegates. Gujarat Tourism was represented by Soman Pathi and Sanatan Pancholi who besides networking on the sidelines on the event to create more understanding about Gujarat’s offerings and opportunities, also gave insights in to conducive policy framework in the state. Gujarat Tourism also set up a exhibition booth to drive B2B business and had three co-participants, in form of hotels, showcasing their product offering. 

Representatives of Crabtree – a part of the Havells group – showcased a video presentation to delegates, explaining how the company was making fast strides in aligning itself with the needs of the hotel industry by bringing in products that were truly international and top quality in terms of energy efficiency and design.

BITB also honoured some of the biggest names in the tourism industry for their unflinching resolve and massive contribution in furthering travel and tourism in the country and beyond. BITB honoured Radhe shyam Saraf, Group Chairman, Saraf Hotel Enterprises; Chandru Raheja, Founder and Chairman, K Raheja Corp and Kapil Bhatia, Executive Chairman, Interglobe Enterprises Limited with ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ for their long and illustrious careers spanning several decades.

Hotelier Binod Chaudhary, Chairman of CG Group was honoured for being the ‘Face of South Asian Hospitality’ and Tarun Thakral, Founder of Heritage Transport Museum was also honoured for his unique initiative which has gained tremendous popularity as an innovative tourism product.

Over 100 golfers from Delhi and NCR were also in attendance to participate in raffle draw which was supported by Nepal Tourism. A number of golfers won attractive prizes which included sponsored stay in Nepal.

During the two days, delegates also networked over hosted lunches and dinners and discussed ideas to further business.

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