Tour operators and agents must push to reposition Dubai as a luxury destination

Syed A Asim, Executive Director, Bonton Group of Companies bats for a concerted effort from travel agents and tour operators to re-position Dubai as a luxury destination. He stressed that the phenomena of undertaking a luxury vacation was beginning to catch pace and likely to grow in coming years.

Syed A AsimIndia’s luxury market is an evolving one. So, such an intense focus on augmenting numbers from India signals that the segment is at the cusp of major growth. What is your take on the same?  

Yes, India is not a mature luxury market, but that is where the potential lies. India has the potential to become a big luxury market. When you look at any other industry, and talk about economy, people take automobile industry and other such sectors as benchmark. If you look at these industries, India has already become a luxury market for those sectors. Therefore, India has the thrill and the will to become a luxury market. Travel and tourism is one such industry – which is slowly finding its feet among Indian populace.  Now people are getting more aware about the possibilities of travelling to newer destinations, riding on the back of economic growth in the past years. Now, even the middle-class is aspiring to have some luxury products. It is becoming popular, especially, among IT executives and similar such professionals to take holidays and explore unseen parts of the world. It was a culture, mostly, prevalent in western countries, but with rising disposable incomes and avenues to undertake travel, Indians are beginning to travel in large numbers.

People these days take long vacations and travel to long-haul destination – which was so not the case some years ago. People, earlier, were more focussed on economics of travel, but the new breed of traveller focusses more on experience side of it and money is not a hindrance, if one can cater to that expectation and experience that the consumer expects.

How do you this trend moving forward in the coming years? What are your expectations of the Indian market?

The moment a phenomena gets triggered in India, whether it is a mobile phone or automobile, or any other sector or good, it catches up very fast. There is a dominos effect. When it comes to travel and tourism, the effect of seeing neighbour and then taking a call on one’s next vacation is very high in India. Unlike many other western countries, India works in a different manner. It means that the moment when experiential holidaying catches up in India, it will catch on like wildfire. That is why I say this with conviction that India holds tremendous potential as a luxury market for the rest of the world.

Where does India stand for you as a source market? For your own company, how significant is India?

In terms of potential, as I said before, it very high. In terms of where we are, realistically, it is very low. As far as overall traffic and movement is concerned, India is a huge market. But if you speak, specifically, about the luxury segment, it remains low. The potential remains completely untapped.

And why would say that? What does this glaring omission exist? Dubai is well-known in India, but its varied offerings and the magnitude of products that tourists could enjoy, remains unpublicised. How would you reckon it should be addressed?

True. If you talk about India and speak to a number of travel agents, they have sold Dubai as an economy destination. That is the message that has gone out to probable tourists; it has benefited Dubai, also.  A lot of people who got to know about Dubai, but for them, whatever they were selling – whether it was Dubai as a stopover destination or any other viewpoint – now they have to take it a step forward, and look towards positioning Dubai as a luxury destination. Instead of fighting on price-points, travel agents and tour operators will have to position it from a luxury perspective. One has to take the message to the larger audience that Dubai has a lot more to offer as a destination, in the luxury segment.

It is in this light that I think this roadshow is a step in the right direction and at the right time. There is a large number of people in India who have the requisite finances to undertake a luxury vacation in Dubai, but they would be first time travellers! If you look at the profile of Dubai, it is very similar to India. India and Dubai, both, are multicultural and multifaceted countries. The type of food, language and culture has much in common. The number of Indian expats is huge and it is rightly called ‘Mini India’.  So there cannot be better place than Dubai to experience all of it and more. 

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