‘Off season’ is off India’s list
The trade feels that the so-called ‘off season’ has become a thing of the past. Has India been successful during the ‘off season’? TRAVTALK spoke to industry leaders to find out more and the verdict is unanimous.
Business is as usual round-the-year in the state. Kerala Tourism’s effort in the domestic sector of conducting around 35 roadshows has paid off. Therefore, tourist traffic to the state has come during the periods when the foreign inbound traffic had decreased. The other contributory factor has been the increase in tourist inflow from new markets and the increase of foreign ‘adventure tourism’ clients. For instance, tourists from the Gulf countries are filling up hotel rooms during the ‘off season’. The body plans to increase its annual foreign adventure tourists to 5,000.
Owing to its geographical diversity, India has now become a ‘year-round’ tourist destination. The ‘off-season’ of the plains are offset by the attractions of destinations like Ladakh and Uttarakhand, which provide both foreign and domestic tourists trekking and soft adventure pursuits. A great boost to the ‘ offseasons’ has come by way of adventure tourism, especially trekking and mountaineering, which are mostly done during the lean months. With adventure tourism having emerged as one of the industry’s fastest growing segments, the ‘off-seasons’ is expected to see even further tourist growth.
We need to dovetail our marketing strategy based on the demand, focusing on placing India as a holiday destination for all ‘reasons’ and all ‘seasons’. Thanks to the fact that India has myriad products such as ‘sunny India’, ‘cool hill resorts’, beaches, ‘wellness’ and festivals with something to offer all year around. The growing popularity of adventure and ecotourism is also helping to spread the season. The summer months are well spent in the mountains; the monsoons have their own attraction; while the winter months have always been the main season. While the tourism seasons have expanded, overloaded taxes and confusion on the GST are hindering the industry.
India’s strength lies in its numerous seasonal destinations. For instance, while Rajasthan witnesses off season during summers and peak season during the winters, Himachal Pradesh works with the contrary. It is important that the Ministry of Tourism and other tourism boards come out with certain incentives during these off-seasons so as to push sales. The business exists but special hotel rates, discounted airline fares and rentals can be offered to travellers during this period to promote tourism. The need of the hour is to engage in a collective job to harness full business potential in all seasons.
The industry used to suffer because of ‘off seasons’, mainly during summers in the plains and winter in the hills. However, the industry’s innovative methodology of selling specific destinations with special ‘off season’ packages and tapping corporates and families for ‘off season’ vacations has paid off. States like Goa and Kerala have been very successful in attracting tourists during their lean period. In the same vein, winter traffic to the hills has increased because of special activities and packages.
The old norms of tourism are changing and ‘off season’ business in India is steadily increasing. This is a welcome development as it has resulted in good occupancies in hotels, thanks to sustained international marketing and promotional campaigns. India as a destination is now much better known and more visible worldwide. Various tourist attractions and offerings of the country are now better appreciated. The other factor that has boosted ‘off season’ tourism is an impressive increase in domestic tourism which has resulted in an increase in revenues of hotels, agents, tour operators and transporters.
The inbound tourist season for India has now extended far beyond the winter months, once considered as the traditional peak period. This means that there is no ‘off season’, as such. This is undoubtedly a very positive factor for the industry, and one that has increased overall earnings across the board. A significant factor behind this development is the impressive growth of the domestic tourism sector. MiCE operators have also generated good business in the monsoon months, thereby helping fill up hotel rooms throughout the year. Like airline seats, hotels also have become more flexible with their rates.
India isn’t upbeat about the business levels in the ‘off season’, and the country isn’t promoted at all as an ‘all-weather’ tourist destination. The truth is that the country’s branding has not been done on these lines. The result is that unfortunately, in spite of having all the right tourist products, India has not been able to attract International tourism to its shores from April to September, for the leisure markets. There’s been an increase in business, but it isn’t significant. So the seasonality of our business remains one of the industry’s biggest problems. This can be overcome by a constant industry push from all the stakeholders.
Sunil Sikka General Manager Marketing & Business Development, WelcomHeritage
Manoj Saraf Managing Director Gainwell Travel & Leisure, India Travel Award winner
Sunil Ghadiok Nidra Hospitality India Travel Award winner
Homa Mistry India Travel Award winner and CEO, Trail Blazer Tours
Dr Venu V Principal Secretary Kerala Tourism
Swadesh Kumar President ATOAI
Pronab Sarkar President IATO
PP Khanna President ADTOI