‘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.

TravTalk - India - - QUICKBYTES - INDER RAJ AHLUWALIA

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

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