INTERVIEWS

SKAL to provide platform for youth

Asia is the only area in the world where SKAL International is experiencing strong growth.

Manoj Mathew SKAL
Photo: MP BUREAU

SKAL hopes to gain more ground In Bangalore and proposes to raise awareness among the young. Manoj Mathew, President, SKAL International Club-Bangalore, shares his views.

You were recently elected as the SKAL President for SKAL International Club Bangalore. What new plans do you have for SKAL?

We are keen on making SKAL International Bangalore a platform for tourism professionals in Bangalore to exchange ideas, generate business, and network with like-minded people. SKAL International Bangalore is on a membership drive, and we plan to open another club in Whitefield as commute becomes a constraint. We want to promote ‘Young SKAL’ so that the youth in our industry get a platform for exposure to the tourism industry.

Tell us more about the SKAL International Asia Congress 2019.

Among the regional areas of SKAL International, the SKAL Asian Area commands the largest area, stretching for more than 10,000 km from Guam in the Pacific region to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Asia is the only area in the world where SKAL International is experiencing strong growth. In the Asian region, we achieved an increase of 14.7% in the number of members, compared to one year ago. Currently, there are about 2,400 members in 41 clubs in Asia. The newest Club No 726, Trivandrum, from India is also a part of the Asian chapter.

We have partnered with Karnataka Tourism Department who have supported us in promoting our cause in Macau in the recently held Asia Congress.

SKAL International Asia Congress 2019 in Bengaluru is a prestigious annual event. We are expecting over 150 international delegates from the Asian region plus Indian Skalleagues to be part of this conference. A three- day event will be held in which we will showcase Karnataka Tourism, and, in many ways, the exciting part of Incredible India. We have partnered with Karnataka Tourism Department who have supported us in promoting our cause in Macau in the recently held Asia Congress. Cox & Kings will be our preferred Travel Partner and they will help in making the registration of delegates seamless and offer exciting pre-post tours to the visiting delegates. The convention will be held at Taj MG Road and Taj Group of Hotels.

What are the latest developments at SKAL?

During the Macau Congress, an MOU was signed between PATA and SKAL International.

How is India progressing in comparison with other countries?

India is gaining prominence in the region. Delhi is the largest club in Asia and the region is fast gaining importance. Therefore, the SKAL Asia region next year will be an important one.

Technology is changing many sectors. Will SKAL also be looking forward to enhancing technically?

Technology is a game changer and SKAL is very much in the forefront and is revamping its site by adding more features and is making it more interactive. Business amongst friends will become faster and easier.

INTERVIEWS

Papua New Guinea to make its mark in India

Papua New Guinea has not been on the bucket list for many Indians. However, Pelican Air, which has now been chosen to represent the country’s national air carrier, Air Niugini, is launching a slew of new initiatives to make the destination popular among the Indian globetrotters. Nishad Gadhavi, General Manager- Business Development, Pelican Air Private Limited, talks about the strategies for the Indian market.

Pelican Air Pvt Ltd was recently appointed as the India representation company for Air Niugini, the national airline of Papua New Guinea. Tell us about your 2019 plans for the Indian market.
Air Niugini is now a BSP member in India and agents can now view fares and issue tickets.  We have planned product presentations with top travel agents and a FAM trip in July this year. Our main focus would be to promote Air Niugini and Papua New Guinea as a destination from India. We have planned various activities to tap into MICE movements. We are also focusing on leisure and adventure travelers. We will interface with bloggers to promote the airline as well as the destination.

What can an Indian traveler expect in Papua New Guinea?
Indians are avid travelers and are always keen to visit new destinations. Papua New Guinea offers various water activities, adventure tours, cultural tours, etc. Throughout the year, there are cultural events at various islands of Papua New Guinea and visitors can enjoy these festivals with the local community. Besides the scenic beauty and shopping, young travelers can enjoy water sports and trekking at the Kokoda trail, and the country’s many islands are a perfect getaway for honeymooners. In short, PapuaNew Guinea caters to every age group.

Considering Papua New Guinea is an unexplored destination for Indians, what activities have you lined up to promote the country?
With the help of the tourism board, we are planning to conduct roadshows in various cities, which would help us connect the DMCs with local tour operators in India. Apart from that, we are planning to promote Air Niugini and Papua New Guinea through various social media channels. During our product presentation on Air Niugini, our focus also will be to provide complete information on the destination to the agents, so that they are able to sell effectively.

Is Papua New Guinea ideal for group travelers?
Yes. Groups are one of our focus areas to Papua New Guinea, as there are a lot of cultural festivals. Papua New Guinea is an island destination and every island has something unique to offer.

What are the prime attractions and activities in Papua New Guinea?
There is more to explore in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby, the capital, is a must-visit. The surrounding islands like Rabaul, Madang, Alotau, Kavieng, Wewak, Lorengau and Arawa and Buka are located within 1-hour flight distance from Port Moresby and have lots to offer. There are also museums, nature parks, adventure parks, the famed Bomana War Cemetery, kokoda track, and more. Visitors can also enjoy diving and shopping. The Papua New Guinea coffee is a must-buy.

How do you plan to incentivize Indian travel agents promoting the destination?
Travel agents would be paid commission based on the class of booking. Apart from that, we are going to provide special fares to selected agents who specialize in promoting packages and to agents who are keen on promoting Air Niugini and Papua New Guinea as a tourist destination. The incentives also depend on the volumes the agents would generate. We are open to negotiations with travel agents, and it all depends on their productivity.

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INTERVIEWS

Selling MICE is a laborious task. Here’s how Novotel Kolkata does it

Sandeep Johri, General Manager, Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences, talks to MICEPOINT about the challenges and opportunities in selling MICE.

Novotel Kolkata
Photo: Unsplash

Novotel Kolkata was established in 2014. From then to now, the hotel has undergone a grand transformation. However, the property’s stardom is not without its pain points. Sandeep Johri, General Manager, Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences, talks to MICEPOINT about the challenges and opportunities in selling MICE.

From a meetings and incentives point of view, how was 2018 for Novotel Kolkata? What do you look forward to in 2019?
MICE is a key segment for Novotel Kolkata. With the presence of BBCC (Biswa Bangla Convention Centre), MICE movement towards this part of the city is increasing each month. In 2018, we launched Le Jardin, our rooftop terrace banquet space spread across 18,000 sq.ft. It is a gastronomical game changer in the banqueting industry, offering over 20 live unconventional cookout stations that display unique ‘stories’ of food and beverage. With the launch of Accor’s flagship banqueting space, we aim to provide the best events experience to our guests.

Of all the MICE hotels in Kolkata, what makes Novotel unique?
Kolkata is emerging as an ideal mix of corporate, social and leisure mix of travelers. The recent development of the BBCC has added to the charm of the city. Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences being the closest hotel to the facility with the largest inventory in town opens up a wide number of options for guests coming to attend the international/domestic conventions in the city. We have 340 rooms (including suites and apartments) and the largest number of breakaways always gives us an edge over the competitors to win over key MICE business.
We are the only Novotel in India with the concept of Residences. Novotel Kolkata Residences provides a spacious and comfortable stay in a stylish serviced apartment that offers various experiences with a sense of ‘home away from home’.
Another USP will be that we are the first Novotel hotel by Accor to usher a change in the culinary gastronomy of Indian banqueting. With Le Jardin, we introduced a gastronomical gamechanger in the banqueting industry that will offer over 20 live unconventional cookout stations displaying unique ‘stories’ of food and beverage.

How do you empower your sales team who handles Meetings & Incentives?
Last year, the MICE spend with the sales team was with regards to their own target portfolio. For the same, multiple plan rates can be prepared as the clients’ requirements. Besides the rates, they have planned various activities like partnerships with open-air venues such as rooftop terrace, party lawns, river cruise, and historic monuments. Therefore, every sales person feels empowered and reaches their edge during MICE queries at our hotel.

What capabilities must a salesperson possess to sell a hotel as the perfect MICE venue?
Someone selling a MICE venue must possess a thorough knowledge of the destination and connectivity, ability to manage logistics, and a detailed understanding of the attractions that the destination offers. Apart from the knowledge of the hotel industry, he or she has to always be goal-oriented and good at building relationships.

What kind of tie-ups/partnerships have you established to sell more MICE services?
We have clinched partnerships with MICE giants, including PCOs (Public conference organizers), associations and we are also liaising with conference venues such as Biswa Bangla Convention Centre and Science city to sell more MICE services.

What are the key challenges in handling MICE events? How do you overcome such challenges?
Hospitality is a highly dynamic industry and employee turnover is one of the biggest challenges that the industry is facing today. Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences attracts a large number of MICE and business travelers. For us, one of the major challenges is hiring skilled employees and retaining them with the company. Both international and national visitors traveling for MICE events have a specific set of requirements as they come for different nature of events. To serve these guests up to their satisfaction level and making their stay and meetings at the property a memorable and flawless experience demands a proactive understanding and a greater skillset at the employee front. Hence to bring such talent in the company and train them as per Accor service standard is imperative. With growing opportunities in the industry, it becomes a challenge to find good resources and retain them.

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INTERVIEWS

The Den Bengaluru bets big on digital

MICEPOINT The Den

Despite being a new entrant in the Silicon Valley of India, The Den Bengaluru is clear about what it wants. Vinesh Gupta, the property’s General Manager, talks about what the Israeli hotel chain looks forward to in 2019.

It’s been a little over a year since the setting up of The Den Bengaluru. Your hotel takes pride in catering to both urban globetrotters and traditional travelers. How did 2018 turn out for your property?

Being the first year, 2018 was the year of consolidation. We were warmly accepted as a new brand and product. We were being perceived as a trendsetter. We were innovative. We gave attention to detail. We were focused on quality. We made sure we took care of the security aspect of the property. We witnessed positive month-on-month growth. 2018 was also the year of stabilization. We realized that the market is becoming increasingly competitive. However, as a brand, we are sticking to our core philosophy, which helped us position ourselves in the right direction. 

What do you look forward to in 2019?

We started off on an optimistic note where we are considering our position as a millennial luxury hotel. We look forward to a stable and productive year ahead and are confident of delivering handsome profitability to our owners.

What new marketing strategies are you implementing this year to promote the brand better?

We have an elaborate roadmap for 2019 where we are looking at focusing on national brand awareness, especially in metro cities. We understand the importance of mobile experience, and we are optimizing our website accordingly. We want to make the guest experience mobile-friendly. We want to be aggressive with enough spend and be a trendsetter on social media and other digital platforms. We are also looking at enhancing SEO, SMO, and remarketing, which would definitely help us to get the social proof needed for marketing success and amplify our brand concepts to reach luxury lifestyle market and B2C through all media platforms.

What steps are you taking to make the hotel more Instagram-friendly?

Our property as a whole is picturesque. The Den Corner rooms, in particular, has natural light seeping in through the big windows, enabling the guests to click stunning moments. One of our key USPs of our Mediterranean rooftop restaurant, Layla is dining under the night sky on the 21st floor. The breathtaking location of the rooftop restaurant makes it an ideal place for Instagrammers. Our other notable additions include live shows, live cooking, and DIYs to engage the guests.

What’s the roadmap for The Den in 2019?

By gauging the growth of the hospitality sector in India, we would like to introduce the brand to both tier 1 and tier 2 cities.

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