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PATA Travel Mart to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) will organise PATA Travel Mart 2019 in Astana, Kazakhstan next year.

The event will be hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kazakh Tourism National Company JSC, the key organization in the tourism industry effectively promoting the tourist brand of Kazakhstan and contributing to attracting investments to the industry.

“We are excited to hold the first-ever PATA event in Central Asia in the Republic of Kazakhstan. As the destination stands at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, it is the perfect venue to organize the Association’s signature travel trade exhibition in a uniquely transformational city that blends various cultures and heritages of both the East and West,” said PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy. “We look forward to working with the host in showcasing this truly unique destination.”

Vice Minister of Culture And Sport of The Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Yerlan Kozhagapanov, said, “We are honored to be the bid winner and are grateful for the opportunity to host PATA Travel Mart 2019. We are positioning Astana as a MICE hub for Central Asia and looking forward to welcoming PATA members, hosted buyers and visitors at PATA Travel Mart 2019.”

Kazakhstan is the heart of Eurasia. Located simultaneously in two parts of the world – Europe and Asia, it is at the junction of several of the world’s largest civilizations and borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Russian Federation. Due to its key strategic location, it is among the strongest supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative strategy adopted by the Chinese government. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the country received a total of over 7.7 million total visitors in 2017.

Kazakhstan has a unique geography with a rich and diverse landscape, which includes numerous lakes, lowlands, deserts and valleys framed by mountains in the east and southeast. Due to the large territory and variety of natural conditions, there are over 6,000 species of plants, 172 species of mammals, 500 species of birds, 52 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, and 150 species of fish.

The country’s new capital, Astana, has become a showpiece for 21st-century Kazakhstan, with a fantastical skyline marked by landmark buildings designed by leading international architects in a variety of Asia, Western, Soviet and futuristic styles.

Astana, also known as the ‘Singapore of the steppe’, is a growing city with a young, forward-looking vibe, where Kazakhstan’s ambitious and talented youth are increasingly drawn. This ever-growing city – host to the Expo 2017 world fair – offers a glimpse into a town of tomorrow.

Special discounts are available for sellers located within Central Asia, while early bird discounts are available for those registering before December 31, 2018.

For more information or to register for PATA Travel Mart, please visit www.PATA.org/PTM or email PTM@PATA.org.

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OYO UAE reports double-digit growth in MICE visitors in 2019

OYO Hotels & Homes, South Asia’s largest, has seen a double-digit percentage rise in trade visitors within the MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector within the first two months of 2019. The company is currently one of China’s top five, and the world’s fastest-growing chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces. OYO established its footprint in the UAE in the first half of 2018 and has already served close to 120,000 guests from 80 plus countries in 20+ hotels located across five Emirates and 40 homes in Dubai. OYO currently manages 1300+ exclusive rooms across Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman.

As per reports, the trade exhibition industry in Dubai saw over 500,000 visitors last year in addition to the regular leisure tourists.

“We have observed a significant increase in trade visitors since the start of 2019 due to the busy events and exhibitions sector in UAE. Dubai’s MICE industry is currently growing at a rapid pace and leads in several aspects when compared to other global MICE hubs such as the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. On the other hand, we are confident of also seeing a spike due to the highly active sports industry,”said Manu Midha, Regional Head, Middle East, OYO Hotels & Homes.

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Singapore roots for Indian MICE market

With a track record of hosting Asia’s most prominent events, Singapore continues to deliver innovative solutions for the transfer of knowledge, ideas and connections to drive new possibilities for the Meetings, Incentive, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) sector in Singapore. Singapore has been recognized by the World Bank as one of the easiest places in the world to do business (Doing Business 2018 Report, World Bank) and was named the Best BTMICE City at the prestigious TTG Travel Awards in 2018. While Singapore had welcomed 2.46 million BTMICE visitors in 2017, the city saw 1.3 million BTMICE visitors in the first half of 2018.

Kicking off its first MICE-focused event for 2019 in India, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) organized a MICE thought leadership seminar in Mumbai on the theme, ‘Meetings & Incentive Travel to Singapore – Forging New Possibilities.’ The program included a keynote presentation by Gokul Bajaj, Head of Sales and Partnerships at Cvent, a cloud-based enterprise event management platform with solutions to optimize the entire event management value chain. A panel discussion followed on the topic of “How can the MICE industry leverage technology to better engage their audience?” Gokul Bajaj,  Aikta Tyagi, Vice President & Head of Special Events at Amway India, SD Nandakumar, President & Country Head – B2B for SOTC Travel Ltd formed the panel. The discussion was moderated by GB Srithar, Regional Director (South Asia, Middle East, and Africa), Singapore Tourism Board.

A team-building activity focusing on Lego Serious Play, conducted by Ludovic Odier, the CEO of Outdoor in Asia, highlighted innovative, high impact and experiential team engagement activities possible in Singapore for M&I travelers. The attendees were updated on new MICE venues, incentive schemes provided by the STB and diverse and exciting array of experiences available in Singapore for M&I groups. The program was well attended with 150 Indian travel agents and 40 Singapore stakeholders representing hotels, airlines, attractions, Destination Management Companies (DMC) and cruise operators.

Speaking on STB’s efforts to showcase Singapore as a destination of choice among the MICE travelers, Srithar, Regional Director (South Asia, Middle East, and Africa), Singapore Tourism Board said, “India continues to be a key source market for MICE travelers to Singapore. Thanks to the support of trade intermediaries and corporates, we have witnessed healthy growth in Meetings and Incentives ‘visitorship’ over the past few years. This thought leadership MICE Seminar is relevant, as many in the M&I space are contemplating the role of technology in enhancing their groups’ travel experiences and program. The trade engagement event enabled Indian travel trade to exchange ideas and deepen relationships with the Singapore tourism partners. We look forward to inviting and delighting a good number of M&I groups to Singapore this year.”

Considering all travelers, including MICE, from January to November 2018, Singapore welcomed 1.32 million Indian visitors, a 14.4% increase over the same period in 2017. India continues to be Singapore’s third largest visitor arrivals source market.

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The Great Indian Small City MICE potential!

India MICE Micepoint

The story so far! In an electoral year, the pundits continue to scream ‘disaster’ on losing employment opportunities amid the GST, demonetization, fluctuating oil prices, the high cost of imports, etc. What has stood out is an industry which has been notorious for being accused as simply one of ‘under-performing’. The Indian hospitality industry is adding more inventory than ever before. With the new entrants primarily from the real-estate domain, who’s new found love to create wealth, go multi-utility and don the Hotel Owner hat and hope they play the ultimate host!

While major cities still continue to hog the headlines in terms of inventory being added, the tier-2 and tier-3 cities are the ones grabbing the action! Realty consultancy JLL India indicates that over the past two years, top-notch hotel chains, domestic and international, are mushrooming in a surprising new segment: Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

 The study shows that cities such as Bhubaneswar, Ludhiana, Itanagar, and Nagpur are witnessing a spurt in the construction of big hotel chains. In 2016, 40 hotels signed up to launch properties in Tier 2 cities. In 2017, twenty more companies invested in smaller cities. And by 2018, the total tally of hotels being set up in the Tier 2 segment was 65. Total room counts across sixteen Tier-2 cities went from 4,465 in 2016 to 6,113 in 2018.

Karan Rahan, Senior Associate, Hotelivate, told in a recent interview that said approximately 50 per cent of the supply pipeline of rooms will come up in tier 2 and tier 3 cities such as Lucknow (1,200) Agra (1,200), Kochi (1,100), Udaipur (1,100), Dehradun (900), Vijayawada (900), Varanasi (700), Guwahati (700) and Gorakhpur (400).

 The realty boom continues to add to the semi-urban growth story in India. According to JLL, the retail sector is estimated to grow to Rs 1 trillion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 12-15 percent. Malls have seen investments of over $ 750 million in 2017, almost double of what the segment saw in 2016. The retail sector in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities has witnessed a much higher investment of $6.2 billion between 2006 and 2017, as against $1.3 billion of the same in Tier-1 metro cities during the same period, according to a CII-JLL report.

One of the key drivers is the UDAAN (‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’) scheme offered by the Govt. of India, where tickets are being subsidized at re-activated airports and a growing economic spotlight. 235 routes cleared by the Aviation ministry cover 16 unserved and 17 under-served airports and six water aerodromes. There are 50 airports which are already being served and will be connected to these under-served and unserved airports. The winner of the bid gets a three-year exclusive right to operate flights on the route. The fare for half the seats in a flight is capped at ₹2,500 for an hour of a plane journey of approximately 500 km and a 30-minute helicopter journey. The selected airline provides 50% of the flight capacity – with a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 40 seats for planes and a minimum of 5 and maximum of 13 seats for helicopters.

With increased purchasing power, the advent of bigger brands into tier 2 and tier 3 cities seems a natural market acquisition process. As more event management companies take flight in smaller cities, the realm of booking technology for events has also exploded. The event and movie booking App, Townscript (A BookMyShow-owned DIY ticketing platform) has been seeing phenomenal growth. Townscript is now looking to move beyond urban cities and focus on expanding aggressively in tier 2 cities. One-and-a-half years ago, tier 2 cities contributed to only 10% of Townscript’s total tickets sales, which has now increased to 33%. Townscript is looking at increasing this further by entering more markets and expand its presence to towns such as Jaipur, Patna, Kochi. The App helps event organizers to go live within 10 minutes. Having the world’s lowest Mobile data charges, the cheaper access to technology has catapulted this genre. With events generating higher profitability than movie tickets, the scope to delve further into this market is a natural upswing! Even the Food delivery App ‘Foodpanda India’ has smaller cities and towns contributing over 40 percent to the company’s business in the country.

According to a report by India Brand Equity Forum, Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry grew at a CAGR of 10.90 percent from FY17-18; and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.10 per cent to touch Rs 2,660.20 billion (US$ 39.68 billion) by FY23 from Rs 1,436.00 billion (US$ 22.28 billion) in FY18. While the events and activations industry in India is expected to cross Rs 10,000 crore mark by 2020-21, as per an Ernst & Young – EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association) report. The industry, which was at Rs 5,631 crore in 2016-17 overall, has been growing at a 16% CAGR, even overtaking the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry, which is growing at 11-13% CAGR.

When smaller cities vie for action, meeting spaces continue to add opportunities in terms of weddings and social gatherings, corporate sales conferences, Product launches, etc. The country simply loves to celebrate! With made-to-order occasions created out of thin air or a six-month-long meticulously designed wedding, hotels in India never had it this good. The Indian hospitality industry’s unique revenue trait, where Food & Beverage contributes more to the revenue kitty than the segment is credited. The Meetings industry’s mite seldom goes challenged with the discerning Indian finds more occasions to celebrate! Events to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, kitty parties, family and friend’s get-togethers, naming ceremonies and of course, the big fat Indian wedding all bring cheer to the table!

Trying to adopt a Hotel management model, where the focus is primarily on room sales will spell disaster for the owner-driven hotels in the country. Speaking about the new era hotels that seem to be flooding the market with imported standards especially from Europe and US, who seem more interested in getting to the magic number of 100 properties in India, than creating a right variation to their product to suit the Indian market. Service and amenity standards currently being enforced in the name of global parity is absurd. There have been investments made in crores to create a profitable entity, and have left Indian hoteliers in the lurch, not necessarily due to the economic situations we endure.

How do you explain to a prospective client, who wishes to book a hotel for his residential conference or wants to host his big fat Indian wedding, that he can take his room business, but has no venue to host the banquet! Indians, by trait, need an excuse to get a gathering on to host a lunch or dinner! The scorn for Food and Beverage sales is not justified, when in India, sometimes F&B sales constitute up to 50% of revenue. It should do well for hotels to broad base their client profile. Every hotel in the three – four-star range should have meeting spaces of a minimum of 3000 square feet. 

The idiom that India lives in the villages is out of place when the villages vie to become towns and towns aspire to be recognized as a city! The progression seems natural and the need for quality hospitality and event spaces is aspirational, to say the least!

What Prime Minister Narendra Modi says

“India is a young country where 65% of the population is aged less than 35 years, and we are enabling them to think of innovative solutions. Further, we have tried to localize the start-up innovation culture and you will be surprised to know that till now 44% of the start-ups are found in Tier II and Tier III cities, today. These start-ups have been founded across the 419 districts of India. Moreover, almost 45% of the start-ups are founded by women entrepreneurs.” 

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