BUSINESS TRAVEL

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau to rope in Indian MICE

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is reporting positive results from its recent India Road Show that substantiated sales leads with a potential of 3,500 meeting and incentive delegates from New Delhi and 4,500 delegates from Mumbai for events to be held in the country in the next couple of months.

Nooch Homrossukhon, TCEB’s Director of Meetings and Incentives Department, said the roadshow was staged in July with the aim to strengthen Thailand’s existing meetings and incentives business from India and at the same time generating new opportunity.

“In line with TCEB’s role – under its “Thailand Redefine Your Business Events” branding as a co-creator of business opportunities in generating promising sales leads for the Thai MICE sector, the India Road Show yielded productive results,” said Nooch.

The activity involved corporate networking events and media meet up sessions in New Delhi and Mumbai, and was led by Nooch, along with Nitin Sachdeva, TCEB’s Representative in India.

The events in New Delhi and Mumbai attracted significant interest within India’s outbound meetings and incentives market, providing a positive indication of Thailand’s continued status as a leading MICE destination in Asia, Ms. Nooch added.

In New Delhi, TCEB’s corporate networking event was attended by 48 corporate delegates, while the media meet up session saw nine media companies participating. The Mumbai event was attended by 55 corporate delegates, and the media meet up session drew five media companies.

A major component of TCEB’s marketing activity in the Indian market involves the“Meet by Design – Redefined” support campaign, comprising three packages with a tailored menu of privileges and subsidies for event groups coming to Thailand.

‘Meet NOW’ is for meeting and incentive groups starting from 100 delegates and offers a choice of exclusive in-kind services, including a Thai welcome gift for all delegates; VIP fast-track immigration at Suvarnabhumi Airport or cultural performance. For groups of over 500 delegates, a financial subsidy is also included.‘Meet SMART’ is for corporate meeting groups of 100 from the 10 targeted industries under the Thailand 4.0 policy, while ‘Meet MEGA’ is aimed at larger groups of over 3,000 delegates.

“The India Road Show also gathered vital feedback on the requirements and wishes of the Indian meetings and incentives market toward Thailand. Key factors are the demand for a new and competitively priced product, and added value private sector offerings such as discount vouchers,” Nooch said.

AIRLINES

India air fares and hotels rates to increase by 2020

After posting sharp rises in 2019, prices in the global travel industry are likely to slow in 2020, with flights rising a modest 1.2%, hotels rising only 1.3%, and rental car rates up 1% (in USD terms), according to the sixth annual Global Travel Forecast, published today by CWT and GBTA. While the global economy is doing well overall – and expected to grow a solid 3.6% in 2020 – a raft of uncertainties are set to put a damper on pricing.

“The risks and ambiguity have increased over the past few months – not least the threat of escalating trade wars, the impact of Brexit, possible oil supply shocks, and the growing likelihood of recession,” said Kurt Ekert, CWT’s President and CEO. “This forecast will help travel buyers make the right decisions in an increasingly challenging environment.”

India’s strong economic growth is fueling greater demand for business travel and driving up prices. Airfares are forecast to increase 5% (in local currency terms; 0% in USD terms), while hotel rates and ground transport prices are expected to climb 6.8% (1.8% in USD terms) and 4.5% (-0.5% in USD terms), respectively.

“Earlier this year we saw a spike in airfares after Jet Airways ceased its operations in April, so we’re already at a high base in 2019,” said Vishal Sinha, CEO, India, CWT. “With other airlines adding capacity to fill the vacuum, fares have begun to normalize and we expect that to continue next year. However, if the rupee weakens against the dollar, Indian carriers could be faced with bigger fuel bills and we might see that being passed on to travelers.”

“Hotel rates are also expected to rise, as the demand for rooms outpaces supply, especially in secondary cities like Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad. At the same time, the commercialization of mid-tier properties by players like Oyo is also pushing prices upwards.”

Released by the Global Business Travel Association, the voice of the global business travel industry, and CWT, the B2B4E travel management platform, the 2020 Global Travel Forecast uses data generated by CWT Solutions Group, to give an early look at the trends and developments that will shape the business travel industry in the year ahead.

“Technological advancements and an increasingly volatile economic and political landscape across the globe have changed the way today’s travel buyers need to do their jobs,” said Scott Solombrino, GBTA COO and Executive Director. “This annual forecast provides insights into the key drivers forcing these shifting priorities and gives a road map for travel buyers looking to plan their 2020 travel programs.”

Asia Pacific

Air: 1.3% Hotel: 1.3% Ground: 0.5%

Asia’s expansion has slowed down due to worsening US-China relations, tighter global financial conditions, and natural disasters. But the region remains the most dynamic, with steady GDP growth, benign inflation, and a sense of optimism.

Air: In Asia Pacific, the shutdown of India-based Jet Airways’ operations in April created a gap in the market for some key routes, and the reduced competition has meant higher airfares – but with other airlines adding capacity to fill the vacuum, fares have begun to normalize.

Hotel: Asia’s hospitality industry is booming with hotel investment volumes predicted to grow 15% year-on-year. Japan will host the Rugby World Cup later this year, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, which will boost visitor numbers to the region. The Japanese hotel market is seeing a sharp increase in supply to accommodate the anticipated surge in visitors to the country during these events.

Ground: In China, steady demand and increased competition will hurt car suppliers. Across the Asia Pacific, ride-sharing is booming, with many companies allowing their employees to use these services for business travel. Providers like Didi Chuxing, Grab, Go-Jek, and Ola is pursuing aggressive expansion plans, while also taking steps to put more stringent safety measures in place.

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Eastern Europe: Air: -0.2% Hotel: 0.7% Ground: 1.5%

Western Europe: Air: 0.5% Hotel: 0.7% Ground: 0.5%

Middle East & Africa: Air: 2.2% Hotel: 2.5% Ground: 0.5%

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects steady growth, ranging from 0.3% in the Middle East to 1.6% in Europe, and 3.6% in Africa. Across Europe, labor unrest, climate change protests, global trade wars, rising oil prices and regional terrorism all have the potential to cause a slowdown.

Air: Istanbul’s new airport, one of the largest in the region, will likely change flows between Europe and Asia, providing an alternative stopover point for flights to China and Eastern Asia.

Hotel: Denmark and Egypt are both countries to watch, with hotel prices in Denmark expected to fall next year. On the other hand, Egypt’s rates are on the up – projected to rise by 4.7% – as its economy settles down after a period of unrest.

Ground: Eastern Europe’s franchise model for rental car businesses will see slightly higher growth of 1.5%, due to supply and demand in the region. Rail prices still vary greatly across EMEA due to inconsistent regulation.

Latin America

Air: -1.6% Hotel: -0.4% Ground: 1%

Economic activity in Latin America continues to grow – albeit slower than anticipated – and is expected to rise by 2.5% in 2020. A volatile political and economic situation in some of the largest economies like Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil will hurt prospects.

Air: Given the long distances, a growing middle class, and low market penetration of air travel, there are many opportunities, and airlines are making the best of them. Since 2017, several new carriers have entered the market and low-cost carriers have gained a significant share in Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

Hotel: Following a steady decline in new hotels from a 2015-2016 peak, things may be picking up, with Mexico leading the way. More than 10 new corporate chain hotels opened in the region in the first quarter of 2019 with growth set to continue throughout 2020. Properties in Mexico and across Latin America are likely to continue to cut prices.

Ground: A slight increase for rental cars is driven by growing demand in Brazil, the region’s biggest economy. Rental car companies report a cultural shift towards sharing cars rather than owning them, and growth in tourism is also boosting the industry. 

North America

Air: 2.3% Hotel: 2.3% Ground: 1%

While the US economy is thriving, there is growing uncertainty, due to tariffs and trade wars. US GDP growth is set to slow to 2.1% in 2019, and slow further in 2020 and 2021, to 2% and 1.8%, respectively.

Air: Flight prices are expected to rise, reflecting the strong economies of the US and Canada. Most airlines are looking to ancillary fees as a way to stay competitive, so the costs of services like Wi-Fi and lounge access may be up for negotiation for corporate travelers.

Hotel: The hotel industry has seen slow, but steady growth. A gradual slowing will help rates return to normal, correcting the high prices seen in some of the major cities. Technology-focused areas – like San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Vancouver – are still seeing growth. However, demand in these cities has been high for so long that prices have risen too far – and business travelers are staying further out in response.

Ground: Due to the nature of long-term contracts, we are unlikely to see any upward trends in pricing until 2021 or 2022. Traveler preferences are dictating a change in car preferences, shifting away from traditional sedans in favor of more versatile SUVs and trucks.

 

 

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BUSINESS TRAVEL

Saudi tourism sector worth over $70 billion in 2019

New leisure and tourism facilities forecast to fuel domestic tourism at 8% per year until 2023, says new Arabian Travel Market report.

Photo: Unsplash

Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute $70.9 billion (SAR 263.1 billion) in total to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, as exhibitors prepare to showcase what the Kingdom has to offer at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is being held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 28 April – 1 May 2019.

According to data from ATM’s research partner Colliers, international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6% per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023. Religious tourism is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the Kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “At ATM, we are witnessing this growth first hand with the total number of delegates arriving from Saudi Arabia increasing 42% between 2017 and 2018, while 33% of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with the Kingdom.

“More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the ‘Sharek’ and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the Kingdom.”

Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to a recent report from real estate firm Savills.

The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by US$5.86 billion (SAR22 billion) and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is expected to complete during 2022.

Additionally, last year Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject which is earmarked for completion in 2028. The development will add 2,500 hotel rooms – further boosting the accommodation offering for both domestic and international visitors alike.

“Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three, four and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018.

“While this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019,” added Curtis.

Looking ahead to ATM 2019, Saudi exhibitors, who will highlight what the Kingdom has to offer and the exciting developments in the pipeline, include The Red Sea Development Company, Saudia – Saudi Arabian Airlines, Makarem Hotels, AlfaOne Concierge – and of course the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage who will have a major presence too.

A focused seminar titled ‘Why Tourism is Saudi’s new ‘White Oil’ will take place on the Global Stage on Monday 29th April between 14.50 – 15:50.  The session will discuss Saudi Arabia’s tourism potential as the Kingdom undergoes a period of rapid economic diversification and forges ahead with its Vision 2030 blueprint.

The upbeat tourism forecast is also being driven, by domestic tourism with the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeding 47 million in 2018. The latest research from Colliers forecasts this figure to increase 8% per year to 70.5 million by 2023.

“Plans are already afoot in Saudi, to achieve the projected increase in domestic visitors, with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 blueprint forecast to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites and increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country from 2.9% to 6%.

“Meanwhile, the Quality of Life Vision Realisation Programme (VRP) and the General Entertainment Authority are both working to create new attractions and recreational activities within the country,” added Curtis.

ATM, considered by industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, welcomed over 39,000 people to its 2018 event, showcasing the largest exhibition in the history of the show, with hotels comprising 20% of the floor area.

Brand new for this year’s show will be the launch of Arabian Travel Week, an umbrella brand comprising four co-located shows including ATM 2019, ILTM Arabia, CONNECT the Middle East, India & Africa – a new route development forum and new consumer-led event ATM Holiday Shopper. Arabian Travel Week will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 27 April – 1 May 2019.

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CRUISE

The real growth of Indian cruise tourism is in home-porting: Nalini Gupta

The growth of Indian cruise passengers will exceed that of China, says Nalini Udai Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations (GSA Costa Cruise India), shares her views on the cruise industry.

What do you think of the Indian government’s initiative to boost cruise tourism in the country?
As the government realizes the importance and the benefits of the cruising industry on the Blue Economy of India, we are hoping that the tax climate, that is custom duties and the GST will become more customer-friendly and also in accordance with international norms. Tax exemptions for at least 10 years, will definitely entice more international cruise liners to homeport in India. These proposals have also been supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Shipping, which is a very positive sign. The government is also spending a large amount of money to improve the infrastructure at ports and align it to international standards. Also, tourists are also able to get visa-on-arrival facilities at the Indian ports.

Could you shed light on the outbound market for cruise tourism in India? What are the key trends dominating this sector?
More Indians are cruising to Singapore. Indians, in fact, account for one of Singapore’s largest source markets for cruising. Most Indians typically prefer cruises which are short, close to home, have good flight connectivity and easy visa formalities. Keeping this in mind, we have had many first-time cruisers experience their first sailing on our Mumbai to Maldives and Cochin to Maldives itineraries from December to March. Our sailings in Singapore during the Diwali and Christmas season, also have many Indian travelers. However, in the recent past, 7 nights’ sailings in even the Mediterranean region have become popular. In fact, we were the first cruise liner to have an Indian wedding on our Europe sailing, with over 2,000 guests traveling to Milan to embark on the cruise. As Indians recognize cruising as an easy, relaxing, and great value-for-the-money way to travel, after they take their first cruise, they are wanting to combine cruises with their land vacations.

Nalini Gupta

In the recent past, we have also seen travel agents from not only Tier 1 cities of India, but also from Tier 2 and 3 cities, selling cruise packages.

Could you shed light on the inbound market for cruise tourism in India? What are the key trends dominating this sector?
The inbound market for cruise tourism is doing well. However, typically the foreign passenger prefers to take a longer cruise of at least 10-14 nights. Many foreigners love seeing India through a cruise and are spending good amounts of money at each of the ports.

How well-positioned is India to emerge as the most sought-after cruise tourism destination?
The real growth and opportunity of cruise tourism in India are in home-porting. More international cruise companies need to come to India with their ships around the year. The Indian cruise sector, according to a recent report, estimated that the growth of Indian cruise passengers will exceed that of China, once home-porting becomes more popular.

What additional steps should the Indian government take to upgrade cruise tourism?
Experts say India has the potential to develop a thriving domestic cruise business—if only the costs didn’t stand in the way. Among the prevalent being GST & Custom duties on the consumption of alcohol, bonded stores, and bunkers in territorial waters, out to 200 nautical miles.

What are the key challenges your brand is facing at the moment?
Since Costa Cruise sells across the globe, many a time, the cabins are booked by other markets well in advance. Therefore, with Indian clients, who book in the last minute, there is a dearth of availability of cabins. Also, there are last minute cancellations due to visa rejections and delays.

What strategies are you implementing to position your brand as the preferred cruise for tourists?
Well, for starters, we are the first cruise liner that has come back to Mumbai to homeport a ship after 10 years. This shows our dedication towards wanting to build the Indian market. We have seen a great increase in numbers from the time we started our India program in December 2016. These increase in numbers have been across even our Europe and Singapore sailings. We also work with travel agents closely and try to be as flexible towards their needs and the customers. Lastly, we have made sure to have important customizations like the availability of Indian/ Jain meal requests. All these initiatives have helped in great word-of-mouth publicity, which not only brings in new clients but also repeat customers.

What kind of tie-ups do you already have or are you looking at?
We usually have many partnerships with airlines for Fly+Cruise for the Mumbai to Maldives, and Cochin to Maldives sailings. These offers do very well and make it simpler for the travel agent to sell the product. We are looking at having more such initiatives across sailings in Europe, Dubai, and other Costa destinations.

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