5 tourism lessons from SATTE Mumbai

As a business journalist, I’ve attended a lot of corporate conferences. Some are insipid, others entertaining and a rare few are both educative and inspiring. Then again, it isn’t fair to generalise when some speakers are simply better with their words than the others. Today, I had the privilege of attending SATTE Mumbai West under their VIP Blogger Outreach Programme and I’ve decided to let you in on the top 5 tourism lessons from the industry experts.

1. There’s more to Maharashtra than Lonavala and Khandala

Did you know that there are 350 forts in the state? Not only that, there are six different tiger reserves and several Gandhian sites like Jalgaon to be explored. I for one am quite excited about a trip to Chandoli National Park in Sangli district, Chikhaldara hill station and Amboli, described as “a walk in the clouds” by Chandrasekhar, the MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) representative who presented the state’s various offerings to an attentive audience.

Satte Mumbai West 2015
Attendees throng the various stalls

2. Budget tourist infrastructure must be improved to attract domestic tourists

Satte Mumbai West 2015
Rajasthan Tourism had the prettiest stall, designed like a palace

Pawan Jain, deputy director, Rajasthan Tourism made a pertinent observation – most domestic Indian tourists are budget travellers. Luxury offerings will not bring in the numbers where they are concerned. Hence, governments should provide incentives to budget hotel operators. Also, these tourists largely travel by road or rail and not by flights. In this case, the road transport infrastructure of neighbouring states becomes crucial.

3. Improving airport connectivity will bring in the numbers

Satte Mumbai West 2015
Abhijit Patil, chairman, Raja Rani Travels speak while other panelists look on

Abhijeet Patil, chairman, Raja Rani Travels said that it was amazing how the Kashmir airport had been opened up. Ajay Prakash, president, IIPT (International Institute for Peace through Tourism) India said that it was great how so many Indian airports have turned international in recent times. Karan Anand, head – relationships, Cox & Kings echoed this view and added that any successful business plan needs the three Cs – connectivity, consumer services and communication. “Short-haul markets will give growth in terms of numners and long-haul markets will give grown in terms of spend,” he suggested. For instance, France is a long-haul market and Thailand is a short-haul one.

Satte Mumbai West 2015
An audience member asks a question to the panelists

4. A lengthy visa process can be a big deterrent for tourists

Satte Mumbai West 2015
Sheetal Munshaw speaks, while the other panelists hear her out

Sheetal Munshaw, director, Atout France India revealed that the cumbersome visa process had affected France’s inbound tourist numbers for the longest time. But ever since they spruced it up last year, there has been an 18% increase in tourist numbers. Last year, 400,000 Indian tourists vacationed in France. Interestingly, Munshaw said that a large number of outbound travellers are of Gujarati origin and a lot of tourist operators have begun tailoring their offerings accordingly.

5. Tourists are a vulnerable lot

Perhaps the most sober observation in the entire conference was that tourists are a vulnerable lot. Ajay Prakash made this statement in the context of the bomb blasts in Bangkok’s popular Erawan shrine on Monday. The tragedy reinforces the fact that even on a holiday, one can never be too careful.

Abhijeet Patil’s insight that given the reduced travel time thanks to air connectivity, today, the competition is no longer just from neighbouring states but also neighbouring countries, struck me as being particularly relevant.