South African Tourism India recently took a step into the future by hosting a mega-virtual Conclave, featuring 7 experts across the travel value chain. The conclave was organised to provide South African travel partners with insider knowledge and a holistic view of the Indian traveller segment, which is the 8th largest international source market for South Africa. It aimed to provide South African travel trade a glance into the future in a time when travel businesses are looking forward to remodel value propositions and pivot marketing strategies to remain relevant once borders reopen.
The session was moderated by Mr. Rohan Kanchan, Managing Director – Strategy & Advisory, Weber Shandwick. Industry experts including Ms. Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – Middle East, India and South East Asia, South African Tourism; Mr. Manpreet Bindra, Brand Leader, FCM Travel Solutions; Ms. Tigist Eshetu, Regional Director – Indian Sub-continent, Ethiopian Airlines; Mr. Mayur Oberoi, Sr. Vice President, Yatra; Mr. Jai Prakash Thondak, Vice President & Global Head, nThrive Global Solutions; Ms. Kamal Gill, Director, OptiMICE Events and Ms. Ruchika Vyas, Sr. Vice President – Client Experience, Weber Shandwick formed the panel and graced the virtual conclave with their presence.
Organisers wanted to help South African travel trade understand the dynamically transforming distribution system through the conclave in order to enable them to adjust strategy so that they can proactively address the emerging needs of the Indian traveller. More than 120 South African trades attended the interactive, two-way session with conversations ranging from the future of travel, evolving consumer behavior and trends, to emerging Indian source markets as well as the rapidly changing aviation, hospitality and media landscapes in India. Mr. Pradeep Saboo, Chairman & Managing Partner, Guideline Travels addressed the audience briefly on his personal dealing with the deadly coronavirus.
According to the expert panel, highly tailored and customized packages and itineraries will be required as Indians shift from group travel to FIT / family travel in a major way. They opined that experience-seeking millennials, HNIs and the family-oriented middle-class segments are currently anticipated to be the driving force behind leisure travel recovery. On the other hand, MICE travel can be expected to recover early next year albeit with smaller group sizes. The established resilience of Indian travellers, who are eagerly waiting to embark on new journeys as skies and borders reopen remained a common thread through the discussion.
It was also analysed that these travellers are now actively seeking safety assurance and good deals. The experts shared that such travellers may, however, choose to travel differently and the industry can expect to see a rise in FITs, demands for drivecations, and flexible booking dates. It was also established in the conclave that India will remain a key focus area for South African Tourism in the post-COVID era. It was informed that from January to December 2019, the destination welcomed 95,621 Indian visitors – a 2.3% YoY increase and the tourism board is leaving no stone unturned to rebuild aspiration and consumer confidence in the destination.
Ms. Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism and the brainchild behind the Conclave mentioned that as the second largest outbound traveller market in the world, India holds great potential. She said that it can be noticed that the South African travel industry understands the evolving thought process of the post-Covid Indian traveller as it develops and packages experiential products for the Indian market. She also advised that a greater level of collaboration is required within the supply chain, even if it means cross-border communication and deeper associations amongst provincial and city tourism boards.
She said that the Conclave is a crucial step in building a robust system that has a well-thought through and researched strategy, ahead of future travels. She also shared that at present, everyone is pulling out all stops to ensure that South Africa engage meaningfully with the Indian consumer as well as the trade partners in India and South Africa. She continued that the invested efforts in educating and training 4000+ Indian trade agents, through the lockdown period, serves as a testament to the same.
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