Mapping India’s Travel and Tourism Landscape
Mr Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global Group, Member of Executive Board, Kuoni Group
It is an exciting time for Asia with emerging markets like India and China attracting global attention for their exponential growth potential. Mr Zubin Karkaria, Executive Board Member of Kuoni Group gives us his perspective of India’s evolving travellers and what it takes for tourism businesses to succeed in the market.
What are the key changes to India’s travel and tourism landscape?
Consumers now have greater access to information via multiple digital and online channels which influence their travel decisions. Seasonality is also less relevant with trips now taking place year-round.
Meanwhile, a socio-demographic shift has resulted in Indian women becoming more liberated and independent while we see higher disposable incomes especially among the older population. Unsurprisingly, women and senior citizens are two of the faster growing travel segments.
Regardless, Indian travellers as a whole are very value-conscious and willing to spend more on travel if they see the added value.
What kind of differentiated experiences do Indian travellers look for?
Customisation of content and facilities need to cater to the specific tastes and demands of consumers, especially to ensure repeat travel. Indian travellers have evolved from sightseers to experience seekers who are willing to be experimental and step out of their comfort zone in search of authentic local experiences.
To what extent do tourism businesses need to localise their approach in order to effectively engage their target segments?
India is a diverse market BUT one thing in common across the country is that people want to travel – and that is a very positive sign.
Travel has evolved in India from being a luxury to becoming more affordable. Along with this change, Indian travellers now demand a much higher level of customisation to suit their specific needs.
Tourism businesses thus need to have an umbrella strategy which is customisable for local regions either in terms of experiences or value. My advice to new entrants would be to adopt a phased approach –enter markets selectively first and expand gradually.
What are the strategies that Kuoni has adopted to attract and build loyalty among these new consumer segments?
Quality and relevant content is a key element and Kuoni is consistently developing content which will drive future business such as websites that provide one-stop solutions for travellers’ needs.
Content in the form of specialised products sold by experienced staff who understand customer needs helps in building instant rapport and trust. We provide an ‘Expect More’ experience on tours paired with great after- tour customer service which ensures positive word of mouth and fosters brand loyalty.
Kuoni has been building a reliable database over the years, and along with a robust CRM framework which offers special attention to our clients, more repeat business has also been generated.
What advice do you have for companies seeking to stay ahead of fast-changing consumer preferences?
Challenge the status quo. Continuously question the existing logic and belief. Only then can you continuously innovate to stay ahead.
More importantly, it is crucial to have good people who are well-trained and aligned with the company’s vision and goals. They must possess a strong customer service orientation and genuine liking for travel planning as the market is evolving into one with increasing customisation – from product conceptualisation to fulfilment – and understanding consumers’ needs is critical.
As Asia continues to grow, how can strategic partnerships serve to further catalyse growth? What is the value of such collaborative platforms like the Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS)?
The right partnerships provide access to invaluable cross-sector insights and expertise while driving dynamic business growth in the longer term. Kuoni has been successfully leveraging partnerships across the region with tourism boards and industry stakeholders to create specialised and exclusive products targeted at various traveller segments.
Besides networking and exchanging ideas, a platform like ATLS really helps in creating opportunities for business collaboration and joint initiatives. It helps in understanding common issues faced and above all, it facilitates the growth and development of the travel industry.
Mr Karkaria is also a participant in the Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS) 2013, one of eight quality travel and tourism related events under the TravelRave umbrella.
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