Monday . June 25 . 2018
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Asia’s Travel Leadership Conundrum


Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd


A new generation of experienced Indian travellers are progressively redefining the notion of travel as they seek unique, authentic experiences that enrich their global worldview. Mr Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd shares his views on effectively navigating the Indian market.

What is the profile of India’s travel and tourism market today?

The transformation of India’s travel market has revealed exciting new trends and target segments from diverse domestic markets such as Gen-Y, Gen-S, students and female travellers. With increasing media exposure and the rise of digital platforms, Indian travellers are evolving rapidly and now seek a more immersive destination experience, actively exploring local cultures and cuisines. Younger, affluent Indians are eager to broaden their horizons and acquire bragging rights through global travel.

Travel has become a “must-do” even to the most price-sensitive segments with rising affluence and disposable incomes also resulting in greater frequency of travel. Emerging destinations in Indochina and short haul destinations in the Far East remain a strong draw. 

India is a huge and diverse market where business success is contingent upon an understanding and ability to navigate regional complexities, innovation and the right strategies. Attracting and developing the right leaders is an industry-wide challenge. How has Thomas Cook India dealt with this? 

Despite Asia’s rapid growth, there has long been an insufficient focus on developing new industry leaders as well as quality, well-trained and service-oriented staff.

Thomas Cook India believes in prioritising talent development as part of a holistic approach to cultivate future leaders in the organisation. Internal programmes provide training and skills upgrading as well as opportunities for potential talents to enhance their roles and responsibilities depending on the individual’s performance. A system of appraisal and rewards along with career advancement opportunities through our Career Pathing Plan also serve to motivate higher performance.

We are developing a competency-based framework to broaden internal capabilities aimed at equipping employees with the right skills and competencies that would contribute to the success of the business. In doing so, we hope to cultivate and foster future leaders in the organisation who will in the long run, showcase enhanced growth for the organisation.

Another successful initiative this year is the inaugural Distance Education MBA program in Travel & Tourism set up in partnership with a leading university to offer quality education and build a talent pool for the travel and tourism industry. 

How essential is it for businesses to integrate local talent and knowledge within their organisations in order to stay relevant and competitive?

Increasingly, we see more companies seeking individuals with cross-industry experience, who can adapt and learn quickly, possess a high degree of innovation and creativity and have excellent people skills to work with resources from multi-cultural backgrounds. Local knowledge is a powerful differentiator in driving business success.

In addition to strong personal attributes and broad management skills, leaders should have sufficient local knowledge. With more companies looking to expand their footprint in Asia, tourism businesses also need to attract and retain a healthy mix of local talent and knowledge among working teams. In addition to encouraging greater inter-cultural learning and exchanges, this results in a more adaptable, innovative and globalised organisation.

In your view, what is the value of platforms like TravelRave in galvanising the industry towards greater collaboration and further growth?

Adrian Williams, Head of Human Resources at Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, is a member of the post-Asia Travel Leaders Summit working group and we see this as a meaningful endeavour that equips our industry leaders with fresh new insights and key learning opportunities in collaboration with highly reputable institutions. Looking forward, it would be ideal to develop similar programmes that target the junior and middle management levels too.

Talent and leadership development continues to be a key topic at TravelRave 2013 and will be explored in greater detail by the industry’s top decision makers and opinion leaders at the Asia Travel Leaders Summit (ATLS). Aimed at cultivating future talent for the travel and tourism industry, ITB Asia and the Singapore Tourism Board are co-organising a half-day session involving students and industry with a strategic focus on Quality Internship.

Mr Menon 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.

Get connected with the best travel minds ahead of TravelRave 2013, the most influential travel trade festival in Asia.

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Sources: 1. Consumer Insights: Profiling the Asian Middle and Affluent Traveller, a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Asia Travel Leaders Summit 2012 2. ITB World Travel Trends Report 2012/2013