Industry and government converge for the Big Picture at BITB India Tourism Summit 

The third edition of BITB India Tourism Summit was a resounding success on several counts. The top echelons of government and industry engaged in a serious dialogue on the road forward for India’s tourism. Industry and government leaders, such as Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog; Ashwani Lohani, CMD, Air India; Yogendra Tripathi, Secretary Tourism, GoI; Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor, MoF, GOI; Jose Dominic, Founder, CGH Earth; Deep Kalra, Co-founder, MMT; Patu Keswani, CMD, Lemon Tree Hotels, among several others, were in attendance.

Six sessions, with over 50 speakers, each focused on a distinct area, saw some insightful discussions, rebuttals, and affirmations. Areas including the Big Picture, sustainable tourism, inbound tourism, likely implications of the NITI Aayog document on tourism and challenges in the new-age distribution of the product were examined by panellists. The sessions also drew healthy participation from the audience.

Taking stock of the ‘Big Picture’, panellists suggested that the rules of engagement between industry stakeholders were under considerable transformation and technology was paving way for a more rationalised cost structure in distribution, weeding out inefficiencies.

A high ATF cost was restricting Indian carriers from competing globally, stakeholders reasoned. They argued that the tax regime around ATF needed to be urgently revisited. An intense “free visa rollout” competition was underway, globally, to capture a larger share of the international outbound market and India needed to further liberalise its visa regime and forfeit visa fees to create more pull and visibility, they said.

Sustainability was a vital principle for all things travel and tourism, stakeholders believed. Industry experts backed revisiting the concept of carrying capacity, looking beyond numbers, focussing on the visitor experience.

On the cultural front, a national policy on culture and heritage were cited as urgently needed measures. They mentioned that Ayurveda and Yoga were strong pillars of India’s intangible heritage and needed an assiduous promotion.

The new-age traveller was changing the rules of the game, most panellists indicated. Insiders believed that mobile-based platforms, AI and machine-learning were becoming an intrinsic part of the online outreach to the tech-savvy consumer.

India’s economic growth, coinciding with the rise of new-age travellers, were creating large-scale business opportunities in newer segments such as adventure and green tourism, some informed.

While hoteliers commended the forward-looking document released by NITI Aayog (Strategy for New India@ 75: India@ 2022), they rued the lack of any laid-out roadmap to achieve such steep goals. Regulatory costs, cost competitiveness and exorbitant real estate prices were yet to be addressed, they pointed out. They batted for pursuing mixed-use development of the infrastructure and advocated building capacity to usher a transformative change in the country. Stakeholders also concurred on the need for cost competitiveness, infrastructure and promoting growth assuming greater significance amongst policymakers.

The final session was dedicated to ‘Agents of Change’ – individuals who had catalysed the growth of tourism in the country. The illustrious panel included Amitabh Kant, Ashwani Lohani, Sanjeev Sanyal, Deep Kalra, Jose Dominic and Patu Keswani.

Amitabh Kant mentioned that the tourism industry had been passive in communicating with the government about its ability to create employment. Noting that tourism was essentially a state subject, he said that state governments and their respective tourism departments needed to play a more proactive role and understand tourism’s “multiplier effect” in creating jobs for the local population.

Ashwani Lohani listed out some of the major undertakings of the Indian Railways, in the recent past, stressing that the Railways was India’s biggest mover of people and the most natural choice of travel. He called Air India a world-known brand and said he was focussed on creating a positive team environment and a healthy work culture.

Yogendra Tripathi, Secretary Tourism, GOI, gave a patient hearing to the panellists of the first session. In his address, he noted that the government had not only accepted but also imbibed the rise of the ‘digital’ medium. He said that several schemes, positively impacting diverse sectors of tourism had been undertaken in the recent past. Despite competing claimants and finite resources, tourism was steadily gaining more prominence in the national discourse and among policymakers, he observed.

Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, GoI, underscored the need for storytelling to attract eyeballs. He drew parallels between Singapore and India’s handling of the F1 race and narrated how Singapore managed to draw global attention by executing ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas and weaving a story around the event. He mentioned that creating the attraction of an immersive experience was core to any successful marketing strategy.

Deep Kalra, Founder, MMT, said that technology was increasingly being deployed to enhance the user’s online experience and much of the interface was now being handled by chatbots. The personalisation of the offering was going to be the next big leap in the online space, he believed. He noted that the Indian consumer was travelling unlike before and the trend was going to intensify as the ‘rented model’ made further inroads into the Indian market.

Jose Dominic, Founder, CGH Earth, emphasized that ‘ordinary was extraordinary’ and urged the industry to understand the “power of every day” in creating tourism experiences. He insisted that the power lied with small entrepreneurs and advised against standardizing the tourism product, instead advocated inculcating more local and authentic experiences.

Patu Keswani, CMD, Lemon Tree Hotels, suggested a more “appropriate” tax structure for the hotel industry, given it was no longer a luxury or high-end industry. Pointing at the high-gestation period and capital-intensive nature of the business, he rooted for a preferential access to capital and better interest rates. He said that the Indian market was under-penetrated and an enabling policy framework could double the industry’s contribution to the nation’s GDP.

BITB also honoured ‘Agents of Change’ for their contribution to the tourism sector. They received their awards from Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels and Navin Berry, Founder and CEO, BITB. Amitabh Kant was honoured for policy and governance; Jose Dominic was honoured for the creation of experiential tourism product; Ashwani Lohani was honoured for transportation; Patu Keswani was honoured for hospitality and alternate accommodation; and Deep Kalra for online and technology.

The evening concluded with networking cocktails and dinner. (The event was held at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi on 28th February 2019)

The event was supported by NITI Aayog and Incredible India. Air India participated as the Travel Partner. Gujarat Tourism participated as the Platinum State Partner, Nepal Tourism was the Principal Country Partner, LG participated as the Digital Signage Partner, and The Lodhi, Delhi as the Luxury Partner.

‘Agents of Change’

Tourism a subset of the economy; structural reforms will bring high trajectory growth, says Amitabh Kant

Amitabh Kant exhorted the industry to better communicate with the government about its ability to generate employment. He minced no words and suggested that the industry had, thus far, completely failed. The industry needed to play a more pro-active role in engaging with state governments to emphasize on the issue to bring more focus on the industry amongst policymakers, he said.

The Indian economy was poised to ride the massive spinoff of government initiatives, in the coming three years, taking a high growth trajectory, he asserted. He explained that many structural reforms had been undertaken and policies such as GST, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, pushing for Direct Benefit Transfers and digitisation were addressing major challenges in driving a sustained growth. Bank accounts, Ayushman Bharat, biometric identification, rural electrification and road construction were radical transformations in governance in many ways, he maintained.

He noted that tourism was a subset of the Indian economy and the industry’s performance was directly linked to its health. While India was growing at 7.5 per cent per annum, the bigger challenge was to grow at higher rates, preferably in double-digits, for a three decade-period, he said.

He suggested that the young Indian demography was ideally suited to drive the workforce as the global population grew older, adding that it was the “biggest social and economic” chase taking place globally. The tourism industry was a significant generator of employment and was well-placed to address India’s need for creating jobs for its young population, he said.

Amitabh Kant believed that huge rewards awaited those who were now investing in travel and tourism. He expressed great confidence in a substantial growth in the tourism sector.

Air India will focus on evoking the brand’s nostalgia, developing a healthy work culture: Ashwani Lohani

Air India had become a complicated organisation but was still a “very powerful brand” the world over, Ashwani Lohani said, reflecting on his second innings at the company. He said that the carrier was a world-known brand and he wanted to create a positive team environment and a healthy work culture.

He was focussed on handling the “mountain of debt” and equally on running the airline well, he noted. He maintained that both were intrinsically linked to one another. Sharing the road ahead, the Air India CMD believed that the carrier needed to evoke the nostalgia of the brand, once again, amongst Indian flyers. He also suggested that the airline was going to look at new international routes and more active participation in UDAN-RCS schemes.

Given his stint as the Chairman, Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani also provided a bird’s eye view of major undertakings in the Indian Railways. He declared that the Railways was undergoing a massive transformation and informed that a Station Development Corporation had been set up to look into developmental issues and undertake the beautification of hundreds of railway stations. The makeover included equipping stations with amenities like food courts, lounges, LED TVs, public utilities, escalators, lifts etc. and the work on many of them was already underway, he said. He noted that there had been a massive jump in the Capital Expenditure of Railways – which was nearly a three-time rise compared to the past few years. In a major overhaul of train bogeys, all 2,40,000 bogeys were being equipped with bio-toilets to ensure zero open-defecation by June 2019, he informed.

Speaking on the need for “creating a great company culture”, he maintained that more authority had been delegated in the Railways in the past year than ever before in the past 70 years. Ashwani Lohani credited the government’s intent and a reformation of the state machinery for the transforming landscape.

Focus on storytelling, the experience quotient, to drive tourism: Sanjeev Sanyal

Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, GoI, emphasised the need for storytelling to attract eyeballs. He insisted that the experience was more important than the product itself. He drew parallels between Singapore and India’s handling of the F1 race and narrated how Singapore succeeded in drawing global attention by executing ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas and weaving a story around the event. He declared that creating the attraction of an immersive experience was core to any successful marketing strategy.

Further explaining his argument, he noted that the “act of looking for a lion” in a jungle safari was equally, if not more, important, than seeing them in their natural habitats. He pointed out that African Safari operators were presenting a much better act than their Indian counterparts, in the process, delivering a more immersive consumer experience.

In a major win for the tourism industry, he also promised to add a separate section on tourism in the upcoming Economic Survey (a flagship annual document by the Ministry of Finance which reviews government’s policy initiatives and performance of major development programs), provided the industry supplied him with solid data on different parameters.

Intense personalisation is the next big frontier for the online user interface: Deep Kalra

Deep Kalra, Founder, MMT, said that technology was increasingly being deployed to enhance the user’s online experience and much of the interface was now being handled by chatbots. The personalisation of the offering was going to be the next big leap in the online space, he believed.

He singled out the changing demography and greater dispensable incomes as reasons behind the phenomenal rise of the new-age traveller. He noted that the Indian consumer was travelling unlike before and the trend was going to intensify as the ‘rented model’ made further inroads into the Indian market.

Placing his wager on the growth of the homestay segment, he said that despite the 15 per cent supply rate, the hospitality market was in no position to cater to the demand.

Social media, most notably, Instagram had emerged as the biggest influencer for travel, Deep Kalra shared. He highlighted that a large number of cities were well-connected with flights and had made destinations much more accessible than before.

Tap into the power of the ordinary; local entrepreneurs hold the key, says Jose Dominic

Jose Dominic, Founder, CGH Earth, emphasized that ‘ordinary was extraordinary’ and urged the industry to understand the “power of every day” in creating tourism experiences. He noted that going ordinary and local was the most sure-shot way of creating “extraordinary experiences.” Illustrating his argument, he shared that the concept of houseboats, too, was started by a local entrepreneur who wished to create an authentic Kerala experience.

Jose Dominic insisted that the power lied with small entrepreneurs and advised the industry against standardizing the tourism product, instead advocated inculcating more local and authentic experiences. He explained his assertion by pointing at the growth of the tourism industry in Kerala – which benefitted from the absence of major corporates, propping up several local and successful entrepreneurs. He noted that India needed to detest from becoming a “melting pot” as each of its unique offerings was a distinct experience waiting to be marketed on similar lines. “Think global but go local. Do not standardise the brand or the product to make it as global as possible,” he advised.

He also briefly outlined how tourism’s perception had changed for good among policy makers. He said that the sector was now considered a “most important driver of state’s economy” – which was a far cry from it being labelled bourgeois and petty a couple of decades ago.

Session 1: The Big Picture

An emergent India needs a more cost competitive growth, liberal policy framework, suggest industry leaders

Top industry stakeholders shared the churn in their respective sectors to provide a 360-degree perspective on the trending picture in tourism. Panellists affirmed their faith in an emergent India, advocating for a more liberal and globally competitive policy framework. Excerpts:

The plenary session of BITB ITC 2019 was on the emerging ‘Big Picture’ in India’s tourism ecosystem. Panellists included Kapil Kaul, CEO, CAPA South Asia; Rajeev Talwar, Chairman, WTTCII; Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder,; Willy Boulter, CCO, IndiGo Airlines; Zubin Saxena, CEO, Radisson Hotels; Deepika Rao, MD and CEO, Ginger Hotels; Pronab Sarkar, President, IATO; Swadesh Kumar, President, ATOI; Sourish Bhattacharya, Founder, Tasting India Symposium and Sanjay Narula, Vice President, TAAI.

The session was chaired by Yogendra Tripathi, Secretary Tourism, GoI, who gave a patient hearing to each panellist before voicing his concluding opinion.

Cost competitiveness, infrastructure and promoting growth were areas requiring attention from policymakers, Kapil Kaul said. He moderated the session.

Dhruv Shringi, Co-Founder and CEO,, noted that “rules of engagement” between stakeholders in the industry was under a transition and a more robust mobile-based interface environment was strengthening existing intermediaries, simultaneously creating new ones. He also stressed that a heavy regulatory environment was counter-productive to shoring up investments.

Rajeev Talwar questioned the fixation over inbound numbers and suggested the domestic segment was the source of potential big bucks. He argued that no major tourism-driven country was dependent on international numbers and India’s fast-changing demographic dividend was going to pay good results in the near future.

The regressive taxation regime around ATF needed to change and fast, noted Willy Boulter, CCO, IndiGo. He reasoned that the tax structure was a major hindrance for Indian carriers in competing globally. There was an intense visa competition among tourism-savvy nations to attract larger inbound numbers and India, too, needed a more liberal visa policy in place, he further added.

Deepika Rao, MD and CEO, Ginger Hotels, advocated the mixed-use development of infrastructure. Distribution and real estate prices were critical factors for mid-scale and budget segment hotels and exorbitant real estate cost was impacting supply, she noted.

Zubin Saxena, CEO, Radisson Hotels, insisted that the value of “Brand India” was increasing exponentially. He shared that secondary and tertiary cities had become major markets for hotels in the country and added that his hotel group was one of the first movers in many tier-2 and 3 Indian cities, now enjoying a pole-position in many of them.

TAAI chief Pronab Sarkar recommended issuing a free visa to passengers from key source countries in summer months to boost traffic inflow, it being a lean season. While Capt. Swadesh Kumar, President, ADTOI, appealed to state governments to adopt safety guidelines issued and mandated by the ministry of tourism and ADTOI in letter and spirit. Spirited implementation of guidelines was a sure-shot way of enforcing standards and safety in adventure-related activities, he believed. He also informed that women travellers were outnumbering their men counterpart in the adventure segment.

Sanjay Narula, Vice President, TAAI informed that the association was revisiting the future of airline distribution to better align its agents to the changing technological landscape.

Saurish Bhattacharya, Founder, Tasting India Symposium, insisted that cuisines were emerging as major pullers of tourists. New-age travellers were keen to sample unique gastronomical experiences and the rise of Vineyard Tourism and Wine festivals in Nashik was a testimony of how F&B was driving footfalls.

In his concluding remarks, Yogendra Tripathi noted that the government had not only accepted but also imbibed the rise of the ‘digital’ medium. He said that several schemes, positively impacting diverse sectors of tourism, had been undertaken in the past few years. He reasoned that a multi-faceted growth in infrastructure and other areas were, directly and indirectly, benefitting tourism. Despite competing claimants and finite resources, tourism was steadily gaining more prominence in the national discourse and among policymakers, he observed.

Session 2: The Challenge of Distribution in a Digital Age

Distribution to undergo a major change; tech will create cost parity, believe industry players

Decoding the challenges of distribution in the digital age was the rationale behind the second session. The panel included industry experts from different segments of the industry, providing a holistic understanding of the prevalent challenges and means of surmounting them. The session was anchored by Chetan Kapoor, Analyst, Phocuswright and the panel included Praveen Chugh, President, TAFI; Arif Patel, VP, Sales and Marketing, Distribution and Loyalty – AccorHotels – India; Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager – India, Sri Lanka and Maldives,; Sanjay Rai, Executive VP – Sales, Oberoi Group; Vibhas Prasad, Director, Leisure Hotels; Ritwik Khare, CBO, Key Global Accounts, and Sanjay Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Air Asia.

The industry needed to conduct itself more responsibly to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business ecosystem, Arif Patel said. He urged the industry to address the ongoing ‘ad-hocism’ in pricing the hotel inventory. The glaring pricing disparity between offline and online, which was in tune of 35-40%, needed to be addressed, he said. It was an unsustainable model of business, he reasoned. Batting for an ‘honest pricing policy’, he insisted that a “sorted out omnichannel parity” was going to catalyse a massive spurt in business from the web platform. He cautioned that the model of business had its limitations and rising input costs, coupled with a lack of supply for the next five years, was going to stem growth prospects. Making a note of the ongoing “50% off” race among restaurants and F&B web platforms, he regretted that such undertakings were hampering the overall profitability of the F&B business.

Ritwik Khare argued that buying and selling experiences on the web was a bigger challenge for industry players. He inferred that the hotel sector had done a much better job, compared to their aviation counterparts, in selling their products online. However, the focus needed to go beyond the rate aspect and incorporate the ‘experience quotient’, he reasoned. The packaging of the product was likely to be the ‘next big wave’ in the online space, he predicted.

He mentioned that companies were attempting to make inroads into servicing the non-smartphone segment of consumers and also operating web platforms in regional languages. Capturing the “low-hanging fruit,” however, was equally important, he said, referring to the vast English-speaking demography.

Ritu Mehrotra suggested that the ‘data source funnel’ had significantly grown to include Facebook and other social media platforms, thereby bringing into play metadata. She remarked that the new-age consumer sought ‘on the go’ answers to their queries, creating the need for incorporating Machine Learning to provide split-second solutions. She mentioned that the entire distribution space was poised to undergo a major transformation in the imminent future.

More innovation was waiting to happen in the aviation business, targeting not only a more hassle-free flying experience for the consumer but also a more penetrated distribution at almost no cost, Sanjay Kumar maintained. He mentioned that airlines were looking at more cost-effective means of acquiring consumers. Given the price sensitive nature and low operating margins of the airline business, a substantial distribution cost, in sales and marketing, was putting carriers at a disadvantage, he noted. He noted that the overall cost of sales and distribution for a Full-Service Carrier was in tune of 8-10% of the overall cost. In comparison, LCCs spent 3-4% – which was significantly less than the cost incurred by FSCs.

Reflecting on the transformation since the advent of the online platform in the airline business, he said that the online booking platform was now accounting for 40% of entire ticket booking. He further noted that airlines could undertake a more personalised outreach to consumers with the use of data analytics and proper consumer segmentation, resulting in enhanced consumer experience, consequently more business.

Industry stakeholders needed to join hands and not operate in isolation, Praveen Chugh remarked. He alleged that airline and hotel companies were undercutting travel agents and operators by directly reaching out to the consumer. He believed that such a business strategy was responsible for triggering the ‘rack rate’ race in the market.

Comparing the offline and online space, he mentioned that repeat clientele and loyal consumers were more integral to the offline ecosystem, and loyalty and repeat business could never be gained by dishing out “freebies.”

Vibhas Prasad forecasted that technology was soon going to cut down inefficiencies and bring more parity in the cost structure. He also suggested that consumer satisfaction and healthy relations with intermediaries were both equally important aspects of business for the hotel industry. Calling OTAs and intermediaries’ “friends”, he believed that they had been playing an enabling role in driving more volume of consumers, also strengthening the hotel’s outreach by several notches.

Sanjay Rai said that India and parts of Southeast Asia were “high context cultures” where business was not merely transactional but based on mutual trust and relationships. Perhaps referring to international companies operating in India, he said that both could exist together. He also stressed that disruption was going on in all sectors of business and, aimed at the evolving traveller, the online phenomenon had taken the industry by storm.

Session 5: NITI Aayog

High on intent, NITI Aayog document falls short of addressing grassroot concerns, believe industry leaders

The session titled ‘NITI Aayog’s vision for India’s Tourism@ 2022’ brought to fore pressing industry concerns. While the industry lauded government’s positive intent, the lack of a clear roadmap to achieve the ambitious target of doubling domestic visitation numbers and cornering 3 per cent of global international outbound had left much in the realm of ambiguity. The session was moderated by Navin Berry, Founder and CEO, BITB and participated by KB Kachru, Chairman Emeritus, Radisson Hotels; Kapil Kaul, CEO, CAPA India; Manav Thadani, Chairman, Hotelivate; JB Singh, President, InterGlobe Hotels; and Harsh Verma, UNWTO. Excerpts:

While lauding NITI Aayog’s recommendation of notifying hospitality projects upwards of INR 1 crore as infrastructure projects, JB Singh cautioned against the complete mismatch in the policy structure on the state level. He noted that FSI laws pertaining to hotel projects and their comparability with commercial real estate needed to be reimagined by state governments. An exorbitant real estate cost was a major dampener for hotel groups investing in mid to large-scale projects, he argued, noting that the recommendation was “only going to marginally bring down interest rates.”

Pointing towards other structural flaws, he suggested that a high parking development expenditure, sometimes in tune of 8-9 per cent of the total project cost, was effectively negating any possibility of driving profits. Mixed-use development and licensing norms were other areas which were going to remain unaffected, despite the apex body’s recommendation.

Commenting on positive aspects of the recently released document, he believed that hospitality infra was an integral part of the country’s larger infra ecosystem and the move was “aggressive posturing” by the government, expected to strengthen the unstructured market, constituting almost 70 per cent of the total domestic supply.

Weighing in on the possibility of doubling the domestic visitation count, from 1.6 billion trips to 3.2 billion by 2022, he said that provided such numbers were achieved, it was going to put an untold toll on the infrastructure and the country was simply not prepared to receive and accommodate such an influx.

He suggested a collaborative approach, roping in the industry, government, professionals, and others, wherein the government took the lead in creating an enabling environment for businesses.

Manav Thadani believed that the document had brought in a degree of “feel-good” factor but stopped short of suggesting how it was going to impact the ground-level situation. He remarked that undertaking a hotel project remained a painful procedure and more intervention was needed from the government to create “ease of doing business” in the hospitality sector.

He remarked that there was “far too much” emphasis on getting the international visitation count to a certain pedestal and India was blessed to have a robust and thriving domestic market. The rise of the domestic segment, in the past decade, had amply compensated any fall in international numbers, he added. Placing his wager on the China market, he insisted that favourable Chinese inbound was capable enough to catapult India’s cumulative global inbound share to the desired 3 per cent mark.

Harsh Verma said that the lofty target of cornering 3 per cent of the international inbound by 2022 was a possibility, provided the country immediately addressed a handful of pertinent bottlenecks. He noted that the industry needed to focus more on “value than on volume”, explaining that countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Croatia had engaged themselves in the number game and much rumination was required on the desired future course of the domestic industry.

He reflected that India lacked in products, facilities, tour guides and even the provision of authentic Chinese cuisine, leading to a dismal show from Chinese shores.

Questioning the industry’s role in driving tourism, he asked if the industry had done enough and played its part right. He alleged that no tour operator or travel agent had promoted India on global industry platforms, such as ITB Berlin and others. Contrary to the popular industry perception, he also noted that the ministry of tourism had overplayed its part and time was ripe for the industry to step up its efforts and involvement.

Expressing dismay over similar policy provisions for budget and five-star hotels, KB Kachru noted that such inefficient and impractical guidelines needed urgent examination. He echoed similar sentiments, as the rest of the panel, on the issue of the government-body recommending an INR one crore ceiling for the infra tag, observing that while it signalled a positive intent by the government, the industry and government needed to put their heads together to “learn” how to transform these recommendations into a viable roadmap. He pressed for acknowledging “genuine issues” and refrain from cosmetic interventions.

Cost competitiveness and regulatory costs needed to be significantly structured, Kapil Kaul emphasized, adding that the industry was “pleasing itself” by calling the document a “good start”. He noted that industry requirements were tangibly different from what had been laid out in the vision document.

Exhorting both government and industry to focus on the larger visitation economy ecosystem, beyond tourism and hospitality, he lamented that there was simply no planning to develop projects that were integral and world-class in nature.

He further believed that capacity building was a major concern and only the creation of institutional infrastructure was going to bring about a “meaningful change.”


India Tourism Summit Awards
28th February 2019. New Delhi


India Tourism Summit


India Travel Congress, organised by BITB, was held on 23rd and 24th of February 2018 at Pullman Hotel in Aerocity, New Delhi. The two-day event was aimed at bringing diverse stakeholders of the larger tourism industry on to one platform to create better understanding the of nuances of businesses, changing dynamics of the market and churnings in the domestic milieu which were impacting the course of business trajectory for the industry.

The event, spread across two days, was attended by over 500 delegates, representing senior echelons of policy makers and tourism industry. Key government representatives included Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS, Housing and Urban Affairs, GOI; Vijay Goel, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme, GOI; Ashwini Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board and Anurag Thakur, Member of Parliament, Hamirpur, among others.

Hardeep Puri, in his speech, shared some of the initiatives taken by Housing and Urban Affairs ministry and detailed how they were aligned with the larger vision of the tourism industry. He suggested that the massive urbanisation and rejuvenation push, undertaken by his ministry, was a critical aspect of uplifting tourism in cities and asserted that it would help strengthening tourism and travel in its own ways. “This is a part of the government which will contribute to providing a quantum jump and exponential growth to the tourism sector,” he said.

Speaking on transforming railways in to a preferred means of transportation, Ashwini Lohani shared that railways was working on boosting rail footprints in hilly areas, including the Northeast – which was going to add more lustre to the profile of the region, making it more accessible to the masses. Speaking on the transformational change undergoing in the railways, he said “We are building freight corridors, high-speed railways, bringing in new coaches, besides improving sub-urban networks and signalling. It is at the cusp of a major chance, which will affect and give a big impetus to this wonderful sector.”.

There were several sessions, studded with star speakers, who deliberated on issues impacting the industry and the nation in driving stronger tourism numbers. In the plenary session, SK Misra, Former Principal Secretary to the PM, outlined the way forward for positioning Delhi as a world-class city for tourism. A panel consisting of pioneers in their respective fields also shared their insights on issues such as hotels, museums and cuisines and how they could be better positioned to attract more footfalls in to the capital.

Vijay Goel spoke on resurrecting Chandni Chowk and old Delhi for conserving heritage and transforming it in to a desirable tourism asset. He highlighted issues such as multiplicity of authority and a general sense of apathy for the heritage as reasons for the current state of the old Delhi region.

Anurag Thakur shared his experience of bringing cricket in to the Buddhist town of Dharamshala and argued that sports tourism was not only important in driving local economy, but it had also considerably arrested some of the other glaring social issues facing the Himalayan state.

There were sessions dedicated to deciphering trends in the hospitality segment. Also, finding ways and means to drive inbound traffic in to India was put under scanner. Hotel insiders asserted that while inbound was a lucrative proposition, domestic segment was the pivot around which businesses were expected to grow, indicating that the domestic segment had grown leaps and bounds, in terms of its spending capability and weightage as segment.

Churning in the online space was discussed at length too. Speakers shared their insights on the unfolding in the online space, suggesting that further consolidation by online majors was going to continue unabated and discounts as a means to attract more consumers was a trend expected to continue for at least another five years.

Gujarat Tourism was the Gold Partner of the event and showcased and promoted some of its key destinations and products among delegates. Gujarat Tourism was represented by Soman Pathi and Sanatan Pancholi who besides networking on the sidelines on the event to create more understanding about Gujarat’s offerings and opportunities, also gave insights in to conducive policy framework in the state. Gujarat Tourism also set up a exhibition booth to drive B2B business and had three co-participants, in form of hotels, showcasing their product offering.

Representatives of Crabtree – a part of the Havells group – showcased a video presentation to delegates, explaining how the company was making fast strides in aligning itself with the needs of the hotel industry by bringing in products that were truly international and top quality in terms of energy efficiency and design.

BITB also honoured some of the biggest names in the tourism industry for their unflinching resolve and massive contribution in furthering travel and tourism in the country and beyond. BITB honoured Radhe shyam Saraf, Group Chairman, Saraf Hotel Enterprises; Chandru Raheja, Founder and Chairman, K Raheja Corp and Kapil Bhatia, Executive Chairman, Interglobe Enterprises Limited with ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ for their long and illustrious careers spanning several decades.

Hotelier Binod Chaudhary, Chairman of CG Group was honoured for being the ‘Face of South Asian Hospitality’ and Tarun Thakral, Founder of Heritage Transport Museum was also honoured for his unique initiative which has gained tremendous popularity as an innovative tourism product.

Over 100 golfers from Delhi and NCR were also in attendance to participate in raffle draw which was supported by Nepal Tourism. A number of golfers won attractive prizes which included sponsored stay in Nepal.

During the two days, delegates also networked over hosted lunches and dinners and discussed ideas to further business.

India Travel Congress

23/24 February, 2018. New Delhi



India Travel Congress Awards

BITB India Travel Congress honoured some of the biggest names in the tourism industry for their unflinching resolve and massive contribution in furthering travel and tourism in the country and beyond. BITB honoured Radhe shyam Saraf, Group Chairman, Saraf Hotel Enterprises; Chandru Raheja, Founder and Chairman, K Raheja Corp and Kapil Bhatia, Executive Chairman, Interglobe Enterprises Limited with ‘Lifetime Achievement award’ for their long and illustrious careers spanning several decades.

Hotelier Binod Chaudhary, Chairman of CG Group, was honoured for being the ‘Face of South Asian Hospitality’ and Tarun Thakral, Founder of Heritage Transport Museum was also honoured for his unique initiative which has gained tremendous popularity as an innovative tourism product.


India Travel Congress

Keynote addresses at India Travel Congress

Urban rejuvenation will lend a quantum leap to travel and tourism: Hardeep Singh Puri

“My friend Navin Berry’s affection is what I owe my presence here. We go back nearly 50 years. When Navin invited me to join you people in this function, I immediately responded out of a sense of friendship. Then I was wondering what was I doing amongst specialists in the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors? For 40 years, I was a part of a profession which is a consumer of services that the tourism, travel and hospitality trade offer and now that I have been inducted in to the council of ministers, I think without many of us realising this, this is a part of the government which will contribute to providing a quantum jump and exponential growth to the tourism sector.

Let me try and explain. The portfolio that I have been assigned, Housing and Urban Affairs, in itself deals with Prime Minister’s flagship programs – Swaccha Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and SMART Cities – just to mention three flagship programs that we deal with. But put those aside for a moment, and what you have is post May 2014, the government led by PM Modi has embarked on what I personally think is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive program of planned urbanisation taken anywhere in the world. If you look at the history of China, what they did with infra and housing sectors, and keep that as a template in the back of your minds, and look at the scales involved with what this government is trying to do in terms of urban rejuvenation and planned urbanisation, then you get a picture that emerges. Why am I mentioning this to you is because having spent four decades in another profession – the profession of diplomacy where I had the privilege of living in most of the major cities of the world – I am always baffled at how a country like India which has all that a country could dream of in terms of tourism has not reached its true potential. We have some of the major religions in the world that have originated in India. We have history, art and culture, and so much more. All we need is to put our energies together and we will see a quantum jump in travel and tourism.

I thank you for inviting me here and wish you all a lot of success in your future endeavours.”

Railways at cusp of a major change; will impact travel and tourism positively, says Ashwani Lohani

“It is always a great feeling coming to a gathering of tourism professionals and achievers. Travel and tourism is a great sector. It is one sector where with least investments can take states and the nation forward. Some great work is being done in the tourism sector but much more can be done, still. I am now with the Railways. In India, railways mean travel. It also has great role in promoting tourism in the country. We are looking at promoting trains at destinations and getting more luxury tourist trains and are working on expanding railways network in hilly areas.

Railways is, right now, on the verge of a major change. We are looking at process, structural and cultural reforms, and are aggressively expanding the territory of operations. We are building freight corridors, high-speed railways, bringing in new coaches, besides improving sub-urban networks and signalling. It is at the cusp of a major chance, which will affect and give a big impetus to this wonderful sector.

I thank you, Mr. Berry for inviting me here. I really feel honoured. My best wishes to all of you and special compliments to awardees. Thank you. Jai Hind.”

PPP model a good way of conserving heritage; confront bad publicity on war footing, says SK Misra

SK Misra, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, was fulsome in his praise for the diversity and depth of offerings of the city of Delhi. He called Delhi “a city with amazing lineage and home to diverse offerings”, apart from rich ancient heritage. He listed out some of the city’s top draws and made specific mention of elements such as cuisines, shopping, monuments, among others.

Taking stock of the big picture to bring the city at par with the best cities in the world, he suggested decongesting Delhi and adding more amenities to bring more seamlessness to the movement of people. He also mooted roping in larger number of trained guides and students from history and other related disciplines to add to the knowledge quotient of travellers and locals alike.

He further noted that heritage walks had gained prominence in the recent past and given its rising popularity, focus on lesser known monuments would bode well in further spreading awareness and driving tourist numbers.

SK Misra favoured private investments by corporate entities in adopting at least one heritage structure, besides undertaking PPP (Public Private Partnership) initiatives for the same. He also observed that GOI (Government of India) was beginning to discover the benefits of PPP initiatives in conserving heritage.

He asserted that Delhi’s museums were at par with the best in the world in terms of content and visitor’s experience could be further enhanced and more tourists could be attracted through proper arrangement of cafeterias and souvenir shops.

On the road ahead, he advocated that government could conduct a “Delhi Heritage Festival” to further amplify Delhi’s offerings in domestic and international markets. He suggested creating a ‘Delhi Tourism Masterplan’ to ensure timely implementation of plans and active convergence of stakeholders.

SK Misra also made a mention of “pressing issues” such as women safety and rising pollution, stating that “word of mouth publicity” of those factors was acting as a major deterrent in pushing the numbers north. He advised the state and central government to “confront these issue” on war footing.

Dwarka Convention Centre will be world-class; DMIC muscling up infra in an unprecedented manner, says Alkesh Sharma

Speaking on the undertakings of DMICDC, Alkesh Sharma, CEO and MD, DMICDC noted that the project was “first such project” to be developed which was innovative in design and was being counted among top 100 most innovate projects in the world. He shared that the idea of the project was to create seamless connectivity, creating numerous greenfield cities with an eye on countering urbanisation, addressing issues relating to industrialisation, and ensuring that by 2030 – when the phase one of the corridor is completed –it would be contributing as much as 30 percent of India’s economy. He said that DMICDC itself was a 100-billion-dollar worth of project.

He noted that given the magnitude of the undertaking, several new infra projects were slated to be created. Two new airports were expected to come up in the phase one of the project, one in Bhiwadi and other one in a new city called Dholera, which is close to Ahmedabad. Apart from airports, three multi-model logistic hub which were going to be the largest in the South Asian region were also being built, he shared. Alkesh Sharma also noted that 8 SMART Cities were being created in the phase one of the project, and work “was already underway on 4 of them.”

He also showcased a presentation which outlined the contours of the under-construction Dwarka Convention Centre. Slated to provide unmatched facilities for trade shows, cultural events, exhibitions and conventions, the Dwarka Convention Centre would also boast of a Golf course, a proposed diplomatic enclave and was going to be “only eight kilometres away from the Delhi international airport”, he shared through the presentation. He asserted that the project was going to address the absence of a “world-class convention facility”, which was a “cause of concern for the country”.

He shared that the entire project was pegged at INR 26000 crores and spread in a 90 hectares area. The structure itself was going to have 5 large exhibition halls, a multi-facility convention centre, a multi-purpose arena, along with a mixed-use area designated for office space, retail and others.

He shared that DMICDC was going to “come up” with allotment of plots for hotels and retail in some time. He noted that the idea was to ensure that hotels and retail structures were “up and running” when the construction of exhibition and convention facility was done.

Indian culinary offerings have enough prowess to drive tourism on its own: Sanjeev Kapoor

Speaking on “Experiencing the Indian Culinary Niche”, Sanjeev Kapoor, celebrated chef and Managing Director, Wonderchef asserted that Indian culinary offerings had enough prowess to drive tourism on its own. It was merely a question of marketing it in the manner befitting its stature, he suggested. Excerpts from his keynote address: 

Celebrated Chef Sanjeev Kapoor exuded confidence in the ability of Indian cuisines to act as an attracting in itself – not only for international visitors but for the domestic audience too. India was home to diverse culinary cultures and food was integral to Indian way of life, he argued. He noted that while not only the industry, but masses too were aware that Indian food had ample attraction in terms of its offerings and techniques and it was only a question of putting them all together in a seamless manner to bring spotlight on to the Indian culinary prowess.  

He noted that the world was “attracted towards the East” like never before and even a miniscule offering was seen as “something fascinating”, indicating that India had ample “aura and magic” in its repertoire and it was a question of tapping it for gains in tourism. He added that these were the “elements that the world wanted to know,” suggesting that the country’s strength lied in sticking to its roots and offering tourists “an authentic Indian experience.”

Sanjeev Kapoor mentioned that the world was gearing towards holistic health and was eager to consume food which had health and healing properties. He noted that Indian cuisines, in different regions of the country, had “thousands of such recipes” which was suited not only for taste but for holistic health and well-being of the body. He batted for highlighting these offerings to the larger world.  

He mentioned that Indian art of cooking could be harnessed to add newer dimensions to tourist offerings in the country. He supplemented his argument by sharing that the prasad prepared in the Jagannath Puri temple was done through placing seven pots on top of each other. Adding that while the food was cooked using simple technique of science, he noted that such a cooking technique could be used in some of the restaurants to recreate the experience for visitors.

Making a pitch making culinary experience integral to the overall tourism offerings, he noted that food festivals were “conducive undertakings” to highlight India’s rich gastronomical diversity and regional variations. 

Innovation, specialised skill-set critical for companies to survive in the Indian digital ecosystem: Ashwini Kakkar

Ashwini Kakkar, Vice Chairman, Mercury Travels made some interesting observations in his keynote address. He argued that the ever-evolving digital landscape had made it imperative for companies to innovate and evolve faster, holding on to specialised skill-sets, in order to remain relevant in the marketplace. Excerpts:

Ashwini Kakkar asserted that online companies had been “burning money” over the last few years to acquire a greater market share. He shared that top five companies in the Indian marketspace – including,, and – had made losses upwards of three billion USD in 2017 alone.

Sharing that the new distribution strategy which IATA was trying to bring in was intended to “destroy GDSs and old forms of distribution” as it existed, he suggested that corporates, too, were going all-out to reduce distribution costs, assimilating automation into their processes.

He unequivocally asserted that “customer loyalty” was dead and it mattered only as much as the “last rupee put on the table”. Making a special mention of Ola, Uber and Airbnb, he noted that “disruptions were rampant”, and happening at a pace like never before. He also stressed that social media and mobile commerce was binging unprecedented change in the landscape.

He suggested that the customer was becoming a servant of the organisation as a buyer who spent hours and days trying to scout a vacation for himself, while he gave his comments and ratings on the service provided to him to act as an advisor of the company. He noted that the profile of the customer had transformed immensely, and the customer had enough “swaying power” to influence buying patterns by the virtue of voicing his like or dislike for the company and its services.  

Giving his take on how smaller agents were going to survive, as they did in the past, fighting the onslaught of multi-billion dollar companies, he mentioned that intermediaries were becoming “dis-intermediaries by newer intermediaries” entering the fray. He illustrated his argument by noting that companies like Expedia and Priceline were able to charge a commission upwards of “30 percent as opposed to traditional operators charging only 10 percent commission.”

He noted that at a time of constant disruptions in the market, companies with “special skill-sets” such as “deep service and deep skills” were favourably poised to stem the tide. He further added that some companies had imbibed “deep innovation culture” which was equally crucial in maintaining their foothold despite market disruptions. He suggested that mergers and acquisitions was yet another measure to ensure continuity to business and market share and there were innumerable examples of the same.  

Commenting on the current state of Indian market, he argued that the number of mobile phones in the Indian market, including smartphones – which numbered in the range of 300 million 2017 – were going to lead to exponential growth of the digital ecosystem in the country in the imminent future.

Multiplicity of authorities, general apathy for heritage conservation threat to Chandni Chowk’s survival: Vijay Goel

 Vijay Goel, Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, was critical of the multiplicity of authorities and unnecessary complicated procedures in resurrecting heritage structures. He argued that urgent steps were needed to salvage the remainder of Chandni Chowk before its heritage was lost forever. He also had a strongly-worded advice for the industry – it was time for action and not speeches and seminars.

Heritage had been an integral part of his life, he noted. He shared how his association with Chandni Chowk was cemented after he was able to win the parliamentary constituency after a tough political battle with Jagdish Tytler.

He evoked his bygone days and pointed towards the stark difference between the glory days and the current state of Chandni Chowk – which was engulfed in dangling wires, congested roads and several other pressing issues. He alleged that “unauthorised construction” had killed the area.  He went on to note that the 460 years old Chandni Chowk was home to thousands of Havelis, and “today, only a handful of them could even be calledHavelis”. He shared that the entire area had several fountains once upon a time and all of them had now been “sadly replaced” by public toilets. He explained that as no property owners allowed construction of toilets on the property, the government was forced to use public spaces for creating such facilities.  

He lamented that the area was now only home to people of two kinds – one who were old inhabitants of the place and had emotional connect with Chandni Chowk and other who owned property in the area and had considerable stakes involved. He noted that “greedy builders” were converting havelis into commercial properties and urgent action was needed to save the remaining havelis from a similar fate.

He did not shy away from insinuating that the tourism industry was caught in a maze of seminars, lectures and speeches, and delivery on the ground was missing. He also argued that government authorities were stymying private initiatives. He elaborated his argument by sharing that his experience of resurrecting the ‘Haveli Dharampura’ and how despite being the owner of the property, he had to take multiple permissions from different government authorities. He pointed out that the entire process was geared towards creating more hurdles than making the process more conducive for heritage preservation.

Proposing a way forward, he suggested bringing in more limelight to the area to make people aware of the heritage that lied in tatters. He shared that one of his initiatives – Chowdvi ka Chand, a festival to celebrate the legacy of Chandni Chowk – was well received and lakhs of people visited the area to get a glimpse of the Old Delhi bathed in full moon night. He argued that such initiatives were critical in bringing Chandni Chowk into the centre of public discourse.

Innovation in outreach outcome of limited financial resources, says V K Duggal

V K Duggal, Former Governor, Manipur took a walk down the memory lane to share his insights on his engagements with the tourism industry, reflecting that several successful initiatives were outcomes of concerted efforts and innovative, ‘out of the box’ thinking. Excerpts from his keynote address at BITB India Travel Congress:

V K Duggal, at the onset, stated that his was only sharing “facts” based on his experience and explained that innovation in marketing and outreach in the Indian milieu came primarily from the “fund crunch” officials were often faced with. He suggested that once there was an understanding that the competition was fierce, and funds were limited, innovative and ‘out of box ideas’ were natural outcomes. He also called himself “lucky” in having received the support of “very able colleagues” both senior and junior, besides receiving support from the industry.

He shared the experience of his days in Sydney, Australia as the Director of the tea board where he worked with the India Tourism Office and Air India. He revealed that all of them were working in “silos” and eyeing a change in the scenario, he requested the then Indian Ambassador to Australia for a more “concerted effort where each one could piggyback” to promote India. He added that fund crunch was a primary reason for such a suggestion. He shared that the reception to the attempt was “so good” that Air India approached him to collectively promote Indian cuisines. “We opened the first five-star restaurant, anywhere, in Sydney,” he detailed and shared that numerous Indian delicacies and beverages such as beer and ethnic drinks were flown in from India to be served to local populace. He further noted that India was promoted in Australia through such joint collaborative efforts.

Speaking on his association with Goa and role therein, he shared that it was decided after a meeting with senior industry stakeholders to market Goa’s monsoon with a fifty-fifty contribution from government and industry. He candidly admitted that industry then did not see much potential in marketing monsoon tourism. He detailed that a team was put together under his supervision in 1986. “It was one of the first PPP initiatives of its time,” he added. Art illustrations by Mario Miranda, a renowned illustrator, were splashed across newspaper generating significant queries from individuals, he shared. V K Duggal noted that the effort had paid off and hotels in Goa recorded as high as 60 percent occupancies, compared to previous years when hotels offered free stays and discounted food to keep their assets operational. He also noted that buoyed by these developments, the first charter plane had landed in Goa. Goa has since emerged a busy monsoon tourism destination, V K Duggal reflected, adding that it was evident with “flights going chockablock.”

Having served as the DG of Tourism, GOI, he quipped that he had some “anecdotes” to share. He noted that the idea to hold a tourism minister’s conference in India was mooted and then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “very keen on it”. Unfortunately, the idea never materialised as 9/11 terror attacks took place in the USA only a day prior to the event, he revealed.

He asserted that the ‘Incredible India’ was a huge success story and credited the initiatives taken during that time. He also reminisced the successful hosting of PATA conference. V K Duggal noted that he had re-started the e-visa initiative once he assumed the position of Home Secretary – a project which had incidentally faced resistance from the home ministry – and added that the electronic visa initiative had moved several steps from there on.

Business Sessions at India Travel Congress

“Delhi as a World-Class Global Tourist City”: Insiders bat for institutional framework, concerted effort by stakeholders

The session titled “Delhi as a World-class Global Tourist City” saw serious deliberations on positioning Delhi as a destination meeting world-class standards. The session was moderated by Kapil Kaul, CEO, CAPA India and panellists included, JB Singh, President, Interglobe Hotels; Saeed Sherwani, MD, Sherwani Hotels; Kishore Singh, Director, Delhi Art Gallery; Sourish Bhattacharya, Founder Director, Tasting India Symposium; Jitendra Singh, Head, Airline Marketing & Route Development, Delhi Airport; Sharupa Dutta, Producer-Zee Jaipur Literature Festival; Suresh Nair, Country Manager, AirAsia Berhad; Vivek Yadav, Senior VP, Domestic Switchgear, Havells India and Gagan Khosla, Entrepreneur and cycling enthusiast. Panellists listed out several measures to ensure well-rounded development on multiple fronts. Here is a list of steps suggested by the panel:

  • Need for an institutional framework to guarantee policy implementation with legal underpinning. It is necessary for a transformational change.
  • Need to rope in students from history and other related disciplines to create more awareness around city’s heritage and culture among locals and tourists alike.
  • Multiplicity of accountability must be done away with. It is essential to pin accountability to bring more transparency and urgency in processes, especially with big-ticket infra projects such as Aerocity.
  • Delhi must have more accommodation choices, across budgets, throughout the city, for a viable consumer experience. Hotels are a key part of city infrastructure and must be treated as one by the government.
  • Must find ways to instil passion for heritage and history. These subjects must find more space in the mainstream of public discourse. Convergence of stakeholders needed to drive discourse.
  • PPP model an apt medium for conserving heritage. Find ways to create more synergy among stakeholders from within the government and private sector.
  • There must be some institutional mechanism set up by the government to promote private initiatives in different spheres of activities, including food, history, art, and such. Individual efforts must not get lost.
  • Cycling, food festivals, and other such engagements must be given more prominence as they add more dimensions to a city’s tourism profile. Need for a holistic and concerted effort to drive these segments.
  • Delhi tourism website must showcase different initiatives, private or otherwise, and act as the central repository of information on happenings in the city.
  • Focus on strengthening ancillary services such as quality souvenir shops and cafeterias to create more traction around city’s museums and art centres.
  • Need for more cultural exchanges within the domestic circles to promote art and heritage. Tourism industry stakeholders need to converge to moot the way forward.
  • Delhi International Airport should showcase finer elements of city’s tourism bouquet. Tourism pegs such as culinary offering can be soft marketed to a much larger audience, given Delhi airport’s global air connect and high footfalls.

Has the industry given up on Inbound’: Stakeholders think otherwise

Moderater: Kapil Chopra

Panellists: Vikram Madhok, MD, Abercrombie & Kent

Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Group

Raj Rana, CEO, Carlson Rezidor – South Asia

Navjeet Ahluwalia, Country Head, Hilton Hotels

  • There was unanimity on the fact that India had much to offer and its appeal and lure as a destination was intact.
  • Lack of robust air connectivity to international destinations, especially to state capitals, besides the ease of movement within the country were identified as issues that needed urgent redressal.
  • India’s outreach and perception management in the international arena, especially in key feeder markets needs to be ramped up.
  • MoT needs to play a more proactive role through their foreign offices. Ramp up engagement with the media and travel fraternity in international markets to position India as a desirable destination.
  • Expand the gamut of engagement for foreign travellers, ensuring that they are not bereft of activities when travelling.
  • Look at engagements besides showcasing just the cultural aspect of a city to ensure that a traveller had the opportunity to experience a destination in its entirety.
  • Instead of focussing on several destinations and circuits, ramp up facilities and experience quotient at a handful of destinations to turn them in to a truly world-class experience.
  • India being a long-haul destination for a majority of countries, it is imperative to provide a truly bespoke experience to travellers to ensure their repeat visit.

Domestic leisure segment gaining prominence like never before, suggest panellists

Moderator: Ashish Jakhanwala, CEO, SAMHI Hotels

Panellists: Peter Fulton, Group President, Hyatt EAME and South Asia

Dipak Haksar, CEO, ITC Hotels

Neeraj Govil, Area VP, Marriott – South Asia

Jean Michel Casse, COO, India and South Asia – Accor Hotels

Rohit Kohli, Joint MD, Creative Travels

  • Domestic leisure segment has become an important part of business for hotels in India and the trend of focussing on the domestic market – which started a decade ago – was going to continue unabated in the near future.
  • A robust domestic leisure segment is rubbing off on to the corporate segment as well and is acting as a useful development in driving demands.
  • Indian stakeholders needed to do more to bridge the gap between what was being marketed as “Incredible India” and the actual experience of a traveller.
  • A hotel’s relationship with the travel industry has turned transactional, and there is little communication between the two. There is a need to step up communication to put up a concerted step forward.
  • Assimilating local elements of culture and food into their offerings have become important for hotels to succeed, especially, in tier-2 and tier-3 markets.
  • Bilateral initiatives to promote destinations have fared well for India and France. Such initiatives with other countries can push overall tourism numbers and create the needed outreach.

‘Crystal Ball Gazing’: Industry needs integrate with aviation ecosystem, value mid-segment to driving demand

Moderator: Kapil Kaul, CEO, CAPA-South Asia

Panellists: Harsh Verma, Technical Cooperation, UNTWO

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, OYO

KB Kachru, Chairman Emeritus and Principal Advisor, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, South Asia

Puneet Chhatwal, CEO and MD, Taj Hotels

  •  India must not only look at product diversification but also equally focus on finding new markets, the world over, to cease the over-reliability on a handful of traditional source markets.
  • The industry needs to take in to account the potential of business in the domestic segment in a big way.
  • The Indian industry is not working in isolation and impact of global trends and churning are going to impact businesses in the country.
  • India needs to do a lot more to manage its perception as a destination at the global level.
  • The domestic segment of travellers is going to be the core to the larger growth story of tourism in India.
  • Hospitality and tourism industry must integrate with the aviation ecosystem to understand trends and demands better.

India Travel Congress Videos

BITB 2016

BITB, Bharat International Tourism Bazaar, launched its maiden edition in October, 2016 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. It brought together an impressive 3,300 sqm net space of exhibitors, with some of the best and biggest names in the business. It brought together leading Indian and international hotels chains, leading airlines, over a dozen state governments, top international products and select NTOs. It brought together a galaxy of over 60 leaders in the industry to dwell on challenges facing the larger sector. BITB honoured the most exemplary names in business and in hospitality (PRS Oberoi), airlines (Naresh Goyal), airports (Sanjay Reddy), heritage and arts (Rajeev Sethi), boutique Indian experiences (Jose Dominic), digital technology and online space(Deep Kalra) and travel facilitation (Zubin Karkaria).

Tourism Conclave & Bazaar

3rd to 6th October 2016. New Delhi





Former Lt Governor,Delhi
Minister of State (IC) Tourism & Culture, Govt. of India
Chief Minister, Jammu & Kashmir
Former Minister of Tourism, Delhi Government

Former Governor, Manipur
CMD, Air India

Managing Director, EIH Limited
Chairman, Jet Airways
Managing Director, Mumbai Intl. Airport
Joint Secretary, DIPP

Vice Chairman, HP Tourism Dev. Corp.
Chairman & MD, The Leela Group
Chairman, South Asia Heritage Foundation
Chief Commerical Officer, Phocuswright

Chairman, CGH Earth
Chairman, STIC Group
COO -Asia Pacific, Marriott International
President, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts

CEO, ITC Hotels
Chairman, HVS-Asia Pacific
CEO-South Asia, CAPA
Chairman Emeritus, Carlson Group

W/O The Late Mr. Ram Kohli, Creative Travels
Tourism Secretary, Govt. of J&K
MD, Abercrombie and Kent
Executive Director, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts

Head South Asia, VFS Global
MD, Goa Tourism Development Corp.
Founderm, Dastkari Haat Samiti
Mentor, InDeco Hotels


Tourism Conclave & Bazaar Awards
3rd October 2016. New Delhi

BITB rolled out its Awards to Iconic Indians who have impacted Global Travel and Tourism. These were Shri PRS Oberoi for hospitality (his son Shri Vikram Oberoi received the award on his behalf); Shri Naresh Goyal for airlines and Shri Sanjay Reddy for airport infrastructure. Shri Rajeev Sethi was awarded for his contribution in promoting Indian heritage while Shri Deep Kalra was recognized for technology. Shri Jose Dominic was awarded for his contribution to experiential tourism and Shri Zubin Karkaria for improving Ease in Travel. BITB honoured and remembered two Iconic Indians for their support to ITB over the years, the late Capt Krishna Nair and Shri Ram Kohli.


Tourism Conclave & Bazaar

Make in India in Tourism by IATO, Supported by DIPP, Ministry of Commerce

Hospitality by HVS

Airlines+Airports by CAPA India

Fast Track Program by Phocuswright

Incentive TraveL+MICE by SITE



Make in India in Tourism
Anchor: IATO Supported by DIPP, Ministry of Commerce

Anchor: HVS

Anchor: CAPA India

Online Travel and Technology
Anchor: Phocuswright

Incentive Travel + MICE
Anchor: SITE

Uniquely Bharat
Anchor: INTACH


6 Power Conclaves brought some of the best minds in the business. For a first time, these were anchored by six leading associations and leaders in their respective verticals.

The Make in India Conclave, another first time for the industry, was supported by DIPP, Ministry of Commerce, Government of India and featured the keynote address by Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog. Others who spoke included Shri V K Duggal, former Governor, Manipur who moderated the session and Shri Atul Chuturvedi, JS, DIPP, Government of India. The Make in India Conclave was anchored by IATO, and the session was anchored by Shri Subhash Goyal, immediate past president, IATO.

Among other leaders were Shri Ashwani Lohani, CMD, Air India; Shri Kapil Chopra, President, Oberoi Hotels; Shri Rajeev Menon, COO-Asia Pacific for Marriott Hotels; Ms. Jaya Jaitley of Dastkari Haat; Shri Lakshyaraj of Udaipur; Mr. Tony D’Astolfo, Research Analyst, Phocuswright Inc.; Shri Kapil Kaul, CEO, South Asia, CAPA India; Shri Manav Thadani, Chairman, HVS and others dominated the senior discussion groups.


India Tourism Summit

24th March 2017. New Delhi


India Tourism Summit 2017 Television Review


Chairman, ITRHD
Former DG Tourism and Former Governor, Manipur
CEO, Niti Aayog
Chairman, Public Enterprises Selection Board
Finance Secretary, Government of India
Secretary, Ayush, Indian School of Medicine

Additional Secretary, DIPP
Former Secretary, Andhra Tourism
JS, Ministry of Tourism
Joint Secretary, Road Transport and Highways
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Sports
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture
Mentor and CEO, MakeMyTrip
ED (Arch), A irports Authority of India
Commercial Director, Air India
Executive Director, BirdGroup

Chairman Emeritus, Carlson-Rezidor Hotels
Founder, Indian School of Hospitality
Chairman, HVS-Asia Pacific
CEO-South Asia, CAPA
Former President, ITC WelcomHeritage
Market VP, North India and Nepal, Marriott

GM, India & South Asia, Air Asia Berhard
RD, South Asia & Middle East, Singapore Tourism
Research Head, Phocuswright India
CEO, UniGlobe Travels, South Asia
Group President, Government Banking & National Head – Branch Banking, YES BANK
Director, Muse India Heritage Concepts

Senior Vice President, Operations, Taj Hotels, Palaces, Resorts and Safaris
Founder, EcoTourism Society of India
Head, Stakeholder Management, GMR Airports, GMR Group
Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel Pvt. Ltd.


India Tourism Summit Awards

24th March 2017. New Delhi

BITB India Tourism Summit awards never before acknowledged tourism stakeholders for their impact on the industry; FabIndia, Maruti, Haldiram and DLF Malls. A number of firsts were achieved, true to the innovative spirit of its organizers.


India Tourism Summit Gallery


A number of firsts were achieved, true to the innovative spirit of its organizers. New speakers and new ideas came from the country’s mainstream policy makers, as they found time to share their vision of tourism and how it can be driven forward in sync with our country’s economic and social rejuvenation.