India Knocks | 2018-11-12
Out-of-the-Box Tourism : India encashing on experiential holidays

The concept of out-of-the-box tourism today shouldn’t be solely about reaching the farthest places possible. It should involve taking time and effort to crack the code for ditching the travel guidebook and enjoying the offbeat corners that are hard to trace on a normal map. India, with its varied lengths and breadths, haunting ruins, colossal monuments, tombs, uncharted marvels and some of the incomparable heritage and nature trails is redolent of old-world culture, tradition and aesthetic natural beauty. The country in itself has a certain appeal or an element of escapism for travellers wanting to move in defense of today’s tourist trail. Even after a noticeable swipe towards the personalised itineraries opted by the domestic tourists in the country, India is still overshadowed by the other leading destinations in terms of being counted under ‘must re-visit’ places. Though tourism campaigns and finely targeted itineraries have the power to draw in visitors, where does India lag behind in promoting the country’s unexplored trails to the tourists?

 

 

 

TS GAGNEET KAUR

 

 

 

As travellers today no more want to follow the guidebooks and deviate from the typical tourist traps, it has become highly crucial for destinations to offer an experience-driven adventure and new surroundings to them. Today’s traveller wants to venture beyond the beaten paths and dive deeper into authentic, local, culture, connecting with people in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories. And India with a bouquet of offerings promises to deliver all! Imagine, the incredible hospitality in tiny villages, walking through the serene beaches, exploring the massive heritage trails, sitting down for a tea in the lap of nature. Wouldn’t that add a richer layer to your travel experience!

 

 

Promoting tourism is a key objective that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often talked about. In one of his talk shows ‘Mann ki Baat’ last year, he urged tourists to tweet photographs with their travel stories around the country, which he could re-tweet. Working in tandem with his proactiveness, the Ministry of Tourism drafted a new policy to promote India as ‘must experience’ and ‘must re-visit’ destination. But the number of tourists we receive, especially outbound, are of a meagre amount. The numbers need to double or treble. But how do we get there? What more is needed to create personal, emotion-based memories for the tourists?

 

 

There is no second thought that India has seen a huge shift in travel trends where the demand for activities and local experiences has grown by 250 per cent in the last four years. With tourists looking for a more holistic experience, India, with its myriad of experiences has a potential to make an emotional connect between the traveller and the destination. The study, last year, revealed that predictably, Goa is the most desirable destination in the list of ‘India’s top 10 destinations with popular activities’. Surprisingly, Kerala comes second with the adventure hub, Uttarakhand, taking the third position. This was followed by Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan. However, with active tourism promotions, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have joined the race and are even beating the leading states in terms of marketing the destinations abroad. With a plethora of tourist places; a no-rush ambience where you’d breathe in the unpolluted air and sigh in awe, Northeast is India’s paradise getaway. This top tourism region boasts of such mesmerising natural wonders, a sight of which can remain etched in your memory forever.

 

This is why, if you are on a holiday in India, make sure to add these Northeastern states in your places-to-visit list because you surely do not want to miss amazing sights like that of a floating lake, crystal clear river bed or ancient root bridges. On the other hand, East India is known for the states that are extremely alluring, pleasantly boisterous and wreathed in clouds.

 

 

With a huge shift in trends, more and more people nowadays prefer unconventional travelling in India. While Europe remains the first choice of adventure travellers, India, too, has witnessed an exponential growth in adventure tourism industry during the recent years. According to an extensive study by Thrillophilia conducted on 10,000 consumers and 1,800 industry partners in order to get the insights of the sudden boom in experiential and adventure travel segment of tourism, some pretty interesting findings related to adventure travel were observed. Based on the data collected during the study, adventure tourism and activity travel market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 17.4 per cent from 2017 to 2023 in India. Followed by that, there has been noted that 27 per cent people are interested in travelling to the Himalayas for an offbeat experience.

 

Even the number of solo travellers has increased by 18 per cent, the study reveals. This upliftment to the sector has come concurrently with MoT’s declaration of 2018 as the Year of Adventure Travel. The government bodies including the key travel associations like Adventure Tour Operators Association of India and Indian Mountaineering Foundation have made some sincere efforts to promote Adventure Tourism in India, which has resulted in a fair growth in this segment of tourism.

 

 

Another interesting discovery according to the study was that there has been a huge rise in luxury activities like yacht tours, wine tours, glamping, luxury train journeys and more. Be it adventure, local culture, preserved heritage, spiritual, wellness, our country offers every essential component of trip planning which in turn has resulted in creation of several activities focussed travel companies. Customising products with flexible holiday options and offering personalised services to woo the travellers is becoming the new standard as the Indian travel industry is gearing up to take a jaunty ride on the back of the experiential tourism market. India is, however, acknowledged as a tough destination with lack of proper infrastructure, connectivity, cleanliness and security issues which is limiting the agents and tour operators to market the destination with innovative and reassured branding.

 

 

Though the inbound figures show a quick rise in the popularity of a few segments, the outbound segment is still not showing an expected increase. In order to fully exploit the potential of the country’s diverse geography, more efforts are required on different levels. People may hold themselves back from travelling to India, however, it is a collective responsibility of the state governments and the travel industry to sit up and notice the current demands, make an action plan according to the trending trends and design the business models that are taste-driven. In order to learn how our country can move from destination marketing to experiential marketing, we dug into research and gathered suggestions from the industry captains who also enlightened us with the out-of-the-box experiences that make India, an incredible country. While it’s tough to nail down what makes an appealing tourism marketing itinerary or a campaign, it’s clear that the Indian tourism industry is beginning to think outside the box.

 

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“The success lies in effective storytelling and packaging of the experiences”

- Satyajeet Rajan, Director General (Tourism), Government of India

 

 

 

 

India is a continent in itself and is endowed with varied attractions across the length and breadth of the country. We have the mighty Himalayas, snowcapped peaks, great desert, 7500 km. of coastline dotted with beaches, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, perennial rivers and scenic backwaters. All these natural resources combined together offer varied tourism products to satisfy the needs of the discerning travellers. This includes both, the tangible heritage like monuments and buildings as well as intangible heritage including music, dance and cuisine which again can be offered as tourism products to the travellers seeking diverse experiences.

 

 

Recognising the growing trend towards experiential tourism the world over, tour operators are realising the importance of innovating their offerings with such personalised experiences to suit the traveller’s needs. There are various experiences which can be interwoven along with traditional itineraries such as Yoga and Ayurveda, adventure activities, visits to villages specialising in handicrafts, rural tourism sites, accommodation at homestays instead of the regular hotels/guest houses, the list is endless. It is for the tour operators to look beyond the traditional sightseeing and look at promoting the unique and intangible heritage of India. The success lies in effective storytelling and packaging of these experiences. This will require the tour operators to put in dedicated resources to research and test these itineraries before offering them to tourists.

 

 

 

Off the Shelf:

India has traditionally attracted tourists for its rich culture and heritage. However, with a view to unleashing the potential of India’s diverse tourism products, the Ministry of Tourism has identified several niche products such as medical tourism, golf tourism, polo tourism, cruise tourism, wellness tourism, adventure tourism and more and is supporting the travel industry for development and promotion of these products. Rural tourism is another product which has a great potential. These niche products are being promoted aggressively by the Ministry through promotional films, global media campaigns and roadshows, at travel fairs and exhibitions and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tour operators to focus on enlightening about nuances of the destinations”

 

- Vishal Dev, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Tourism Department and Sports & Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha

 

 

 

I think, as a country, we are quite unique and that works to our advantage as it becomes easy to attract tourists here. India is on the bucket list for most of the people around the world. Lately, we have seen storytelling being adopted to promote various destinations in India. This year’s World Tourism Day’s theme was ‘Digital Transformation and Innovation’ and very rightly so because the digital world has completely transformed not just tourism but every industry. The focus has shifted to enhance the experience of travellers and I believe the tour operators should be focusing on the same. It’s no more the mundane, go and visit the destination and come back. All the travellers are documenting their travel experience online and it is very important for the state that those experiences delivered are positive and even if negative, steps should immediately be taken to amend that.

 

 

Further, tour operators should focus on enlightening the travellers about nuances of the destinations. In today’s world, everything can be tracked through analytics such as travellers’ interests and habits which is a great advantage for the industry and should be exploited wisely to offer a personalised experience. We, at Odisha Tourism, are working with Adobe to come up with a seamless website which will be a one pit stop for all the travel related queries and will help us encourage more tourism in the state. We already have a digital content partnership in place with TripAdvisor for the same.

 

 

Off the Shelf:

Odisha is a world unto itself. We have identified around 352 places in 30 districts as a tourist destination. It is quite difficult to just pick few but I believe the hills and mountains of the Eastern Ghats passing through the state rise abruptly in the north from Similipal Tiger Reserve and runs to the south to the mesmerising Deomali landscape in Koraput are quite breathtaking sites. May it be Chilika lagoon with congregation of Lakhs of birds or the great Mahanadi Gorge of Satkosia, the mountain musings of Similipal or the wilderness in Bhitarkanika, a trip to different eco-tourism destinations in the state is a revelation allowing you to reconnect with nature and spending time with the local communities living in the forest since decades. Some of the other must-visit destinations include Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, Udaygiri, Dhauligiri, Langudi, Tarapur, Deuli, Kayama, Radhangar Fort, the vibrant handicraft village of Pipili and the quaint town of Raghurajpur, adorned with  ‘pattachitra’.

 

 

 

 

“Pre and post-trip engagement with the customer to help build a strong relationship”

-          Manohar Ajgaonkar, Minister for Tourism, Govt. of Goa

 

 

 

Concerted efforts are constantly being made by the ministries to promote niche tourism products such as rural, cruise, medical and eco-tourism and more. Evaluating, understanding and adapting to changing travel consumer trends are equally important for tour operators targeting specific niches. Increased tech integration and new online programs are a few ways tour operators today are transforming their products in line with experiential travel trends.

 

 

 

There are a few tour operators who are creating experiential travel opportunities suitable for multi-generational families and groups, one of the fastest growing markets in tourism. There’s also been a significant evolution among tour operators that traditionally attract middle-aged and older travellers, due to the fact that the now 45-year-old crowd, vacations more than their predecessors a generation ago. Tour operators are now engaging with consumers before and after a trip. Communicating through email and social media before the travel helps build a relationship with the customer. Post travel client interaction and feedback provides a wealth of insight into how to develop products in a better, unique and targeted way.

 

 

 

 

Off the Shelf: 

Goa Tourism is committed to giving tourists an all-new experience of the state so that tourists feel they are in God’s Own Abode.  We have recently launched an interactive web portal and mobile app to sell tour packages. We launched Goa’s first mobile app-based taxi service GOAMILES . Also, being the Minister for Sports, I am encouraging sports tourism in a big way. Goa also hosts national and international sports competitions in sailing, chess, swimming, marathons and many more. Besides this, Goa is also getting to be a popular destination for wellness tourism as its natural beauty along with facilities like Ayurveda, Yoga, spas and medical facilities are attracting visitors all year round. Construction of wellness resort near Selaulim Dam   is also in the offing. The Aguada jail transformation project is underway and is expected to complete in a few months. From white water rafting in Mhadei River, we are now proposing to start sea rafting in the new season. 

 

 

 

 

 “We constantly endeavour to provide best experiences to our patrons”

-          Jaykumar Rawal, Minister of Tourism & EGS, Government of Maharashtra

 

 

 

Tourism is one of the leading industries in Maharashtra, driving the economic development and growth of the state. Several measures have been taken to offer a more holistic experience to travellers. Experiential tourism is gaining momentum and travellers are looking forward to experiences like home dining, homestay and adventure sports like Scuba diving, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hot Air Balloon and parasailing to name a few. We recently participated at various domestic and international platforms like Magnetic Maharashtra, Global Exhibition on Services 2018, Maha Biz in Dubai, ATM 2018 in Dubai, ITB Berlin 2018 and PATA 2018 in Malaysia to, name a few, to widen the tourism prospects across the world.

 

 

We at Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation have 195 travel and tour operators registered and we constantly endeavour to provide best experiences to our patrons.

 

 

 

Off the Shelf: 

Maharashtra offers a diverse range of tourism experiences like medical and wellness, coastal, wine, Buddhist circuits and mine tourism. As we all know yoga, meditation and Ayurveda have emerged from our country in ancient times. Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical procedure followed not only by Indian but people across the globe. MTDC has proposed to develop wellness zones. Mine tourism is another segment which is very interesting and different from other products. Under this initiation, tourists will get an opportunity to visit the deep inside the coal mines to understand the intricacies involved in coal mining. Recently, the Department of Tourism, Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in association Consulate General of Switzerland hosted Landwehr Orchestra for the first time ever in the city of Mumbai on October 22 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation aims at carving a niche for them by providing a platform to host international events.

 

 

 

 

“We consider our travel and tour operators as the face of our destination”

-          W Ibohal Singh (MCS), Director (Tourism) Government of Manipur

 

 

 

I feel that destinations should leverage their strengths in order to make it more personalised to their visitors as every destination has its own unique selling propositions.  Manipur is all about adventure, culture, festivals, sports and nature. We bank on these things in order to make our destinations a personalised experience for travellers and we work closely with our travel partners in order to achieve this end.

 

 

We consider our travel and tour operators as the face of our destination. They directly interact with visitors to the state and offer them an understanding of the state while guiding them to enjoy the state in an authentic way. In this way, I feel that as travel partners they can help us compile and put together appealing tour itineraries which are otherwise difficult for travellers to do on their own. This will help transform our traditional itineraries into ones that are experiential and interesting.

 

 

 

Off the Shelf:  

Manipur has a variety of unconventional tourism products which are still unknown to many. Our state has a rich tradition of art and culture and with a civilisation tracing back to 33 A.D.  The Kangla Fort which has been the seat of power of the state before the British took over in 1891 A.D is a standing symbol of the state’s ancient history. Our proud cultural heritage is reflected in the dance forms of over 34 recognised tribes in our state. The Light and Sound Show at this old fort is the only one of its kind in the country. Also, from the rarest of the rare flora and fauna that you never knew existed to the waterfalls skillfully hiding from the world all these years, Manipur greets all with a new side of beauty and abundance of unexplored nature. The Shirui Lily of Ukhrul and the Sangai deer which is famously known as the Dancing Deer is found nowhere else in the world but Manipur. It is a very rare sight to see the Sangai on the Phumdis (floating island like bio-masses) which are found in Keibul Lamjao National Park at Loktak, the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India.

 

 

 

 

“Destinations in India to be rediscovered and rebranded with a renewed focus”

-         Prateek Hira, President & CEO, Tornos India & Gastroutes and Chapter Chairman IATO- Bihar, Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand

 

 

 

Tourism to be delivered needs to be understood. India has been considered a single destination, often overlooking its diversity and huge size and then tourism in India was thought only to be visiting concrete structures and quite restricted to a few north Indian states. Kerala was the first to break this stereotype image and emerge as a destination unto itself and other states are following this model. As tourism industry, we refused to budge from our old run-of-the-mill itineraries and thought Taj Mahal will be able to handle all the burden of India to sell tourism but we were so sadly mistaken about this and just in time realised and changed track from offering just tours to offering experiences. The time has now come, to reinvent, differentiate and localise our tourism efforts and to come out of our DMC mindset that has believed in ‘know all, do all’.  India, by virtue, is an experiential destination and can offer unlimited avenues in this area. It is imperative that the government understands this paradigm shift in demand and accordingly develops a micro understanding of products, gets into micro-planning that values local experiences and encourage the trade to think out-of-box. We as tour operators, need to come out of our comfort zone and not only develop our markets by venturing into untapped markets but also grow our existing markets by offering new products and avenues. Each destination in India should be reinvented, rediscovered and rebranded with a renewed focus on making India a hub of experiences.   

 

 

Off the Shelf:   

Sightseeing is passé, ‘sight experiencing’ is what the people are looking for today. Thematic tours that are loaded with knowledge could do wonders and there is absolutely no dearth of special interest themes in India. Be it gastronomy, history, culture, craft, religion, performing arts all have a strong presence, it’s just about converting these assets into experiences and designing thematic tours around these to make the visits meaningful and loaded with firsthand knowledge. Then there are regions of India like North East and states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Lakshadweep that have great potential but we have not thought of it and have only saturated specific places, thereby suffering in terms of incoming numbers. We need to create new avenues for tourists and reinvent existing destinations, thinking of repeat tourists. 

 

 

 

 

 

 “The government to act as a facilitator by providing proper infrastructure”

-          Suresh Periwal, Managing Director, Clubside Tours & Travels

 

 

 

In order to make tourism more personalised and unique, it is vital to get the tourists more engaged by participating in activities which is something that the tourists will carry with them. Workshops, according to me, are an ideal tool to be able to garner more participation from tourists and leave a lasting impression on the guests. The government has to play the role of the facilitator and provide the proper infrastructure and facilities which will eventually allow such experiences to come up.

 

 

Off the Shelf:   

We operate primarily in the Eastern part of India which is known as the ruling ground for many ancient empires and comprising of the states that a strong ethnic culture. Beyond these traditional yet impactful experiences, a discourse with a monk to help get a better understand of the religion or participating in the process of brewing tea rather than just a visit to an estate would always have a greater impact. My personal recommendations include places such as Sunderbans, Lachung in North Sikkim, Pelling, Kaziranga and Tawang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There is a lot out there to promote beyond the tried and tested”

-          Mohan Narayanaswamy, CEO, Travel Scope India

 

 

 

As a destination, India is unique. We just need to look beyond the beaten path. There is a lot out there to promote beyond the tried and tested. I feel that the personal interest of a traveller combined with the knowledge, inspiration and experience of the person designing the trip, plays an important role in making the experience unique for travellers.

 

 

 If you ask me, personalisation is all about how we engage with our clients. Right from the time the client sends us their first communication till the final delivery of the experience; personalisation has to flow at all levels. This has been Travel Scope’s philosophy right through and I think it should become an industry benchmark.

 

 

The state and the industry have their respective roles to play. I don’t think it’s primarily the state’s job. It’s for the industry to do that. Where the state can help is creating campaigns that bring awareness about the enormous potential that a destination like India has for travellers. I am confident about Ministry of Tourism’s efforts as they have recently come up with promotional videos which I think were quite impactful. A higher circulation of such collateral within the industry in India and across the world would further help generate more interest in unique experiences. Infrastructure and connectivity are the areas where the state can play a key role in facilitating improved access to mainstream as well as remote destinations.

 

 

Off the Shelf:   

Even the tried and tested experiences can be made interesting by giving it a personal attention and reinvented outlook. For instance, if you looked at the Golden Triangle, the most popular circuit in India, there are a lot of options that can be included one of which is cruising on the Chambal river to look out for the endangered Ghariyals. We, at Travel Scope, recommend the travellers, a part of our new initiative - WATCH that stands for Wildlife, Adventure, Tribes & Communities, Conservation and Habitat.  Additionally, a stay at a restored fort in a village called Ramathra to explore the beautiful countryside and interact with the locals is another unique experience. In Jaipur, we offer our guests an option to trek through the hills behind the Amber Fort and organise a breakfast with views of the Amber Fort. From home kitchens to Chef’s tables, market walks to street food tasting, there is a range of culinary experiences that we arrange for travellers with an interest in learning more about Indian cuisine. A drone view of Jaipur’s Amber Fort, on a hot air balloon, is an adventure that increases every traveller’s adrenaline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sound infrastructure and connectivity can make NE India a high-value destination”

-          Sanjay Thakur, Director, East India Travel Co

 

 

 

India’s Northeast region is an untold story. Cut off for centuries the northeast remained in splendid isolation waiting to be discovered. The northeast is best suited for experiential travel. This very fact needs to be appreciated and schemes and planning is to be woven around this concept. Into this scenario, we now explore the possibility of enticing the intrepid traveller to come and experience its people and their culture, cuisine, textiles, wildlife, landscapes and much more. It got to be the ‘special interest’ traveller which itself restricts the number of tourists visiting an area - you cannot have hordes of tourists walking around tea gardens or rushing into the jungles. We have British era tea bungalows, two World Heritage Site accredited wildlife parks, deep-rooted customs found in the villages. What we need are good roads to get us there, this is no longer an option, but an absolute necessity.

 

 

On the flip side, one may argue is that we need numbers to sustain ourselves. The answer could lie in the prospect of making Northeast India a high-value destination. Sound infrastructure – roads, accommodation and connectivity can combine to create just that.

 

 

Off the Shelf:   

For the very fact that Arunachal Pradesh is my personal favourite, is that it has so much to offer – indigenous people with animistic rituals, adventure activities like treks on both high and medium altitude, rafting, cycling. On top of that, traditional festivals, Buddhist monasteries, fantastic Himalayan landscapes and above all the simple but very warm and friendly local people ready to break into a wide smile at first sight. All this is simply great as a destination for experiential travel in India.





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