MICE Showcase Talks To Priyanath Behera, Vice President – Cholan Tours Private Limited

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MS. India has become a hugely popular destination in recent years. What has contributed to its growth?
Priyanath.
Increased air connectivity and opening of many international brand hotels in major destinations are the key contributors.

MS. What role has social media played in branding India as a trendy destination?
Priyanath.
With more mobile penetration and increased internet connectivity, India has emerged among the largest user base for almost all major social media platforms. In such situation even if a targeted marketing promotion is not run, any major activity in India gets good visibility juts because of numbers of check ins or pictures shared or tags trended. Pictures of Indian monuments are among the most shared ones on Facebook & Instagram. Now Tourism Ministry has also shifted its major focus on marketing destination India on social media. Collectively all these things are helping and will do so more in future in making India a trendy destination.

MS. India has hosted several high-profile press trips. How do you measure the impact of these campaigns and whether or not they result in increased visitation?
Priyanath.
Under Hospitality Scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, country regularly hosts individuals & groups from press & media of different countries. Apart from this states also on their level make similar efforts, Kerala Tourism’s Blog Express is worth mentioning among all. All these trips help as when the media persons and bloggers when share their experience on online & offline media & social media platforms, it helps not only in promotion of the India as a destination but also in doing away with whatever negative brand perception people might have based on half or incorrect information. So we are of the opinion that such trips, even if their direct impact is not measurable, are necessary for promotion & publicity of India as a preferred destination.

MS. What is your biggest challenge today as the leader of Indian Tourism?
Priyanath.
NRIs living in other countries are our main challenge because they don’t portray a positive image about our country. Also, India as a destination has been made very expensive after the implementation of GST @ 28% on five star hotels. This is a major drawback for Indian Tourism as the price eventually becomes very high for a tourist, who then prefers to travel to other Asian countries where prices are very competitive.

While government is working on increasing the connectivity to Himalayan destinations, we need to keep in mind that many places there are eco-sensitive and a sustainable & eco-friendly approach must be adopted while developing and promoting tourist destinations there.”

MS. Is funding an issue when it comes to marketing India?
Priyanath.
Yes, because Government hasn’t recognized MICE as an industry yet.

MS. How do political issues in the region impact tourism?
Priyanath.
Tourism is among most vulnerable industries and gets impacted by even minor happenings. People travel for leisure, they would never travel to the places which are even slightly troubled or have probabilities of so. Anything happening in region will have direct or indirect impact on India. For example, when few Japanese tourists were killed in Bangladesh, India also suffered with a major downfall in Japanese tourists that and following year. If tension between India and Pakistan rises, negative Travel Advisories are issued by the countries. Had the political relations between India and China would have been friendly, both these countries won’t ever require any other country for business such market size we both have. China is the largest outbound travel market in the world but India is the country getting the least benefit out of that in entire region and political reasons are the biggest factor behind that.

MS. Please tell us about your journey in this industry.
Priyanath.
We started with 1 staff in 1998 and we now are 400 + members in the company. We have got 14 of our own branch offices throughout India. We are the only South Indian Company to have received 4 National Tourism Awards from the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. We are the only travel company in the world to have ‘Live Online client Reviews’ that shows the feedback of every client (unedited) before their departure. We were rated by CII as one of the top 25 Innovative companies in India. We also won the CII Industrial Innovation Awards 2016 in the category of “Service – Medium Enterprises”. We were selected for the Top Service Provider in Southern Region (Gold) award for the year 2016-17, by the Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India & the Honourable Vice President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu presented the award. We won the Best Service Provider in Southern Region (Gold) award from the Ministry of Commerce for the year 2014-15. We won the Hall of Fame Award 2019 from the Online Travel Forum ‘Trip Advisor’ after having received continuously 5 times the Certificate of Excellence award from them, for the highest positive reviews received from clients since 2014.

MS. How do you see MICE industry in India?
Priyanath.
India is among the largest economies in the world and is an important market for corporates across the world. But we have not been able to leverage upon such advantages and have not yet utilised our existing potential, let alone the increasing the potential. We need to work in multiple areas like upgrading the infrastructure, increasing the government active & financial support, marketing & PR to make it a proffered MICE destination.

MS. What is the USP of Cholan Tours Private Limited? How does it make you apart from other companies?
Priyanath.
We are unique in every aspect. None of our staff have worked in any travel company, including me. It’s a policy of the company to recruit only freshers and we train them based on our requirements. So we are not a copy of any travel company in the industry. Our working style is unique in every ways. This is our USP & it does make us stand apart from others.

MS. India is a vast country and well defined geographical entity, Himalaya range lies in its geographical boundary, a holiday destination attracting tourist from across the world. What are the challenges of mountains which stops tourism to grow in a right pace?
Priyanath.
We are truly blessed with cultural as well as geographical diversity. While government is working on increasing the connectivity to Himalayan destinations, we need to keep in mind that many places there are eco-sensitive and a sustainable & eco-friendly approach must be adopted while developing and promoting tourist destinations there. Few destinations are already victims of over-tourism in Himalayas and are causing harm to the ecology there while many beautiful destinations are lying unexplored. Approach must be to spread the tourism in scattered destinations rather than putting load on few selective destinations. We should not focus on numbers when it comes to the promotion of tourism in Himalayas.

MS. Do you participate in any exhibition? How is exhibition helpful for a company to grow?
Priyanath.
Yes, we do regularly participate in selective exhibitions. Participation in exhibitions not only add into brand visibility and networking but also helps in keeping ourselves updated with market trends & sentiments. In each exhibition we return with some new learnings and of course new business leads too.

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