INBOUND INTERVIEW: Myth vs. Reality in Selling to India
Key Takeaways: Following a discussion with Sheema Vohra†, who heads up New Delhia-based Sartha Global Marketing and represents various U.S. DMOs in India, INBOUND came away with several key takeaways: She wants those of us in the U.S. to work with the travel trade in India, have a good PR program in place, and educate the travel trade in our own destination. She made that clear several times during our talk. It is also seemed pretty clear, as we spoke, that the world’s second largest nation, India (1.27 billion) has a travel distribution system that is still maturing. It’s somewhat disorganized, very relationship-based and one’s success depends on how works with a handful of components. And things that have generally been regarded as challenges—lengthy wait periods for those applying for visas to travel to the USA, limited lift capacity, a demand/need for vegetarian cuisine for its travelers—have been or are being addressed as the profile of the traveler from India is changing to that of one who is younger, more independent and desires new travel experiences.
Why Are There so Few U.S. Receptives Who Sell India? “I don’t know,” confessed Vohra, who speculated that it is probably that the trade is in India not as mature and organized as it is other key markets. (The Indian Association of Tour Operators, for instance, is only 33 years old and has over 1,500 members, but international members are only a small component of the membership, which also includes domestic tour operators and allied members.) She also declined to comment on the matter, frustrating to the U.S. suppliers who have told INBOUND about it, of last-minute cancellations by operators; for example, an operator will put together a package tour, then cancel at the last minute due to customers who reportedly were unable to get a visa in time or because of some other matter.
Travel agents play a large role. DMOs should understand that, said Vohra. And, a point that she emphasized, working with the travel trade it is a relationship based enterprise. As such, one can work with just a handful of operators to start cultivating the market.
What about the Absence of Any Real Direct Lift between India and the USA? There are five regularly scheduled non-stop flights between the U.S. and India, operated by Air India and United. (Small, wonder. A non-stop flight is at least 17½ hours long.) How does this impact the chances for growth of the market to the USA, we wondered. Vohra quickly pointed out that Qatar Airways, Emirates and Eitihad all depart from India and have connecting service to U.S. Also, U.S. bound passengers connecting through Abu Dhabi Airport—it is the hub for Eitihad, the dominant Middle East carrier serving India—are allowed to undertake all immigration and customs inspections prior to departure. As well, Vohra pointed out, Eastbound traffic from India is served by carriers operating or connecting out of Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and other Asian hubs. So, lift capacity is not an issue.
Doesn’t the Need to Have Vegetarian Meals for Indian Travelers Discourage Potential Suppliers? This might have been a greater issue a decade ago, Vohra said, but she indicated that the reality has changed—changed to the point that “there is no place in the U.S. that you don’t have Indian food … even in small places.” Also, she noted, while there is still a segment of Indian travelers that counts on having vegetarian meals where they visit, newer travelers who are very educated and very informed, are more interested in experiencing new cuisine, American cuisine, when they visit the U.S. Asked to estimate what proportion of the travel market is vegetarian and what is not, she put it at “about 50-50.”
What about Those Long Waits to Interview for a Visa … and to Have it Processed? That has changed—Vohra was emphatic about this—as in the past several years, the U.S. has increased the number of locations at which visa interviews take place from a couple to five (at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, as well as at consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderbad and Kolkata), and has reduced wait times from months to a several days. Also, she noted, Indians have 10-year visas, allowing them to forego return visits for interviews when one wants to take another trip with a year, as is the case for some countries.
Arrivals to USA from India
|Total Change (%)||47%|
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO)
Changing Markets—The MICE and Student Factors: Vohra sees the student market growth as a major factor in the overall outlook for increased travel to the U.S. (India, with more than 100,000 students in the U.S., is No. 2, behind only China in this tally.). Not only do students take group trips from India to the U.S. They take trips as groups while in the U.S.—during holiday periods and during school breaks. And they often have parents visit them to join them on such travels. Vohra has a personal reference here—her own parents visited her when she was studying at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Vohra sees the MICE market growing at a dramatic rate—for several reasons. Among them is the increase in the number of multinational corporations with offices in multiple countries, with many of those having a U.S. base or headquarters. They rotate conferences at various locations, assuring travel to the U.S. for some of these conferences. This brings a new kind of MICE traveler to the USA. Plus, she noted, the U.S. has so many destinations that “have everything a MICE market desires—locations, venues for special events, entertainment …”
And We Speak the Same Language: While the market from India may seem distant for some U.S. DMOs and suppliers, the U.S. traveler marketer has a distinct advantage; that is, India is the second largest English speaking market in the world, behind only the U.S. with more than 125 million people who speak the language. And almost all of the travel-ready population is familiar with U.S. popular culture, idiomatic expressions and slang. This means, Vohra explained, that US. Suppliers don have to recast their advertising, their collateral or their websites in catering to potential travelers from India.
Finally … Where It’s Going on: While numbers from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office tell us where travelers from India have gone and why, Vohra—in response to our asking—told us where she thought the outlook is good for the near future: California, New York (the city and state), Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, to mention a few. She stressed again, as she did on several occasions during our talk, that the key for U.S. DMOs and suppliers is to … work with the travel trade in India, have a good PR program in place, and educate the travel trade in our own destination
†Sheema Vohra, who heads Sartha Global Marketing is based in India, but she has strong ties to the U.S. After her schooling in India, she came to the U.S. to study hotel administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She subsequently served as sales manager, international travel, and director India & subcontinent international sales for Marriott International. Her firm, Sartha, is only eight years old, but it represents some of the key players in the U.S. inbound tourism industry: Brand USA, Visit California, San Francisco Travel, the Las Vegas CVA and the Philadelphia CVB.
What’s the Most Popular Language for German Language Tours?
According to the latest annual market survey by the Association of German Language Holiday Tour Operators (Fachverband Deutscher Sprachreise-Veranstalter, or FDSV), English language tours are predominant among vacationers from Germany who take language tours. And among those who take English-speaking tours, the German travel trade publication, the UK is the favored destination. The latter probably has more to do with the proximity of the UK to Germany. The distance from London to Cologne, for example, is 367 miles—this less than the distance from Memphis to Knoxville, Tennessee (391 miles).
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Germans speak English. That’s 52 million people out of a population of 82 million. This makes Germany the sixth largest English-speaking country in the world, after the USA, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the UK and the Philippines.† Some numbers from the FDSV survey report:
About 160,000 Germans went on a language holiday in 2014—a drop-off of 1.4 percent drop from 2013,
- The average length of a language holiday was 2.1 weeks
- The average cost of a 2014 language holiday was €1,308 ($1,422), an increase of 8.5 percent over 2013.
- Almost three out of five (not quite 59 percent) of these trips were made by young people of school age.
- 42 percent of such tours were made by teenagers (14-17), who comprise the largest market segment
- 17 percent of all trips were made by children aged 6-13.
- Despite the strength of the student and youth market, there was an increase in the number of adults going on language trips. Their share of the market increased by nearly 10 percentage points to a little more than 41 percent in 2014.
- About half of the adults were young adults (18-30), who represented 22.5 percent of all trips,
- The over 50 segment represented 6 percent of language holidays.
- English is the favored language, accounting for nearly 84 percent of all booked language holidays.
- About 90 percent of schoolchildren and 70 percent of adults went on an English language trip.
- The UK was the destination for every second-language holiday trip (53 percent) well ahead of Malta (14.6 percent). Other popular language holiday destinations were the USA, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada and Italy.
- There are about 140 companies and organizations in Germany offering language holidays, FDSV said, including some 70 professional tour operators.
For more reports and other information from Fachverband Deutscher Sprachreise-Veranstalter, visit: www.fdsv.de.
CVC Wants Brazilians to Learn English
The once overheated Brazilian outbound market now a stagnant force, the country’s largest tour operator-travel agency, is backing efforts to expand and strengthen foreign language exchange programs so that Brazil’s outbound tourism business—especially that which visits the USA—does not contract. According to a recent Bloomberg News item, CVC’s founder and chairman, billionaire Guilherme Paulus Jesus, the current weakness in the nation’s economy is curtailing the ability to travel of Brazil’s middle class, which represents more than half of the nation’s population, as well as half of CVC’s clientele. Especially threatened is the company’s business to destinations such as Florida and Orlando.
Paulus is counting on his company’s consumer base to increase the numbers of student age adults who are English-speaking, explaining that “Brazilians will sacrifice everything to send their children to learn English abroad … It’s an investment.”
CVC served about 4 million travelers last year, with its outbound clients favoring the USA, Canada and the UK. In addition to a national economy that some economists have predicted will actually contract this year, Brazil’s currency, the real, has dropped 15 percent versus the U.S. dollar in the past year. According to CVC, the stronger dollar has made more Brazilians take their holidays within Brazil. Domestic trips, it said, grew in January to 70 percent of total holidays vs.60 percent a year ago.
In addition to its support of increased exchange student travel—the company disclosed no figures regarding the amount it is investing in this venture—CVC plans to open a 100 new stores a year; the total should exceed 1,000 this year. In early 2014, the company had 800-plus agency locations. CVC’s owner/largest shareholder is the Washington, D.C.-based global asset manager firm, the Carlyle Group, which was ranked last year in the Private Equity International 300 as the largest private equity firm in the world.
Hershey Launches New Gifting Product for the Sweetest Travel Market on Earth
Widely known as a conservative organization that markets its candy and confectionary product line in a deliberate, no-surprises approach, Hershey has announced a special derivation of its signature Hershey Kisses Chocolates product—Hershey Kisses Deluxe—in a gift pack that will debut next month at the TFWA 20th Annual Duty Free & Travel Retail Asia Pacific Summit May 10-14 in Singapore. (TWFA is the world’s biggest duty free and travel retail association.)
The move follows a finding from research commissioned by Hershey World Travel Retail that 65 percent of purchases by Asian category buyers are for gift-giving purposes.
Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe Chocolates are billed as “sophisticated, premium chocolate treats” and twice the size of original Hershey’s Kisses Chocolates. The confections feature “a whole roasted hazelnut center, layered with delicate crisps and smooth chocolate, and enrobed in creamy milk chocolate.” The new product will be available in a 15-count stand-up bag (for those interesting in eating the treats themselves) or a 35-count acrylic box which designed as gift to bring back home for family and friends. Customer shipments will begin this coming August.
Additionally, The Hershey Company will be featuring two new travel-retail-exclusive America-themed tins at the Singapore show: The Stars & Stripes version contains Hershey’s Kisses Chocolates and the Sunrise in America version features Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. Customer shipments begin next month.
In addition to gifting insights, results from the global confectionery study conducted by Counter Retail Intelligence in 2014 with Asian buyers, reveal that buying for snacking for one’s own consumption remain a focus as they represent more than 30 percent of all purchases.
The Perfect American Road Trip—Produced by an Algorithm and Michigan State
The Discovery Channel’s Discovery News unit recently partnered with Randy Olson, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University and, through a sophisticated algorithm, came up with the perfect American road trip. It allows travelers to visit all 48 continental USA states and 50 famous destination/attractions in an unbroken route—there are two small backtracks involved—that enables the motorist to enter the itinerary at any of the 50 stops. The fifty landmarks in the itinerary are as follows.
- Grand Canyon, AZ
- Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
- Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
- Yellowstone National Park, WY
- Pikes Peak, CO
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
- The Alamo, TX
- The Platt Historic District, OK
- Toltec Mounds, AR
- Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
- Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
- French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
- USS Alabama, AL
- Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
- Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
- Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
- Lost World Caverns, WV
- Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
- Mount Vernon, VA
- White House, Washington, DC
- Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
- New Castle Historic District, Delaware
- Cape May Historic District, NJ
- Liberty Bell, PA
- Statue of Liberty, NY
- The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
- The Breakers, RI
- USS Constitution, MA
- Acadia National Park, ME
- Mount Washington Hotel, NH
- Shelburne Farms, VT
- Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
- Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
- Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
- West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
- Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
- Gateway Arch, MO
- C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
- Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
- Taliesin, WI
- Fort Snelling, MN
- Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
- Mount Rushmore, SD
- Fort Union Trading Post, ND
- Glacier National Park, MT
- Hanford Site, WA
- Columbia River Highway, OR
- San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
- San Andreas Fault, CA
- Hoover Dam, NV
(To see the illustrated map, visit: http://www.shareably.net/perfect-road-trip-map/)
Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribe to Develop Casino at Incheon Airport in South Korea
In an ambitious effort that will introduce its product at one of the world’s major East-West connecting airports and possibly introduce a layover component to inbound tour packages to the U.S., the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority—it’s part of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut—has announced a partnership with the Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) to build a hotel-casino resort midst an 800-acre parcel of land on airport grounds. It will include the world’s first and only private jet terminal connected to an integrate resort.
The development is expected to include; two-tower luxury hotel complexes with 1,000 guest rooms; the first and only private jet terminal in the world connected to an integrated casino resort; more than 18,500 square meters of retail, food, art and music entertainment experiences; a Korean cosmetics and beauty hub; entertainment arena with capacity for up to 20,000 attendants; an indoor-outdoor amusement park and more than 12 outdoor attractions, as well as and an 18,500 square meter casino with 250 tables and 1,500 slot machines.
For many of airline passengers traveling to and through South Korea, layovers of six to eight hours or more are not uncommon. Not long after in opened in 2001, Incheon Airport launched a series of free tours (transit and transfers included) designed to introduce layover travelers to South Korean culture, attractions and shopping. Currently, the airport offers: a one-hour tour of Yonggungsa Temple; a 2-hour tour of Incheon Temple; a 3-hour Incheon Culture Tour; a 3 .5 hour Incheon City Tour; a 5-hour Seoul City Tour; a 5-hour Seoul Culture Tour; and a 5-hour Seoul Shopping Tour. There also self-guided tours that travelers can take on their own. The airport also has a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice skating rink, indoor gardens and a Museum of Korean Culture.
In addition to making the property at Seoul International Airport a profit making entity, the venture by the Mohegan Tribe will expand the reach of its brand internationally. It is now confined to Connecticut, Atlantic City and the Poconos in Pennsylvania, where it has gaming and hotel properties.
NEW ATTRACTIONS—A Sampler of New Places and Experiences for the Visitor to the USA
TV’s “Pawn Stars” Launch Pawn Plaza Next to Their Las Vegas Pawn Shop: Ostensibly seeking a medium in which to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors (an estimated 4,000 a day) who stop by their modest pawn shop business on Las Vegas Boulevard about two miles north of The Strip, Rick Harrison and family, stars of the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” program, which tracks the buying, selling and dealing of three generations of the same family, has opened Pawn Plaza right next to the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop just north of the Las Vegas Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard.
A $4 million venture that uses the Xtreme Cubes System as its design signature, Pawn Plaza, when completed, will comprise 72 Cubes combining for 36 structures and as many as 16 retail spaces. Most of the tenants, including the restaurants already announced at the location (Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke BBQ and Tavern, Smoke’s Coutinerie of Quebec and Rita’s Italian Ice) will take up more than one Cube. For more information, visit www.gspawn.com, or call 702.385.7912.
Fire Fighter-Themed Attraction Opens in Branson: Hundreds of firefighters from across the country gathered April 10-12 in Branson, Missouri for the grand opening ceremonies of Silver Dollar City‘s Fireman’s Landing, a new $8 million area with 10 family adventures, modeled after a community fair of a century ago and showcasing mock training activities of volunteer firefighters. The storyline creates the atmosphere of the rides serving as “training” adventures for recruits for the Silver Dollar City Fire Brigade. For more information, visit www.silverdollarcity.com.
INBOUND Symposium Agenda Set for May 6
Leading tour and travel industry leaders, from both the buyer and supplier side, will explore a number of current issues of interest at the NAJ’s RTO Summit East, May 6 and 7 at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. The agenda for Symposium, which takes place for the first day of the Summit, is as follows.
8:45-9:00 am: Opening Remarks, Crystal Ballroom
9:00-9:45 am: Educating the Clueless Revenue Manager. Or how 26 million room nights are sold through a channel few of the numbers nerds dictating allotments have ever heard of. Presenter: Jake Steinman, Founder and CEO, NAJ Events and Media.
9:45-10:05 am: An Inside Look at The Brazilian Tour Operator Market. A long time independent expert on the Brazilian market provide a candid assessment of the leading tour operators in the country. Presenter: Celyta Jackson, Partner, Alban Communications (Ms. Jackson, in a previous life, was VP Tourism for what is now NYC & Company).
10:05-10:25 am: What’s New for IPW in Orlando in 2015? Presenter: Malcolm Smith, General Manager, US Travel Association
10:25-11:00 am: Coffee Break sponsored by The INBOUND REPORT
11:00-12:00 noon: Hotel Rate Parity Debate: “There are Two Sides to Every Story.
Rate Parity is an “Offense to Mankind” that and punishes the consumer by not allowing prices to reflect volume and demand. Presenter: Uri Argov, Founder and CEO, Tourico Holidays
Rate Parity is Saving Hotel’s You-know-What. It is the only way hotels can prevent their brands from being commoditized by third party intermediaries. Presenter: Bob Gilbert, VP Sales and Marketing, Exotics Racing (and formerly VP Worldwide Marketing Sales for both Best Western International and Choice Hotels.)
GRAMERCY PARK SUITE
12:00 noon-1:30 pm: Luncheon sponsored by NYC & Company and TheTourOperator.com. The newest attractions and hotels in New York City and the outer boroughs. Presenter: Fred Dixon, CEO, NYC & Company
1:30-1:50 pm: The State of the International Traveler. This groundbreaking American travel research, conducted twice a year, delves into behaviors and perceptions of international travelers, including leisure travel sentiment. Presenter: Erin Cummings, Partner, Destination Analysts
1:50-2:10 pm Could This Be the Receptive Operator of Future? Presenter: Mel Tye, President of Tye’s Top Tours, a small New England based tour operator is expecting to triple HODGE PODGE—Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Thomas Cook Airlines has appointed former airberlin vice-president Titus Johnson as vice president, North America & Caribbean. Johnson was with airberlin from 2012 until September 2014, when he joined Qatar Airways, leaving the latter earlier this year.Prior to joining airberlin Johnson held roles at British Airways, VLM Airlines and Australian Airlines.
The state tourism director for New Jersey is stepping down. Grace Hanlon, executive director of New Jersey’s Division of Travel and Tourism, has announced that she is resigning, effective June 1st. Hanlon, 47, explained that she has a newborn daughter, and was ready for the next chapter in her life. Hanlon was appointed executive director of the state’s tourism agency in 2010 by Gov. Chris Christie. Previously, Hanlon was president of Edvantage Media Group, an educational media production company that she founded in 1994.
As part of an ongoing structural reorganization that began two years ago, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau has announced a series of changes to its senior leadership team, including the transition of Steve Rathje, marketing director, to build a business intelligence team within the marketing department. Rathje has been with the bureau since December 2011.
The president and CEO of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, Ted Beattie, has announced that he will retire in December 2016 after more than 20 years in the job. Beattie, 70, started his zoo and aquarium career as the Cincinnati Zoo‘s first marketing and development director, and he went on to hold directorships of the Knoxville, Tenn., and Fort Worth, Texas, zoos.