Asia remains hot for Indian outbound

INDIA’S outbound market will continue on its expansion trajectory in 2012, but there are signs of fragility that could hurt longhaul destinations and benefit its Asian neighbours.

Rajiv Duggal, managing director of Kuoni India, which operates key outbound travel brand SOTC, said Indian travellers were not committing to long and expensive holidays due to factors such as a fluctuating rupee and an uncertain economic and political climate.

“Even if Indian travellers are going longhaul, durations are shorter. What will hurt are Europe and the US, which are money-making for us. Hence we need to be more aggressive and sell more in order to make the same amount (as last year),” he said.

Duggal listed several immediate areas that SOTC would look into to maintain a healthy bottom line, including distribution and purchasing. With already 250 sales outlets across the country, the company will open another 50 outlets this year. It will also pursue more direct contracting with hotels instead of going through groundhandlers.

“Weekend getaways are getting important, while the Far East and Dubai are the flavours (of the month),” said Duggal. Smaller products such as Singapore/Bintan, Hong Kong/Macau and Thailand were more popular now, he observed.

Subhash Goyal, chairman of one of India’s largest wholesalers, STIC Travel Group, noted that the fastest-growing destinations were the Philippines, Turkey and Sri Lanka.

“Indians are looking for new destinations,” he said, explaining that the Philippines and Turkey were both aggressively marketing to Indian travellers.

Cox & Kings head of relationships and supplier management, KS Anand, added that countries in the region were selling well, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Sri Lanka and Nepal, although he had not seen any slowdown in longhaul outbound bookings.

“Longhaul is growing; midhaul and shorthaul too. We expect to maintain revenue growth at about 25 per cent,” he said.

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