The Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) organised its first General House of the new team on November 11 after the elections that concluded last month. The meeting that took place at Hotel Metropolitan & SPA Delhi, was organised to understand the vision and mission of the newly elected team.
Currently, ADTOI’s Managing Committee includes President- PP Khanna, Senior Vice President- Rajat Sawhney, Vice President- Ashish Chander Sehgal, General Secretary Dalip Gupta, Joint Secretary Manoj Varshney and Treasurer Ved Khanna. Ekta Watts, Neetish Gupta, K Vijay Mohan, Vinay Ahuja, DR Chouhan and Ashok Chanchlani are the six EC/ MC members who are continuing their term unopposed.
The general house meeting was followed by interactive discussions at length about the way forward to increase the association’s member base, enhance their visibility at the trade shows, the issues faced by the operators due to lack of cooperation from the hotels and more.
Lack of cooperation from hotels causing hindrance; Fern Privilege Cards to aid the members
Elaborating in detail, PP Khanna said that the travel business, especially on the domestic front, has indeed bounced back with better enthusiasm, however, there are challenges pertaining to the transport system and hoteliers. Khanna shared that the hotels are “not working cooperatively” with the operators.
Naming renowned chains like ITC, Sarovar, and Taj Hotels, among the other few, Khanna shared that all of them assured of utmost support to the agent members during their recent webinars. However, no evident effort has been made in terms of offering the price benefits to the agents, thereby leaving both parties battling one another for direct access to travellers.
“The promises they made were never fulfilled and this, as a result, has resulted in hotels taking the distribution back into their own hands as the clients now bypass the travel agents by booking directly with the hotel. When approached with concerns, they prefer to play safe by putting it on the demand-supply chain. This is where we need to work collectively and make our partnership worth it but unfortunately, it isn’t happening,” Khanna stressed.
He further suggested the members for considering working closely with just the selective hotels that they can rely on and said that “we all should have the convincing power to lure back our clients wanting to choose direct hotel bookings”. Khanna shared that a few educational, as well as state-specific programmes, will be organised under the ADTOI umbrella which will help the members join hands with states as well as the hoteliers.
In that direction, an agreement has been signed with Fern Hotels & Resorts to offer Privilege Cards to the members and the same has been circulated to them already. Khanna said that based on the feedback from members, a request will be submitted to Fern for extending the card benefits to the other members of the company. Currently, only one person from each company can avail of the benefits.
IndiGo has been another partner for ADTOI that has extended support to the association for years, said Khanna and added that the Managing Committee has decided to appoint the airline as an EC member for one year.
Important to get the agency Ministry-approved
The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has a scheme of approving Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Adventure Tour Operators and Tourist Transport Operators where the idea is to encourage quality, standard and service in these categories to promote Tourism in India. This is a voluntary scheme open to all bona fide agencies.
Khanna suggested all the members should get their respective travel agencies approved by the Ministry to redeem benefits under the MDA Scheme. The Ministry of Tourism through the Marketing Development Assistance Scheme provides financial assistance to local tourist operators/agencies/travel startups/hoteliers to promote various activities in the states. This reimbursement is also applicable for participation in travel marts and annual conventions.
He said that this recognition is highly crucial for the applicant agency as it will increase its credibility both in the domestic and international markets as well as offer various reimbursements and allow it to be connected with renowned organisations like IRCTC.
Further, to get the approved certificate, the Ministry expects the applicant agency’s personnel to have a Diploma / Degree in Tourism & Travel Management from a recognised University, IITTM, or an institution approved by AICTE. A request has been put forth by ADTOI to the Ministry to waive this requirement and check the eligibility based on the agency having expertise and 5+ years of experience.
Vision and mission to enhance visibility, boost domestic business
While ensuring his support as the Vice President of association to the members, Ashish Chander Sehgal highlighted that his focus areas include developing inter-state trade between ADTOI members. For this, state-specific programs would soon be introduced. Delhi, he said, would be his prime focus for promotions as a prime and not a transit destination. Secondly, a digital directory of ADTOI members will act as a quick manual for the association and the same will be significant for networking, shared Sehgal.
Rajat Sawhney highlighted that conventions, travel marts and roadshows will be covered under his vision and responsibilities. He said direct communication with the state tourism as well as the chapter chairmen will play a key role in that regard. He suggested the association should organise trade shows or travel marts in place of the convention as the latter is a long, yearly process whereas the former is a smaller exercise, involving limited budgets and greater interaction opportunities covering various destinations.
Adding to that, Khanna shared that the association has also proposed to SATTE for providing them with a space for a pavilion instead of a small stall and has also put up a request to the ITB India team for hosting a maximum number of association members.
Women empowerment in tourism to continue through LEOs
Ekta Watts, the initiator of Lady Entrepreneur Officer (LEO), which is a pioneering initiative of the Women Empowerment and CSR Wing of ADTOI, was also present at the meeting.
Apart from speaking about strong networking and active participation as the key tools to drive the goals for the association’s next term, Watts said her top mission would be to continue with women’s empowerment. “A lot of schemes are being worked upon to see more participation of women in tourism and we are open to executing more ideas from our members on how we can provide a platform to the lady entrepreneurs going ahead,” she highlighted.
The concept/post of Lady Entrepreneur Officer was conceived in 2019 with the support of other Governing Body Members of ADTOI and aims at empowering women and bringing them forward in tourism through entrepreneurship and continuous upliftment. The Lady Entrepreneur Officer is envisioned for each one of the 10 chapters of the association. Their profile is to work as a team on a PAN India basis to reach out to women and work at the grass-root level, especially within the rural areas, to encourage more and more women to be a part of the tourism industry.
Increasing membership, the key goal
Dalip Gupta requested the contribution of a new membership base by the existing members bringing in more friends from trade to the association. The membership fee currently is at the cost of INR 4720 (including GST) and is applicable till December 31, 2022. Thereafter, the revised membership fee will be INR 8000 + GST, informed Gupta.
Ved Khanna said that there is a need to boost the member database to ensure that ADTOI grows in terms of revenue as well as association. The vision for this term is to open an owned office for the association and grow the revenue to manifolds from the current INR 1 crore deposit to INR 3 crore.
The participating members at the meeting also suggested the association take up qualitative and quantitative assessments of every member’s contribution, create an ADTOI building fund through donations from members, active role of chapter chairmen in sending out the state specific communications to all the members, open presentation/ communication to be made to the hotels seeking their support and more.
A tribute to Anil K Rajput – AKR Award!
Known as the fountainhead of knowledge, a keen promoter of Northeast and Kargil and a source of inspiration for many in the association as well as in the Ministry of Tourism, Anil K Rajput passed away recently in September. He was also an active EC member at ADTOI and considered a sane voice in the domestic tourism space.
Honouring his contribution to both the association and the industry, ADTOI is soon going to launch the AKR (Anil K Rajput) Award. This will be an ongoing exercise but the first award will be conferred to Rajput’s family. The venue and dates for the award ceremony are yet to be finalised.