Published on : Monday, September 24, 2018
Anil Punjabi, Chairman, eastern region – Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) and Chairperson of Tourism Committee, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, in an exclusive interview with Travel and Tour World, during ‘Prospect East- Expanding Perspectives’ Indo-US Promotion of Travel and Tourism II in Kolkata, speaks on the existing Indo-U.S. travel trade ties, changing trends, comeback of travel agents and more.
The event was organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), East India Council in association with Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI)-East.
Travel And Tour World: How do you think the Indo-U.S. trade ties and improving scenario is likely to boost tourism in India?
Anil Punjabi: If you see the recent relationship between the two countries is growing everyday. What I have see in the last two years is the graph growing on the higher side, people are travelling to USA and people from USA are coming to India. Visas have relaxed and there are a lot of advantage which the Indian citizens are enjoying from USA and definitely we are growing every year which is a big advantage.If you see the business part of it lot of flexibility has come in where you can invest and vice-versa.
Travel And Tour World: Who are the major investors?
Anil Punjabi : There are major investors if you see are from this side, the US part has come up with investment categories where you can go do business and get green card in some yeras .Major people are big businessmen for a change they like invest, to have a permanent visa for themselves and their children which helps them with further studies. With green card you have to pay much lower as an overseas student these are the advantage which the government is giving. People would like to invest more and more from this part if the situation allows which at the moment is relaxed.
Travel And Tour World: How can the visa application process get more efficient?
Anil Punjabi : If you ask me from this part visas have no problems here but during high season it delays for the appointment but I also see they increase the staff strengthen to cater for the peak season. I see a smooth way of applying for USA visa.
Travel And Tour World: What is your take on travel trade issues between US and India?
Anil Punjabi : It has gone up for the first time in 2017, we had an India U.S .tourism summit, it shows that the interest is there people,from USA coming to all over to the country and I can see the growth . We as the eastern part are working we hard to bring people to the eastern belt.
Travel And Tour World: What has been done to enhance the customers experience?
Anil Punjabi : Customer has some point which is always a concern , the most important thing is value for money and the safety of the traveller which we ensure that when a foreigner or tourist come to our country he is treated as a guest and we make sure he gets all kind of facilities that he expecting from the country.
Travel And Tour World: In the days to come who will have an edge OTAS or travel agents?
Anil Punjabi : From the Indian perspective travel agents will have an edge, when we went online we lost out a lot of business . We see the other way round people coming back to the offline travel agents reason being they want personal and human touch. They need more information then what they ask, while online you have to ask specific questions, here we give you ten other answers which you should know. They like to interact with some human touch and a travel consultant that will grow higher than others.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the changing trends in the international cruise holidays?
Anil Punjabi : People all around India love to travel, especially people in the eastern belt, Bengalis they love to travel. I can see them buying a lot of packages and before leaving the office they ask what is next, design a package, give us a good deal and they want to venture new places. Travel is enormously growing and cruise is one thing which people like to go. I can see meetings, conferences happening in the cruises and you have hundred percent attendance, once you are in cruise you don’t leave. So, that is an advantage.
Travel And Tour World: Last year the them for convention was sustainability, what will be the theme of your next convention and where will it be held?
Anil Punjabi : We have a convention on Tuesday in AbuDhabi and we are trying to say that travel agents are here to stay, we will give service to Indian travellers and overseas. We are working closely with government to improve the sector and welcome tourists.
Travel And Tour World: How was the tourist spending?
Anil Punjabi : The tourist spending has gone up, if we try and give them what they are looking for , like heritage or seven star category , they don’t mind spending 300 to 400 dollars in a day. They don’t mind spending when they get worth for their money.
Travel And Tour World: 2018 marks 70 years of Indo –US Relations. Are there any special marketing campaigns to promote Indo-US tourism on behalf of TAFI?
Anil Punjabi : We have spoken U.S.DMCs in USA for the people going from here and vice-versa , very soon we will have good packages coming up. From December 7 we will have the WOW airline, coming from Delhi to Iceland and about 7-8 points in USA and it is as cheap as 18,000 one way. These are the attractions which will cultivate more passengers.
Travel And Tour World: How would this event enable you to achieve success for TAFI
Anil Punjabi : It is a signature event and this is the second year and we see a lot interest coming in and lots of tie ups coming up .I am sure knocking is required again and again as it brings confidence.
Travel And Tour World: Can you tell us about the growth in foreign exchange revenue in India in the last five years?
Anil Punjabi : It has increased by 20 percent which is good for the travel agent and the government, it is a big industry.
Travel And Tour World: What are your growth goals as the chairman of TAFI?
Anil Punjabi : My eastern belt should grow as we have everything to offer- heritage, culture, mountain and beaches. We are cheapest in India and Calcutta offers value for money, people here are warm and my motive is to get more and more tourists here and I am sure we will succeed.
Travel And Tour World: Any plans for the international markets?
Anil Punjabi : We have made requests to the government and to people operating that we can give you enough passengers why don’t you operate from here. We will have some more airlines coming next year.
Travel And Tour World: What are the challenges to growth if any?
Anil Punjabi : There is no challenges as such but as we need to grow we say challenge is good , if we take up the challenge we show results that’s important.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us about special marketing campaigns.
Anil Punjabi : We are trying to invite travel agents from USA to do a familiarization trip, show the city and then design a package and give it to them and vice versa. These things are in pipeline. We have done conventions upto South Africa and in the near future we are targeting USA.