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Monday, 30 October, 2017, 09 : 30 AM [IST]

Day 2 of TAFI convention trains lens on stepping up to the next level

The mantra of sustainable success was taken forward on day two of the 11th international convention of TAFI (Travel Agents Federation of India) with a parallel focus on taking the present travel agent business model to the next level. The business sessions ranged from the significance of creativity in building and growing a business and notably, taking things to the next level. There was also a surprise, high-level visit by Turkey’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Dr. Numan Kurtulmus which livened up proceedings considerably.

The day began with an address by Burak Akcapar, Director General, Policy Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey, who emphasised the importance of adapting to an ever changing world where new trends are emerging, the rules are changing and established concepts are being disrupted. Akcapar hailed India and Turkey as anchors of stability in a prevailing, turbulent geopolitical climate and further stressed that this is why the two countries should closely cooperate. “Now while India and Turkey cooperate closely in the field of technology and civil aviation, cultural and tourism exchange will be the real driver of closer bilateral ties between the two countries. And this is where the TAFI community will be a critical role.” He referred to Turkey’s renewed intent to amend the joint civil aviation agreement to increase flights between the two countries. He also pointed out how popular Bollywood actors were in Turkey, given the response to the recent visit by Aamir Khan.

Akcapar’s address was followed by the TAFI convention’s first business session, It Begins with Us, held by motivational speaker and adman, Bharat Dabholkar. Dabholkar highlighted the importance of understanding the target audience and how to communicate with them effectively. Interestingly, he said that the level of resources don’t matter in sustaining an effective communication and promotion strategy and presented case studies to reaffirm this point. He stressed that Indians generally don’t like to talk about their talents, success and achievement and that needs to change, which he believed was especially relevant for Indian travel agents.
The session was followed by a surprise visit by Dr. Kurtulmus. He reiterated Turkey’s focus on the Indian market and referred to India’s spending power as being relevant to the inbound tourism potential for Turkey. He said it was important to recognise and celebrate the two countries’ historic and cultural similarities. He also quoted Napoleon, saying, “If the world was one country, Istanbul is the capital.” Everyday there is something to explore, he said.

The Minister’s visit was followed by the day’s key business session, The Next Level which featured Zubin Karkaria, CEO, Kuoni Group &
CEO, VFS Global; Ritesh Agarwal, CEO, OYO Rooms and Emin Cakmak, Chairman, Turkish Indian Tourism Council (TITC). Agarwal focused on the key objectives of why OYO was launched, and why it has grown exponentially – tapping into a hospitality gap of business economy. He ascribed the success of OYO in part to the partnership with travel agents to create an efficient sales model that was mutually beneficial. He said he believed that India’s domestic travel segment was the most important with more than 1.2 billion visits registered in 2016, and 1.6 billion visits predicted by the end of 2017.

Karkaria presented the VFS journey as a case study of a concept that filled an important void in India of making the visa application process more efficient which eventually led the company to become a global vanguard in this niche. Karkaria emphasised the need to understand the reality of the market one was operating in and not to get possessive or emotional about one’s business and to be willing to change, adapt and even disrupt one’s own business in order to thrive in the long term. He said that even though at this point, VFS had a presence in 129 countries with 56 client countries, 2,600 centres worldwide and more than 150 million visa applications processed, to date, his vision for VFS was to further evolve the business beyond visa processing towards collaborating with governments and the private sector to create efficient business models for several processes.

Cakmak said he believed that a focus on medical tourism was the next level for Turkey and touched upon his initiative to create the Turkish Medical Tourism Council in 2005 to tap into Turkey’s hospital and wellness infrastructure which he said, had high standards but was relatively affordable. Cakmak revealed that as a direct result, Turkey’s medical tourism industry was worth six billion dollars in 2016. He said that the next level for the Turkish Medical Tourism Council was to touch 2 million inbound medical tourists by annually by 2023.

The business sessions were subsequently followed by various sightseeing tours and a gala dinner.
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