‘India is second home to me and will work with renewed vigour in this market’
Hungary-headquartered LVG Group is upbeat about establishing its presence globally and in India. Seda Ceylak, CEO, LVG Group, speaks to TravelBiz Monitor about their strategy.
Q. Lotus Voyager is one of the prominent DMCs operating in East Europe. Tell us a little bit about your company and its operations?
Lotus Voyager is a two-year-old brand that we established at the very beginning of the pandemic. This global problem we have been experiencing has given us the opportunity to understand and adapt our 35 years of tourism knowledge to the needs of the new world. Our headquarter is in the wonderful city of Budapest, we work throughout Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions with our remote teams in Zagreb, Istanbul and London.
We have a successful 14 years of experience in the Indian market, we are quite assertive in both MICE and leisure groups, ground handling services for film crews, as well as FIT business. After a 2-year pause, we hosted 150 delegates of the ICICI group in Budapest and Vienna in May and made a grand opening.
Q. How is the post-Covid rebound in the inbound tourism sector of the key East European countries coming along? What trends are you seeing and by when do you see the recovery reaching pre-Covid levels?
As we all know, nothing will be the same as before, and it shouldn’t be anyway, because in the tourism industry we have seen very clearly all the mistakes made and where we failed as a whole sector.
In our region, hotel occupancy rates are rising rapidly, MICE groups are making moves, but there is not enough revival in the leisure group segment yet. There is a serious shortage of personnel and service delivery in hotels, restaurants and DMCs in the regions, and attention should be paid to the quality of operations. I recommend not leaving sales and reservations to the last minute. With the market revival, there is fierce competition for prices, but costs have increased due to rising oil prices in Europe. Therefore, price-service quality indicators will not be the same as before. Tour operators and agencies need to act carefully in this regard for customer satisfaction and their business sustainability.
The Indian market is a very dynamic and strong market – with the Diwali period momentum, 2023 should be a good season.
Q. Many European countries are experiencing delays in visa processing in India due to massive rush of visa applications from Indians hungry to travel again. What is the visa situation in your key markets of operation, and what other obstacles do you see to the recovery of inbound tourism to these markets?
I think the visa problem is just one of several and not the most important of the visible and invisible problems in our industry. The primary problems are the cooperation we have established in the market and the mutual trust-support structures. The visa problem will be solved easily because there is a huge pressure and responsibility on the DMOs to increase the number of inbound visitors. The economy of many European cities is largely supported by tourism revenues, so visa processes will be easier soon and destinations will happily welcome Indian travellers. But for this, mutual support is very important, because everyone’s business and living depend only on other people. Lack of good staff means the hotel or other service provider cannot maintain the expected service level, we cannot operate well, your customer returns home unhappy and we don’t work again. We are in a circle that revolves around “people”. But with the right effort and intent, I firmly believe the Indian market will recover much more quickly and efficiently than some other markets.
Q. What are Lotus Voyager’s plans for the India outbound market in the short and long-term? How will you engage with the Indian travel trade?
India is one of Lotus’ most important markets, and those who know me well know that I see India as my second home, I will travel to see my old friends again soon.
In the new period, we will continue our work with India more widely and strongly. In the first 45 days, when we restarted operations, we firmed up our contracts with major tour operators, and our teams have already started to work successfully with a good number of MICE groups till the end of 2022. We will launch our new Guaranteed Departure and Tour Programs very soon. In addition to our current strong friendships and years of collaboration, we now also work with Auxilia Networks, run by Indian travel trade veteran, Paramjit Bawa. He represents both brands we own, Lotus Voyager DMC and LVG Learning & Networking in India.
Q. You also have an e-learning and networking portal called LVG Learning. Can you tell us something about it and how you are rolling it out in India?
LVG Learning & Networking is headquartered in London and our board partners are industry veterans Keith Beecham, Patrick Richards and e-learning expert Bige Cetinoglu. We established the first and only corporate learning system in the tourism sector with our software partner in Turkey. Although destination learning courses are not new and several companies are offering these in the market, we offer a completely different, innovative and unique curation, using state-of-the-art software to develop our clients’ programs and modules.
Our main concept is “tourism people”, and we help destinations, and suppliers of attractions, experiences, etc. promote their services and products by developing unique B2B content. In our model, destination marketing and business networks are on the axis of investing in and empowering people. We don’t waste time on solutions to save the day, we plant seeds for the future, and we believe every business that puts people at the center of their business is successful.
Change is inevitable and so also in the tourism industry, tourism people deserve the best.