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It would be no exaggeration to say that the inaugural session of the biggest ever SATTE exhibition was actually a macrocosm of the world of tourism.
The inauguration of the 18th edition of SATTE was a grand affair. Simply put, a spectacular and befitting beginning to South Asia’s biggest travel mart where leading representatives of the trade, both domestic and international, gathered. Among others, there were presidents of leading trade bodies, senior officials of several states, noted hoteliers and representatives of prominent NTOs in the count r y attending the inauguration underlining SATTE’s st rategic importance. The gathering of the tourism world was further galvanized by the presence of two central cabinet ministers – Salman Khurshid and the newly appointed tourism minister, Subodh Kant Sahay. For the new tourism minister, SATTE’s inauguration was his first public appearance after assuming charge.
The nearly one-hour-long session saw speakers dwelling on different issues. While some chose to raise the issues of the day, for others it turned out to be an occasion to hard sell their product s and dest inations. Regardless, all of them underlined the significant contribution that SATTE had made in Indian travel and tourism for more than a decade and a half now. Among them were the three presidents of the leading travel trade bodies – TAAI, IATO and TAFI – who elaborated on SATTE’s contribution to Indian tourism. Their brief speeches also voiced concerns with regard to the immediate challenges facing the travel fraternity. “Domestic tourism is estimated at 650 million and is growing fast. Our growing economy is generating a lot more business travel as well. In addition, tourist arrivals are projected to increase by over 22 percent per year till 2012; have to be ready for the challenge to serve this increased inflow adequately,” Rajji Rai, president, TAAI stated. Vijay Thakur, president, IATO, asked for the government to be more attentive to tourism. “Indian tourism has huge growth potential and it will continue to grow. Inbound tour operators are generating foreign exchange from foreign travellers to the country. The government needs to give more attention to the tourism industry for its growth,” he suggested. Ajay Prakash, president, TAFI, noted that due to the increased capacity in accommodation, travel agents were better equipped to serve their customers. “Domest ic tourism is growing by leaps and bounds and we need to cater to this burgeoning market. With the addition of more hotel rooms and increased connectivity, we are hopeful of witnessing good growth in the Indian tourism industry,” he said.
L-R: Navin Berry, chief coordinator, SATTE; Salman Khurshid, Union Water Resources minister; Subodh Kant Sahay, Union minister for Tourism and Ratan Marothia, president, FHRAI (extreme right)
L-R: Ratan Marothia, Vivek Nair, Nawang Rigzin Jora, E M Najeeb, Subodh Kant Sahay (lighting the inaugural lamp), Subhash Goyal and Rajji Rai.
L-R: E M Najeeb, Vipul Mitra, Suraphon Svetasreni, Nawang Rigzin Jora, Subodh Kant Sahay and Vivek Nair releasing the calendar of Jammu and Kashmir at the inauguration of SATTE 2011.
In his brief speech, Ratan Marothia, president, FHRAI chose to comment on the growth of SATTE and the way it has evolved over the years. “SATTE has evolved from being a networking event to an institution in itself. The overwhelming participation of every major hotel chain from India and overseas and the presence of the veritable who’s who of the t ravel trade, is ample testimony to the importance the industry attaches to this event. SATTE’s success is also a demonstration of India's ever growing importance, both as a destination as well as a lucrative market,” he said. EM Najeeb, the president of the Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry echoed the same. “SATTE has grown significantly and we are all here to support it.” Vivek Nair, vice chairman and managing director of The Leela Group. He assured the gathering of foreign and Indian delegates that India would soon get rid of its expensive destination tag. “Currently, about 18-20,000 hotel rooms are being constructed across various branded categories and once they become operational, hotel prices will fall by around 30 percent,” he said.
Among the states, senior representatives of Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir were the speakers at the inaugural session and they made most of the opportunity to sum up their unique offerings. “SATTE is indeed the biggest platform in the Indian sub-continent in travel and tourism. Gujarat as a state is now focusing in a major way on tourism and the emphasis has begun to show results,” said Vipul Mitra, secretary, Gujarat Tourism. Nawang Rigzin Jora, minister culture and tourism, Jammu & Kashmir, asked the travel fraternity to become a more integrated partner in the big developments taking place in the tourism sector of the valley state. “The tourism sector in Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a major turnaround. Last year, we received about 11 lakh tourists of which 4.5 lakh were pilgrims and the rest had come for leisure purposes. We are also noticing a gradual increase in the number of foreign tourists. We are keen to evolve as a holistic destination and are developing niche segments like adventure to move beyond being just a leisure destination. We need a helping hand from the travel trade and I hope all of you who have gathered here will help us in our endeavour to take the state’s tourism to new heights,” Jora commented.
Among the foreign countries, Thailand was a major participant this year and the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Suraphon Svetasreni, explained his reasons for coming with the largest delegation ever. “We are carrying the largest delegation to a South Asian show which is truly international in all respects. The figure of arrivals from India to Thailand is booming and we are expecting 800,000 visitors this year. We are seeking better tourism integration between the two countries and that is why we decided to put our best foot forward at SATTE,” he announced.
First the Union minister for water resources and minority affairs, Salman Khurshid, and then the newly appointed tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay apprised the gathering of the government’s approach and focus on the tourism sector. “I have actually come to this event not as a minister but as a consumer. I am convinced that in an emerging India, tourism is part of the Indian ethos. As we touch the heights of glory, tourism will play an important role,” Khurshid said. Subodh Kant Sahay, who inaugurated the mart, made his maiden public speech after assuming the office of the tourism minister last month. He pointed broadly at three key issues under the new dispensation in the days see the presence to come. “SATTE is a wonderful
The Union minister for Tourism, Subodh Kant Sahay; the Water Resources minister, Salman Khurshid and the J&K Tourism minister, Nawang Rigzin Zora, pose with folk dancers from Kashmir.
B2B platform and I of representatives of so many countries. We do need closer cooperation with other countries to promote tourism. South Asian countries still have a long way to go as the region receives less than one percent of the global traffic.” He also emphaised that it was important to have responsible quotients in the future growth of tourism businesses. “While looking at tourism growth, we must not ignore the need to bring in the regime for honourable, safe and secure tourism. We have wonder full institutions and we can do it,” he advocated. He emphasised that the tourism sector provided a plethora of opportunities for investors and, therefore, investment avenues needed to be presented effectively by all the stakeholders in the Indian tourism business.
The vote of thanks at the dazzling inaugural session was presented by industry veteran Subhash Goyal. While clearly stating that the government needed to urgently look into serious bottlenecks like visas on arrival, he recalled SATTE’s evolution 18 years ago and the way it has transformed into a major platform for the promotion of Indian tourism. “18 years ago some of us joined hands. The idea was very sketchy – to do something to promote tourism. Since then, however, the event has taken giant strides. It has, in fact, become a revolution. The presence of participants from all over the planet here proves it,” he stated summing up the inaugural session.