What do Indian travelers usually look for in a destination, what are their needs and expectations when it comes to Seychelles and what can be done to further develop the market? The Seychelles Tourism Board, local and Indian trade partners were recently given the opportunity to ponder on these questions in a half-day seminar dubbed ‘The Indian Traveler.’
The seminar was held at the Avani Seychelles Barbarons Resort and Spa on Friday 30th June. India is still a relatively new market for the islands whose bulk of visitors originate from Europe. STB’s efforts really started 4 years ago, with the appointment of its representation office, based in Mumbai.
2016 was a great year for the Indian market with total arrivals amounting to 10,916, which represented an 88 percent increase over 2015 figures, finishing the year as the 10th largest source market for Seychelles. From January to 2nd July 2017, a total of 6,653 visitors from India have disembarked in Seychelles compared to 5,680 during the same period in 2016 representing an increase of 17 percent. With great accessibility; enjoying 5 direct flights a week from Mumbai, Seychelles is however yet to see the desired growth on this market.
One of the guest speakers at the seminar, Jai Bhulwalaand, the founder of a Mumbai-based travel agent — Holidays Box gave an overview of the typical Indian traveler.
“Seychelles is new in this market and the Indians are very different to Europeans, Indians are a lot about customized features and shorter stays, very geared on value for money options,” he said.
Mr. Bhulwalaand said that Seychelles has it all but just needs to be packaged and delivered in a way that would be even more appealing to the Indian visitors.
“There’s a very positive trend in bookings to come to Seychelles, and this is being boosted by more road shows where representatives can come and gain exposure for their own experience and to promote Seychelles,” he added.
After directing efforts at promoting honeymoon, family, adventure, eco-tourism, small groups, wellness and spa holidays in Seychelles among Indian travelers, the STB more recently started to focus on India’s destination wedding segment. And during the seminar it was confirmed that Seychelles’ Indian market definitely has potential for further growth, especially within the honeymoon and wedding segment.
Mr. Parthip Tyagarajan, the founder of weddingsutra.com, a popular online platform already promoting Seychelles as a wedding destination, noted that there are several opportunities to tap into considering the various segments involved in an Indian wedding.
“There are several stages in an Indian wedding, and Seychelles may be ideal as the proposal destination, as well as the pre-wedding photoshoot and/or the family moon which is where the family comes to relax after the wedding,” said Mr. Tyagarajan.
While the wedding segment remains the main focus, it was agreed that there was a need to ensure that all potential Indian travelers are given the opportunity to hear about the Seychelles islands and its products.
Ms. Lubaina Sheerazi the chief operating officer at Mumbai-based Blue Square Consultants, which represents the STB in India said many of the almost 22,000 tourists that have visited Seychelles over the past three years, have been involved in word of mouth publicity, leading to increasing interests in the destination. She added that there is a need to build on this advantage to further increase the visitor numbers.
Going further, Mr. Ashutosh Mehere the chief operating officer of Alliances at Cox & Kings, one of the oldest travel company headquartered in India urged the STB and local trade partners to find ways to ensure that there are more local goods available as well as more activities on which the Indians can spend as they love to splurge on extras.
Air Seychelles’ head of marketing, loyalty and guest affairs Ms. Sabrina Agathine – also a guest speaker at the seminar – spoke about the airline’s connection to Indian – highlighting the 5 weekly flights from Mumbai to the Seychelles and its code share with Jet Airways to other destinations in India. Ms Agathine also elaborated on Air Seychelles’ short-term objectives to benchmark itself against competing airlines and destinations when it comes to the Indian market.
In her introductory remarks at the event, the Chief Executive of the STB, Mrs. Sherin Francis highlighted the fact that India being just a three-hour flight away stands as a prime destination for Seychelles, adding that that the STB would like to see increased tailor-made efforts to ensure that Indian travelers enjoy a wonderful experience in the Seychelles.
“It is an opportunity right there and then, ready for us to tap into. We just need to understand their requirements, and to recognize what makes them tick,” said Mrs. Francis.
At the end of the seminar, Mrs. Francis also called on stakeholders to invest in the little things rather than restructuring their business model around the Indian market.
“A small effort goes a long way and with the Indian market it’s important that what is on offer in a specific package is made available, although they might not use it during their stay,” she added.
It is important to note that with over 62 million passport holders who are potential travelers, India has emerged as the world’s second fastest growing outbound market after China in terms of visitor numbers.