5th OTOAI Convention concludes on high note in Nairobi

Biggest gathering of Indian travel trade set to boost tourism to Kenya
/ Nairobi
OTOAI Convention
5th OTOAI Convention concludes on high note in Nairobi

The 5th Convention of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) presented an ideal mix of business and pleasure for over 150 delegates from India who attended the Convention held in Nairobi (Photos: India Outbound/ Varsha Singh)

The three-day Annual Convention of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) concluded on a high note in Kenyan capital Nairobi as the largest gathering of Indian travel trade in the country in years discussed the future of travel, while also exploring the numerous attractions that Kenya holds for visitors from around the world, notably from India.
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With a wide range of experiences and discussions, ranging from wildlife and luxury experiences to intensive sessions on how to deploy Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT for promoting travel business, the 5th Convention of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) presented an ideal mix of business and pleasure for over 150 delegates from India who attended the Convention held in Nairobi.

The Convention, which included extensive exploration of wildlife wonders of Kenya, including the iconic Masai Mara National Reserve as well as Lake Nakuru National Park, is set to lead to a boom in tourism traffic from India, which is already one of the key source markets for Kenya.

OTOAI Convention

Riaz Munshi, President, OTOAI

According to OTOAI President Riaz Munshi, the Convention as well as the experiential activities were a big hit with the OTOAI delegates and he emphasised that the focus on briefing the delegates about how to integrate latest technology in their businesses was also very well received.

“The biggest takeaway for me was that we have been hearing a lot about AI and ChatGPT, but today here we have learnt about how we can utilise and optimise this technology to promote our business. So, we all appreciate this session where we have seen how ChatGPT will help us build itineraries and how you can use a combination of your mind and ChatGPT to promote your business,’’ Munshi tells India Outbound.

The OTOAI officials say that not just the content, the delegates were also enthusiastic about Kenya, the destination where the Convention was held. ‘‘It was in a very unique destination that we have chosen to hold our Convention in this time and we expected this kind of quality attendance from the Indian travel trade. The feedback that we are getting from our delegates has been very positive. And we also had very good B2B meetings that everyone attended and the response from both the sides, India and Kenya, is extremely enthusiastic in terms of outcomes of these meetings,’’ Shravan Bhalla, Vice President OTOAI and Convention Chairman tells India Outbound.

OTOAI Convention

The OTOAI officials say that not just the content, the delegates were also enthusiastic about Kenya, the destination where the Convention was held

“The market is moving towards luxury and experiential travel and Kenya is definitely fit for that. The experiences that Kenya offers are very different to those that we find elsewhere and also the quality of their hospitality is unbelievable. It is excellent here. We are here at Sarova Hotels, which is a leading hospitality group in Kenya and I am sure they will quickly see the Indian tourist traffic increase sharply after this Convention,’’ agrees Munshi.

OTOAI Joint Secretary Monia Kapoor says that while Kenya was always a popular destination for the Indian travel trade, the visit for the Convention and the familiarisation trips allowed the travel agents to experience some novelties for themselves.

‘‘We are very happy with the way things have gone. All our members turned up and participated very enthusiastically in all the sessions and the presentations on Artificial Intelligence would definitely leave many takeaways for our members as we have to now start thinking on how we can use these technologies for our business. Kenya is already there on everyone’s plans, but coming over here and meeting the Kenyan suppliers would certainly help promote tourism from India to Kenya as it would allow Kenyan Tourism Board to now project Kenya in a better way across India,’’ Kapoor tells India Outbound.

Kenya Tourism Board eyes a significant jump from India

OTOAI Convention

John Chirchir, Acting Director, Kenya Tourism Board

John Chirchir, Acting Director, Kenya Tourism Board, has welcomed the arrival of a large Indian travel trade delegation for the Convention and expects a massive jump in the Indian arrivals in Kenya next year.

“OTOAI is an important organisation and I am very happy that over 150 Indian tour operators are here in Kenya for this Convention. Since we have a good connectivity with India, the tour operators will be able to take advantage of that and demand will drive additional groups. India is a great source market for Kenya and we already have traffic from Tier I and Tier II cities. More important is that Indian travel trade knows Kenya and has had a good relationship for several years with Kenya and with this Convention, we are reconnecting and cultivating this market,’’ Chirchir, who welcomed the delegates at a welcome reception on the eve of the Convention, tells India Outbound.

He says that having experienced Kenya, the travel agents would be able to scale up their volumes for Kenya rapidly. “The fact of having Indian tour operators in Kenya and getting them to experience our products, our sustainable tourism, interact with our communities will allow them to then reflect this to the end consumer in a much better manner than Kenya Tourism Board could ever have done. They will take back these experiences, this knowledge and the things that have been highlighted to them, they will be able to create wonderful itineraries and products from these,’’ he adds.

One Above DMC bullish on Kenya & Africa beyond

OTOAI Convention

(L-R) Irshad Dadan, Director and Group CEO; Rahim Aslam, Co-Founder One Above and Vishal Somaiya, Director and Group CEO, One Above

For the Destination Management Company, One Above, which was the DMC Partner for the Convention, Kenya specifically and Africa in a more general manner are extremely promising markets.

“The leading destination for Indian travellers in Africa is South Africa and then Kenya. Other destination that is picking up is Tanzania and I believe they will do well. Also, Rwanda and Uganda are picking up in India. People who want to see gorillas have no choice but to go to Rwanda or Uganda. We are very positive on Africa and that is why we have set up our own, One Above office, here in Kenya. I am looking to double our numbers to Africa and Kenya specifically. For the Kenyan Tourism Board, I think they could see a 25 pc growth in the Indian market next year,’’ says Irshad Dadan, Director and Group CEO.

Dadan says that the market is now expanding beyond leisure as even MICE travellers find the destination fascinating. “MICE is another segment that is getting interested in exploring new destinations and Kenya and Masai Mara are definitely the destinations that have the capacity to accommodate a sizeable MICE group from India. We have ourselves been receiving MICE groups. Just recently, we did a 380-person group from India here in Masai Mara,’’ Dadan adds.

Rahim Aslam, co-founder of One Above, says that Kenya is becoming increasingly popular in India due to several factors. “The demand for Kenya in India is fantastic due to the flights, visas are easy to get as it is an online process plus the hoteliers here welcome Indian markets and I would say they are slanted towards the Indian market and even the tourism board said so,’’ Aslam tells India Outbound.

Enthused by the growing demand for Kenya and other African destinations, Aslam says his company is about to intensify its efforts to promote Africa further in the Indian market. “Post-pandemic Indian travel has become long haul and long holidays. So, we have seen people go to Europe for 15-20 days and now as One Above what we are doing is that since we have presence all over Africa, we are creating for next year a new bouquet of packages called African Holidays which we will launch in March. In these you can cover various parts of Africa like you do in Europe. It will be from 10-20 days,’’ says Aslam.

Sarova Hotels eyes bigger slice of Indian travellers

Sarova Hotels

Mita Vohra, Director of Sarova Hotels and Resorts

Sarova Hotels and Resorts, one of the leading luxury hospitality companies in Kenya, which was Hotel Partner for the OTOAI Convention, is now eyeing a larger chunk of Indian travellers.

“Indian market is extremely important and it has grown very strongly after Covid-19 as we have seen this hunger to travel in India and the feedback from the FAM trip organised during the Convention has been very positive and very encouraging for us about the prospects of further growth in the Indian market. This Convention has opened up markets way beyond our traditional source cities. I am looking to doubling my numbers from India for next year or even more than that, but inventories can be a problem as the European markets book well ahead of time, while the Indian market is always at the last minute, so that can be an issue,’’ Mita Vohra, Director of Sarova Hotels and Resorts, tells India Outbound.

Vohra adds that not just the OTOAI delegates, but even the Kenyan exhibitors participating in the Convention were extremely satisfied with the outcome of their meetings and the overall event.

“The Kenyan exhibitors were very happy with their engagements with the Indian travel agents. In fact, they wanted much more time to discuss the business! They were happy to meet the agents from all across India and going beyond the traditional cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, and going to various cities in the north like Lucknow and of course a large delegation from Delhi, which is an important source market and the Indian agents are very open and engaging with their Kenyan counterparts. This Convention will be a significant boost to tourism in Kenya and I have been flooded with messages from all over Kenya about this Convention,’’ adds Vohra.

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