I don't want to call myself an expert. Experts seem to be popping up on every conceivable topic at the moment. But I do have experience of the market I am most interested in for British tourism - and I have personal insight.
Tourism from India to Britain has grown from 205,000 visits in 2002 to 415,000 in 2016. That's modest growth. In 2017 there were, 562,000 Indian visits to Britain: around 35% growth in a year. * They stayed 10.4 million nights and spent £453 million.*
The potential market for outbound tourism from India is growing exponentially as more Indians become affluent enough to consider trips to Europe. Indian visitors stay longer in Britain than Chinese visitors and they spend more on 'non-shopping' items. They have a more diverse set of motivations and expectations than other markets with a refreshingly open approach to choosing experiences.
Have I sold it yet? Read on. . .
A couple of years ago, while I was working for a cultural attraction, I travelled to India on a 'roadshow', visiting five cities in 10 days, meeting literally hundreds of travel agents and dozens of tour operators.
And here's the interesting thing I found out: The tour operators acknowledged that the travel agents were my key contacts.
Although digital travel planning and booking is taking hold of the Indian domestic and business market, travel agents still play the most significant role in international leisure travel. Face to face interaction between agent and client is key. Agents are often credit brokers, so they book the holiday and organise credit to cover the cost meaning they get paid in full by the credit provider and get an arrangement fee.
Stay at first class hotels in every city
Profit from Indian visitors
So if you want to profit from inbound Indian visitors, you need to influence the influencers. Travel agents advise on and specify itineraries, operators book what they are told to book.
It's like the difference between architects and builders.
I have recently agreed a partnership with the organisers of Outbound Travel Roadshow India to bring British tourism organisations on the roadshow. It's hard work and you will be competing with other European businesses (the Swiss are very strong on OTR India), but the returns are tangible and quick to materialise.
There are places available on the February Roadshow which visits Mumbai, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Delhi. All internal flights, transfers and (excellent) accommodation are included in the price. You just need to get yourself to the first city.
But first you need to contact me so I can tell you more about the roadshow and the package of benefits that I have negotiated for British participants.
P.S. A postscript if you have got time to read it:
A month or so after I got back from India, I was sitting at my desk one day, when the ticket office phoned. They said that there was a family there asking for 'Mr Paul'. I rushed over to meet them.
It was a cross-generational Indian family of nine whose travel agent had mentioned me by name when recommending the attraction for inclusion in the itinerary. They wanted to thank me personally for what had turned out to be an emotional (if not spiritual) experience.
'Aaaah - that's nice', I hear you say. 'But what does it prove?'
On its own, nothing except that these were exceptionally nice people. In the context of it being one of 138** similar personal messages and requests that season, it's significant. And think how many Indian parties DIDN'T ask for me by name!
Add to that the start of series bookings for Indian groups from a couple of UK-based ground handlers who specialise in Indian groups and more requests for ad-hoc bookings from some of the big wholesalers and it adds up to excellent ROI. Extend the effect for a few years before the market needs to be re-informed and it's extremely healthy.
*Visit Britain figures
**I'm sad to say I couldn't thank them all for coming, but we put a procedure in place to make them feel loved.