Mahendra Vakharia, president, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) speaks about the association’s future agenda and its upcoming convention in Cape Town.
As OTOAI president, what is your vision for the association?
My vision for OTOAI is to increase the membership of the association/create meaningful and updated training seminars and workshops for the members/create platform to exchange ideas and discuss challenges faced by the industry in general and some member in particular/bring the Gen Next to the forefront and mentor them to take this beautiful industry forward.
What is the one pressing issue that you wish to address and resolve for your members?
Help them to start believing in their own ability, update their knowledge on regular basis, give the Tier II and III city members a platform to be exposed to
international partners /DMCs/tourism boards and not consider the OTA/Internet as a big demon that is not compatible. I will also try and bring to the notice of the government the one sided rules against the Indian tour operator (by insisting on Pan Card with every remittance made out of India) in comparision to a foreign OTA operating in India, which pays no GST/Income Tax and generates no employment, defeating the Make in India policy of the government.
What are the challenges that India based tour operators are facing?
India based tour operators – compliance of documents for remittance (latest being to submit Pan Card of each passenger on whose behalf we are remitting funds out of India) and extra expenses towards completing each remittance/mushrooming of unprofessional and non knowledgeable operators who are lending a bad name to the industry overall, etc.
What are the primary highlights of the forthcoming OTOAI convention?
The theme for the convention is ‘Digitalisation – Way Forward’, so the business sessions and speakers are all aligned to give their inputs and discuss on this.
Can you throw some light on the convention and the partnership with South African Tourism?
This is the fourth convention of OTOAI after successfully having completed conventions in Manila, Bali and Ras Al Khaimah. This time we decided to go further away to one of the most beautiful continents – Africa. We could not have timed it better as this year is being celebrated as the Centenary Birth Celebrations of an inspiration – Nelson Mandela. Bunny Bhoola of African Link Travel, is the main DMC partner based out of South Africa who is managing the entire arrangements for the convention including the pre/post tours. Of course we are very thankful to the excellent support received from the South African Convention Bureau and South African Tourism.
What is the take home for the delegates from the convention?
An opportunity to understand the the big word – “ DIGITALISATION “ and how an SME operator and business owner, can use the current trends and technology to increase their business profitability while easing the process of doing the business/network with B2B partners of South Africa in partner meeting workshops arranged and of course with the pre/post FAM trips to get an opportunity to see the offerings of this fabulous country so rich with culture, people, art, nature, wildlife, and the African Vibe.