Category Archives: Tourism

Interview with Medha Sampat, Country Head of South African Tourism

Medha Sampat has been the Country Head of South African Tourism in India for over a year. She shares with our readers why South Africa must be on your wishlist of must-visit destinations for sports holidays as well as for unique experiences.

How long have you been the Country Manager for South Africa Tourism and how has tourism to South Africa grown during your tenure?

In 2009, I was appointed as the Country Manager of South African Tourism for the India portfolio. India has always been an important market for South African Tourism. Initially we had aligned our promotional strategies to leverage events around fashion, food and wine to lure the Indian traveller. However, we soon identified Bollywood and sports as important drivers for tourism growth. With the support of the SAT team in India and South Africa, we defined our potential audience and reached out to them with targeted marketing tools in order to create awareness and excitement about the destination.

A smart combination of promotions, advertising and media-related activities, especially during the IPL tournament in South Africa, ensured that our audiences were sufficiently motivated, which further enhanced tourist arrivals to South Africa. With successful marketing and positioning strategies in India, we have seen a growth of 17.5%, with total tourist arrival of 61007 till December 2009. With the momentum now firmly in place, we are sure to carry through this growth curve till the end of the fiscal term.

What is the role of SA Tourism office and how do you go about creating awareness of South Africa amongst members of travel trade as well as potential travellers in general?

We at SA Tourism, play a pivotal role in opening new avenues to package South Africa in a unique format that can be used by tour operators to familiarize themselves on the destination. We have come a long way determining our priorities with regards to markets, based on size and growth potential. Our biggest strength when talking about South Africa to the Indian traveller is a thorough knowledge and understanding of their needs, requirements and travel patterns. We have been promoting our product by various activities with an aim to approach the right market and effectively convey the messages.

In India, leisure products travel through a complex network of intermediaries before reaching the end consumer. There are over 28000 tour operators and travel agencies distributed across India and they are an important group where awareness and education on the potential of the destination has to be impressed. Activities have to be conducted to reach out to the Indian travel-trade industry, provide impetus to existing operators and facilitate partnerships and synergies between Indian operators and their South African counterparts. Realizing this need, we set out to plan our activities for the year, and put in place goals to be achieved. Our calendar of events includes multi-city Roadshows, Incountry Famils, fam- trips, consumer promotions among many other exciting initiatives. Trade-based activities such as these help in expanding the operators’ base, increasing visibility and enhancing understanding of the destination.

What is the estimated growth you envisage out of India in 2010-11 as South Africa will be hosting two major sporting events later this year: the FIFA World Cup and the T20 Champions League?

South Africans’ passion for sport, its world class venues, top international events and well developed infrastructure combine to make the country a huge draw-card for sports fans. Sporting events like cricket and football help showcase our wonderful tourist attractions to billions of captive fans worldwide. They work to cement South Africa’s position as a premier sporting destination, apart from bringing in millions of dollars through the hospitality, travel and tourism sectors. Moreover, the indirect spin-offs from improved perceptions abroad could have an even greater, longer-lasting impact, not only on South Africa and its development but on the continent as a whole.

The contribution of sports tourism to the South African economy is estimated to be approximately ZAR 6 billion annually. The 2010 FIFA World Cup will result in anticipated injection of about ZAR 21.3 billion into the South African economy. We are confident of reaching our target arrivals of 65862 from India for 2010-11 and we hope that the mega sporting bonanza and the subsequent T20 Champions League alongwith similar such sporting events will encourage the Indian traveller to return time and again with family and friends to our beautiful Rainbow Nation.

How has Bollywood and sporting events helped enhance Brand South Africa amongst the Indian visitors?

Bollywood and sports, namely cricket and football have played a huge role in enhancing the visibility quotient that South Africa boasts of today in the Indian market. Sporting events like the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup in 2007, the IPL in 2009 and the ICC Champions Trophy 2009 have helped showcase the country’s scenic locales amidst the sporting action that gripped the world. Playing host to events of such great magnitude has also brought to light South Africa’s proficiency to host world class events.

Films, being such a mass culture in India help reach out to a wider audience and expand the target group – family, honeymoon and MICE segment. With Indian tourists being highly influenced by films and entertainment, South Africa has in its recent years attracted a lot of tourists with Bollywood movies. The country’s locales have benefited enormously from the use of its streets, landmarks and colorful locations.  In the recent past, we have seen some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters set and shot extensively in South Africa. Clearly, Bollywood and sports have resulted in unprecedented coverage and awareness for brand South Africa.

What according to you is the minimum number of days one should spend to get a glimpse of South Africa, especially the first time traveller?

The average stay of an Indian tourist in South Africa is around 10 days, depending on the type of holiday experience that one is looking for, where one can choose amongst the major hot spots – Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Wildlife safaris can be experienced across South Africa which is an experience by itself and a huge drawcard for Indian travellers.

Which are the Big 5 attractions that should be included for a visit to South Africa?

South Africa is a mesmerizing country with endless enchanting views but the big five attractions that should be included on a South African sojourn, should be:

The charismatic Table Mountain which is what the Western Cape Province is renowned for. Any person, who lays eyes on it is sure to fall for its powerful spell.

Second would be the Garden Route – Three of South Africa’s top hikes take place here – the Otter Trail, the Tsitsikama and Dolphin trails. It is a paradise for eco-lovers, bird watchers and solitude seekers.

Of course, who can forget the famous Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town which is a real thrill.

The Cradle of Humankind in the Gauteng province comprising a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossilized remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids tell a story of their own.

The fifth big attraction is the Kruger National Park with its abundant wildlife – hearing the roar of a lion out in the wild is a truly exhilarating experience!

What are the initiatives  taken by SA Tourism to educate the travel trade on Brand South Africa?

We have organized several activities in the past to expand our trade network here in India. Trade events like roadshows, incountry famils, the internationally renowned annual trade convention, Indaba amongst others have helped build strategic partnerships with our Indian trade partners. We have also introduced the Food Map along with our Adventure and Luxury Style Guides that have been effective blueprints for travel trade to understand South Africa’s offerings and help Indian travellers navigate better during their stay in South Africa. Our new training programme, “Learn South Africa”, will be implemented in 12 cities across India that will help travel industry representatives get a better understanding of South Africa as a destination and all its tourist attractions. The programme aims to help travel trade promote, plan and organise quality holidays to suit client requirements. This is a first for any tourism board, and we are proud to be setting the benchmarks for the industry.

There are several myths and apprehensions about South Africa – distance, safety, South Africa offers only wildlife. How do you plan to address these issues?

South Africa is as safe as any other destination in the world, provided you take some normal precautions like you would anywhere else as a tourist. Simply stay alert and be aware of what is going on around you and you will most likely enjoy a perfectly safe holiday. As for the rest of the misconceptions, whilst there is a continuous process of education that we undertake with the trade, who can deny that seeing is believing!

What according to you are the must-visit experiences to be included for visitors to South Africa on:

Honeymoon – South Africa is a Honeymooners haven and it would be incomplete with out paying a tribute to Cape Town and Cape Peninsula well known for world-class shopping, nightlife and some exquisite food and wine. One can enjoy a romantic candle light dinner at Robben Island, Table Mountain or the V & A Waterfront, an exceptionally romantic outing that will ensure you have a wonderful time with your spouse. Another interesting place to discover is Hermanus, where couples can traverse the magnificent Walker Bay that provides nature lovers with an extraordinary opportunity to explore the wonders of the Cape’s beautiful flora and fascinating coastal and marine life.

Adventure – Adventure activities in the Drakensberg region are sure to leave you gasping which include hiking trails, horse trails and safaris, fly fishing, white water rafting and rock climbing to mention but a few. Furthermore the Hot air ballooning in Mpumalanga and Bungy Jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge is sure to suffice your appetite for adventure. And there’s many more unique activities on offer for the adventure-seeker – the shark-cage diving offering fascinating encounters with the Great White Shark; the zip-line and the canopy tour to name just a few.

Family break – A shopping spree at The Gateway Mall (Durban), situated in Umhlanga, is reputed to be the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. It has a wide variety of shops, a supermarket, over 30 restaurants and some unusual entertainment facilities. Fourways Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg is famous for fashion and also offers a number of elite jewellers with a choice of selected diamond and gold jewellery. If your family enjoys music, a visit to South Africa’s renowned musical show, Umoja will enthrall and captivate your heartbeats. Of course, the call of the wildlife during a game drive safari in the Kruger National Park is enjoyed by the young and old alike, and makes for a perfect family outing.

Special interests such as wine and golf – Combine your love of safari and your passion for golf at the savannah courses. And a glass of wine to celebrate a golf game will unquestionably be soothing to your soul. For which the Cape Winelands are the most scenic in the world with Pinotage and Hanepoort being made from specially cultivated grapes. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc (steen) and Chardonnay are the buzz at the moment in South Africa and there’s plenty of options to enjoy these gourmet luxuries.

What according to you are the top 3 favourite teams for the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

There is a spirit of FIFA that is unmatched anywhere in the world. While Brazil, Italy and France are the hot favourites, all eyes are on the home team, Bafana Bafana this FIFA season to keep the trophy back home. All the countries have come together to showcase their best teams on a common platform. As the vuvuzelas (see photo below) herald the kick-off, we invite the world to bring on the games!

Which are the major sporting events and Bollywood shoots lined up for the future after the FIFA World Cup?

On cricket action, the T20 Champions League is scheduled to take place in South Africa in September this year. Also, the Indian team will tour South Africa in October-November to add to the cricket buzz. As for other sporting events, there is plenty more that keeps happening such as the ATP South African Open which see participating from the top stars of Indian tennis. On Bollywood, it would be difficult to pin down which movies are being shot there during the course of the year. But there is plenty of star-candy at any time in South Africa!

Indians are becoming more discerning as travellers. Which are some of the luxury and exclusive tourism products that one can experience only in South Africa?

Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world’s most unique resort, the internationally acclaimed Sun City. The resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy where your every desire is met. Apart from this if one wants to submit his mind and body for a complete revitalization process, then luxury spas in South Africa are rejuvenating havens to unwind. Karkloof Spa in Masunduzi, Lapologa in Pretoria and Mangwanani Private African Day Spa in Gauteng are just a few of the luxury doorways to experience eternal bliss. Many of our game lodges in the heart of the Kruger National Park like the Singita Game Reserve, the Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi offer luxury unlimited. And these, are but a few that I mention!

Kruger National Park has become synonymous with the legendary Game Drives. What is it that makes a Game Drive in Kruger National Park so special and unique?

In a Kruger National Park safari you will be in awe with the plenty of Big Five sightings. At Kruger, one can experience South Africa’s wilderness in a self-drive safari, or relax and take in the sights on a guided wildlife tour, explore the bush on foot, stay in an exquisite tented camp or spend the night at a luxury lodge. A safari in Kruger National Park not only provides guests with the opportunity to encounter the wild but also allows for cultural interaction. The professional guides help you to identify the animals that grope in the dark and ensure that you will not miss the best game sightings. South Africa’s safari game lodges offer an unbeatable combination of game drives, walks with skilled trackers, and exclusive accommodation in pristine natural surroundings.

Which is your preferred destination in South Africa and what are the emerging places to visit for the Indian traveller?

As a travel destination, South Africa is uniquely placed because it offers something for everyone.

Depending on the type of holiday experience that one wants, one can go to the place of one’s choice in South Africa. If one wishes to experience a serene beach holiday, KwaZulu-Natal is the place to be, because of its favorable climate. Cape Town and Garden Route beckons the Indian traveller to get a glimpse of the scenic beauty. To experience wildlife and get lost in the ‘Land of Bushes’, one can visit the Limpopo Province or Mpumalanga and stay in one of the game reserves to experience the breathtaking safari. If night clubbing and culture is on one’s itinerary, then there is no better place than Johannesburg.

While Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are among the top favourites in the globetrotter’s wish-list, other places in the Northwest province and Eastern Cape are also being explored.

What is your opinion of Namaste South Africa ( – a dedicated online platform for the Indian traveller to South Africa?

It is an interesting website, packed with lots of information and exciting visuals.

Lastly, your message to readers:

For all those sports enthusiasts, who want to experience an unforgettable adventure in the wild and not lose an opportunity of a lifetime, get ready with your backpacks and head to South Africa – a country where “It’s Possible!”

Interview with N. Sevgi Boz, Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey

N. SEVGI BOZ State Culture and Tourism Counsellor of Turkey shares with us her views on Turkey promotion in India.

How long have you been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor in India and how has tourism to Turkey grown during this period?

I have been in India since the beginning of 2008. We started a new office and I had started first as the Counsellor of Culture and Tourism. India is a big market and one of the largest emerging markets for Turkey recently. India is a very special country and Turkey has a very warm and friendly relationship with India based on our diverse cultural connections. The Turkish Government realizes the importance of having a base in India and decided to open a new Culture and Tourism Office. Our office is part of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and one of the 40 offices across the globe and a part of Turkish Embassy in Delhi.

We are primarily here because of the importance of the growing Indian market and we thought that we needed to create awareness in the minds of Indian people about Turkey as a destination. We see that many Indians do not know much about Turkey beyond Istanbul which is quite a famous destination. Most Indians do not have enough information about what Turkey has to offer beyond Istanbul. We want to promote Turkey as a holiday destination. We have a holiday destination campaign which we are marketing extensively in India. We are participating in expos, travel and trade fairs and trying to reach the travel agents and the end consumers as well.  We are also organizing Familiarization trips as well as training workshops.

Where in India do you actively promote Turkey?

Initially, we conducted a workshop covering five important cities of India: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. There were almost 16 travel companies that came from Turkey to participate in this workshop followed by another 14 companies and we had 10 travel companies participating in the TTF/OTM this year.

We want people to catch up with the most important holiday period during April and May. It is the Tulip season as well. For the last two years we are constantly encouraging Indian writers and media persons to write about Turkey. We are inviting them to Turkey so they can have a personal and firsthand experience. We have allocated funds to arrange trips of Indian travel writers. As a Turkish national, I know Turkey well but if people hear firsthand experiences from an Indian traveller then the whole perspective changes. Maybe our experiences vary from the Indians, so if they see, hear and read something from Indian writers then they can relate to it better.

One of the best ways to promote a destination is via cinema. Are you encouraging Indian movies to be shot on location in Turkey?

From the beginning we have been encouraging films to be shot in Turkey as we know Bollywood is the largest film producing industry in the world. Bollywood movies have an audience spread across the world. Not only Indians but many other foreign nationals also take keen interest in watching Bollywood films. We know the importance of Bollywood. We are very eager to support Indian film makers to come and shoot in Turkey. We are also looking forward to having an Indian celebrity as our brand ambassador that should follow in a span of time.

What are the special activities to be held in Istanbul as it has been selected to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010?

Istanbul is the gateway city of Turkey and one of the most famous destinations. It has also been declared to be a European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the European Union. Throughout the year there will be many festivals and art exhibitions. For example, the Tulip is the symbol of Istanbul and the Minister of Istanbul has decided to decorate Istanbul with tulips. It is the only city in the entire world that is based in two continents, Asia and Europe. Napoleon once said “That if ever the World has to have one single Capital then it has to be Istanbul.” It is also called the melting pot of 3 continents.

How many visitors are travelling to Turkey each year from India?

In 2009, we did not reach the expected number of Indian visitors because of the economic crisis. We received approximately 55000 visitors from India last year.  In 2007, it was 45000. That means an increase of 10000 people in 2 years. These numbers are good but not enough. Big numbers are expected in 2010 and we are promoting Turkey exclusively and aggressively to the Indian market and tapping the great potential of Indian travellers. We see everything settled for the travel industry between India and Turkey this year.

Overall, how many tourists visit Turkey from all over the world?

Turkey receives more than 27 million visitors from across the globe every year. There are nearly 5 million people traveling from Germany followed by Russia with nearly 3 million. Then we have a large number of people traveling from England, Netherland and France.  The entire European market is very important for us.

Now that there are direct and daily flights to Turkey from Delhi and Mumbai and with the new Consulate General opened in Mumbai, do you see forthcoming remarkable growth?

We are definitely going to see a remarkable growth this year. All participants in travel expos and travel fairs have given us very positive feedback as they are expecting a lot more people to visit Turkey this year. All those who have participated in these events are very hopeful and I look forward to a successful year ahead for the Turkish tour operators, our Indian partners and us at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. We are expecting the number of Indian visitors to reach 100000. All I can say is that Turkey is ready.

For a first time traveller, what is the recommended minimum number of days to get a good glimpse of Turkey?

We are promoting Turkey as a traditional, historical, and cultural destination which also emphasizes adventure, sport activities, hospitality, shopping opportunities, golf, leisure and family activities and honeymoon options.

To even begin experiencing Turkey in its fullest, you would require a minimum of a month. Unfortunately, that is not possible for every traveller.

Istanbul is the gateway city and no trip can be started without a visit to Istanbul. We recommend Indian travellers a minimum of 3 days in Istanbul and then they can combine the Western part of Turkey. We strongly recommend exploring beyond Istanbul beginning with Cappadocia and the Aegean coast and the Mediterranean Coast. We have noticed however that Indian travellers are not as attracted to seaside holidays as Europeans. That trend is slowly changing and Turkey’s coasts are certainly worth a visit. Thus Istanbul and Cappadocia would be a good combination or Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya or Istanbul, Aegean Coast and Antalya. A minimum of 10 days is a must so that you can see the major attractions in the Western part of Turkey.

After having spent two years in India, what is your opinion of India as a tourism destination?

India is a fantastic and vibrant country. Before coming here, it was my dream to visit India as a tourist. Fortunately, now I am appointed as its Culture and Tourism Counsellor for Turkey.

Since the beginning I have been trying to explore as much of India as possible.  So far, we have been able to visit Delhi, Shimla, Jaipur, Bangalore, Chennai and of course Agra which is the Mecca for tourists, and needless to say Mumbai.

As a family, I would like to visit Kerala for its backwaters, Jammu and Kashmir to experience the breathtaking landscapes, South India to visit the temples and national parks, and also go up north to Haridwar and Mussoorie. India has lots of attractions to offer and if time permits we will try to discover more before going back to Turkey.

What is your opinion on Namaste Turkey as a concept to promote Turkish tourism to Indian travellers?

Namaste Turkey ( is a warm and welcoming concept. It is very informative and useful for the Indian traveller to Turkey. The platform establishes good relations between India and Turkey and I appreciate the efforts of Namaste Turkey in promoting tourism exchange between our two countries.  I wish the team of Namaste Turkey the very best.

Lastly, what is your message to Indian travellers visiting Turkey this year?

I would like to invite all Indians to Turkey. This year is especially significant as Istanbul has been chosen to be a European Capital of Culture. However there is much more to Turkey than Istanbul so I would also recommend visiting places beyond Istanbul such as Kusadasi, Antalya and Cappadocia. I believe that Turkey will never let its guests down.

Interview with Adel El Masry, Director of Egyptian Tourism Authority in Mumbai

From honeymoons to family resorts to shopping opportunities, Mr. Masry shares with us why Egypt is the ideal destination for the Indian traveller.

As the new Director of the Egyptian Tourism Authority in Mumbai, what are your plans for the Indian market in 2010?

My plan for the Indian market is to encourage free access between tour operators, media and the airlines. We have a total coverage strategy to develop more connections and cooperation between them.

As the tourism director I would like to establish Egypt as a destination for honeymooners as well as a new destination for golf, diving, wellness, spa, desert-trekking and many other special interest areas. I realize culture is the primary interest but I would like to promote Egypt in other ways too. In fact, Egypt recently won an award for being the most exotic destination. I am pleased that Egypt is recognized for its vast variety of activities.

Of course, I would also like to thank my predecessor and colleague, Magdi Selim, for his efforts and achievements in promoting Egypt in India and we look forward to continuing this momentum.

How many Indians visit Egypt annually and what is the estimated number of visitors in the forthcoming year?

Approximately 85000 Indians travel to Egypt annually. The numbers have certainly been increasing with each passing year and we are aiming for an increase of 20 percent in the forthcoming year with over 100000 visitor arrivals from India. The historical ties between the two countries and the cultural synergy are driving tourist arrivals from India. The outbound flow from India to Egypt has doubled over the last three years because of several reasons. Most importantly, Egypt caters to the Indian taste in terms of culture, religion, entertainment and shopping experiences. Even during the recent economic decline, tourism from India continued to grow. We find this very encouraging and India is one of our highest priorities.

Before coming to India, you were in France as Director of the Egyptian Tourism Authority. What has been your experience of both countries?

My experience in France was very good. France is certainly different from India. Europeans have a different culture and concept of travel so we had to employ a different strategy. I shall try to adopt similar overall strategies but would also like to add a few more things as far as India is concerned. Indians are very warm-hearted people who are just beginning to realize the wealth of global tourism opportunities available so a unique approach has been designed for them. When I arrived in India, I felt like I was at home. My first impression was that I came from Egypt to find another Egypt. The hospitality and warm-heartedness of India is very similar to Egypt.

Which are the primary areas that you plan to focus on in the Indian market?

We plan to develop Egypt as an ideal destination for honeymooners. For example, the Nile Cruise would be a very romantic experience. Honeymooners and families can also visit the Red Sea – especially destinations such as Sharm el-Sheikh. There are many more places which are very beautiful such as the popular resort town of Hurghada or one of the numerous Oases. We want to develop Egypt as a beautiful destination in the minds of people.

Which are some of the new holiday options in Egypt that you would recommend besides cultural activities and Cairo?

Although culture and history may be the primary attractions as far as Egypt is concerned, a place like Marsa Alam – the desert oasis – is a beautiful place to spend some time. It offers a wonderful and relaxing experience. For first time travellers, it is a great option in addition to the cultural and historical activities. There is also the option of visiting Luxor after a Nile cruise. Alexandria, the Pearl of the Mediterranean Sea, is another good option. Mersa Matruh is one of the main Egyptian tourist centres and serves as a getaway resort for Europeans and Cairenes to flee the capital in the sweltering summer months. It is a virgin destination and hence we plan to promote it extensively. On the Red Sea, we also have Nuweiba which has a great potential for tourists.

The Oasis is a beautiful place and a relatively new destination. Many archaeologists know these areas well. Oases include Bahariya, El Dakhla, Farafra, El Kharga and Siwa. Egypt has splendid white deserts for people who like to trek and are looking for adventure. We have many spa and wellness destinations for people wanting to treat various ailments such as rheumatism and psoriasis. In fact, Egypt is very well known for rich medicines and alternative therapies.

As many Indians like to combine two or more countries when travelling, you can also visit neighbouring destinations like Turkey, Jordan or Dubai when visiting Egypt because of the close proximity. Egypt is an ideal gateway point to Asia, Africa and even Europe.

What are the shopping opportunities in Egypt?

Egypt is a wonderland of shopping opportunities. There are famous bazaars such as Khan el-Khalili in Cairo but there are also many extraordinary stores and marketplaces scattered throughout the country. Cairo presents a huge variety of everything from antiques to fine clothing and jewellry.  Spices, utensils and Coptic cloth items are also a rage. Some products such as alabaster are worth buying in Luxor. The bazaars of Luxor are renowned for perfumes, bed sheets, wall hangings, embroidered cushion covers, carpets and other exquisite items. Aswan is the best place to buy gold jewellry and spices. To buy handcrafted works of Egyptian artisans, the Souk al Fustat in Cairo is the place to visit. Alexandria is well known for leather, papyrus painting and many artifacts. The shopping opportunities that Egypt has to offer are limitless.

What is the concept behind the new brand campaign of the Egyptian Tourism Authority?

The new brand campaign, logo and slogan signify that Egypt is not only the origin of a great civilization that helped in shaping universal culture but, as a tourist destination, it is the source of new experiences, rich personal inspiration and has outstanding stories to tell.

Egypt is the world’s “source” – or in Arabic, Um al Dunia. Many of the world’s civilizations have taken something from Egypt, and Egypt continues to inspire them today. The new slogan – Egypt, where it all begins – captures this essence of the country. “Egypt”, the logo, needs no introduction and explanation. It is the most well known word around the world, and a brand in itself. It aptly symbolizes the country in all its depth. The campaign brings alive the rarity and exotica, the mystique and the modern of this fabled land that offers the widest diversification of tourism all in one place – from the cultural and historical tourism of its world famous monuments, to marine tourism of its delightful deep seas, lagoons and oases; from water sports  and adventures of snorkeling, windsurfing and diving, to medical and therapeutic relaxation at spas and its natural springs; from desert tourism of its white and gold sands, to sports tourism with golfing, from MICE and business tourism with bustling nightlife, to wedding and honeymoon tourism with a cruise on its longest river Nile.

How many days should a first-time traveller spend in Egypt and why should Egypt be a preferred destination for 2010?

Egypt is a vast country and there is much to see and experience. There is a mixture of everything from deserts to beaches to pilgrimage sites to modern cities like Cairo. There is so much that Egypt has to offer the Indian traveller that the first visit has to be a minimum of 10 nights.

We are developing Egypt as a tourist destination and it is rapidly changing everyday so every visit will be full of new experiences. I would advise those who plan to visit Egypt in 2010 to visit as many times as possible in the year. We would be more than glad to offer our hospitality to the warm-hearted Indians. I believe India is in the heart of Egyptian people and Egypt is in the heart of Indians.

Interview with Joerg P. Krebs, Director of Switzerland Tourism for Gulf Countries, Russia, Nordic Countries, the Czech Republic, Poland and India

Mr. Krebs shares with us why Switzerland should be the preferred holiday destination in 2010

How have tourism arrivals to Switzerland been during 2009? What are the expectations for the current year from India and the various markets that you are responsible for as Director for Switzerland Tourism?

For 2009 we had a small loss in terms of our worldwide market growth. We compare it with 2008 which was the best year ever in the tourism history of Switzerland. Due to the international financial crisis and various consequences for the international travel industry, an overall loss of 5% will be the result.  But it is still a very good outcome. In figures, we will attain 35.4 million overnights in our hotels. For India in the coming year, we aim to maintain the arrivals and the overnights.

India is one out of 5 strategic growth markets for Switzerland (in addition to China, Russia, Spain and the Gulf Countries).  Specifically, India is positioned 13th amongst  all our incoming foreign markets.

How many visitors from India travel to Switzerland every year and what is the expected percentage growth in the coming year?

We have achieved 140000 travellers to Switzerland and nearly 340000 overnights. We expect a slight growth of 2% for the year 2009 and have targeted a growth of 5% for 2010. My personal expectations however are even higher and, barring any international crises, I am convinced we will achieve a growth of 8%.

As India is a growing market are there any plans to have a dedicated Director for this market in the future?

We are very pleased to introduce Mr. Michael Maeder from 01 April 2010 in our Mumbai office as a Managing Director for India. Mr. Maeder has a very strong and consistent tourism career. He is the head of the Switzerland Travel Centre in London – a subsidiary of Swiss Federal Railways and Switzerland Tourism.

What is the average length of stay recommended for the first time traveller from India to Switzerland and what range of experiences can one expect during their stay?

All travellers should spend at least one week in Switzerland to even begin experiencing its uniqueness and beauty. Of course, Switzerland is a very small country but its variety and diversity is unique. If you want to have a firsthand impression of the country – of the people, of the cities, of the activities and of the international events – one should definitely stay a  minimum of one week!

How high is the frequency of repeat visitor traffic to Switzerland?

This really depends on the type of traveller and the experiences they are looking for. For example, I was in Zermatt during Christmas and I met guests who were the fourth generation visitors to the same deluxe hotel. I think no further comment is needed.

Of course, guests from overseas want to spend their vacations in different exotic destinations every year. But we do realize that we have repeat guests from all over the world. This is the magic of Switzerland: once you are here, you fall in love and you have to come back.

Which interesting regions would you recommend that will encourage visitors to increase the number of overnight stays in Switzerland?

We have regions and cities which are very well introduced to the Indian market since a long time, such as Lucerne, Titlis, Zurich, Interlaken, Bernese Oberland and Geneva. Of course we are working every year to bring more attractive destinations and cities to the Indian market. The city of Basel with the highest density of Indian restaurants as well as a large Indian community and the region of Ticino in southern Switzerland with its palms, small picturesque cities, moderate climate and the Italian way of life are just two examples. We are working on it everyday and I am certain that we still have a few aces in our hands for the near future.

Switzerland is known for its mountains, lakes and natural beauty and is a multi-cultural nation with various influences due to its diversity. What are your recommendations in terms of off-beat experiences that one can enjoy in Switzerland?

One of my favourite regions is the above-mentioned region of Ticino. I like the relaxed mentality and the great food. I like to walk and hike with absolutely no stress. Walking in this region is very relaxing and it always inspires me for marketing solutions or for new creative ideas.

Please do not think that we have snow everywhere during the year. You can always take your bathing suit and swim in one of our rivers or lakes. This is a very unique experience: swimming in one of our famous cities. My kids love it.

You can also explore the fabulous shopping opportunities. I love to shop in our cities because our cities are our main shopping malls. All top brands and even the handcrafted traditional items are within walking distance of each other. You will find me in the same stores as any other Swiss shopper or guest from abroad.

Adventure and student travel are new emerging markets. According to you, what are areas which can be offered to special interest groups of adventure and student travellers?

Switzerland has a very long tradition of student travel. Students come to study languages, economics, travel, tourism, hospitality or just for summer school. Of course, many more young people come to discover our nature. Cycling, biking, walking and hiking is very popular. You find many young people on our cycling and walking networks. Switzerland has many good offers for young people in low cost accommodation such as youth hostels and backpacker hotels as well as a new marketing offensive with the typical Swiss hotels.

What are the various innovative MICE opportunities in Switzerland for companies planning an incentive or a conference?

In brief, the answer would be mountains, mountains and mountains!  The many peaks of Switzerland have numerous offers for MICE groups. Not only are the mountain railway capacities improved almost every year, but so are the meeting facilities and special event attractions on top of mountains.

A few examples of MICE opportunities would be the roller coaster at Glacier 3000 in Les Diablerets, the Bollywood restaurant at Jungfrau at 3545 above sea level, the Dragons of Mount Pilatus near Lucerne and the “Indian Mountain” experience on Mount Titlis with a full Indian programme including Indian food and an Indian discotheque.

As Switzerland is closely associated with Bollywood, what are the new initiatives you plan to introduce in the current year to encourage Indian visitors?

As we experienced stagnancy in our overnight statistics, we have to lengthen our tour operator programmes. Fortunately, some very creative Swiss people met some very creative Indian people and the result was the new “Enchanted Journey” tour of Switzerland. This joint venture pools the Brand Institute Berne, SOTC, Switzerland Tourism and the renowned Yash Chopra with his film production company, Yash Raj Films (YRF). The goal is to bring Indian guests very close to the original scenes and locations where

Bollywood and especially YRF movies were shot in Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism is very pleased to be a branding and communication partner. We expect primarily to achieve almost 20000 additional overnights this year. But of course, we also expect that the travellers will be future tourism ambassadors for Switzerland.

Switzerland is known for its efficient public transport system. Which experiences do you recommend that will enable the Indian visitor to take back interesting memories of your country whilst experiencing the various transport systems and themed routes?

Firstly, you need to have a Swiss Pass of 4, 8, 15 days or more. With this Pass you can explore our public transport system including even the boats, streetcars and buses. So when you arrive at Zurich Airport, your train experience starts immediately. This is very unique amongst most destinations!

Secondly, of course, you should experience one of the famous Swiss mountain railways. The best way to do this is to consult the weather report, decide on which mountain experience would suit you and then have the best time of your life. Most cable cars are available with a discount if you have a Swiss Pass – some even with a 50% reduction so do check at the ticket counter.

Having signed the Schengen Agreement, how does this augur well for Indian visitors to Switzerland?

The benefits of the Schengen Agreement include one visa for all member nations. This means free travel between the Schengen countries. Switzerland is now very closely connected to the European metropolises and airport hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt and Milan.

Lastly, what is your message to readers?

I wish all readers a fantastic holiday where ever you may travel. To my travel colleagues throughout the world, I wish many old and new customers, many sales and of course, many sales to Switzerland – my home and my country. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Interview with Anthony Hayes, CEO of Tourism Queensland and Wendy Harch, Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland

Anthony Hayes – CEO of Tourism Queensland, and Wendy Harch – Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland share with us why Queensland is the perfect holiday destination for everyone.

What are your roles and responsibilities as CEO and Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland respectively?

Anthony: Our job involves anything and everything. We are responsible for marketing Queensland to the world and the rest of Australia. We work closely with the local travel industry to develop new products and look for new opportunities that perhaps have not been touched before. The Australian government provides us with a significant fund for marketing and development initiatives and we look after our shareholder by creating innovative and effective strategies to attract more visitors to Queensland. Overall, it is a very exciting and satisfying business.

Wendy: My role focuses specifically on the international market.  The objective is to bring as many international visitors into Queensland as possible. First, we have to create the awareness and accessibility through our network around the globe. We have 8 Regional Directors based in key markets that report to the head office in Brisbane.

Queensland’s top five largest international markets are New Zealand, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and China. When you look at the forecast however, India and China are the two markets chosen by economists with the strongest growth potential. Our job is to build and strengthen the right relationships to turn these forecasts into reality.

What is the potential from the Indian market and what do you expect to achieve from this visit?

Anthony: The potential is almost limitless. We’re only just beginning. There were about 125000 Indian visitors to Australia in 2009 of which about 35000 were holidaymakers. India is a significant market but it is still quite small in comparison to where it can eventually be. The huge potential for the holiday market to grow is very exciting and fortunately Queensland is the quintessential holiday state.

There is a huge opportunity for us over the long term if we strengthen the relationships today. We invite members of the tourism industry to Queensland so they can experience for themselves what we have to offer. We also bring members of the Queensland tourism industry to India to meet with agents and wholesalers. We are building good solid relationships and we are doing it together.

Anthony joined Tourism Queensland in 2005 after a long tenure with Qantas and Wendy has been with Tourism Queensland for 15 years. How has tourism to Queensland evolved during your tenure in terms of products and trends?

Anthony: Between global financial crises and flu epidemics, I don’t think I could have chosen a more challenging time to take the helm. But I think entering a tough situation like that gives you the opportunity to step back and see if the way we have always been doing things still works for us or if we need to evolve. It has given us a chance to be more creative and more aggressive and to try new things which haven’t been tried before.

For example, the Best Job in the World campaign was specifically designed to introduce the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to the world. We felt there was almost zero awareness of our islands in the international market place. People certainly know about the reef, but we felt there was a brilliant opportunity to introduce the world to our island experiences. It was a good opportunity to try something different in terms of making an impact instead of the usual line of action. The campaign hinged on the concept of a ‘big idea’ and was followed up by a series of sales campaigns. As the awareness and interest grew, the product was ready to be presented to the consumer. In the end, the campaign received over AUD 400 million worth of publicity and over 8.5 million hits on our website. I think it is safe to say that the goal of awareness was achieved in totality.

Wendy: I have always been involved in tourism. Before joining Tourism Queensland, I worked for a Japanese inbound operator on the Gold Coast. Tourism is about the destination and informing people about the variety of activities to do when visiting. We always strive to come up with new products as well as innovative ways of presenting the classic products. One thing is for sure: tourism gets into your blood and it is very hard to leave once you’ve been bitten.

What are the travel experiences available in Queensland which are different from the rest of Australia?

Wendy: The great thing about Queensland is the variety of different products available. There is truly a holiday for every type of person. Brisbane provides brilliant nightlife and shopping opportunities. Cairns is the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest which is more than 135 million years old making it the oldest rainforest in the world. In fact, it contains the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare or threatened with extinction anywhere in the world. And of course, the islands of the Great Barrier Reef undoubtedly provide the most extraordinary experiences for families, couples and adventurers.

Anthony: I don’t think Australia is just about lying on the beach and watching the sunset. Of course that experience is available in abundance, but I doubt Indians will visit Australia just to do that. I am sure they would rather experience Australian culture and share our lifestyle. It is a different way of living for a few days and that is what makes a holiday more pleasing and memorable.

What were the challenges faced by Tourism Queensland during the recent economic decline and how were they dealt with?

Anthony: We are still facing the challenges of the economic decline. It is fair to say that the market has not picked up anywhere near to where it had been previously. We are in for a challenging 6 to 12 months ahead. We need to be realistic about the financial situation and certainly also the recent negative press Australia has had in India. The relationship between India and Australia must be strengthened, especially in the face of recent tragic events.

The cultural links between India and Australia are so strong. The opportunities for a stronger relationship are obvious. Despite the challenges, we have to keep our eye on the long term goal. We know that within the next 10 years, the growth will be fantastic.

The goal is to structure ourselves today to be prepared for the future. This includes establishing our products and relationships with the travel industry, setting up training programmes for staff, developing partnership marketing with airlines and even establishing a digital strategy.

How has digital marketing played a role in increasing awareness and accessibility to Tourism Queensland and its products?

Anthony: The Best Job in the World was primarily a digital campaign which certainly got the desired message out effectively and more importantly, cost-effectively. Anyone who doesn’t think that digital marketing is the future is fooling themselves. It is a cost-effective and efficient way to spread your message. The Best Job in the World was just a simple way of saying to the world, “Hey, did you know that we have all these amazing islands in Queensland?” We are now seeing a fantastic increase in bookings to the islands because that message was shared effectively.

We will certainly continue to work with social media and other avenues of digital peer review. The effects are staggering. It would be easy for us to publish an advertisement with pictures and content chosen by us, but social media is about you experiencing something for yourself and then sharing it with your friends. It is much more genuine. If someone returns from a holiday and genuinely says that they had a fantastic time in Queensland, that has much more credibility than a traditional advertisement.

Now that you have attained a high level of consumer interest in the Islands, how do you plan to convert this into increased visits?

Anthony: After raising over AUD 400 million in publicity and receiving about 8.5 million hits on our website during the campaign, we are more than happy with the fantastic results. But if it doesn’t translate into the eventual selling of the product, the project would not be a complete success.

We have seen however that in some destinations such as Hamilton Island, sales have increased by 25% versus last year.  Some of our smaller operators have seen their sales increase by 80%. We are even finding that some of these operators are getting their first bookings from India. The numbers have been very positive in spite of it being a tough year. In 2010, we hope to reap the benefits of our planning and hard work.

Are you planning similar campaigns for other Queensland products?

Anthony: We definitely will not repeat the same concept such as the Best Job in the World Part 2. We doubt it would be as effective as the original. We have seen other people copy the concept and it didn’t work out too well for them.

Regardless, we are always working on the next ‘big idea.’ Our board has recently approved a project that we are currently laying down the foundation for. Will it be as big as the last one? We don’t know, but we have to try.

We are looking at a launch in the beginning of 2011. It may seem like the very distant future, but given the amount of work involved with these big ideas, earlier is always better.  Such projects require tremendous planning and preparation.

Tourism Queensland employs about 145 people around the world. Consequently, every one of us is a multi-tasker. And fortunately because we are a relatively small group of people, when a big idea takes off, we are flexible enough to mobilize everyone towards a common goal – which was one of the reasons for the success of the Best Job in the World campaign. If you’re on a winner, you should ride the wave.

Which are the key global markets for Tourism Queensland and what are the strategies for 2010?

Wendy: We do have our top five markets and they will continue to be very important. But we also see massive potential from other countries. The real opportunity for us is to look at the growth markets and India is certainly at the top of the list. It is very exciting for us to be here and lay the foundation for stronger relationships in the future – not just for the next 12 months, which is very important, but also for the long haul.

Anthony is also a board member of Queensland Events Corporation. What are some of the popular events taking place in Queensland?

Anthony: We wish we were hosting the IPL next year. That would be fantastic. But the majority of events taking place in Queensland are currently more suited for the domestic market than the global or Indian markets. One of the biggest events this year is the Ashes cricket tournament where we expect over 20000 people to visit Brisbane, many of them from England. It is one of the best examples of how an event can complement tourism. As the brilliant cricket rivalry between India and Australia continues to grow, we would love to see thousands of Indian tourists accompany the Indian cricket team.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in Queensland?

Wendy: My last two holidays have been on the Gold Coast. Everything I want is nearby and it is a great destination for kids. It is perfect for a relaxing family holiday. You can stay in an apartment with your own kitchen and cooking facilities. If your kids are tired or hungry, you can maintain the comfort and convenience of home. And of course, the theme parks on the Gold Coast are fantastic. The cliché rings true again that there is something for everyone. If dad wants to play golf and mom wants to go shopping, everything is possible. Dining options are also full of variety. There are even numerous Indian restaurants. The Gold Coast is simply a very fun and convenient destination for a family holiday.

Anthony: My last holiday was at Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. It is a very different experience from the Gold Coast. It is much more about the natural landscapes and local dining. My son and I like to go for bush walks and look for wildlife. At certain times of the year, the whale watching is absolutely amazing along the coast. As I mentioned earlier, I feel a holiday is not about lying on a beach all day, but about truly experiencing your surroundings.

Lastly, your message to readers:

Wendy: We take the Indian market very seriously. We recognize and respect the fact that there are many people here who will continue to be very important partners. We are building these relationships for the long haul.

Anthony: It has been a difficult six months with recent tragic events weighing on people’s minds when considering travelling to Australia. It is my belief that the more tourism exchange we foster, the more we will be able to understand each other’s cultures and constrain racism and ignorance. It is an old cliché, but beyond the business, there is a greater goal of building bridges and sharing each other’s cultures and treasures.

Interview with Kai-Michael Stybel, Director of Wismar Tourist Board

Mr. Stybel, Director of the Wismar Tourist Board, shares with us what lies beyond the popular icons of Germany.

What are your roles and responsibilities with Wismar Tourism and how do you plan to offer the region of Wismar to the Indian traveller?

I am the Director of the Wismar Tourist Board. As a department of the City Council of the Hanseatic City of Wismar, we have a sovereign responsibility for communication, distribution and product development for tourism in Wismar.

If you asked me one year ago, how we plan to offer our destination to Indian travellers, I would not have had any answer as I would not have even considered there being a potential market for India.

In fact, my inspiration to consider tourism potential from India came at the Germany Travel Mart in May 2009, the most important international workshop for incoming tourism to Germany taking place every year. From then on I have been in contact with several Indian partners, both operators and writers, and our very personal contacts have led to us considering possibilities and chances for tourism affairs to Wismar from India.

Wismar itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly for its city structure with roads and quarters having remained the same since medieval times. Therefore, it is more of a conservation area than only a single memorial. The architecture of colourful gabled houses and impressive red brick cathedrals in Wismar is a mirror of history, being experienced by hundreds of thousands visitors every year.

The northern European culture available in this region is closer to Scandinavia than southern Germany. The face of the north has nothing to do with well-known stereotypes of Germany such as the Rhine River, the Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle and Heidelberg. While being unknown but outstanding nevertheless, it proves the attributes of being a treasure; maybe a hidden treasure, but very worthwhile to discover nevertheless.

What exactly are the Hidden Treasures of Germany and how did this concept evolve?

The Hidden Treasures are places most Indian travellers would not have heard of and would not be considered as part of most Germany itineraries. These places include the three cities of Schwerin, Wismar and Rostock in northeast Germany in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

This region is the most popular tourist destination for German travellers who enjoy bathing, hiking, biking, fishing, sailing and all kinds of activities connected with nature. The cities along the coast, such as Wismar and Rostock, or cities in the hinterland such as the state capital Schwerin are all cultural centres with impressive architecture, exhibitions, urban life, concerts and theatres.

The concept of being a treasure is derived from being unknown on an international scale, especially in the Indian market. For this reason, we have combined the Hidden Treasures with well-known destinations in Germany, such as Berlin and Hamburg. On one hand, Wismar, Schwerin and Rostock are not far from either Hamburg or Berlin – approximately a two hour drive in both directions. On the other hand, the theme of Hidden Treasures combines the expected with the unexpected that fulfils security through prediction and eagerness through the mystery of treasures.

This concept evolved with the cooperation of our partners in India. Most notably, Namaste Germany – the Indian connection to Germany – was a particularly key partnership for me, as my uncertainties about entering the Indian market were greeted with a team of Germany specialists from India who are interested in all treasures of Germany, both hidden and known. There could not have been a more productive synergy!

What are the experiences available while visiting northern Germany, especially compared with regions such as Baden Wuerttemberg and Bavaria which are well known destinations for the Indian traveller?

It starts with the geography and ends with the culture and its people. The differences between north and south Germany are more than visual attributes. Take beer, for example. Every region offers many varieties of beer, but the taste will always be easily distinguishable. This applies to all experiences. For most, it is a matter of personal philosophies.

In the end, we are still Germans. The history of Wismar is special however due to the fact that this area was influenced greater by Swedish rule than German rule through the centuries. The popular difference is between the sea and the mountain climates. There is a German proverb meaning “life by the coast is dure, but righteous still.” There is a different spirit present in the north and it can only be realized by visiting the towns, seeing the architecture, breathing the sea air, enjoying the countryside and living the culture.

As Indians prefer to visit more than one country in Europe while on holiday, which are the other regions that can be combined with North Germany?

After having told you so much about the northern European culture found in northern Germany, the best frame for this identity would be the Baltic itself.

If you look at the global cruise market, the Baltic is deemed to be the safest cruise destination in the world. Thousands of Americans visit Copenhagen, Stockholm and Saint Petersburg by cruise every year. Wismar makes its mark as a cruise destination with its port being directly connected with the historic city centre. Besides the cruise theme, it is very easy to travel throughout the Baltic area due to well-developed ferry connections combined with railway links.

What is the best time of the year to experience the Hidden Treasures of Germany?

It is not necessary to define only one particular time of year to visit the Hidden Treasures of Germany. They combine several city destinations each with their own cultural activities and programmes throughout the seasons.

The most crowded season is summer due to the attraction of the north for many German travellers. My personal preferences are the bridge periods from spring to summer – April to June – and from summer to autumn – September to October. You can experience an Indian Summer in  northern Germany with the Hidden Treasures similar to a sleepy countryside with colourful woods from yellow to red during Autumn. Scandinavians visit by the thousands for the Christmas Markets in Wismar, Rostock and Schwerin throughout  December.

As you can see, there is a season for every market. With business interests, we try to maintain a balanced development throughout the year. Every market has their strongest period of outbound travel. Therefore we might have the best chance for the Indian market in spring time.

Discover the Hidden Treasures of Germany with…