Demonetisation saw Growth in Online Direct Bookings

Anette Kaiser-Rott, Director of Europe & India Marketing, Visit California, promotes California as a destination across all aspects in the ecosystem and its broad range of experiences – from entertainment and culture to outdoor and adventure, luxury, culinary and family-fun.

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“As a German-native, I have always been drawn to the beauty, lifestyle and opportunities in the world and that’s why I chose California, first as a visitor, later as my home,” says Anette Kaiser-Rott, Director of Europe & India Marketing, Visit California, who was in the capital to promote the vast tourism landscape of California.

With a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management and an extensive tourism background, Kaiser-Rott feels immense pride in serving as the Director of Europe & India Marketing for Visit California and hopes to help shape the dynamics between the two destinations. “India is Visit California’s top market for growth potential in the coming years, making it very important in our international priorities. In 2016, California had 319,000 visitors from India, spending $672 million. This puts India in the top 10 of Visit California’s markets for both visitation and spending,” she said.

In FY 2017/18, Visit California is investing more than $800,000 in the market for a Visit California agency presence, travel trade, public relations and partnership programs. Much of the focus will be on working with the travel trade to continuously educate and develop the California product via familiarization trips, missions, co-ops and our exclusive STAR training program. “We are executing a strong media relations strategy capitalizing on India’s major media markets as well as regional markets to continue to develop interest in visiting California through the press, broadcast media and digital influencers. Our main goal is to ensure the consistency and relevance of California as a destination across all aspects in the brand ecosystem and its broad range of experiences – from entertainment and culture to outdoor and adventure, luxury, culinary and family-fun,” she adds.

However, there are a few pros and cons to the growth numbers. One of the challenges in the last year with the Indian market has been the country’s recent demonetization policies. “We see this as a short term consequence for the country’s economy and a positive factor for long term economic health. From this challenge we have also seen growth in online direct bookings as compared to agent’s sales counter bookings. The reason being is that people can book by paying with their credit cards,” said Kaiser-Rott who sees direct airlift into India from California as another challenge. “However we are seeing positive signs that this is changing. The current direct routes have benefitted from increased capacity over the last year, and both Air India and Qatar Airways are launching new direct routes into California in 2017 and 2018.”

With the current projections for 2017 that look extremely positive, growing by more than 8% to 345,000 Indian visitors by 2020, the projections show a nearly 46 per cent increase in Indian visitors, totalling 465,000. Thus, making California a special destination for MICE and leisure. At its core, California is a land of abundance and opportunity – where business and leisure visitors alike can experience life to the fullest. The spirit and sense of limitless possibility draws people here as much as the magnificent beaches, mountains, cities and deserts that make up the diverse playground of the state.

California’s many destinations – from those that showcase the redwoods of Northern California to those that boast the sandy beaches of Southern California – work to create unforgettable experience for MICE groups in their own ways, capitalizing on what makes each area unique and a perfect place to do business. California’s well-known gateway destinations like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego all offer conventions centers with all the hotels and amenities to match. Smaller destinations offer great options for MICE groups as well – in fact California’s newest expanded conference center is in the beautiful coastal town of Monterey and includes more than 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and capacity for more than 3,200 people.

California is also rife with receptive tour operators providing services to MICE market planners. “These receptives can assist any group with finding the right California destination, convention centre, hotel or venue for their group and provide services to assist throughout the planning process,” she adds.

Talking about the travel trends in 2017-18, Kaiser-Rott is seeing some very exciting travel trends coming from the Indian market. “There has been an increase in vacation frequency for Indians and the recently improved visa process has helped to increase the attractiveness of travel to the U.S. and opening up additional opportunity for travel. For leisure travel, we are seeing a growing demand for experiential and customized itineraries, largely driven by the luxury segment. Business travel also continues to be a strong driver for this market, with California seen as a premium destination for meetings and incentives.”

The main evolution has really been the strong and steady growth of Indian travellers to California. Visit California has been active in India since 2014 and to see the dividends of the investment in the market paying off in the form of stronger desire for California as a destination, more availability of bookable California product for both leisure and business travellers, and the end result of more Indians experiencing an unforgettable trip to the Golden State.


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