APTRA: Opening remarks, the Indian diaspora, and keynote speeches

By Benedict Evans |

APTRA India Conference

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, which is set to bring both benefits and challenges to the travel retail industry.

A breakdown of some of the key moments from the first day of the APTRA Conference, which was held earlier this week in Delhi.

Sunil Tuli, president of APTRA, opened the inaugural conference alongside Executive Director Anne Kavanagh, with an impassioned welcome to all in attendance: “It’s wonderful to see so much passion for India, and I am extremely passionate about this country; the country of my birth, of my heritage, my education, first job and my entry into duty free.”

Tuli also spoke about the rapid development of travel retail within India, commenting: “If I compare India to when I left in 1991, to 10 years ago, to five years ago, the change has been extraordinary. India is a rising powerhouse, momentum is gargantuan.”

“We talk in travel retail about the Indian consumer, but of course there is no one Indian consumer. We can’t look back and must look forward. We must invest in data to be prepared for the ability of this nation to leap-frog its development,” continued Tuli.

Home to the world’s biggest consumer base for young adults, Tuli zeroed in on the three key dynamics behind India’s past and predicted growth: urbanisation; premiumisation; and digitalisation, all of which are spearheaded by the Indian government’s emphasis on building its new economy on education and technology.

Sunil Tuli at APTRA

Sunil Tuli: “We talk in travel retail about the Indian consumer, but of course there is no one Indian consumer. We can’t look back and must look forward. We must invest in data to be prepared for the ability of this nation to leap-frog its development”

Keynote 1: Manisha Saxena

Tuli was followed by Manisha Saxena, Director General Tourism for the Government of India.

Saxena offered a brief overview of her own journey within the travel sector, and the evolution of the sector following the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism in the late 1960s.

Saxena also touched on the resounding success of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, one of the longest running in the tourism sector, saying: “Incredible India today is not just a campaign, it’s a brand,” said Saxena.

“Great strides have been made in digital connectivity, which has greatly added to the travel culture in the country, including tribes of content creators, completely changing the way in which people travel. Our research shows if you see the process through from finding out about a destination to posting about it after the trip, the average tourist will have about 22 touchpoints,” noted Saxena.

Saxena added: “In the last 10 years, in terms of the infrastructure being built– roads, railways, airports – it has been all about connectivity.

Seventy eight new airports have been built in that timeframe, taking the total number to 149 airports, and there has been almost 2₹km (200,000km) of state-of-the-art national highways constructed.”

Saxena closed by addressing the travel retail industry, commenting: ‘We would love to work more with the industry because we need to know much more about how and where people are travelling, what is it they’re looking for, and how India as a destination is promoted abroad.”

Saxena also hinted at interesting developments in tourist demographics, highlighting an ongoing programme which promotes safety for solo women travellers.

“In the state ranking framework of the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), India has risen as a destination where women feel safer, which is the result of three years of intensive work done by the state government in contacting stakeholders and educating them in the need for tourists to feel safe, whilst also creating more opportunities for women to be in positions of authority.”

Data from Thomas Cook India, the country’s biggest travel company showed nearly 15% of its customer base was women-only travellers, while 30% of customers for Delhi-based EaseMyTrip were also women-only.

Keynote 2: Ashish Chopra, CEO of Delhi Duty Free Services

“The theme of this conference is the Indian travel retail market and the growing retail influence of its outbound Indian consumer,” said Chopra, adding: “The simple word is not Indian it’s Indian diaspora, and the Indian diaspora is everywhere.”

Ashish Chopra of Delhi Duty Free

Chopra expanded upon points made by Tuli during his opening address regarding the growth forecast for the Indian economy and accompanying infrastructure through 2028.

Chopra also noted India was one of the fastest markets to recover post-Covid: “People talk about recovery, we’re talking about growth in India on account of a strong economy, a young and growing middle-class, and a travel-loving population.”

TRBusiness previously covered Chopra’s keynote speech in its previous article on APTRA, linked at the bottom of this article.

And the rest

The remainder of the day was comprised of an extensive series of speeches and panel discussions, including keynote addresses from Nuno do Amarol, Chief Operations & Business Development Officer, ARI; Ramesh Cidambi, COO, Dubai Duty Free; Vijay Talwar, CCO/CDO, Avolta; and Prashant Gaurav Gupta, CCO, Noida International Airport.

The first day’s proceedings were celebrated in the evening with a networking drinks and Gala Dinner sponsored by Bacardi.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of learnings from those speaking, and a breakdown of the second day of the inaugural APTRA India Conference…

READ MORE: APTRA: Mumbai Travel Retail becomes Ospree; new partners and keynotes

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