When luminaries like Amitabh Kant (CEO, NITI Aayog), Suhel Seth (managing partner, Counselage), Suman Billa (Joint Secretary, Union ministry of tourism), Nadir Patel (Canadian High Commisioner) and Rajeev Talwar (CEO, DLF Limited) discuss Trending Luxury from a single stage, it means India has reached another level when it comes to travel. This was the scene at the second edition of Iconic Travel award held in the Capital at Maurya Hotel.

The purpose of the award show was to felicitate all the stalwarts, providing luxury in travel, tourism and hospitality. The year 2016 witnessed a massive growth of luxury tourism in India. The study done by a travel website, TripAdvisor, informs around 44 per cent of travellers from India increased their travel spend in 2016. India is 18th in the global travel budget rankings, with an estimated average budget of 3,107 dollars, compared with the global average travel spend of 5,100 dollars. Many industry experts opine that luxury travel market is growing by around 20 per cent annually and over the next 10 years, it will grow around 15- 20 per cent every year.

Organised by Jyoti and Balbir Mayal, founder and CO, Red Hat Communications, the event witnessed a gathering of experts from different fields associated with travel. In a panel discussion titled, Does Trending Luxury Culminate into the Growth of Aviation, Tourism and Hospitality?, Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog said India as a destination has to understand its innate strengths in luxury contained in its rich culture, heritage, art, craft and so on.

“In order to market and attract luxury seekers from around the world to India, we have to understand what is unique about India, go back to our unique strengths and harness the competitive advantage that we have in our art, craft and so on,” he noted.

“India’s Maharajas, its traditional strength and heritage have all been about luxury. What we have as luxury no one in the world has.” Kant also pressed not to blindly ape the western model of development in tourism; he asked to rediscover our own strength and values. Citing his stint with Kerala Tourism, he shared how he changed the fate of Kerala Tourism; how he transformed Kerala, from a 20 pound destination in 1990s to now 500 pound destination.

“It can only be done by building tourism products based on the strengths of the state. Kerala’s brand positioning in tourism was built by harnessing every single value that the state is known for,” informed Kant, during the discussion. Suhel Seth, marketing and management personality, shared that India needs to come out of “Jugaad” things.

At the same time it should be based on relational not transactional. “Luxury is all about attention to details. Luxury is like delighting customers with experiences that they will cherish and then represent, refer and reflect. Luxury is not about giving consumers what they want, but delighting them with experiences which they never expected,” he shared. “Sadly, in India we have replaced it with ‘Jugaad’,” Seth said.

“The whole essence of luxury will lose its core when it becomes ‘transactional’ rather than ‘relational’. I have noticed, hotel people never bother about you once you check-out. For courtesy, they should drop a happy and safe journey messages.”

The panel discussion ended with an award show, in which Air Canada was awarded for excellence in achieving customer delight, Air India in the category of redefining support to travel fraternity, Monaco for international destination luxury and others. “It’s heartening for us to see our efforts of over two decades bear fruit today. Cruises are fast becoming a preferred holiday options for Indians and we are thrilled to know that we’ve played a part in this evolution. This award gives us impetus to constantly push the envelope of innovation in this segment and drives us to further augment the consumer propensity to embrace cruise vacations,” said Ratna Chadha, the chief executive TIRUN Travel Marketing ~ the exclusive India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

The second edition of ICONIC 2017 has expanded its horizons to acknowledge and recognise people and companies from across sectors, which have made lasting and indelible contributions to the world of Travel and Tourism, Luxury and Hospitality like fashion world, banking, advertising and automobiles.

“We want to look beyond the narrow definitions of sectors and learn from the experiences of people across socio-economic landscape,” ended Jyoti Mayal, founder and CO, Red Hat Communications.