Mr Harmandeep Singh Anand is the Managing Director of Global Panorama Showcase Pvt. Ltd. [GPS], a premier Business networking event. He has been in the Travel Industry since 1995. Mr Anand has also served as the Hon. Secretary-General at the Travel Agents Association of India [TAAI].
We had the pleasure of speaking to Mr Anand about the inception of GPS and the potential of the younger generation in this industry whom he refers to as the ‘Flagbearers’ of the future of Travel and Tourism. Read the full conversation here!
How would you explain what GPS is in layman terms? What is its role?
When someone sees the word GPS, they immediately tend to relate it to the ‘Global Positioning System.’ This assumption usually leads to us getting a lot of orders from companies dealing with geo-positioning systems.
We then explain to them that Global Panorama Showcase [GPS] is one of the largest premium Business to Business [B2B] networking events in the country. GPS is focused on educating and empowering the travel fraternity primarily in tier two and three markets.
We began our journey in Nagpur and went on to expand from there. In 2016, we expanded to four other cities – Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Coimbatore. This was the time when the logo of GPS was changed to include wings. Pune, Hyderabad and Lucknow were also appended to the list and Kochi replaced Coimbatore.
An analysis revealed that we have covered almost 700 cities across India till date, which includes the travel fraternity not only from tier two and three markets but also from tier four and five markets. From each of these cities, we have over 1100 attendees from the travel fraternity. These numbers are audited facts because everything is available online.
GPS also works towards educating the younger generation and empowering them by showing them the right way. In this regard, we have taken them across boundaries, giving them a personal experience of various destinations.
To sum up, GPS serves as a bridge for growth, and we believe that in order to grow one’s reach, one must enter the tier two and three markets, where the money and knowledge base resides. For the same, various organizations can approach GPS, including Tourism Boards, Destination Management Companies [DMC] and Airlines.
GPS stands for the initials of our father, Gulshan Pal Singh, but it also stands well in showing the light and guiding people in the right direction. That is actually the definition of GPS.
Speaking of the younger generation, currently, in the travel and tourism industry, the talk of the town are the millennials. Do you feel the millennials have or have not disrupted the Travel Industry?
I would not say that the millennials have disrupted the travel industry. We come from a generation where there was an emphasis on saving money and we learnt to do that, which is lacking in the younger generation. My personal experience concludes me to believe that it is important to save money for the future.
In recent times we have witnessed that people travel more often than before. Moreover, the urge to travel has become more common in those belonging to the middle class or the average middle class who now travel every year on a family break. Travel is not restricted to only those who have money.
An increase in the number of flights by various airlines has opened various options. Airlines like Indigo who serve as low-cost carriers have opened doors for budget travellers. And the increase in options has resulted in competitive pricing. Therefore, you end up spending lesser than what you would have in the past. The mindset of the younger generation to spend on a vacation rather than saving money gives them an opportunity to travel domestically or internationally.
So, one of the insights is that the millennial generation spends a lot. In the last two years, there have been many long weekends and many people chose to travel. The trend was a rising one, despite the dollar price going up against the Indian rupee.
This increase in travel leads to two possible conclusions – either there is a lot of disposable income or the younger generation aren’t prioritising savings for the future. In a nutshell, this is what I would say about Millennial travellers.
In terms of providing more opportunities for the travel fraternity does GPS conduct any kind of developmental activities or training? Or you plan to do so in the future?
As mentioned earlier, GPS is all about educating and empowering. From its inception, it has always been about free and quality education. Over the last six years, GPS has had speakers who would address trending topics like Artificial Intelligence, GST and accounting.
We educate the travel fraternity about the pain points in the industry. Their interest does not reside so much in numbers as it does in resolving their issues. They need the right solution for their problems and that’s where GPS comes in.
I was recently told by a senior member of the industry that the type of activity that what we have been undertaking is equal to a Corporate Social Responsibility [CSR] activity.
During the training we conducted in 2018, GPS hosted lunch for over 4000 attendees, which was a unique initiative in the industry. It stands as unique, not because we provided lunch but rather for the time the attendees spent on learning.
This initiative of GPS helps in bringing the travel fraternity in tier two and three markets, who generally feel neglected, at par with their counterparts in the metro cities.
Additionally, in 2018, we launched an educational program, where we train the younger generation on various nuances of the trade. This program not only serves the younger generation but also those already in the trade willing to learn more.
Apart from the aforementioned initiatives, GPS is also running an educational workshop called the Educational Destination Workshop International [EDWIN]. Till date, we have conducted about 6 events and overall 600 travel agents have been taken to various destinations for hands-on knowledge.
What is the global outreach that GPS has?
We have a total of over 8500 attendees that have attended GPS events across 8 cities in 2018. We have conducted a total of 8 GPS events in 2018 and have concluded over 100,000 meetings garnering agent attendance from more than 700 cities across India. All cities put together, more than 600 exhibitors have participated in the events.
VisitBritain was our most recent partner for an educational program at a destination in the UK where the motive was not to promote a normal London itinerary, instead, we took the participants to Northern England.
The motive behind this is to push lesser promoted destinations like the above, rather than promoting destinations like Bangkok and Pattaya which have already been promoted by everybody.
The biggest success story for GPS has been at an event conducted in Bali. Around 150 buyers accompanied us to Bali and more than 70 exhibitors participated in the event. We witnessed over 10,000 meetings concluding in a day marking our success.
GPS has a large global outreach as we do not restrict ourselves to destinations only in India. As a result, our attendees are exposed to innumerable opportunities.
Recently, GPS became responsible for conducting the first largest B2B event in Ladakh after it was announced as an integral part of India. More than 100 buyers from 18 different states of India participated in the event.
At the end of the event, certificates were issued to the attendees that add as a plus on their CV. It also helps customers understand that the travel professional has a sound knowledge about the destination.
So, would you say GPS is a point of contact for somebody like me who would want to pursue a career in the travel and tourism industry?
Yes. GPS can be a point of contact. GPS takes the credit of helping many people in starting a business in the travel and tourism industry. We are pleased with that because we create an opportunity not only for those who are in this business but also for those outside.
Additionally, we invite students from various tourism universities at our events on educational days. Recently, in partnership with Interglobe Technology Quotient, we invited over 400 students across eight cities to be a part of our knowledge sessions.
In recent times people are really a lot into eco-to tourism. So how do you think India is focused on these trends?
This is one of the environmental issues GPS has been supporting. The first mailer that we sent out in 2018 was ‘go paperless with GPS’.
Currently, we seem to be the only event in the world which is paperless and completely on an electronic platform, thereby saving almost 1.5 Tonne of paper at each of our events. As a result, we are able to save around $70,000 to 80,000 at every event, which when multiplied with the number of events we conduct, culminates to huge savings.
The app launched by GPS is one of its kind. And we urge all our attendees to use the app and go paperless, more so, we made it compulsory.
We have been working towards promoting this trend and these are some of the tips we offer to the industry.
So how do you see the Travel and Tourism sector, maybe in the next 5 or 10 years in India?
The future is all about automation. It is necessary for everyone in the industry to evolve with time. One cannot continue performing business the way it was being done all these years.
Although I don’t certain that the industry is a mess, I believe that it is disintegrated currently. However, it is only a matter of time before the jigsaw puzzle falls into place.
China has a bigger advantage against any other country because of the amount of productivity they churn within a specific period of time. Additionally, the use of automation has increased their productivity to greater lengths. There is no dearth for jobs even with the advent of automation.
What advice would you give to young minds wishing to pursue a career in the travel and tourism sector?
I am one among those who have been telling people not to shy away from the younger generation. My daughter started working with me when she was only 17 and now, she’s handling the complete event on her own.
The younger generation must be put in the right frame of mind. After attending events at GPS a lot of them have changed their perception about travel as a career. A lot of my friend’s children are now travelling with us.
The younger generation is much more adaptive and their thought process is way ahead of what I would probably think of or imagine.
In conclusion, what does travel mean to you?
To me, it’s a hobby. I love travelling. That’s the reason I’m in this business. Although the travel industry is glamorous, there is also a lot of hard work involved. But as we move into the automated world, the stress and burden will be taken over by machines gradually. I would say, this is probably one of the best businesses that one can be in.