With over 13 years of experience, Mr Ashish Bhandari is a well-known face in the travel and tourism industry. Currently, the CEO at Avenir Research Marketing, his journey in the travel and tourism industry is exciting. What piqued our interest is his extensive knowledge in the business of representation, a topic which he has also written about before. We had the opportunity to interview Mr Ashish Bhandari on this matter, read the full interview here!
First things first, can you explain to us what exactly is the Business of Representation?
The Business of Representation is simply outsourcing of business. In the travel industry, for instance, an organization in India can represent any kind of tourism product within and outside India through the help of representation companies. The travel product being showcased could be anything, including a hotel, a tourism board or a destination itself.
As a company that is in the business of representation, one must have expertise in promoting various kinds of products. The company offering these services must have enough reach in the travel industry to provide a point of contact for potential customers and business partners.
Depending on the kind of product being catered to we indulge in activities like sales, marketing, PR, B2B and B2C campaigns. For instance, a Destination Management company requires more sales related activities as opposed to a Tourism Board which requires more marketing and PR related activities.
This is the role of representation companies.
How it did all start? Tell us about your journey in this industry
My entry into the travel and tourism industry happened by chance. I was working on a different project when an opportunity at TRAC Representations, a company that is into the business of representation, came my way. At the time, TRAC was handling various marketing, PR and sales related activities for many tourism boards.
I was given the task of conducting Marketing & Public Relations and Market Intelligence activities for the Jamaican Tourism Board. The job gave me a 360-degree view of all the things that I ever wanted to do – Sales, Marketing, PR, and Event Management.
This phase helped me hone my skills and eventually led me to start my own representation business and become a consultant for several top hotel brands, stand-alone restaurants, and destination management companies and tourism boards.
So, what is the driving force that keeps you going in this industry?
A huge perk of being in the travel industry is that it lets you travel and meet different people across the world. It gives you a broader perspective of things. And as I mentioned earlier, it allowed me to explore all my interests as part of my career. This combination of travelling and doing what I love has kept me going in this industry.
Let’s talk about technology. With the increasing adoption of technology, where do you think India stands in terms of using technology in the tourism sector? How far ahead or behind are we in comparison to other countries?
At the moment, India is far behind in terms of usage of technology. This is mainly due to the vast disparity and cultural differences between the urban cities and the tier two and tier three cities. The urban cities have adapted to technology far better than tier two and three cities, where the awareness of technology is limited.
Although the tier two and three cities are well in reach of these products they prefer a more personal touch, like approaching an offline tour operator, rather than using tech-savvy means.
Moving on to the Millennials, what is your professional opinion on them as a target audience? Would Millennials be considered the biggest or fastest growing audience for Tourism for the coming few years?
India is leading in terms of the millennial population and they are characterized to be tech-savvy and have varied preferences. In the next five years, the country will witness more millennials travelling outside India in comparison to other older generations.
Although the tech-savvy inclination of millennials differs from urban and tier two and three cities, it is noticed to be an increasing trend.
Given all of these changes, how do you see the future of travel and tourism in India?
In the earlier days, travelling outside was a luxury. It is not anymore! For the millennial crowd, travelling is a lifestyle and a necessity. The younger generation feels the necessity to brag about having visited new destinations and experienced new cultures.
Our country is one of the major source markets for most other countries right now when it comes to travelling. And although there is a possibility of travel taking a back seat in a situation like a market crash, I believe that overall in India, the future of travel is bright.
Any career advice for the younger generation?
Getting a job in the travel industry is not rocket science. Youngsters need to be eager and willing to learn in depth about various trends in the travel industry. Although a basic theoretical understanding is required, practical experience can be gained on the job.
In conclusion, tell us what travel means to you?
I read a quote once that has created a lasting impression on my mind -“The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page”.