IATO braces itself for the “City of Joy”

Aims at enhancing knowledge and providing effective business promotion tools

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) convention which was last held in Kolkata in 2002 is making a homecoming of a kind to the ‘City of Joy’ after 17 years with the 35th annual convention of the association. With the epitome of opulence, ITC Royal Bengal Kolkata as the venue where business sessions and other functions will be held, the inaugural function will be organised at the state-of-the-art Biswa Bangla Convention Centre. ‘Is Tourism Thriving? Challenges and Opportunities’ is the convention theme and Durga Puja as dominant theme of the event that would be organised on the first day, the preparations are going on in full swing. We converse with the decision makers of the association to have a glimpse of the initiatives and strategies to make the convention a great success

“The Convention would strongly address Kolkata as an ideal destination for MICE tourism”

PRONAB SARKAR, President IATO and Chairman, Convention Committee

After 17 years, the IATO Annual Convention comes back to the ‘City of Joy’ – Kolkata with the central theme, ‘Is Tourism Thriving? Challenges and Opportunities’. The opening ceremony will take place at Vishwa Bangla Convention Centre, a world-class venue for such occasions, on September 12, 2019. The Convention would bring to the fore and strongly address Kolkata as an ideal destination for MICE tourism. Around 1200 eminent delegates that shall comprise valued participants from the government of West Bengal, dignitaries from the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, tourism authorities from participating state governments, eminent members of the media and dedicated members of IATO would be expected this year to grace the congregation.

One may expect realistic expectations that shall fructify in witnessing a surge of tourism in diverse segments in the state of West Bengal and the eastern region. The business sessions on September 13 and 14, 2019 would be organised at the ITC Royal Bengal, a hotel par excellence and apt for such conventions with its venue and well-appointed facilities. Above all, the participative enthusiasm of our valued members that escalates on a year-on-year basis systematically differentiates it from other landmark IATO conventions.

Zeroing on the challenges and opportunities that shall boost the growth of tourism, looking at key niche areas of cruise tourism, digital marketing, connectivity, synergy among Eastern states for tourism promotion and marketing, charting out unexplored destinations, listening to the new generation of tourism professionals, the tricky issues of taxation, presentation by state governments and above all, listening the ideas of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India will form the core areas. A motivational talk by the renowned personality would add the cutting edge. We would have an exhibition of sellers’ products and all the three evenings we have organised cocktails and dinners, which will give both the sellers and buyers with time to interact.

“IATO Run for Responsible Tourism would be organised on third day”

RAJIV MEHRA, Vice President IATO

The next destination was although not announced during the 34th Annual Convention of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) unlike the protocol owing to which the preparations also started later which might have resulted with a lack of systemised execution of this year’s convention. However, in such a short period of time both IATO and state government of West Bengal have achieved immense progress and I am hopeful that this year’s convention would be a splendid success.

We intend to have new kind of sessions this year and not repeat the topics which we have done over the years. Around 17 states will be participating this year as well. We expect a higher footfall than the previous editions. ITC Royal Bengal, ITC Sonar, Taj Vivanta and ibis hotel are the partner hotels for the convention. We are in the process of taking special fares from IndiGo and Air India. The only change which we are having at the upcoming convention is that our IATO Run for Responsible Tourism which always takes place on the second day will be organised on third day this time. We will have some exciting sessions which would be beneficial for our members.  There will be eight to 10 business sessions. It is quite interesting that the convention will be held in Kolkata as the delegates will get to see the upgraded city. IATO members who have not been to Kolkata in the recent past would witness how the ‘City of Joy’ has advanced and would further promote its offerings to their clients, especially for MICE tourism. ITC Royal Bengal is an exceptional MICE hotel and adding to it is Biswa Bangla Convention Centre with its state-of-the-art facilities. There was a popular demand to have Sunderbans in the itinerary and keeping that in consideration an overnight trip to Sunderbans is included in the post FAM tours.

Gujarat was the first state to give a written confirmation besides which Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha would be tentatively participating in the convention. Two Northeastern states have also shown interest but we are targeting more as our aim is to have maximum participation from the East.

“We are following a different approach rather than traversing the traditional route”


IATO convention is coming back to Kolkata after 17 years and there has been a prodigious change in the city and it has improved considerably for business potential providing the delegates with a great opportunity. The theme and business sessions will be relevant for the travel agents, especially those who are reeling under the pressure of low business these days. We are trying to work out a set of initiatives where we can help the IATO members achieve a better turnover than revenue models. We are expecting the convention to be quite meaningful wherein delegates will have a lot to carry home. It is always our endeavor to beat our own records and we are working on it. We hope to achieve the targets as we are following a different approach this time rather than traversing the traditional route. There will be motivational speakers, other business promoting tools, opportunity would be given to young turks to understand the practices they follow, their perspective on tourism and how they would like to take the industry forward.

“Our focus will be to educate delegates and collate innovative suggestions to improve their business conditions”


We have worked out a theme which will revolve around thriving tourism in present scenario, the challenges and opportunities. Along with this, we are working on key knowledge sessions for delegates to take back some productive ideas to improve their business such as ‘Traditional business versus current demands’, ‘Ideas for millennials’, ‘Scope of Cruise tourism’, ‘Digital marketing’, ‘Experiential tourism’ and more. Our main focus through the sessions will be to educate delegates and get some innovative suggestions to improve their business conditions. We are also working towards bringing a renowned name for the motivational session. This year we will try to offer more scopes to delegates for productive interactions and networking sessions.

“The convention’s prime motive would be to highlight the possibility that West Bengal has as the gateway to the NorthEast INDIA”

DEBJIT DUTTA, Chapter Chairman- West Bengal and Co-Chairman Convention Committee

The basic objective for this year’s IATO Annual Conclave is to showcase the state of West Bengal as a global product. As the primary challenge has always been the fact that a majority of stakeholders don’t have a clear idea about the destination and its products, this convention would work in favour of West Bengal. Secondly, the conventions prime motive would be to highlight the possibility that West Bengal has as the gateway to the North-Eastern Indian states as well as South Asian circuit like Bhutan and Bangladesh. This year’s event’s theme is ‘Durga Puja: Mega Carnival’ as this festival is about to be declared as the World Heritage Festival by UNESCO. We will also be focusing on niche tourism products that are high-end, in a global perspective and the lesser-explored destinations around the state would be our primary target and we have designed our post-convention FAM tours that would specifically highlight those circuits. We intend to primarily showcase the modern Kolkata, with a history spanning across thousands of years, as a global product.

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