An entourage of 30 leading boutique properties and experiences met more than 300 India specialists training them on their lodges, camps and hotels. Each event was geared towards informative conversation around India with the pure aim of raising awareness of hidden gems, identifying new itineraries and discussing how to boost business for 2019/20.
Properties in attendance included The Rajbari Bawali, Ajit Bhawan, Barefoot at The Andamans, Svatma Thanjavur, Niraamaya retreats, Sunderban Tiger Camp, Windamere Hotel, Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Lakshman Sagar and Anantya. Amongst the visiting tour operators were Ampersand, Real Holidays, Greaves Travel, Trailfinders, A&K UK, Cox & Kings and Imagine Asia. Feedback on the events reflect that they are the perfect shows to catch up with so many hoteliers in a relatively short space of time, the hosts were charming, the food was delicious and everyone looks forward to next year!
Giving these B2B meetings some cultural background in London there was an incredible panel discussion on climate change and species extinction – what role tourism can play in conservation. Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London, led the discussion, asking the panellists to explain their work briefly and what they thought the tourism industry could do to help.
Duncan McNair, CEO of Save The Asian Elephant spoke measurably about the brutality metered out on elephants for use in captivity, tourism and religious festivals and called for an agreement on ethical behaviour from both consumers in the West and those involved in India and elsewhere.
Ian Redmond OBE used his 40 years of research and conservation work to implore the audience to travel more responsibly by offsetting their carbon on flights by adding a levy to their packages. Ian also highlighted the success of his work with gorillas to protect their environment and safety by limiting the number of tours, the distance from and interaction with them and the benefits to local communities with such programmes.
Dr Raghu Chundawat completed the line up as an expert on snow leopards and tigers and gave numerous examples of the successes in India to do with animal welfare and conservation which are more often than not omitted from news stories, both nationally and internationally.
The evenings were made possible through the generous support of: Airline Partner Oman Air, who gave two tickets away in a prize draw for flights to India; Sustainability Partner Save The Asian Elephant; Associate Partner Tres 2020 and Destination Partner West Bengal.
Indeed, the theme of the evenings revolved around West Bengal, looking ahead to Durga Puja, also called Durgotsava, the annual Hindu festival in October that reveres the goddess Durga. West Bengal provided stage decorations showing off celebrations of Durga Puja, images of the region adorned the walls and food was based on specialities from the state.
Many thanks also to Steve Davey who exhibited some of his award-winning photography around the venue to showcase West Bengal from a very personal point of view. Steve has captured many fragments of landscapes, people and their lives which come together to paint a very vivid picture of Incredible India.