Editor's Blog

Dear Indians: please behave!
Mon 5 Aug, 2019 at 12:00 am

There were some interesting conversations at the 48th Skal Asia Congress I attended in Bangalore. Often the camaraderie and bonhomie of exchanges at meetings such as these, result in deep conversations about each other’s lives and professions and sure enough, there appears a common thread that can be weaved to embrace future collaborations. Moreover, it is easy to glean hitherto unknown gems of information. Delegates from 32 countries attended the event, many were MICE industry stakeholders and many were hoteliers. Sprinkle that with key personnel from NTOs, airlines and major associations and we had a smorgasbord of key Asian tourism stakeholders under the same roof and mostly on the same page.

Among the discussions was the debate about the growing volume of Indian incentive groups and their quirks and peculiarities that often cause inbound DMC to throw up their hands in despair. Others, it should be said, reveled in the challenges presented and dealt with them creditably to reap high dividends for their effort, resulting in repeat business from the same clients. So where does the answer lie? What can assist the overwhelming rush of Indian incentive business for destinations geared to handle large incentives of every style, shape and size? The answer is not simple when our national behaviour can be viewed as eccentric at the very least by other nationals.

Firstly, there have been complaints about the unacceptable social conduct of Indian travellers. Some have been known to speak loudly in restaurants, hotel lobbies and aircrafts and indulge in excessive drinking on flights and during happy hours. Secondly, arriving late for breakfasts and transfers is seen as offensive. This causes delay for the whole group and can impact the itinerary and tour schedule as venues have specified opening and closure timing as well as special windows of entry for special group tickets. The expectation of the kind of hospitality and often preferential treatment that is unabashedly accorded to clients in India, based upon their social/economic status, can be perceived to be offensive in many countries and considered unrealistic and very often, rude.

In many cases, Indian travellers’ sartorial sense lacks decorum. The right attire for the right occasion or place is sometimes conspicuously absent. Although most DMCs and meeting planners do their best to factor in dietary preference such as vegetarian and Jain meals, it may not be always possible to serve Indian cuisine, especially in cities that do not receive many south Asian visitors and are therefore not equipped with Indian chefs or culinary ingredients.

An example of how bad this has become is the fact that the Arc-en-Ciel Hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland, has issued a special notice to their “Dear guests from India” outlining the do’s and don’ts. To be quiet in the corridor and to speak softly in the balcony, are among the requests.

For meeting planners or DMCs to negotiate a good package for their Indian incentive groups, when such preposterous behaviour precedes a RFP, it is often a challenge to get the right mix of hotel, meeting venue and restaurants.

However, hopefully these extremes are increasingly in the minority as Indian travellers get more exposure to frequent overseas travel and become conversant with expected norms and code of conduct that is expected from them. Corporate executives tend to exercise more restraint in their conduct in public while basic level dealers or channel partners, many of whom may be first time travellers, are less discreet.

The Indian incentive groups are a mixed bag, ranging from the sophisticated, well-travelled, savvy individuals to first-time overseas travellers for whom it’s a whole new world out there. They have unrealistic expectations and can be ignorant of norms in other countries. In a ‘take it or leave it’ dilemma, the emerging deluge of travellers from India, I daresay, will have a telling effect on the decision-making of international suppliers.

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