IATO 29th Convention- Kochi, Le Meridien Kochi, 8th - 11th September 2013

The 29th IATO Annual Convention was held from 8th to 11th September 2013 at hotel Le Meridien, Kochi, Kerala. The theme of the convention was Tourism -Innovations & Partnerships". Mr. Arun Anand was the Chairman of the convention along with Mr. Lally Mathews and Mr. E.M. Najeeb as the Co Chairman. Mr. Rajeev Kohli was made responsible for all the programming and the contents for the convention.
 
Shri Oommen Chandy, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Kerala was the Chief Guest at the Inaugural Function, which was held on 8th September 2013 at le Meridien Kochi presence of Hon'ble Minister of State (IC) for Consumer Affairs Govt. of India - Prof. K.V. Thomas, Hon'ble Minister of State for Civil Aviation Govt. of India - Shri K.C. Venugopal, Hon'ble Tourism Minister of Kerala - Shri P. Anil Kumar, Additional Director General (Tourism) Govt. of India - Mrs. Usha Sharma, Chairman KTDC - Shri Vijayan Thomas, Secretary Tourism Govt. of Kerala – Shri Suman Billa and Director Tourism Govt. of Kerala - Shri S. Harikishore. Host of senior officials from the Centre and State governments from various ministries were also present. The convention was attended by more than 1200 delegates, which included tourism professional, media members and invited guests. On this occasion IATO's Hall of Fame Award was bestowed upon Dr. P. Mohamed Ali,Chairman GALFAR (Middle East and MAFR Group, India) for his valuable service to the tourism and hospitality industry mainly in Kerala. He started the first private international airport in Kochi. Mr. E.M. Najeeb, Chairman IATO Kerala Chapter and President Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry was honoured for his efficient services to have constant coordination with state government and trade to make this event a big success. The awards were given by the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Kerala. The Inaugural event was followed by a very colourful cultural program showcasing Kerala's rich cultural heritage. Interesting business sessions were organized during the three day convention, which were very educative for the members. The main topics for discussions included were:-
 
The Government and the Tourism Partnership
Making India an Aviation Hub
Update on Visa Rules and Group Landing Permit
Industry Partnerships - Working Together for the Greater Good
Working Partnership - the Future in2025
C Enhancing the Strategic Valuation of Entrepreneurial Business
Making Difference - Sales ideas for high impact presentation to foreign
tour operators
Effective Use of Social Media
Leadership - The Indian way
Partnerships in Technology - A Study of Service Sector Technology
Integration
The Media and Indian Tourism
Always connected travelers
IATO Chill Out Zone
 
The key speakers were excellent they were:
 
Mr. Devdutt Patnaik – Renowned Management Speaker
Mr. Philip Calvert - Expert on Social Media
Mr. Imtiaz Muqbil - Noted Travel Writer
Mr. Alex Sotiris- CEO Cloud Roam Technologies, UK
Senior bureaucrats from the centre and state government
Mrs. Usha Sharma -Additional Director General (Tourism)
Ministry of Tourism Govt. of India
Mr. V.Vumlunmang - Joint Secretary (Foreigners)
Ministry of Home Affairs Govt. of India
Mr. Suman Billa - Secretary Tourism Govt. of Kerala
Mr. T. Balakrishnan -MD Infrastructure Kerala Ltd.
Mr. Vipul Mittra - Principal Secretary Govt. of Gujarat
Mr. Ashwani Lohani - Indian Railways 
Mr. S. Harikishore – Director Tourism Govt. of Kerala.
 
The other speakers from the industry were: 
 
Mr. Subhash Goyal - President IATO
Mr. Sarab Jit Singh - Sr. Vice President IATO;
Mr. E.M. Najeeb - Chairman IATO Kerala Chapter
Mr. Jose Dominic - MD CGH Hotels,
Mr. Kapil Kaul - CEO CAPA
Mr. Nishantha Vickeremasinghe - Chairman Sri Lankan Airlines
Mr. Iqbal Mulla -President TAAI
Mr. Biji Eapen – President, IAAI
Mr. BharatAtree - MD Caper Travels
Mr. Aashish Gupta - CEO FAITH
Mr. Homa Mistry - CEO Trail Blazer Tours India
Mr. Mahesh Aiyer – Vice,President Lemon Tree Premier Hotels
Mr. Sanjay Kumar - CCO, IndiGo Airlines;
Mr. Sandeep Dwivedi - CCO Interglobe Technologies Quotient
Mr. Nikhil Dhodapkar - Regional Director (India) ACCOR
Mr. Rajeev Kohli, Vice President IATO
Mr. Hemant Mediratta - Vice President Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
Dr. G.V.R. Sastri, IIT Delhi. 
 
During the IATO Chill Out Zone, members enjoyed stand up committee by Mr. Amit Tandon and Ms. Neeti Palta. Very educative and forceful presentations were made by the senior officials from the State Governments, which included Kerala, Andaman, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha, Punjab and Uttarakhand. Members were highly benefited with their expertise and thoughtful insights. Participation in large numbers by the delegates in the business sessions made the deliberations very meaningful. Attractive door prizes were on offer in each session which included Blackberry, Tablets etc.
 
Taking it forward from the last year's convention in Mumbai, Mr. Amaresh Tiwari organized the Run for Responsible Tourism, wherein over 300 delegates took part. Travel Bureau Agra, Sphere Media, The Great India Tour Company, Alliance Hotels & Resorts, Andaman Holidays & Resorts, Country Inn Mysore and Key Hotels for their support this event. We hope to make this Run for Responsible Tourism a permanent feature in our future conventions.
 
Also on this occasion, IATO organized the Silent Auction for raising funds for a Charity in Kerala and Uttarakhand, which was a big success. This was coordinated by Mr. Ravi Gosain. We are thankful to  Taj Group of Hotels, ITC Hotels, and Crowne Plaza Hotels, Sofitel, Chrysalid, TTJ, IndiGo, Sri Lankan Airlines, Swagatam Tours Pvt. Ltd., Mountain Trail, Jet Airways, Namaste Tours Pvt. Ltd., Ibis Hotels and all others who supported IATO Silent Auction with their sponsorships.
 
Coinciding with the IATO Convention, a travel mart was also organized wherein most of the states, tour operators, hotels and resorts exhibited. This provided them a good platform to showcase their products and have interaction between buyers and supplier. This was a grand success as the following state governments participated namely: Kerala, Andaman, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand besides Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. This was very well organized by Mr. Arun Anand, Mr. Lajpat Rai and Mr. Ravi Gosain.
 
During the Valedictory Session, Hon'ble Tourism Minister of Jammu and Kashmir,  Shri Ghulam Ahmad Mir was the Chief Guest. During his address, he has invited IATO to hold it's next annual convention in Srinagar, where he has offered fuIl support by the state government.
 
Award ceremony during the valedictory session recognized the support from the
State Governments and honoured the winners of the Marketing Innovation
Competition.
 
The gala dinners with cultural events organized during the convention were highly Appreciated by the delegates. The dinner at Crown Plaza on 9th September coincided with the 40th Anniversary of Stic Travels Pvt. Ltd., cocktails for this evening was courtesy Stic Travels Pvt. Ltd. On this occasion, a lucky draw was held, wherein the winners were presented air tickets on Sri Lankan Airlines, Air China and Ukraine International Airlines. This made the evening more exciting and memorable. Our members had a great time shaking their legs to the music of an 8 piece band from Wayanad. During the dinner on 10th September, IATO had organized a musical group of differentially challenged members, which needs a special mention.
 
After the convention, interesting post-convention tours were organized to Munnar, Kumarakom, Wayanad, Kovalam and Thekkady, which facilitated delegates to gain firsthand knowledge on the tourism products of Kerala and promote such packages for their clients. 156 delegates participated and enjoyed these post-convention tours and got themselves updated on the new tourism products in Gods Own Country. Thanks to all the hotels who provided us complimentary rooms for the post tours i.e. Kumarakom Lake Resort, Zuri Kumarakom, Whispering Palms, Coconut Lagoon, Lake Song in Kumarakom; Leela Hotel, Taj Hotel in Kovalam; Spice Village in Thekkady, Silver Tips, Tea County, Tea Valley, Windermere Estate and Mountain Club in Munnar and   Vythri Resort in Wayanad.
 
This convention in Kerala was a big success with a presence of over 1200 delegates
pan India, which included Senior Government Officials, Tour operators, Travel Agents, Hoteliers, and members of Press and Travel Media.
 
There was tremendous support from the Le Meridien Kochi for making the convention a grand success.Also we received overwhelming support from Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Taj Malabar, Casino, Trident, Dream Hotel, Ramada, The Fern and Whyte Forte for providing rooms for the delegates at their properties. 
 
On behalf of the IATO, we would like to place on record our gratitude to the Kerala Government, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of lndia and all the state governments for their whole hearted support in making the convention a grand success. Our sincere thank to Jet Airways, Spice Jet, IndiGo and Sri Lankan Airlines for their kind support. Thanks to ACCOR Hotels and the other sponsors, who supported IATO for making the IATO convention a memorable event. Special thanks to Ms. Rini Khanna who did an excellent job and coordinated the stage very well like previous years.
 
Transporting 1200 plus delegates that too from I0 different hotels to the convention centre and for the dinners everyday was surely a herculean task. Thanks to our Transport Committee of Mr. Ramesh Wattal, Mr. Sunil Gupta and Mr. N.S. Rathor who closely coordinated with Mr. Sejoe Jose, Mr. Sadiq Farook and the Marvel Team to ensure that our delegates reach the venues in time. Similarly, all arrival and Departure transfers were smoothly and efficiently managed.
 
For the first time, the IATO Executive Committee had an interactive meeting with our Chapter Chairmen over dinner on 7th September, which was attended by Mr. N.S. Rathor (Maharashtra), Mr. S.L. Soni (West Bengal), Mr. C. Nagendra Prasad (Tamil Nadu), Mr. Suresh Periwal (North Bengal & Sikkim), Mr. Martin Joseph (Goa), Mr. Khaliq Wangnoo (Jammu & Kashmir), Mr. Sunil Gupta (Uttar Pradesh), Mr. S. Mahalingaiah (Karnataka), Mr. Rakesh Chopra (Madhya Pradesh) and Mr. Bhim Singh (Rajasthan).
 
An active members' meeting was held over breakfast at the Le Meridien on 10th September, where we had a presence of 56 members. Various burning issues were
discussed.
 
The convention was given wide coverage in 12 local daily newspapers and the electronic media, special efforts made by Ms. Henna Antony and her team was exemplary.
 
Pioneering role played by Mr. Arun Anand, Convention Chairman and Mr. E.M. Najeeb, Co-Chairman for making this convention a grand success. Organizing Committee namely Mr. Subhash Goyal, Mr. Sarab Jit Singh, Mr. Rajeev Kohli, Mr. Lajpat Rai, Mr. Amaresh Tiwari, Mr. Rajiv Mehra, Mr. Ravi Gosain, Mr. Ramesh Wattal, Mr. Sunil Gupta and Mr. N.S. Rathor performed excellent effort and support during the convention.
 
Our gratitude to Mr. Suman Billa, Secretary Tourism, Govt. of Kerala and Mr. E.M. Najeeb, who were instrumental in getting the 5 ministers for the inaugural session.