Sita Inbound Division, part of the Rs 480 crore (Rs 4.8 billion) Kuoni India, has launched a new strategic business unit, Sita MICE, as part of its strategy to focus on domestic tourists, non-resident Indians and other markets such as China and Japan.
Sita MICE has been set up to tap specific business segments including meetings, conventions, incentives, charters and eco-tourism (fairly a new concept in India).
While the company will enhance its existing office in Nepal, it will increase its shareholding in Sita Lanka from 49 per cent to 76 per cent.
A strategic partnership in Bhutan is also in the pipeline where the company is looking at a 60:40 alliance.
Ranjit Malkani, chairman and chief executive officer (India & Asia), Kuoni Travel Group, said: "The expansion plans have been formulated with an intent to emerge as a major player in the South Asian region. We identified a major shift in tourist preferences where customers do not want to travel long distances. Through these joint ventures we will offer packages by clubbing these destinations."
The company will spend Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) on advertising this year. The tourism industry, Malkani said, was passing through a turbulent phase following September 11 terrorist attacks and now fear of Iraq war, leading to a sharp decline in long-stay long-distance tourists.
Apart from the sub-continent, Sita also has plans for the domestic market. It will shortly launch its first brochure offering 101 tours in India targeted at NRIs. This will be followed with another brochure, which will have 1001 tours.
"We will offer every possible combination that one can think of and also will offer packages catering to every segment of the society," Malkani said.
"There is no big player in the market on this scale yet. We will leverage our marketing network for the new initiatives."
Meanwhile, the company is negotiating with six different companies for acquisitions.
Malkani said, "We are looking at some acquisitions in all segments including business travel, but no understanding has yet been reached with any of the companies."
The company received the Indian Tourism Award for the highest forex earnings in 2002.