The 67th TAAI Convention and Exhibition that recently concluded in Colombo, Sri Lanka was a resounding success. Never in history has the President of the host country been a part of the Convention, as was the case this time. The Sri Lankan hospitality was at its best and they left no stone unturned in organizing a wonderful and memorable experience for all the delegates. The insightful and invigorating Business Sessions kept the audience captive as they listened in rapt attention to the suggestions and viewpoints of their industry colleague.
The inaugural function of the 67th Conference of TAAI commenced at the BMICH in Colombo, setting the stage for an awe-inspiring opening ceremony that left the audience captivated. The conference centred around the profound connection shared by India and Sri Lanka, showcasing the vibrant essence of Sri Lankan culture through a mesmerizing performance by the renowned Channa Upuli Dance Troupe. Nishad Wijetunga, the President of SLAITO, extended a warm welcome to the distinguished delegation. Both Jyoti Mayal, the President of TAAI, and Gopal Baglay, the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, addressed the gathering, emphasising the significance of India-Sri Lanka relations in the context of tourism. The Chief Guest of the evening, His Excellency President Ranil Wickremasinghe, further reiterated the profound bond between the two nations with a brilliant speech that highlighted the awe-inspiring sights found in Sri Lanka.
The Day 2 of the 67th TAAI Convention kick-started with a houseful of travel and hospitality professionals, eagerly waiting for engaging business sessions followed by a B2B session showcasing the best of Sri Lanka’s Accommodation Providers and Destination Management Companies. Harin Fernando, Honourable Minister of Tourism and Lands, Sri Lanka
The Session on India Tourism Vision 2047: A Transformed Landscape of Experiences and Connections witnessed an exciting discussion between Arvind Singh, former Secretary Tourism, Government of India; Madhavan Menon, Managing Director at Thomas Cook India Limited; Nipun Agarwal, Chief Commercial and Transformation Officer, Air India; K.B. Kachru, Chairman Emeritus & Principal Advisor – South Asia, Radisson Hotels Group and moderator Ashish Gupta, Consulting CEO, FAITH. Insightful presentations were made by Pieter Elbers, CEO Indigo and Tisum Jayasuriya, Chairman Sri Lanka Convention bureau. An interesting discussion on potential of aviation was moderated by Kapil Kaul, CEO and Director, CAPA India with panellists Amitabh Khosla – Country Director – India, IATA; Praveen Iyer – Co-Founder & Chief Commercial Officer, Akasa Air; Rajeev Bhatia – Chief Commercial Officer, Amadeus India; Vinay Malhotra – Head of Global Sales, Indigo and Richard Nuttall – CEO, Sri Lankan Airlines.
Adding a stimulating perspective to travel were two intriguing sessions. One was a detailed presentation on Experiential Travel – A Paradigm Shift in Tourism by Dr Navina Jafa, Expert Cultural Skills & Sustainable Development and other was a motivational story of a true journey by Ajeet Bajaj and daughter Deeya Bajaj on climbing the Seven Summits – The Trailbalzers’ journey!
A brilliant evening to cap off an enthralling Day 2 was held at the Cinnamon Grand. Following a Sri Lanka Theme, the event was named “an evening in Colombo” and featured captivating dance performances, oriental music and delicious meals & drinks. The evening was graced by the presence of Hon. Minister of Tourism & Lands Harin Fernando and the Chief Guest Hon. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, who both gave exhaustive speeches highlighting the importance of India market for Sri Lanka. Besides cultural affinity, both countries share crucial tourism ties too.
Sharing her thoughts, Jyoti Mayal said, “For us it was important to stick to our commitment of holding the Convention in Sri Lanka. I personally believe that Sri Lanka as a destination has much to offer and as a neighbouring country, we must do everything in our power to help the country come out of the economic crisis. India’s relationship with BIMSTEC countries presents a significant opportunity for enhancing tourism ties and we all must work upon it. We are thrilled to be hosted by Sri Lanka and completely overwhelmed by the warm response that we have received. I am confident that this Convention will prove to be a milestone in the India – Sri Lanka relations and also the country’s tourism graph.”
During the course of the evening, the Hon. Tourism Minister also shared his opinion. He said, “We have a target of 4 million tourists and we are confident of achieving it because India is out No.1 source market. We are not just a beach destination but also a beautiful island that is brimming with touristic offerings – we are a 365 days destination. Sri Lanka is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean for its beauty and multitude attractions.” The Minister also spoke highly about TAAI, especially President Jyoti Mayal, who has remained a loyal friend of Sri Lanka and stuck to her commitment of holding the Convention in the country, obstacles notwithstanding. The closing speech was given by Chairman Organising Committee Maahen Kariyawasam followed by the Vote of Thanks by Vice President TAAI. Jay Bhatia
The Day 3, the final day of the TAAI Convention took delegates to a new venue – The Shangri-La Colombo, which is one of the poshest hotels in the city. The morning started with the signing of the MoU between Nexus DMC CEO Vinay Gupta and TAAI President for its new landmark website – NEXTAAI. “The total size of the Global Tourism sector is 8 trillion and with NexTAAI we have combined the strength of people + innovation + experience + relations. This is the first time that an association has taken such a move for its members,”
said Vinay. Giving real-time presentation to the audience, he explained how TAAI members can make use of this new portal to create flawless itineraries in a short span of time and also do easy follow-ups and changes. Keeping the energy momentum going, Yogesh Chhabria, author, speaker and founder of The Happionaire Way stepped in and motivated the gathering to always have a positive and ‘I can do it’ attitude towards everything in life.
Roping in international viewpoint, the session on Transcending Borders – Strengthening International Relations for a Transformed World brought together Ho Thi Thanh Truc. Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Sri Lanka; Paul Stephens, High Commissioner, High Commission of Australia, Sri Lanka; Katsuki Kotaro – Charge D’Affaires, Embassy of Japan, Sri Lanka; Fakhri Alivev – Charge D’Affaires, Embassy of Azerbaijan. New Delhi and Maged Mosleh – Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Sri Lanka. Any noteworthy discussion on tourism is incomplete without discussing how Technology has upped the game in travel. Titled Differentiating Travel – Perspectives from Industry Experts, the panellists included Dev Karvat – Founder and CEO, Asego Travel LLP; G B Srithar – Regional Director, India, Middle East & South Asia, Singapore Tourism Board; Commander Nevil Malao – Senior Vice President, JM Baxi & Co.; Noel Swain – COO – Passport, eVisa, Identity & Citizen Services, VFS Global and was moderated by Amish Desai, Member Managing Committee, TAAI.
Another day full of engaging business sessions was followed by a B2B session showcasing the best of Sri Lanka’s Accommodation Providers and Destination Management Companies.
A stunning end to the TAAI 67th Convention with a night of scintillating entertainment at the beautiful Heritance Negombo. Set overlooking the beautiful golden beaches of Negombo, the TAAI delegates were treated to the very best of English, Sinhala, Tamil & Hindi entertainment with the likes of Umara, Roy Jackson, Judy De Silvia, Jacqueline Hettiarachchi, Danu Innasithamby, Ricky Bahar and many more. The performances were complimented by dances, fireworks and delicious food & drinks. Plenty of Lucky Draws ensured that the delegates went back happy after having attended a landmark TAAI Convention.