From the peaks of Kanchenjunga to the backwaters of Kerala, India thrives as a land of mystique. A place where an emperor once built a mausoleum to house the tomb of his favorite wife and named it Taj Mahal, where fantastical “Bollywood” movies mirror the technicolor life played out on the streets, where tigers roam national parks and sadhus meditate by the banks of the Ganges.
“Every state in India has a unique culture, cuisine, tradition and language that makes India so diverse, exciting and incredible,” said Madhu Dubey, executive director of the India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB). “Interesting pre- and post-convention tours are customized for unique experiences of the delegates, like dinner in a palace hotel with regal settings, elephant rides, thematic evenings with local ambience, pottery making, textile weaving, yoga and wellness tours, and visits to places for spice cultivation and tea/coffee plantations.”
The Business of India
For all its enticing temples and forts and for all its color and spice, India is also a business hub, making it a prime meetings destination.
“When it comes to meetings, we are of course an economic powerhouse in the region,” said Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director for DMC Creative Travel. “Many global companies have regional headquarters in India, so it easily adds value to any meeting or conference that has to take place here. We do have a few large convention centers, but on the average we have hotels that have more than adequate meeting spaces for reasonably sized events.”
According to Dubey, ICPB works closely with India Tourism offices around the world—there are 14 overseas India Tourism offices—to promote India as a MICE destination with unique experiential products taking advantage of its rich culture, including yoga, Ayurveda, naturopathy, spiritualism and its cuisine.
ICPB is also making efforts to promote India for its expertise in various disciplines to attract groups.
“India’s strength in medicine and information technology makes it a powerhouse of knowledge and expertise for conferences on these subjects,” Dubey said.
In conjunction with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, ICPB proposes to organize road shows in major source markets, initially in Europe, to promote India as a meetings and incentive destination.
For the domestic market, which accounts for about 85 percent of the total group business in India, ICPB organizes the flagship annual event Conventions India Conclave, including seminars and training programs for professionals in the industry.
“The U.S. is the largest source market for India in terms of tourist arrivals, largely for the leisure market,” Dubey said. “Regarding MICE business, with growing infrastructure for meetings, conventions and exhibitions across the country, India is now making aggressive efforts to position itself as a favorable MICE destination. The warm hospitality, varied experiences and modern infrastructure at select locations make India a strong contender for global MICE business.”
Many of India’s cities have gained popularity in attracting meetings business, namely Delhi/NCR (National Capital Region), Agra—home to the Taj Mahal—Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi and Bhubaneswar, mostly due to international connectivity and infrastructure. In addition, most of the chambers of commerce are also situated in these cities.
Some of the prominent venues for meetings and conferences include Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), Jaipur Exhibition & Convention Center, India Expo Centre & Mart in Greater Noida, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, the Jaypee Palace Hotel & Convention Centre in Agra and the Udyan, Convention & Exhibition Centre in Kochi, while important hotel chains like Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, ITC Hotels, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, Le Meridien Hotels and Marriott International also cater to groups.
One of the most iconic properties is the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, within reach of landmarks such as the India Gate and the National Museum, New Delhi. Hyatt will launch its luxury brand Andaz this year in New Delhi. Meanwhile, ITC Kakatiya in Hyderabad is a five-star deluxe hotel located in the heart of the city.