Selling India Value

India is recovering from the effects of the Mumbai incident in early December, thanks in most part to a focused effort on the part of the India Tourism Board, along with efforts of tour operators specializing in India travel product, lower airfares and very likely to the effects of the news around this year’s big Oscar winner, “Slum Dog Millionaire.”

According to Kalyan Sengupta, assistant director, India tourism, New York, the country is still focusing on getting the word out to travelers that India is a safe place to travel to, but at the same time, promoting the diversity of the country and the varied vacation experiences that can be enjoyed at very reasonable prices.

SITA World Tours, for example—a long-time tour operator to India—is offering a variety of India sales programs that are slashing as much as $1,000 per couple, a more than enthusiastic enticement to couples wavering on the edge of buying a once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience in India. Start them off on the company’s 5-night Golden Triangle Summer Special, a great first-time travel adventure to India priced from just $1,260 pp from now through Sept. 6. The program includes visits to Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur and an Amber Fort excursion.

SITA World Tours, by the way, has been named India’s “Best Tour Operator from the Americas” by India’s Ministry of Tourism. The ceremony was held in New Delhi and the award was issued to Roger Mahal, Chairman & CEO, along with Tony Marwah, CEO of SITA’s Delhi office. Mahal stated, “It is with great pride and honor that we receive this award and title once again, as it is a testament to our strength and consistent efforts in the promotion of travel to India.”

But it’s not just India travel entities that are getting kudos for their efforts and offering great business building ideas on sales to India. Last summer, Lufthansa initiated a unique online India Specialist Program with a host of benefits and marketing tools that was initially focused on home-based agents selling ethnic travel, but is now going out to the general leisure market.

Dirk Janzen, director of leisure & online sales, North America, explained that Lufthansa became aware that a substantial portion of its North American business to India was coming from mostly home-based agents specializing in ethnic travel to India. “Initially,” he says, “we focused the program on those home-based agents because we wanted to recognize and reward agents for successfully connecting people with travel to India.”

As a result, he says, they developed this specialist program as a way to not only offer a rewards program with generous incentives for agents, but to also offer specialist tools that can help build business and offer great deals to their clients. Agent benefits include low fares to India for their personal travel, an exclusive website with helpful information and business-building tools, invitations to events, monthly e-newsletters, gifts, contests, fare updates and free Lufthansa material.

Eby Johnson of Alpine Travel in Denver has been selling travel for over seven years as a home-based agent and he joined the program when it started in July 2008. “Ever since I’ve been selling Lufthansa, trying to keep track of their ticket numbers and listing the sales online at, it’s been going very good actually.

“I want to say that a good 60 percent of my business to India is Lufthansa,” he says, adding that most of his business is ethnic. “I also have a number of corporate clients, most of whom are from India also, who go back there on business.” Still, he points out, “It’s definitely a good program for leisure agents who aren’t focusing on ethnic business.”

As for him, he says he’s selling Lufthansa because of the way they treat their agents. “They’re giving me something back with the special contests, special fares and all the other things. And I don’t think other airlines are doing that.”