Recently, I met with Mr. Anand Sandil, the managing director of Fun Holidays Instant Reservations based in Ahmedabad, who was staying in the Shangri La Chiang Mai Hotel during his private visit to northern Thailand.
Following up on the recent annual convention of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) held in Chiang Mai in October 2009, Mr. Sandil brought his family to have a more leisurely observation of the charming city.
Mr. Anand Sandil and his wife, Mrs. Darshana Sandil have been at the forefront of promoting domestic tourism in India. The entrepreneur couple, with more than 20 years of experience in the field of marketing and events, are associated with several major hotels in India as advisors or as promoters. The most recent destination to be promoted in their marketing group is the Bintan Island and the Nirvana Gardens.
Apart from being conference organizers, as well as event managers for several leading corporate clients, they are also pioneers introducing the concept of incentive travel programs in India. They have designed some of the most unique tailor-made packages suiting the needs and the budget of their client organizations. More than 250,000 guests have traveled through the Fun Holidays organization in the last ten years.
Mr. Sandil has a plan to execute an integrated marketing concept to bring Indian families to tour Chiang Mai. From Mr. Sandil’s observes that at the moment, the Tourism Authority of Thailand roadshows recommends mainly known destinations such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phuket. However, travel information about Chiang Mai is not being presented in detail. Chiang Mai should be promoted as a family destination, wedding destination, and corporate destination to potential Indian visitors.
Fun Holidays is in contact with 3,000 travel agents plus working with another 300 corporate clients arranging conferences, events, and large weddings. Out of these contacts he estimates its possible to bring in 5,000 families to visit Chiang Mai in the coming years. When touring, Indian families require a niche lifestyle and boutique hotels, as well as look for 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels and resorts.
From his few days’ visit, he has observed that Chiang Mai as a destination suffers the worst from the economic crisis. We met on December 24, which is Christmas Eve, but there were very few decorations in the hotel, few guests in the hotel, and no live Christmas caroling to be heard.
Bringing Indian tourists to Chiang Mai is logistically very doable. The visitors leave Mumbai airport at 9:00 pm in the evening and arrive in Chiang Mai in the early hours of the following day.
At this time, traveling for Indians abroad is very easy. Any bank controls that existed ten years ago hindering travel abroad have been discontinued. Now the rupee is accepted throughout SE Asia as a growing economic currency.
Throughout the interview, Mr. Sandil mentioned several avenues to be incorporated to open up the travel market between Chiang Mai and India. At the moment there are 24 scheduled flights connecting India with Thailand.
In Chiang Mai, Mr. Sandil enjoyed visiting the Doi Suthep temple. He went in the morning, meditated, and relaxed. He spent most of the day there. From the hillside location, the night view of the lights of the city is superb. Another drawing point for him was the beautiful gardens for nature lovers. He went sight seeing from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm, enjoying a fine lunch nearby.
While in Chiang Mai, he and his family tried the spa in the hotel, as well as a treatment at the Oasis Spa, which he found to be excellent. He also tried a smaller massage center outside of the hotel. Again he found the treatment was great – even more than satisfactory due to the attentive service.
Being a strong supporter of northern Thailand, Mr. Sandil left Chiang Mai eager to bring Indian families to enjoy their leisure holiday here. Mr. Sandil is looking for an exclusive tie-up with a hotel/resort in Chiang Mai to represent from their marketing office in India.
Mr. Sandil wants to visit Chiang Mai in the near future, and he has a strong desire to conduct a one-day seminar for the sales and marketing teams in Chiang Mai hotels and resorts and for the tour operators on the subject of “How to bring the Indian Market to Chiang Mai.”
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