The “Build Back Better” theme served as the foundation for the TAFI convention in Sarawak in 2022, which delivered on its promise to foster insightful discussions with some thought-provoking material about the future of travel, tourism, and sustainability.
The TAFI convention 2022 turned out to be a successful event as nearly 500 travel delegates and media attended the international event. The convention was hosted by Tourism Malaysia, Sarawak Tourism Board, Business Events Sarawak, and MyCEB at Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, from September 20-23, 20222. The Borneo Convention Centre at Kuching made up a great venue for the three-day event. The convention’s theme, “Build Back Better” was a direct reference to the need to rethink and reorient tourism business strategy post-COVID.
Commenting on the theme and outcome of the convention, Ajay Prakash, TAFI President, said, “We’re holding a convention after four years in a world that has undergone a radical change. The consumer and expectations have changed and it’s critical that stakeholders in the industry change to keep pace with the new travellers. Responsible Tourism is no longer an optional luxury; it’s a dire necessity if we are to remain relevant. I’m very happy with the response from our members, and I hope that everyone who attended will go back with some new ideas and a new attitude to the business.”
There were three knowledge sessions, and while travel industry stalwarts and leaders from India and across the world participated, it was a delight to hear from them and ponder on the depth of the subjects. The first one went with the theme, Build Back Better, and it focused on the responsibility of the travel and tourism industry to learn from past mistakes and to restructure tourism with sensitivity towards the planet and in line with the changed consumer behaviour and expectations. The second one, “Change the Tune,” focused on the need for travel agents and tour operators to look beyond airline commissions, which have disappeared, and creatively devise new revenue avenues. Finally, ‘The Big M in Tourism’ addressed the issue of magnifying and resurrecting brands in the post-COVID world to stay relevant to the younger generation.
Leaders of the travel business such as Asego, who revolutionised the distribution of travel insurance; DreamFolks, which offers airport lounges and related services across the globe, Verteil, an NDC aggregator, and VFS Global, the pioneers of visa services facilitation, gave some informative and excellent presentations that were very informative and had a big impact on the audience.
Keynote speeches were also delivered by Zubin Karkaria, Founder and CEO, VFS Global, Ankush Nijhawan, Co-Founder, TBO.com and MD Nijhawan Group, and Vinay Gupta, Founder and Group CEO, TripFactory.com. They kept the audience riveted to their speech and seated throughout.
The TAFI-Travel Biz Monitor Awards were one of the convention’s highlights (TAFI-TBM). The Global Ambassador for Sustainable Tourism Awards, Superwomen of Tourism Awards, Torch Bearers of Tourism Awards, Torch Bearers of Tourism Innovation Awards, Global Business Leader Award and a special recognition Award for Exceptional Contribution to Tourism were among the categories of awards given out by TAFI-TBM.
The finale was TAFI’s tribute to the late Ankur Bhatia of the Bird Group for his significant contributions to the Indian travel industry. The same was presented by Ajay Prakash on behalf of the travel fraternity.
On the occasion of the gala farewell dinner hosted by Tourism Malaysia and Business Events Sarawak, Nancy Shukri, Federal Minister of Tourism, Malaysia, recounted the traditional ties between India and Malaysia. She hoped that the TAFI Convention will encourage more Indian tourists to visit Sarawak and experience its pristine beauty.
To urge members to help create a more equitable society, TAFI also started two CSR initiatives in keeping with the convention’s theme, Build Back Better. The first was to lend assistance to the “Books Build Legacy” initiative led by Amelia Roziman, CEO of Business Events Sarawak, who established free youth libraries throughout Sarawak’s interior areas for young people. The second initiative aims to accelerate gender parity in travel and tourism. TAFI, in association with VFS Global, has launched a pledge to be signed by all members to promote gender equality in the workplace. “The empowerment of women and gender parity is not just a politically correct idea,” said Ajay Prakash, “studies have shown that it actually leads to better bottom lines. We hope that our members will adopt the pledge and work towards implementing it.”
Talking about the success of the convention, Abbas Moiz, General Secretary, TAFI, said, “Initially, we had a lot of challenges, starting with the visa process and the rebooking of airline tickets on account of the pre and post-Convention itineraries, but the team came through, and I believe this was a landmark Convention – the biggest such event post-COVID.”