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Wednesday, Mar 10, 2004

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SOTC sees growth from trade fair tours — Ties up with German cruise cos

Our Bureau

Kolkata , March 9

EVEN as more Indians have begun travelling abroad, travel houses like SOTC have begun homing in on trade fairs as a separate business segment.

SOTC has a special business unit to cater to the segment of trade fair tours. "It is now contributing 10 per cent of SOTC's overall business," Mr Mahesh Shirodkar, Chief Operating Officer, SOTC, told Business Line.

The tour operator has also tied up with German cruise companies to launch `hotelships' - an alternative form of accommodation during trade fairs in Germany. "SOTC is the first Asian tour operator to offer this facility," according to Mr Shirodkar.

SOTC, the outbound travel division of Kuoni (India), has a 66 per cent share in the outbound-travel business handled by Indian tour operators. Kuoni (India) is the Indian arm of Swiss travel house Kuoni Travel Holdings which is billed as one of the largest travel companies in the world.

Mr Shirodkar said that at least 60,000 to 70,000 Indians visit international trade fairs every year and small and medium entrepreneurs consider such visits as a business investment. Germany organises the largest number of these trade fairs, followed by Italy (Milan), China, France and Japan.

Pointing out that major trade fairs in Germany often attract 1.5 lakh visitors, company sources said that often visitors to these fairs had to find accommodation nearly 50 miles away from the trade fair location. SOTC has arranged for `hotelships' as an option, whereby accommodation is provided on river-cruise ships. These can even be utilised by corporate customers to entertain their business associates, sources said.

The hotelships facility would be introduced for the first time during the printing, imaging and packaging fair - Drupa, which is slated to be held in Dusseldorf between May 6 and 19.

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