Titlis Engelberg remains a top draw for the Indian outbound, now the second biggest market in terms of footfalls. Rayo Choksi, Titlis Engelberg talks to us about the profile, business and trends in an exclusive interview.
How has the outbound shaped up for you in 2017? How was the peak winter season?
2017 fare exceeded the conservative forecast we had made due to the dual negative effect of the demonetization and the service tax. The current half yearly figures show a big upswing which cannot be credited to anything in particular expect for the Indian will to travel. Winter of 2016-2017 was good with the traditional excursion business by which I mean single trip visitors from the Asian markets. Our traditional ski winter business was luckily good thanks to the good weather on the weekends coupled by lack of snow on the lower slopes and ski areas.
Which season gives you maximum numbers from India? What are the most taken to activities by Indians? We understand that that Titlis Engelberg hosts a wide range of summer and winter activities. Is there any particular favourite activity that attracts most Indians?
The traditional 3-month period starting from end April brings us 65% of our business. In the last decade, it got us 80% of our business. The shoulder season has become very strong in the recent years and the dip after June is negligible compared to the earlier years. Mt Titlis is very popular for various activities in the snow in both summer and winter. Indians love the Glacier Park with its fun toys which are all for free use, the Titlis Cliff Walk which is Europe’s highest suspension bridge and the surreal world of the glacier grotto. The also love to spend time rowing on the lake at Truebsee and we find the Air Jump Bag at Truebsee a big hit with the Indians. In winter, we have some Indians trying our “snow experience” which includes a short ski lesson, zipping on electric snow bikes and a visit to the Igloo Hotel. Our trotti-bike experience is also very popular with the young Indians.
What is the profile of the outbound? Is it FITs or families and groups? How much of it is MICE? There are plenty of activities for groups too. What is the ideal size of a contingent you are comfortable catering to?
We have a very good mix of all types of clients. We are included in almost every group itinerary of the tour operators. Our GSAs report great sales year after year on the FIT front and our MICE segment has the largest growth amongst all three segments. We offer something to all ages and we are very happy to be the number one mountain excursion for repeated travellers. Our normal leisure groups are around 35-40 each. Since we can take up to 1500 people up to Mt Titlis every hour, the MICE segment loves us especially since we are also able to cater up to 1500 Indian lunches every day. We have enough activities possible for big groups so there is always something that someone can do whether on top of the mountain or halfway up on the lake of Truebsee.
Where does India stand in the pecking order in terms of footfalls to Titlis Engelberg?
The Indians form the second largest group of overseas visitors after the Chinese. But revenue wise Indians are more important as almost all groups have lunch and quite a few groups stay at our Terrace Hotel in Engelberg.
Out of the regions that you handle – Australia, Korea, Japan, India and GCC – which is the strongest market for Titlis Engelberg? What are some trends in these markets? Is there a homogeneity in the trend? What are the spending patterns and night stays? Which country gives you maximum room nights and revenue?
India by far is the most important. From Korea, we get a lot of young backpackers, from Australia the age group is between 25-35 and from Japan it is the 55+. The GCC countries provide similar homogeneity to the Indian traveller but the MICE segment is not strong. Whilst the visitors from the Gulf countries have the most number of nights, the least number is from Korea. In fact, the Japanese do not even stay in the region at all and are day visitors.
How many hotel rooms do you have and what sort of annual occupancies are they notching up?
Engelberg has 4000 hotel beds + another thousand beds in apartments which makes it one of the biggest resorts in the whole region. The hotels do well from the last week of December to April for the ski business, from end April to July with the Indian business and from July to Oct with the other markets. The only period which could be called lean would be November till middle of December.
Air-connectivity is enviable. Switzerland has multiple airports and motorable distances. If you have to share with us some bottlenecks in further boosting tourism numbers from India, what would they be? Is a conception of Switzerland being an expensive destination a factor?
Direct flights are big boom. Whilst Swiss is using the capacity Air India is not operating between the two countries. Visas are of course the other big factor in driving growth. Luckily the Schengen visas facilitate multiple country travellers, however we do hear of inordinate delays and extra checks hampering ease of travel. Switzerland is expensive, no doubt, compared to other European countries. But you will never have an unsatisfied or a disgruntled visitor in Switzerland which shows the true value of what it delivers with precision and also the aspirational value it gives which cannot be quantified.
Going ahead, what sort of promotional strategies are you going to deploy? How is the outreach happening? Are you working with OTAs as well?
Our successful strategy of partnering with key operators, supporting fledgling ones, working with the trade press along with an occasional foray with the end consumer through key media promotions will continue. We plan more online and web based promotions in the future.