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Q&A: Talking to Radhika Shastry, Managing Director - RCI India (Part I)

February 2011

Radhika Shastry is Managing Director - India, for RCI, a subsidiary of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, and the global leader in vacation exchange and European rentals with exclusive access for specified periods to more than 67,000 vacation properties around the world. She is responsible for leading RCI's business in this region and is based in the Bangalore office.

During her 17 year tenure with RCI, Radhika has developed many new products and led numerous initiatives to help grow the business in India. Her strength in building long-term relationships combined with her knowledge and understanding of the industry has not only aided the development of Timeshare in India but has also made RCI synonymous with the term in this part of the world.

We talk to Radhika about her views on the industry from the vantage point of a key stakeholder in the industry and an industry observer, looking at current and future scenarios.

Q: How is the timeshare industry doing in India?

A: The timeshare industry in India is currently in a vibrant mode with around 350,000 timeshare owning families and a total industry turnover of US$ 150 million. The original fixed-week product has morphed over time, adapting to market demand and consumer needs. Today, floating weeks and points-based products are vital segments in the timeshare mix.

Rising consumer affluence and the tremendous demand for experiential holidays, combined with greater accessibility due to the development in tourism infrastructure and advent of low-cost carriers is driving the timeshare industry - which is the fastest growing component of the tourism segment in India and growing at about 16% per annum.

Q: Is the buoyant domestic economy good news for the industry?

A:The growth in tourism is expected to intensify in the next few years, driven by a buoyant domestic economy, greater governmental support in upgrading and expanding the country’s infrastructure like airports (including adding smaller towns on flight maps) and national highways. Besides, funding assistance for tourism-related development projects, massive investment in hotel infrastructure and open sky policies are all aimed at propelling growth of the tourism and hospitality sector.

Q: How is the changing Indian middle class part of this picture?

A: Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization is expected to grow the affluent Indian middle class to one billion. Disposable income has been growing at over 10 % annually with much of that being spent on travel and exploring new destinations, fuelled by a mind shift in the concept of holidaying.

Vacations today are about seeing new destinations, learning new skills, experiencing new cultures and trying out different cuisines. The concept of timeshare is attractive to those who are keen on committing to the lifestyle need of a lifetime of family holidays.

Q: Is the concept of holidaying with extended families getting popular?

A: Holidaying with your family is almost a tradition in India. Keeping this in mind, most resorts do plan around spacious accommodation - which is attractive to holiday seekers who prefer family holidays - often traveling with extended families. The convenience of self-catering apartments with the luxury of space as compared to hotel rooms is a huge draw. Besides, for families traveling with children, or the elderly, the ‘kitchen facility’ affords certain independence, which is welcome. Resort facilities and activity options catering to multiple age groups also appeal greatly to the large Indian vacationing family.

Q: What about the attractions of diverse vacation experiences across destinations?

A: According to World Travel and Tourism Council, India will be a tourism hotspot from 2009–2018, having the highest 10-year growth potential. India ranked 11th in the Asia Pacific region and 62nd overall, moving up each year, in the list of the world’s most attractive destinations. It is desired for its rich natural resources as well as for its cultural resources, with its many world heritage sites. 

The Indian-Government initiated the “Incredible India” campaign which has been hugely successful in promoting inbound and domestic tourism. Add to this, efforts to diversify tourist attractions by offering new products such as adventure, wellness, medical, golf, spiritual tourism and more.

Q: Any indicators on inbound or domestic tourism showing growth?

A: Foreign tourist arrivals in India went up from 5.11 million in 2009 to 5.58 in 2010. Easing of visa regulations to many countries has also provided a shot in the arm for inbound tourism. Domestic tourism has been showing robust growth with 650 million visits in year 2009.

While all this is encouraging for the industry, the catalyst for growth is still product promise - the benefit of paying upfront during purchase and diffusing the liability of large payouts for accommodation during travel over many years. It also leaves consumers with liquidity for other discretionary spends while on vacation. This inflation-proof pre-paid nature of the vacation has found even greater favor, post the recession period we seem to be leaving behind.

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