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10 Aug

Making Travel Accessible and Affordable

Atul Vaya, MD – Forty Travels speaks to Atul Vaya, MD – Forty Travels, about the company’s growth, factors helping its success and prime holiday destinations

1. Tell us in brief about Forty Travels?

AV: Forty Travels was started in Fujairah. We took over a loss-making company and turned it around in two years. Today, we have offices in five countries: UAE, India, Georgia, Kenya and South Africa, generating crisscross traffic from all points.

With the current market demand, Forty Travels has emerged as one of the strongest and largest players in low cost fixed departures Ex-UAE with flight inclusive packages starting as low as AED1,100 per person ensuring affordable holiday packages to all segments with no compromise on the services provided . The company is now well established as a strong destination management company (DMC) for the Caucasus region of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Our advantages here include direct contracts with major hotels in the region and company-owned vehicles for transporting tourists in Georgia. These factors have helped keep costs low as well as give us a competitive advantage.

Forty Travels is also advancing as a DMC in other countries starting with Bosnia very soon. This will be followed by Slovakia and Croatia next year. We presently service some of the top companies in UAE and have a great track record with customers resulting into over 50 per cent of our business being generated from our repeat clients. Our aim is to achieve the largest market share of the Caucasus region.

2. What are some of the factors that have helped push Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Armenia as favourable destinations for both families and corporate companies?

AV: Georgia’s popularity has been increasing steadily in this region due to its free visa policy for all residents and nationals of GCC. Due to its close proximity to UAE and relaxed visa policies, reasonably priced airfares, it makes it one of the top choices for a last minute family holiday or a weekend getaway with an added advantage to experience a feel of Europe with amazing food, culture, history and of course, nature.

Similarly, the three other countries mentioned are also welcoming select GCC nationals as well as expatriates with relaxed visa policies and making it a popular holiday destination besides having great deals on airfares and short flights.

3. As a DMC, what are some of the services you handle for clients in these countries? How do they differ when it is for a corporate client?

AV: As a DMC we design and plan a complete itinerary based on the requirement of the leisure traveller while for a corporate client we manage and assist in organising their meetings, conferences, incentive tours, team building tours, events, shooting commercials, films, etc. We work very closely with tourism boards and its administration to get the required support organising these tours.

4. Which are some of the leading segments and nationalities that prefer these destinations?

AV: These destinations are suitable for all segments of holidaymakers. All of our destinations offer a range of the most luxurious properties to budget hotels, transportation facilities and must see sightseeing/ excursions. Most importantly, they are all very safe countries where travellers do not have to worry about any issues threatening their well-being.

5. What sets Forty Travels apart from its competitors as a DMC?

AV: Forty Travels is the only company that has its registered office in both countries, offering local support in the country of origin as well as the destination. Agents do not have to incur foreign remittance costs and manage the rate of exchange, among other complications. We offer multilingual support from UAE and the entire GCC.

Forty Travels ensures that every traveller’s individual needs are sought and carefully considered while designing their holiday package to provide them with service which is par excellence.

We offer similar support to the travellers upon arrival at the destination, with guides speaking many languages including Arabic. We pre-book and arrange specific meals as required by travellers from 100 per cent halal to vegetarian meals.

6. Can you tell us more about your group and FIT segments?

AV: In terms of the ‘Group’ segment, we are one of the first DMCs to launch fixed group departures to these countries. Packages are designed to take away all the hassles faced by of travellers by offering them full solutions, including well-negotiated flight rates, contracted hotel rates, transportation, and other ancillary services such as transfers and tours, etc.

We offer very competitive rates with a value-added solution to front line consultants. Most of our clients say, “It is so easy to sell your products, we have no headaches. All we need to do is to check the availability of seats and we know that everything else will be well taken care of.”

On the FIT front, we do not restrict ourselves in to selling/offering only traditional leisure packages. Instead we have gone all out in offering a range of holiday packages varying from leisure to adventure sport namely rafting, paragliding, cycling, biking, bungee, hiking tours apart from beverage tasting and cultural tours.

7. You also offer packages in countries such as India and Kenya and Tanzania in Africa? What is the peak period for these packages?

AV: There are different seasons for each country. Kenya and Tanzania’s peak season extends from June to October, as they experience the great migration which is one of a kind. India on the other hand has something exciting to offer all year round depending on the points of origin.

8. What are some of the challenges that you face as a DMC in the current economic climate?

AV: Fluctuating rate of exchange is perhaps the biggest challenge we face. The other challenge is to consistently offer competitive products, price and offers without comprising on the service levels.

9. What are some of the promising trends you see pushing the travel industry in this region in the near future?

AV: Travelling is trending by itself. Today’s traveller loves to explore new places and share their experiences in their social circle. People are realising that travelling is the best way to detox from our regular rather stressful lives. There were days when we used to save and invest in various commodities. But today, people are travelling. This is indeed a very positive trend. Georgia alone has experienced multi-fold growth year on year. I personally hope and wish that more countries adopt similar policies, which in turn, will push exponential growth in the travel industry.

10. Do you see a growing trend for budget holidays in the near future especially when it comes to families?

AV: I look at it differently; more than calling it a trend for budget holidays, I see it as an opportunity for people to travel more especially when it is very affordable to do so. Therefore, when holidays such as ours are available at low costs, people choose to travel to these places rather than just spend it on entertainment locally. So in my perspective, I see a trend for more ‘travellers’.

11. MICE is a very strong segment when it comes to Dubai; which are some of the other countries in the region that seem to be growing as a MICE destination?

AV: The MICE industry always favours destinations where visa procedures are simple or better still, where visas are not required. Most of the destinations we offer have free visas or very simple visa procedures. These destinations, therefore, will continue to have strong demand.

12. Do you plan to add more destinations, services or branches in the near future?

AV: Yes, as mentioned earlier, we have a strategic plan for expansion, which also includes adding a destination every year to our offering.

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