Indian destination management companies and state tourism boards are showcasing their products at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) to generate business from the Middle East, industry executives said.

EM Najeeb, Chairman, ATE Group, a leading destination management company in India, told Emirates Business: “Since traditional source markets in Europe have dried up, we have refocused our marketing to the Middle East and other markets, which are not affected by the economic downturn to generate travel.”

He said inbound tourism to India had seen a decline of 20 to 25 per cent especially during the last quarter of 2008. The numbers were looking better since February, he said.

Najeeb said with a number of Indian leisure travellers to the Middle East increasing, there has been reciprocal interest from the five-star leisure segment in the Middle East. Travel from this region also got a boost with the increased number of flights to India by various airlines.

Areas of interest for the Middle East travellers are medical-related as many people like to take advantage of the exchange rates as well as world-class facilities available there, he said.

The recession offers a good opportunity for marketing, said Najeeb and UAE News

He said companies should not make the mistake of cutting back on marketing costs during a downturn, as this is the time to plug the loopholes. While, the South Indian state of Kerala has a large contingent at the ATM, Karnataka has doubled its marketing efforts.

Vinay Luthra, Managing Director, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, said there was a decline of about 20 per cent especially into Bangalore, where occupancies were about 60 per cent.

He reiterated there should be no cut backs on marketing spends at such a time.

Amit Chopra, Associate Director of Travel Pals, which specialises in bespoke tours, said: “There was increased interest in specialty tours. Tours on the steam engines, both hill trains and the broad gauge are popular especially with British tourists. Special groups are organised to see old cinema theatre architecture in places such as Mumbai, Delhi, Jodhpur and Udaipur.”

The company also promotes golf tourism. “India is one of the most interesting places in the world to play golf,” he said.