TBO Cup bowls trade over
TBO Holidays, one of the largest travel distribution platforms in the world, has successfully concluded its first-ever cricket tournament for travel agents in the UAE.
Kicking off on the morning of October 30, 2022, the one-day event saw a total of 24 teams of eight players competing at U Pro sports academy in Dubai.
The teams represented 24 travel agencies across the UAE, including well-established names like Airlink International, Al Naboodah Travel, Al Rostamani Travels, Arabian Travel Services, Dadabhai Travel, Deira Travel, Bin Ham Travel, Jamal Travel Agency, Kanoo Travel, Omeir Travel, Orient Travels, Satguru Travels, and Xperienz Holidays.
They also included younger agencies such as Akbar Travels, Al Saqr Travel and Tourism, Friends Travel, Mondial Travel and Tours, Musafir.com, Nirvana Travel and Tourism, Pluto Travels, SATA Travel Agency, Sharaf Travel, and Smart Travel.
“The travel community is very small, and we are like one chain. Let us celebrate the day and look forward to bigger things in life,” Balaji Krishnamurthy, director and chief strategy officer at TBO Holidays, told the teams ahead of the games.
UNITED BY TEAM SPIRIT
Over the course of the day, the players showed off their cricket skills and bonded with their peers between the games. After 12 hours of action, Omeir Travel Agency emerged as the winner of the TBO Cup, with its team members winning five-star resort stay vouchers, destination visits and flight tickets.
“The tournament was a wonderful idea from TBO. It’s really important for travel agents to meet and discuss developments in the industry,” Nirmal Dehikumbura, holidays supervisor at Abu-Dhabi-based Omeir Travel Agency, told TTN.
Part of the UAE’s Omeir Bin Youssef Group, Omeir Travel Agency is one of the oldest travel management companies in UAE, established in 1956.
“Over the summer, destinations in Europe and the UK were very much in demand, especially London, Paris, and Switzerland. It was like revenge travel; a lot of people started traveling and feeling more confident about the pandemic situation,” said Dehikumbura.
“This winter will be the first since the pandemic [recovery] and we’re hoping it will be like summer and we see huge traffic. We expect to see demand for countries like the UK, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland,” he said.
Switzerland was also one of the best-selling destinations for Al Rostamani Travels, according to Nilesh Khankhoje, a business development executive with the company who participated in the TBO Cup.
Shafraz Abdul Azeez Hamza, corporate sales manager at Xperienz Travel & Holidays, part of the 43-year-old Nasser Abdullah Lootah Group, said that the agency offered extensive packages in the Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles over the summer and plans to launch winter packages in Switzerland and Italy.
“Recently, we tied up with a leading cruise company in the UK, which is very strong in Europe, so we now have a huge supply of packages there. We’ve added packages in Iceland and Norway as well as expedition cruises to Antarctica. We also offer international and GCC cruise vacations through companies like MSC Cruises,” said Hamza.
For some agencies, budget holidays were among their best-sellers over the summer. “Our hottest destinations over the summer were in Europe but also budget holiday packages in places like Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia,” said Nitesh Kalyani, sales manager at Pluto Travels, which has four branches in Dubai and one in India.
Rahul Lalwani, operations manager at Friends Travel & Tourism, part of the Dubai-based Blueberry Group, has also seen increasing demand for budget destinations including Serbia, as well African countries. At the same, he has seen more demand for cruises.
“Last year, many of our customers travelled on MSC Cruises, which offer a 3-to-5-day cruise around the Middle East, sailing from Dubai and stopping by cities like Doha and Abu Dhabi. We’ve also been selling European cruises, for example with Royal Caribbean’s new Wonders of the Sea,” he said.
A CHANCE TO RECONNECT
As they switched from player to spectator mode, the travel agents discussed these latest trends and explored opportunities for collaboration.
“It’s been several years since we had a tournament like this which brings all the travel agencies together. We were waiting for such an event for some time,” said Hamza from Xperienz Travel & Holidays.
“As Covid was followed by the travel recession, we couldn’t see our friends in other agencies for quite some time. Now we got the chance to meet them and talk to them again. It was a great experience and a welcome initiative from TBO,” said Hamza.
Cruise line operator Royal Caribbean, technology company Amadeus, and luxury resort operator Kerzner International supported the TBO Cup as major sponsors, with giveaways sponsored by Jazeera Airlines, Oman Air, Turkish Airlines, and Yas Experience Hub.
TBO Academy, an online-learning platform for travel agents, supported the tournament as associate sponsor while TTN Middle East was the media sponsor.Dubai-headquartered TBO Holidays is an aggregator of airline tickets, hotels, and holiday packages for the travel industry and is used by more 100,000 agents to book inventory for their customers. It has tie-ups with over 700,000 hotels around the world.