Ravindra Lal is the Regional Manager Sky Bird Travel & Tours Eastern Region. He heads the Sales and Operations for Sky Bird’s Airline Consolidation business in the East Coast. In addition, he serves as the Product Manager – India for Sky Bird’s tour company Sky Vacations. Sky Vacations was established eight years ago to satisfy the needs of its niche clients seeking tours to leisure destinations on a more personal level than those offered by the larger tour companies.
Lal has played a leading role in introducing the exciting destination of India to the company’s diverse tourism portfolio. Under Lal’s leadership, Sky Vacations has become a reputed and leading provider of tours to unique and exotic Indian destinations, offering accommodations at heritage hotels and tour experiences that take one back in time through India’s glorious history.
Lal’s passion for tourism to India stems from the early days of his career which he fondly refers to as, “from my other lifetime as it seems so long ago.” He worked with some of the leading tour companies in New Delhi in the 80’s – designing, marketing and operating incoming tours to India from Europe, Asia, Japan and the US. With 35 years of industry experience under his belt, Lal’s forte is incentive tours and special Interest programs.
Travel Research Online: How did you get into the travel industry? Specifically the airline industry?
Ravindra Lal: Upon graduating from St. Stephens college, Delhi in 1980, I was to follow the family tradition of joining the Indian Army. However, my passion for travel drove me to join SITA World Travel at their headquarters in New Delhi. That was my initiation in the travel industry. On relocating to the U.S., approximately two decades ago, my move to the airline industry was the perfect segue to compliment my background in tourism. I have been associated with the competitive business of airline consolidation ever since.
TRO: How has your background influenced you perspective on travel?
RL: My early career days in tourism in India and the experience of handling diverse ethnic client groups followed by my work in U.S airline consolidation exposed me to two of the most exciting travel destination in the world – Asia and the U.S, not to mention everything else in between and beyond. This fuels my constant endeavor to show-case the best of both worlds through our package tours and belief that no destination is too far or too remote.
TRO: What is your favorite part of your job?
RL: Marketing and expanding the business footprint of Sky Bird Travel & Tours in the U.S. to cross-cultural and diverse groups of travel agents & tour operators is something I strive for and find most rewarding professionally, as well as personally.
TRO: From what we understand, your forte is incentive and special interest programs. Care to elaborate?
RL: I had the good fortune to work with the Internationally reputed industry leaders during my early days in the trade in India, where I was part of the core team that handled incentives and special interest programs. This was the key to my developing the required foresight to meticulously deliver – from start to end – perfectly designed tour products for individuals, groups and corporations seeking India at its glorious best. Some of our recent special interest programs include, Culinary – chef tours, religious tours, Yoga & Alternate Medication Programs, Shopping Extravaganza, Bygone Era of the Maharaja’s. Creativity is an endless process!
TRO: In the past, you have had much success working with leading tour companies in Delhi. How has this prepared you for your current role with Sky Vacations?
RL: As indicated, the foundation was laid through my hands-on association with tourism early on that continued to build upon itself. Then, eight years ago, Mr. Arvin Shah, President of Sky Bird Travels asked me to put together a high-end India program for one of the key tour accounts. This was the initial foray and the perfect opportunity for Sky Vacations (The Tourism arm of the company) to develop and present an outstanding program for the client. After successfully operating the pilot program, I was asked to set up the India Chapter of our operations and we were finally able to launch Sky Vacations India at a formal press conference event at the Waldorf Astoria for our niche clientele in the U.S.
TRO: You have a strong passion for traveling to India. What are some things travel agents, as well as travelers should know about the region. Why should they travel there?
RL: India is a touristic delight thanks to its cultural heritage and history dating back over five thousand years. The countless options available to clients are mind blowing and offers something for just about every sort of special interest. From its historic past, spiritual and religious diversity, palaces and castles, wildlife adventure tours, festivals, retail outlets and an array of available tours and excursions – India is truly the most diverse destination that will leave an indelible mark. I personally encourage clients to venture out and plant a tour through India. They always return with fond memories and experiences that are the envy of family and friends!
TRO: As product manager of Sky Bird. What is the most challenging aspect when drawing individuals to such an exotic destination? What can travel professionals do to encourage trips to similarly undiscovered places?
RL: India is a long haul destination and at times that is a challenge to potential clients who are planning a vacation overseas. Also, understanding the logistics and infrastructure available at some of the exotic, yet underdeveloped circuits within India that are not frequently traveled from the western world requires a spirit of adventure. How to effectively organize a complete package with “basic creature comforts,” and yet have the clients marvel at the simple yet unique opportunity that only India has to offer – that is the key. Sky Vacations local offices in India can help leverage such programs for clients.
TRO: You have over 35 years of experience under your belt. What is the most important thing you have learned about an industry that is constantly evolving?
RL: Travel truly is an educational undertaking. The years one has gained learning to develop new products and markets keeps us constantly wanting to improve and deliver a better experience to our clients. The business vision at Sky Bird & Sky Vacations is to ensure that our clients return with a sense of absolute confidence in our product and further endorse our service and diverse range of air and tour products. Effectively, we treat our clients as our “Ambassadors” in the business.
TRO: Recently, Sky Bird has joined Emirates Airlines in an effort to promote Dubai & India destination for travelers. What does this relationship mean for travel professionals and consumers?
RL: Sky Vacations, Emirates Airline and The Oberoi Hotels and Resorts jointly operated a familiarization program for a select group of Industry professionals. The tour was organized during early September to showcase Dubai, Delhi and Jaipur. The travel agents experienced Indian hospitality at The Oberoi properties, Emirates hosted the air segments and Sky Vacations worked the tour logistics on ground. Our intent was to have these experienced tour operators look at the possibility of introducing India as a product on their 2015 Global Destination plans for their clients and to experience first-hand the magic referred to as “Incredible India”
TRO:Lastly, Anything new or exciting we can expect from Sky Bird?
RL: Sky Bird Travel is a leading airline consolidator with multiple office locations across the United States and in Toronto, Canada. A company that has successfully grown since its inception in 1976, today has preferred relationship with over 95 airlines with ARC revenues upwards of US $ 500 Mil. What can be more exciting? Well, the President of company Arvin Shah felt that it was time to offer a larger product range off the shelf. This mandate had me wondering, so what next! I am pleased to announce that Sky Vacations recently tied up with the Oberoi Group of hotels and Resorts to offer special rates to clients in the US. We plan to offer packages based on exclusive usage of Trident and the Vilas properties operated by The Oberoi Group along with our partner airlines Emirates over Dubai to India.
This, in turn, will further enhance the ability of our retailers in the US/Canadian market to offer bundled tour packages at competitive rates with the product guarantee of the Sky Bird Group.