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ISSUE OF FEBRUARY 2004  
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And the reader's choice is ....

India's only business travel magazine pays tribute to the stalwarts of corporate travel and hospitality service providers at the feBusiness Traveller Awards

It was an evening of high-voltage drama and anticipation. The J W Marriott hotel, Mumbai, was awash with colour and excitement: serious-looking black suits were set off against glittering sequins and vibrant silks, as the who’s who of the Indian corporate travel and hospitality world filed into the hotel’s opulent banquet hall. In a matter of a year since its relaunch, feBusiness Traveller, with our partner Antiquity, was awarding excellence in the hospitality and tourism industry.

With rivetting entertainment punctuating the proceedings of the evening, the tempo built up as 14 categories of awards were handed out. Enthusiastic applause and spirited cheers greeted the winners as they made their way to the stage to collect the award - a miniature traveller lugging a pint-sized suitcase. Like the figure on the trophy proclaimed, the feBusiness Traveller Award was a certification of excellence from the business traveller himself: a popular choice award, with none other than the consumer playing arbitrator, judging whom they considered the best. The genesis of the awards was the belief that the Indian business traveller has undoubtedly come of age and is now ready to endorse travel products and services as per his experience and preference. Today, business travellers have first hand experience of the travel products on offer, and they are hence more knowledgeable and better qualified to evaluate the services on offer. The travel service providers too hang on to their every word, and deem the feedback of the traveller as indispensable. With the feBusiness Traveller Awards, we let the consumer give the final verdict.

An extensive nationwide polling process among readers of the Financial Express and the feBusiness Traveller was conducted, with the voters chosen from a highly select and discerning audience throughout the country. As part of the process, polling forms were sent across the country with every copy of both publications. The entries were then tabulated and the data validated by a process audit which was conducted by Ernst & Young, the consulting firm of international repute, to finally arrive at the winners in each category. Explaining the process, so as to de-mystify the voting process, Biren Parikh, senior manager, Ernst & Young addressed the audience at the awards ceremony.

Service meets style

The evening started off with a bang, as actress Urmila Matondkar inaugurated the event, her characteristic charm holding the audience enthralled. Coming from an industry (Bollywood) where the number of awards ceremonies simply keep multiplying, Matondkar asserted that she could personally vouch for the credibility of an Indian Express award. An avid traveller herself, she emphasised that she “couldn’t let go of the opportunity” to thank those who have helped create memorable vacations.

The eloquence of the master of ceremonies, Brian Tellis, cohesively held the event together. And between the flashbulb moments, spellbinding entertainment by Louis Banks and his troupe ensured that the evening steered clear of being passé. With the Indian jazz legend coaxing music from his keyboard, the percussionists built the tempo of the evening to a crescendo. Fusion took on a whole new dimension with the evocative ‘jazz meets kathak’ dance sequence by Aditi Bhagwat, set to a distinctly western composition, the unusual concoction keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.

What are these Awards about?

All over the world, there are specialised magazines such as ours which recognise and award service providers of the travel and hospitality industries for their outstanding contribution to the business travel segment. In India as well, with business travel coming of age, the time was ripe to encourage further development and reward consistent performance with an aim to uplift the overall quality levels of service. It was therefore imperative that these awards become the voice of the consumer, the business traveller who is finally the end-user of all the products on offer.

The categories were:

1. Airlines
2. Hotels
3. MICE Destinations
4. Car Rentals

Category 1. AIRLINES:

The airlines awards were broken up into domestic and international for the respective carriers operating in India.

DOMESTIC AIRLINES:
1. Best Business Class
2. Best Economy Class
3. Best Service (Airport & In-flight)

INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES:
1. Best First Class
2. Best Business Class
3. Best Economy Class
4. Best Service (Airport & In-flight)

CATEGORY 2. HOTELS:

BEST LEISURE HOTEL:
1. International
2. Domestic

BEST BUSINESS HOTEL:
1. International
2. Domestic

CATEGORY 3. MICE DESTINATION:

Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) are what business travel is really about. Today, destinations are specifically positioning themselves to woo the business traveller or corporate entity with a host of tailor-made MICE offerings. The business traveller voted on one count for this category:

BEST INTERNATIONAL MICE DESTINATION

CATEGORY 4. CAR RENTALS:

There are various domestic and international players in the Indian car rental segment, which is an intrinsic part of any business travel. We therefore instituted one award in this category to recognise the Best Car Rental Agency in India.

Winners all the way

With Singapore bagging the first award for best MICE destination, the awards ceremony kicked off. Next to be honoured was the best international luxury hotel, the award captured by Hyatt Regency, Dubai, while the best international business hotel went to J W Marriott, California. The Taj Mahal Palace & Towers, Mumbai, snared the award for the Best Domestic Business Hotel - another feather in the cap of this 100-year-old icon of hospitality. Commenting on the trophy, Karambir Singh Kang, director - sales and marketing, The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, said, “The award is a testimony to the fact that after 100 years, we are still the leaders who set the trend. We take great pride in the fact that in our hundredth year, we get yet another award.” There was little contention about the fact that consumers considered the Taj group the winners all the way - the Taj Exotica, Goa, walked away with the award for the best domestic leisure hotel, drawing enthusiastic cheer from the audience. Recognising the importance of every segment of the travel service industry, car rental companies were not left out of the awards spree, with Hertz claiming the sole prize in the category.

Hat-tricks seemed to mark the trend in the category of awards for airlines. Singapore Airlines emerged a clear winner in the international carrier segment, bagging three awards for best business class, best economy class, and best service categories. For best international first class, British Airways topped the list of contenders, its first class product winning hands down. Charles Carneiro, marketing manager - South Asia, British Airways, saw the award as validation of the carrier’s top-line product. “The award is a reaffirmation of our premium product. We’re extremely proud of our first-class product - the facilities on board are such that it is a cabin within a cabin, with passengers being in control of their environment. It is definitely good to be honoured in this market,” affirmed Carneiro. Among the domestic carriers, there was little question about what airline the people’s choice pointed to. It was Jet Airways all the way, the carrier snagging the award in the business, economy and service (both ground and in-flight) categories. A K Shamsuddin, president, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited, handed the awards as Saroj K Datta, executive director, Jet Airways, trudged a familiar route to the stage, as he carried off three consecutive awards. “We’re excited and pleased by the award. It confirms that we have maintained service standards of the highest quality and the public has recognised that. It is extremely satisfying that in a nation-wide survey we emerged the winners,” he said. Mingling with the media in the post-awards dinner, Datta confirmed that while he always knew that the carrier was good, the fact that they swept the entire domestic airline category came as a pleasant surprise. The final award for the evening was none other than the ‘Editor’s Choice’ award - the air was wreathed in suspense as Dr Sanjaya Baru, chief editor, Financial Express, unfolded the envelope to announce the winner: Tourism Malaysia. An ebullient Manoharan, director, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, was all smiles as onlookers cheered him on. Commenting on the award, Manoharan affirmed that it meant a lot to the board. “We’re thankful to the editors for choosing us and recognising our services. The award will certainly prompt more Indians to visit our country.” As the pace of the event slowed down, Sheldon Santwan, editor, fe Business Traveller, proposed the vote of thanks, putting the magazine’s year-old history into perspective. Santwan contended that the awards were a testimony to the fact that there was undoubtedly scope for a magazine in the business travel niche to flourish. Hobnobbing with the crème-de-la-crème of the travel and hospitality world, the lavish post-awards dinner was nothing short of exclusive. Wine flowed, conversation abounded and congratulatory handshakes teemed - and the winners, with their feBusiness Traveller awards in tow, beamed as the industry celebrated the authentic certification of excellence.

“We are honoured to have won three awards. We will not rest on our laurels but will continue to provide the best which our customer wants. We want to thank them and are very proud of doing it right.”

- B K Ong, General Manager, India, Singapore Airlines which won awards for Best International Airline - Business Class, Economy Class and Service

P Manoharan, director, Tourism Malaysia receives the Editor’s Choice Award;
Romen Bose, area director - Northern & Western India, Singapore Tourism Board receives the award for the Best International MICE Destination;
Saroj Datta, executive director, Jet Airways, receives the Best Domestic Airline award in all three categories - Best Business Class, Best Economy Class and Best Service (Airport & In-flight) from A K Shamsuddin, president, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited

Gordon Jacobs,manager passenger sales, Western India, Singapore Airlines receives the awards in three categories - Best Business Class, Best Economy Class and Best Service (Airport & In-flight), for the Best

International Airline; Rajiv K Vij, CEO, Hertz India receives the award for the Best Car Rental;
Sriram Narayan, manager central India and Charles P Carneiro, marketing manager - South Asia, British Airways receive the award for the Best First Class in the international airline category

Carl Vaz, country manager, Dubai Representative Office in India, Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), receives the award on behalf of Hyatt Regency, Dubai, for the Best International Leisure Hotel; Bart Buiring, director-operations, J W Marriott,

Mumbai, receives the award on behalf of The Marriott, California for the Best International Business Hotel; Karambir Singh Kang, director - sales and marketing,
The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai and Rajiv Kaul, VP - Mumbai Hotels, and GM, The Taj Palace & Tower, Mumbai receive the award for the Best Domestic Business Hotel

Vincent Ramos, food and beverage manager, Taj Exotica receives the award for the Best Domestic Leisure Hotel;

Aditi Bhagwat provides an enthralling performance
Dr Baru welcomes the guests in his introductory speech;

 

 
Winners with their awards; After the awards, many introductions were in order as guests interacted over cocktails and dinner; feBusiness Traveller editor Sheldon Santwan gives the vote of thanks

 

 
Cheers all round; small talk on a big occasion; raising the ‘bar’ in travel excellence

Awards

Best International Airline - First Class
British Airways

Best International Airline - Business Class
Singapore Airlines

Best International Airline - Economy Class
Singapore Airlines

Best International Airline - Service
Singapore Airlines

Best Domestic Airline - Business Class
Jet Airways

Best Domestic Airline - Economy Class
Jet Airways

Best Domestic Airline - Service
Jet Airways

Best Leisure Hotel in India
Taj Exotica, Goa

Best Business Hotel in India
Taj Mahal, Mumbai

Best International Leisure Hotel
Hyatt Regency, Dubai

Best International Business Hotel
Marriott, California

Most Preferred International MICE Destination
Singapore

Best Car Rental Company in India
Hertz

Editor’s Choice Award

Tourism Malaysia

Chief guest Urmila Matondkar, Screen editor Bhawna Somaya and Financial Express chief editor

Dr Sanjaya Baru

The guests wait in anticipation for the awards to be announced at J W Marriott

Chief guest Urmila Matondkar, Screen editor Bhawna Somaya and Financial Express chief editor Dr Sanjaya Baru The guests wait in anticipation for the awards to be announced at J W Marriott

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