Rasheed Kakkat to Lead Association of Arab Tour Operators Kerala Again

The Association of Arab Tour Operators (AATO) Kerala has unanimously re-elected Mr. Rasheed Kakkat, Managing Director of Grace Travel Mart (GTM), as President for the 2024-25 term during its tenth annual general body meeting. Mr. Sakkeer Hussian, Managing Director of Siyaha Holidays, has been elected as the new General Secretary, and Mr. Anees Ahamed, Managing Director, of Zaad Holidays will continue as Treasurer for another term.

The meeting, held at Le Meridien Kochi, also elected ten Executive Council members, including outgoing General Secretary Mr Thomas CA Alias Babu, Managing Director of Khaleej Tours, Mr Mohammed Bava (MD, Kerala Siyaha Holidays), Mr Shihas Naina (Al Waha Global Holidays), Mr Mohammed Ansari (MD, Vacation Kerala Holidays), Mr Mohammed Anwar (Director, Raneem Tours and Travels), Mr Sirajudheen (MD, Haya Kerala), Mr Nazeer (MD, Happy Travel Dreamer), Dr Fazal Rahman (MD, Zahra Holidays), Mr Suneer Ashraf (MD, Travel Zoya), and Mr Anwar Hydrose (MD, Lalshore World Tours & Travels).

Mr. Rasheed Kakkat, a veteran tour operator specializing in the Arab travel market, told Tourism India that AATO is planning a series of B2B meetings, familiarization trips, Influencers and Vloggers’ meets, and roadshows in various GCC countries to promote Kerala and Incredible India in the coming months. At the recently concluded Riyadh International Travel Fair, AATO participated on a large scale with significant participation from major hotels and resorts from Kerala under the Indian Pavilion. Following the RTF, the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Suhel Ajaz Khan held a dinner meeting exclusively with AATO members to outline promotional strategies for India in Saudi Arabia, a top source market for Indian tourism in recent years. The Ambassador offered full support to expedite the visa process for those travelling to India for medical and other purposes.

Mr Rasheed also added that India is well-known to Saudi nationals due to historical connections and recent bilateral ties in trade, commerce, aviation, and tourism. AATO expects a significant increase in tourist traffic to India, particularly Kerala, in the coming months.

According to Mr Sakkeer Hussain, the Secretary of AATO, the UAE and Oman are also major source markets for Kerala. Over the past decade, these countries, along with Saudi Arabia, have consistently ranked among the top ten sources of inbound traffic to Kerala. A large number of Non-Resident Indians, especially Keralites, act as unofficial ambassadors for Indian tourism in the Middle East. The excellent connectivity between various Indian cities and major GCC cities by Gulf carriers and Indian carriers presents a golden opportunity to tap into these lucrative markets. Arab tourists are known for their friendliness and high spending habits on personal well-being and shopping. The travel season for Arab tourists aligns well with India’s off-season, and Ayurveda wellness packages are popular among them.

AATO plans various training programs for resort staff, tourist guides and drivers to provide professional service to Arab tourists. The organization has also planned to classify and certify Arab-friendly hotels and resorts based on their facilities and readiness to welcome Arab guests. Additionally, AATO aims to expand its operations nationwide to include more tour operators as part of its membership drive for the current year.

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