The commotion in the train woke me up! ‘Train is on time. We’ll take another 5 minutes to reach Jammu- Tawi railway station’ the porter told the fellow passenger. Soon, we all deboarded at the railway station and I was received by a student pursuing MBA (Tourism) in Jammu university. I was taken to a well- maintained Jammu university guest house. I was excited as i was about to present my research paper!
The grand welcome
“Sir, welcome to Jammu for the 2-day 4th International Conference on Sustainable Destination Excellence. Today, the inauguration is at 9: 15 AM and your research paper presentation will be at 12 PM”-Manik, the Jammu university faculty and delegate coordinator, informed me. The 4th International Conference on Sustainable Destination Excellence with the them on Empowering Communities for Inclusive Tourism Development was organized by School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Jammu under the able leadership of Dr Parikshit Singh Manhas, Director (SHTM) and supported by Dr Deepak Raj, Dr Bharat, Dr Anil Gupta (conference secretary), Dr Suvidha Khanna (conference coordinator) and last but not the least, a motivated team of students.
Start of the conference
At 9:15 AM sharp, there was a galaxy of delegates present on and off the dias. The Chief guest for the inauguration ceremony was Smt Priya Sethi, the Minister of State for Education, Technical Education, Culture, Tourism in Government of Jammu and Kashmir. Jenab Farooq Shah, Secretary (Tourism), Jammu and Kashmir, was the Guest of Honor. Mr. Wayne Liu, Deputy Director General, Tourism Bureau, Taiwan delivered the keynote address. Highly venerated, Prof R D Sharma, Vice-Chancellor, University of Jammu delivered the Presidential address. The packed auditorium egged on the speakers!
The convener of the conference, Dr. Parikshit Singh Manhas, seemed content with the arrangements. The previous 3 editions had been runaway hits. He seemed on a mission to portray Jammu in a positive light and bring it on the global tourism map. The motivated team of students was a great support. They executed their clearly chalked out tasks with perfection. This time the conference had got even bigger. There was participation from 8 countries around the globe including Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Hungary, Israel etc.
In all, the conference saw more than 130 research papers. Moreover, all the presentations were divided into 10 parallel tracks with each track having a specific theme and each track had 3 judges each.
Time to present my research paper!
At 12 PM, we arrived in the presentation room. Apart from me, 10 others gathered to make their presentations. Soon, it was my turn to speak on my research topic, ‘Strategic impact of Social Media on Tourism’. Dr. Sajeevan Rao and Dr. GG Saxena co-authored the research paper. Dr Sajeevan Rao applied his research expertise using SPSS tool, and Dr G G Saxena, as a tourism practitioner provided valuable insights. I added my robust social media background and presentation skills. Following are the hypothesis of our research:
- What are the functionalities of Social Media that travelers’ consider more critical?
- What are the travelers’ apparent advantages of utilizing online networking when taking excursions?
- How do visitors see Social Media locales when arranging/taking excursions?
So, I started the presentation by laying emphasis on Social Media, activities of users on social media and the type of social media users. I laid emphasis on the reasons for the widespread popularity of social media among individuals and brands. I also spoke on how we had been getting foreign tourist queries through social media and how we have been arranging their stay in beautifully-made and well-maintained Bed and Breakfast accommodations and enhanced their stay-cation in India.
The warm response
The audience was thrilled to know how BnBNation had increased its Facebook ( www.facebook.com/Bnbnation.hospitality), Twitter ( www.twitter.com/bnb_nation) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/bnb_nation) community in a short span of time! Finally, I enlightened the audience how social media affects users in planning trips/excursions. The audience that consisted most of the Jammu university students and faculty members admired the presentation and the research. Moreover, they also took notice of the social media stats. Some of the students are budding entrepreneurs and are testing the water of tourism sector from every angle. Thus, I hope my presentation solved some of their queries. Their curious faces told me that they were getting to know something new in the presentation. During the interactions at the end of the presentation, they gave suggestions and asked questions.
Later, Dr G G Saxena, Dr Parikshit Manhas and Dr Bharat, who were chairing other technical sessions joined us for the rest of the presentation. They asked pertinent questions from the researchers and made the session intellectually more stimulating.
Since I was free after my presentation, so, I spent the next few hours listening to other presentations. They hovered around community tourism, sustainable tourism, and accessible Tourism.
Final Day of the conference
On the final day of the conference, Dr Amir Shani, Department of Hotel and Tourism management, Israel gave the valedictory address. Furthermore, he stressed on community participation in the development of tourism.
In the end, Mr Martin Zsarnoczky from Hungary congratulated Jammu University for the efforts during the conference. He presented his views on how Hungary offers a viable opportunity to set up a business. The dignitaries on and off the stage including J&K Minister for Social Welfare and Chief guest of the session, Jenab Sajad Gani Lone were impressed by both the International speakers.
After the function, all the delegates intermingled and shared their experiences over a sumptuous lunch. Finally, contended with my first research paper (and hopefully, many more to come!), I boarded the train back home.
About the Author:
Ambuj Saxena is a 2013 Brand Management graduate from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). He executed various online and offline marketing campaigns for companies operating in Automobile, Travel and Tourism sectors and Government departments. As a co-founder of BnBNation, he believes that Tourism and Hospitality as much online as it is offline.