The Indian-American Travel Agents Association of North America, IATANA, held its first ‘Holiday Party’ January 13, 2023, at Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, N.J.
An estimated 200 people attended the event, according to Peter Pradeep Kothari, chairman of IATANA, who said discussions centered around the need to unify Indian American agents with the goal of strengthening the organization and promoting tourism to and from India and in the U.S.
Guests of Honor included Congressman Frank Pallone, D-N.J.; New Jersey State Senator Samuel Thompson; Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media; V. Sethuraman Kumaran, assistant director of Indian Tourism of North America; Sunil Dawre, Air India Regional Manager; H.R. Shah, chairman of TV Asia. They were called up on stage and recognized. Councilman Ajay Patil was also present at the event.
Congressman Pallone dwelt on measures taken by the government to promote tourism after the industry was hit hard by the Covid pandemic. In an interview with ITV Gold, Pallone said at least half a trillion dollars of revenue was lost in the tourism industry due to the pandemic. For the future, his committee which deals with tourism among other things, they were finding ways to avoid the pitfalls of a crisis and be better able to inform the public. A bill passed in 2022, enables the Commerce Department to have a new position and an advisory board that would try to promote tourism and work in a united way to help travel agents, Pallone said.
State Sen. Thompson spoke about how New Jersey was working to promote tourism.
Dr. Parikh emphasized his support for the travel agents and the industry and said Parikh Worldwide Media would support them in any way possible through the media organization. “Our Indian American community is getting much bigger, very affluent, … and very mobile. So, this organization has a great future, and it would be much better if they are united,” Dr. Parikh said in his speech. The IATANA could provide not just air tickets but many kinds of vacation packages and other things to the community, Parikh added.
At the meeting, Kothari emphasized that the only way for travel agents to prosper was to unite and have one voice to make their presence felt, air their grievances, and be respected. “Tourism is very important to India,” he added.
Entertainment was provided by A.Z. and Madhu Bagri. Raffle tickets included attractive travel packages to India as well as items like television sets etc. Grand sponsors of the event included Mafatbhai and Varsha Patel of Chicago, Star Tours, Albert Jasani and Shobhana Patel of Royal Albert’s Palace, among others.
Organizers of the event, apart from Kothari, were Arun Patel, president of IATANA, Hiren Patel, vice president, Kapil Shah, vice chair, and Kamesh Purohit, senior vice chair.
Formed just three years ago IATANA was affected by the pandemic and is now regrouping to become a stronger organization. “This is a good beginning,” Kothari said.