Tourism is hit the hardest due to COVID-19. Almost 95% of the Indian tourism industry constitutes of MSMEs. The industry welcomes the bailout package for MSMEs. However, the only thing that helps the industry is the postponement of the installments of loan. We did not get anything else despite tourism being one of the main forex earners. In 2018-19, Indian earned about US$28 bn as forex from tourism. Most importantly, tourism sector also employs more than 30 million people in India. These workers are frontline warriors of the tourism economy of India.
Going by the current scenario, I think that 30% of the travel agencies/tour operating companies will not start working again resulting into a massive joblessness for the country. These are uncertain times. Enterprises and tourism sector are going for pay cut, handing over pink slips or sending people on sabbatical under compulsions due to COVID 19 as there is zero business. We have to come forward with a proper solution to retain the skilled manpower of the industry. We all know that tourism keeps the economic activity going. We have seen that tourism is the economic lifeline in many far-flung areas of the country. Hence, the Govt of India should not ignore this sector.
The Government should look at tourism very seriously. Whatever we have done so far for tourism has not kept pace with the global trends. We welcomed 0.5 million foreign tourists in 1976 and the figure was same for the China. China today welcomes around 75-80 million inbound whereas India is at 10 million. Despite all our efforts, why are we not getting the desired results? Are our strategies not in tune with the changing market dynamics.? Shouldn’t be our inbound arrivals at 40-50 million?
As we all know that every challenge needs a unique solution to convert challenge into the opportunity. I suggest that Govt of India should look into few things quite seriously to bring the tourism industry back on track.
The most important is Govt. should consider Financial Grant to the tourism industry through its collective body FAITH, that is like CII or FICCI for tourism in India. Like CII and FICCI, Govt should equip FAITH to take the leadership role in terms of marketing and promotion of India tourism in overseas and domestic markets. Government has to follow various processes and regulations that at times delays crucial decisions that impacts outcome. I believe FAITH is the appropriate body to execute marketing and promotional activities timely and professionally. FAITH can plan all events and activities with proper planning and much in advance. The way we have been organizing our roadshows is not bringing the desired results.
There is a need to have a year- long calendar of roadshows and it should be organized in 50-60 countries. If it is planned well, atleast 2000 tour operators, hoteliers and other stakeholders in the private sector will synchronise their visits accordingly to maximise the impact of such efforts.
India had 14 Overseas Tourist Offices earlier, but Ministry closed down half of them 4-5 years ago without any alternate arrangement. Govt. should consider mandating all Indian embassies/high commissions to promote tourism also, along with exports, that is being done With Ministry of Commerce. To fast track this synergy between MEA and Ministry of Tourism, Govt. may consider appointing an IFS officer as DG Tourism. This will make our marketing and promotional efforts directed and also bring the expected results. If implemented well, I am sure that foreign tourist arrivals will witness the accelerated growth.
By Sarab Jit Singh, MD, Travelite (India). He was also the Founder and Former Vice Chairman, FAITH; Former Sr. Vice President, IATO and Founder and Former President, ITTA.