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IATO Convention: Industry comes together for tourism growth

The two-and-half day long 28th IATO Annual Convention, with 1,250 record participants, witnessed the attendance of both industry and government representatives, discussing long-standing as well as burning issues of the tourism industry. The inauguration saw the presence of noted tourism personalities from various state tourism ministries including Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan; Tourism Minister of Maharashtra Chhagan Bhujbal; West Bengal Tourism Minister Rachhpal Singh, Bihar Tourism Minister Sunil Kumar Pintu, Ranjit Kamble, Minister of State for Tourism, Govt of Maharashtra; Jayant Kumar Banthia, Chief Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra; and Dr Jagdish Patil, MD, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation; and IATO’s top office bearers : Subhash Goyal, President; Rajeev Kohli, Chairman, IATO Convention and Lally Mathews, Co-Chairman, IATO Convention.

In his welcome speech, Kohli stated that the days of competing with each other in the industry are gone, giving way to an era of co-operation. “We need single window clearance, reduction in interstate transport and luxury taxes, and improved infrastructure among other things. Exemptions on taxes should be made available to us as we always pump our profits back into the country,” Goyal said emphasising that there is a need to expand the operational horizon of regional airlines.

Chavan threw light on Maharashtra’s latest initiatives for tourism. “We are working on reducing luxury taxes as well as taxes on ATF. We will aim to fulfil as many of your demands as possible to make Maharashtra a prime tourist destination and to increase overnights in the city,” concluded Chavan.

Business Sessions

Session I : The Affairs of the Industry

Day two of the convention kickstarted with a discussion on ‘The Affairs of the Industry’. Moderated by Navin Berry, Chief Editor, Cross Section Media, the panel included R.H. Khwaja, Union Tourism Secretary; Ashish Kumar Singh, Secretary to Chief Minister of Maharashtra; E M Najeeb, Chairman, IATO - Kerala Chapter, and CMD, Air Travel Enterprise Group; Subhash Goyal; and Sarabjit Singh, Senior VP, IATO.

The panel each lamented on the issues hampering the progress of the industry. Khwaja stated that the industry is not following the ‘One Vision One Mission’ approach and said that the government has done a lot to aid tourism.

Session II: Standing out in a Crowded Market

Moderated by Renuka Vijay Kumar, Executive Editor, Travel Trends Today, the panel comprised Sanjay Kumar, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo; Alexander Metzler, MD, Enchanting Travels; Vipul Mittra, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Civil Aviation & Pilgrimage, Government of Gujarat; and Dilip Puri, MD - India and Regional VP - South Asia, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts. They deliberated on ‘Standing Out in a Crowded Market’ in increasingly competitive era. Each of the panelists specified what has been their product’s differentiator. The panel completely agreed with Vijay Kumar on the importance of the digital field for the promotion of their products.

Valedictory Session:

The valedictory session welcomed Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai; Union Minister for Civil Aviation Ajit Singh; K Sankaranarayanan, Governor of Maharashtra; Chhagan Bhujbal; and Anand Kulkarni, Principal Secretary (Tourism), Government of Maharashtra. Summing up the recommendations made over the two-day convention, Rajeev Kohli spoke of the MDA scheme which has been stuck since February and the need for more marketing measures for Incredible India. Speaking on aviation, Singh said: “ATF accounts for 50 per cent of the aviation cost in India, with sales tax varying from five to 29 per cent in different states. Lower ATF rates will help Mumbai stay ahead in arrival numbers. The Chief Ministers of states must hold convergent meetings involving all the ministries related to the industry to discuss their issues and requirements,”
he said.

Other sessions at the convention included ‘Tour Operators - Bridging the Gap’; Treasures of Maharashtra’; The Move to Specialisation - Is That the Future?’; and ‘Sustainability and Tourism’. In addition, industry experts presented their companies’ new initiatives and research on the growth of tourism across the globe.

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