The second edition of FICCI’s Travel, Tourism and Hospitality E-Conclave was host to fruitful deliberations between policy makers led by G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Development of North-Eastern Region of India, and senior representatives of the travel, tourism and hospitality sector.
Tourism is not just about attractive destinations and leisure activities. It has emerged as one of the fundamental pillars of economic development and employment generation. The industry not only acts as a massive growth engine but also enhances the nation’s soft power. India holds a huge advantage considering our natural and industrial wealth. In 2019, the tourism sector contributed USD 194 billion dollars to the Indian economy and created about 40 million jobs – that is 12 per cent of total employment. Return on investment on tourism is higher than that of any other sector. For Rs 10 lakh of investment, tourism can provide 78 jobs, compared to 45 jobs in the manufacturing sector. This shows the immense potential of the sector to bring about socio-economic change in the nation. These words from G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Development of North-Eastern Region, set the context for the high-powered second edition of FICCI’s Travel, Tourism and Hospitality E-Conclave. He was addressing the inaugural session earlier today.
The e-conclave has the participation of a host of senior industry professionals. Dr Jyotsna Suri, Past President, FICCI, Chairperson, FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee, and CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, explained how the FICCI committee has been working relentlessly with industry and policy makers. “We are currently focussing on domestic tourism for which we are engaging with states to make travel within the country as simple as possible. We have with us five State tourism ministers, 10 senior government dignitaries to engage with industry across a spectrum of topics that are relevant for the revival and growth of the industry.”
Dr Suri expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism for announcing a waiver of visa fees for up to five lakh tourists. “However, there is an end-date to it, which is proposed as March 2022. We request that there be no end date to this. It should just be the first five lakh tourists – as we know international travel still hasn’t opened up,” she said, also adding a number of other points that are on the tourism industry’s wish list. “The ECLGA scheme announced by the Ministry of Finance hasn’t had many takers because of the short timeline. We should have a four-year moratorium and a four-year period for repayment. The same goes for the one-time restructuring – there is no way we can reach pre-COVID levels by March 2022 – we request an extension up to March 2024. Without these modifications to the relief measures, there will be a whole lot of NPAs and many players will go down. The relief measures were put in place before the second wave and a third wave might be imminent.”
She quoted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s prediction that although tourism will begin to show an uptick in 2022, it will only reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024 or later. “Over the long term, we wish that the travel and tourism sector is made part of the concurrent list and that we are granted infrastructure industry status. FICCI would like to be your knowledge partner in this effort and assure you of our fullest support,” Dr Suri said.
Reddy elaborated on the many measures that the Ministry of Tourism has undertaken to boost tourism, such as the incredible India 2.0 campaign – focussing on products including wellness and adventure tourism, investment in schemes like Prasad and Swadeshi Darshan, extension of e-visa to 169 countries, and creating a draft strategy for the development of MICE tourism. “India recorded 10.8 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019. The year 2020 with COVID was undoubtedly a setback. But it is also an opportunity to rethink the tourism industry’s future in a more resilient way.”
Towards this goal he spoke about the creation of a National Tourism Policy. “We request collaboration between the Central government, State governments and industry to create this. Once this happens, we will have proper support to tourism from a gram panchayat to town municipality to the Government of India level. We are also examining means to include the tourism sector in the concurrent list,” he assured.
The Minister also offered several suggestions on the way forward, including how India should stay updated on measures that tourism-dependent countries are taking to stage a revival and see what lessons we can adopt from them. That digitisation can be a way to make tourism more attractive. He advised stakeholders to impress upon State governments to give industry status to tourism, as he believes that this will greatly help develop tourism infrastructure.
As the chairperson of FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee, Dr Suri explained how she has created seven verticals to bring focus on various elements of tourism and introduced the people who lead each sub-committe. Dhruv Shringi, co-founder and CEO of Yatra, leads the travel technology and digital committee supported by Ashish Kumar, Managing Partner at Agnitio Consulting. JK Mohanty, CMD, Swosti Group, leads the domestic tourism committee, supported by Navin Kundu, Managing Director of EBIXCASH Travel Services. Sajeev Kurup, MD, Ayurveda Mana Hospitals, leads the Ayurveda committee. Ankush Nijhawan, Co-founder, TBO Group and Managing Director, Nijhawan Group, heads the outbound tourism committee, while Dipak Deva, Managing Director of SITA, TCI & Distant Frontiers, leads the inbound tourism committee. Anil Chaddha, Chief Operating Officer of ITC Hotels, leads the hotels committee, while Rakshit Desai, Managing Director of FCM Travel Solutions, leads the corporate and MICE tourism committee. Siddhartha Dasgupta, President Corporate Affairs at OYO, is a member, and Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, is co-chair of the arts and culture committee.