FICCI provided an e-platform to brainstorm how, post-COVID-19, the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors can reinvent their strategies. Here’s what transpired during the two-day talks.
The new normal has forced industries – and people – around the world to rethink and reinvent their modus operandi, to enable them to survive and succeed in a world that is still reeling under the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that brought the world to its knees. Now, with the growing cover of vaccinations here and globally, it is the need of the hour to look at how the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors can redefine their strategies. To spotlight this, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) organised the Second Virtual Edition of Travel, Tourism & Hospitality E-Conclave: Resilience & Road to Recovery. This informative conclave was inaugurated by G Kishan Reddy, Union Cabinet Minister of Culture, Tourism and Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), Government of India.
This two-day (August 5-6, 2021) initiative provided a relevant platform for industry leaders and policy makers to come together with a common goal, share their knowhow, acumen and expertise to look at – and analyse – how developing global trends, new information and ‘insider’ insights will help all players to develop suitable plans with an eye on the unfolding, unpredictable future.
Ashish Kumar, Co-Chairman, FICCI Travel and Technology committee, set the tone for the e-conclave on the first day, pointing out that the universe of travel has changed drastically. He emphasised that it was the time to look ahead – at what the world will look like in 2030 – with a focus on short, medium and long-term goals, in an eco-system that was not just affected by COVID-19, but one that was seeing the impact of increasing digitisation. As a result, while physical boundaries were still in place, digital boundaries were coming down. And this e-penetration plays a huge part in reshaping thoughts, processes and participation across the sectors.
Looking at the narrative – one where international travel has been suspended for a long time and domestic travel has taken huge hits, Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, emphasised that prevention is an important concern and focus. For as she rightly pointed, the increasing COVID-19 fatigue accompanied by the desire for digital detox, will soon induce – as it has already begun to do so – people to step out. “Everyone is waiting to come to India – not only second timers and third timers but even first timers are itching to come.” Hence, there is a growing need to create more interesting locations to lure travellers here with out-of-the box experiences like teleporting created at airports and off-the-beaten road destinations. And though a lot may have been done in the past, there is still a lot more to do, was the consensus among the panelists.
Everyone is waiting for the “first normal quarter” – as Rohit Kapoor, CEO, OYO, India and South Asia – put it. There is an “unusual optimism” that makes one look ahead in a world where “digital (like e-commerce, with players like Goibibo, MakeMyTrip) is gaining more currency” as countries, cities and people embrace its new normal and the emerging trends on the technology side. Consumer behaviour changed in the last year and a half as people are not just buying groceries but also cars online. Digital channels are playing an important role in how people are planning not just their day-to-day shopping but also their travel as well. And with the internet reaching many more households, the needs of the users who come from completely different backgrounds – quite a few of them first-time users – must be looked at and addressed.
Veteran industry leader, Dr Jyotsna Suri, CMD – The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and chairperson of the FICCI Tourism Committee, threw a spotlight on the needs of the Indian tourism industry as ministers interacted with the industry stakeholders, FICCI committee members and the distinguished participants. The honourable minister G Kishan Reddy opined, “With all the stakeholders and government representatives this was the perfect platform to put in place the vision for the travel and tourism sector. COVID has been a setback but have given us the opportunity to rethink the sectors and become future ready in a more resilient way.”
As the minister pointed out tourism is an important pillar of economic growth and revenue generation – and is thus one of the most important sectors in the modern global economy. This point was also underlined by Anil Chadha, co-chair FICCI, Travel, Tourism and Hospitality committee, who emphasised that the tourism industry is important because it has been the key instrument for economic development in many countries.
Deepali Nandwani, Editor of TravelDine, which was media partner for the event, chaired a distinguished panel that spoke about COVID Preparedness and Vaccination for Travel, Tourism and Hospitality. The panel addressed the moot question of preparedness and safety, looking at the measures being taken by State and Central governments to build trust and confidence amongst travellers. In an unpredictable scenario, it is important to adapt and strategise – in a situation that has seen a loss of livelihood, jobs across sectors, and has also seen the closing down of several hotels and stand-alone restaurants. Following COVID protocols and vaccination are two of the most important measures that will go a long way in reviving the industry that is waiting for some positive news in the current scenario.
On the second day, the plenary session focussed on ‘The importance of the Indian medicine system: Ayurveda and Wellness’. Rakesh Kumar Varma, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, made the subtle, yet important, distinction between medical tourism and wellness tourism, both of which have an added significance in India, a country that is rich with so many healing options and opportunities. He stated, “Medical tourism comes from one end of the domain, where we are looking at curing the patient. Wellness tourism comes from a different end of a spectrum, where you are enhancing and adding value to your wellbeing. Both are expanding in a big way, and it is a big opportunity for India to tap this market.”
Dr Madan Thangavelu, Chairman, Ayush Valley Foundation, emphasised the need to have “complementarity” between different states and destinations so that information and solutions can and should be shared. Harvesting statistics – for the biggest lacuna is the lack of case studies – in this domain, coupled with the research that is being conducted in excellent institutions in the country, will go a long way in aligning solutions with the emerging needs and demands.
Trust and confidence are the two key factors that will empower travellers to venture forth in a post-pandemic world. So, we must implement best practices that will enable our indigenous destinations to promote themselves, reinventing experiences to woo travellers with conviction.
So, coming out of the pandemic, can all the stakeholders invested in the travel and tourism industry be a lot more ambitious when we think of Vision 2030? For India has its unique culture, native spice that gives us the optimism that the country will recover strongly.
Watch all the sessions