The travel industry is grappling to come to terms with news of Lalit Sheth’s death. The common sentiment understandably is that of shock because Sheth was considered a survivor and fighter, but veterans and experts also see this as a portent of things to come for the business, which is experiencing so much turbulence now.
Rajesh Khanderia, director and vice-president marketing Taj Tours-London says from his Mumbai office, “I am shocked. Just four days ago Lalit Sheth and I were talking to each other on Facebook.
I am usually in London at this time of the year, so he joked and asked me: You are not in London? London will close down! I got the news of his death from London. When I got the news yesterday afternoon, I went numb literally, for half an hour.
I thought to myself, how could this be true? Am I hearing right? He was a fighter really, a man with spirit so it is so hard to think of him committing suicide. There was buzz about financial problems but then too, a person like Lalit Sheth taking his life, that is so hard to believe.”
Iqbal Mulla, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) sees the bigger, darker picture when he says, “The tourism industry itself is facing many ups and downs. Sooner or later, there will be many who will follow suit. The way airlines are working and the way people are not paid their salaries. The travel industry will face the worst in the coming days.”
Buzz Travel Marketing India Pvt Ltd, director, Sanjeet (who uses one name only) echoes Khanderia’s “fighter” view. ‘I am so shocked at this news because Lalit Sheth was a fighter.
If you look at Sheth and Raj Travel’s history you will see that he started a number of ventures, maybe, some of them, like the airlines did not do well, but he always came back, put his head down to his business and started again. He also got into hotels. He was a person who always tried his best, sure he made his mistakes, but he bounced back too,” ended the Delhi-based Buzz Travel director, who doffed a hat to Sheth’s pioneering spirit and resilience.
“Pioneer is the way to describe him”, said Dhaval Jangla, director Aurora Travels. “After all, what can you call a man who coined something so brilliant like: ‘Rome ma ras puri and Paris ma patra’, except a pathbreaker? I would call Sheth the doyen of international travel.
Today, travel houses are going down the path he had forged. He may have made some bad decisions and had financial problems, but you can only marvel at his innovative spirit, a gentleman and trailblazer in every way.”
Ajay Prakash, president, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) thinks that Sheth’s death is sad and a shock for everybody in the industry. “It is also in a way, a morbid mirror to the state of the industry which is experiencing so many ups and downs now.
The travel business is fraught with risk and what we need right now is fiscal discipline. I see an uncertain future, what with shorter credit periods coming in, demands for weekly payments…” ended Prakash on a grave note, pointing out that he was the current president of TAFI but Lalit Sheth was the founder president of TAFI. A pointer of the stature the man had in the industry.