Travel and hospitality industry leaders look for light in their darkest hours
Some of the speakers during the zoom meeting
The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) held the first ever 'India Tourism Vision Day' on Thursday, October 8. Industry leaders, at least 10 associations, under the FAITH umbrella, came together in a virtual meeting in what they claimed are the, "twin industries darkest hours."
Nakul Anand, FAITH chairman, in his opening address, said, "In 2013, India ranked 68th on the World Economic Forum tourism competitiveness study. We jumped to 34th in 2019. It is a giant leap, but we still have a long way to go. Post COVID, we are looking to break into the Top 20 rank in global tourism competitiveness and then, Top 10 in the next five years. Tourism was the first to be affected by the outbreak and will be the last to recover. Every vertical under these industries is under deep stress. We can be one of the drivers for growth in India, but we first need to survive to revive."
Captain Swadesh Kumar, president, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India, pointed to India's magnificent diversity. He said, "We look forward to branding Indian adventure tourism like a sub-brand under the Incredible India label."
It was dial d for domestic, as P P Khanna president, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India, pointed out, "Today, people are preferring to travel very short distances in their private vehicles, hitting domestic tourism hard. We are confident our domestic tourism industry will become one of the biggest employment generators, and for that we need help to survive and revive. The Tourism Ministry will be celebrating 2021 as 'dekho apna desh'."
Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, vice-president of Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI), said, "Hospitality needs to be treated as an industry. We create high quality service and power, water and other utilities have to be charged at industrial rates." For revival, permit our eateries to use their outside spaces. The environment should be one of, invite and not restrict. We also need to shed the elitist tag the government has given us."
MP Bezbaruah, Secretary General of the Hotels Association of India (HAI), reminded participants how the industry is one of the highest foreign exchange earners, while Pronab Sarkar, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, claimed that the industry was today, "gasping for survival. We actually do not see a normal start till October 2021."
There was a whiff of royalty as Maharaja Gajsingh of Jodhpur, said, "Today, we have unbeatable heritage tourism with a healing touch like yoga, meditation, Ayurveda.
We need a National Heritage Fund to assist custodians of this heritage." Gajsingh is president of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association.
Sharat Chandra, treasurer of the Indian Tourist Transportation Association said, "There should be a moratorium on EMIs on tourist vehicles."
As the hour-long meet moved to its end, Jyoti Mayal and Pradip Lulla, travel industry leaders called for a relook at Tax Collected at Source (TCS) which as Mayal stated, "makes the industry uncompetitive," while Lulla said, "currently there are 10 countries that comprise 70 per cent of outbound travel by Indians and there is a need to increase this basket of countries."
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