Shri G Kishan Reddy, Union Cabinet Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Development of North Eastern Region inaugurated the second virtual edition of the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality FICCI E-Conclave: Resilience & The Road to Recovery. The Conclave was well attended with over 1500 registered participants, who listened in with keen attention.
The Union Cabinet Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Development of the North Eastern Region opened the Conclave with a clear intent of focussing on the country’s unique attractions that global travellers seek. “We have a powerful mix of cultural and natural wealth to offer to the world, which is like no other nation,” said the Hon’ble Minister.
He elaborated a swathe of advantages the country possessed, among them being, “Good industrial connectivity, a large English-speaking population in India, diverse heritage with forty UNESCO listed sites, rich and unique wildlife, a variety of topography- we have jungles, mountains, beaches, deserts, and megacities. Not only that, we have temples, ports, waterfalls, rich traditional festivals and events, and an incredible history of our motherland.”
The Minister admitted, “The pandemic has caused a major disturbance in the industry, but we hope for a revival as the situation across the world improves. Covid has undoubtedly been a setback but it has also given us an opportunity to rethink how we can reinvent the sector and make ourselves future-ready in a more resilient way. The way forward is through a renewed focus on sustainability and responsible travel.”
With the future of travel as the main theme, the Minister revealed, “The Govt is in the process of drafting new National Tourism Policy. The tourism sector is neither on the state or central government list. We are also considering whether it should be in the concurrent list. Every stakeholder should participate in preparing the national tourism policy which will be helpful particularly for them. Through this policy, we can get proper responses, investments, and support from village gram panchayats and town municipalities.”
Detailing government initiatives, Minister Reddy said, “The Ministry has already come up with a Draft National Strategy to provide a fillip to the MICE tourism sector. I appeal to all the stakeholders to come forward and give your inputs so that we could bring a paradigm shift to the sector.”
He further added, “To achieve the full potential of the tourism sector it is imperative to have better coordination at every level. The tourism sector has immense potential to bring in a huge change in the socio-economic scenario of the country.”
He focussed on a number of relevant points. ” Tourism has emerged as a fundamental pillar of economic development and employment generation. In 2019 the sector provided 40 million jobs which are 12% of the total employment in that year,” said Minister Reddy.
He went on to assert, “We are encouraging investment in the tourism sector as well as, promoting campaigns such as Incredible India 2.0. Investments through schemes such as PRASAD and SWADESH DARSHAN are also being promoted.”
Minister Reddy reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the 73rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort to visit 15 domestic destinations by 2022, which was relevant in today’s context as this would lead to a revival of tourism across the nation. The Minister cautioned that the revival of tourism should focus on sustainability and responsible travel.
The Hon’ble Minister reassured the industry, “All possible help will be extended from the Ministry. I will coordinate with every sector of tourism to get rid of the present situation.”
Tourism Industry leaders share insights, The various panels included industry leaders like Arvind Singh, Secretary, Tourism, GoI; Rupinder Brar; Additional Director General Ministry of Tourism Government of India; Suman Billa Director, UNTWO; Jyotsna Suri, Past President, FICCI & Chairperson, FICCI Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality Committee; Anil Chadha, Co-Chair, FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee; Valsa Nair, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra; Shekhar Sheo, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Culture, and PR Dept and MD, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Board; Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Secretary to Govt, Tourism Dept, Govt of Karnataka; Rohit Kapoor; CEO – India & South East Asia, OYO Hotels & Homes; and Ashish Kumar; Co-Chairman, FICCI Travel Technology Committee.
Arvind Singh, Secretary, Tourism, GoI reiterated the Ministry intentions as he stressed, “The tourism industry is an employment-generating sector and the pandemic has caused severe setbacks to the industry. Our biggest challenge is to accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector. It requires strong collaboration and engagement with industry partners. We are also working with states for a uniform policy for domestic travel, as well as areas like fiscal & regulatory relief measures, digital resources, the opening of international travel and so on.”
Dr Jyotsna Suri, Past President, FICCI, Chairperson, FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee, and CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said, “We are currently focussing on domestic tourism for which we are engaging with states to facilitate travel within the country. We have with us during the E Conclave 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.”
Jyotsana Suri while expressing gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism for the waiver of visa fees for up to five lakh tourists pointed out that there is an end date to it, as of March 2022. She requested 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.”
Speaking on behalf of the industry she voiced a genuine wish list starting with, “We request to extend the timelines for the ECLGS scheme and we should be given a four-year moratorium. 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.”
She referred to the UNWTO estimate that although tourism will begin to show an uptick in 2022, it will only reach pre-pandemic levels in 2024 or later. “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,” she stated.
A few key takeaways
Of the many industry leaders inputs, some key takeaways are as follows:
Anil Chadha, Co-Chair, FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee was clear that ” The tourism industry matters because it has been the key instrument for economic development in many countries.”
Suman Billa Director, UNTWO suggested, “Countries have to follow the Singapore model by way of vaccination and appropriate precaution known as the new normal.”
Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra said, “Maharashtra has started working in three verticals- policy-level initiatives, infrastructure, marketing & branding in a different way.”
Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Culture and PR Dept and MD, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Board shared that, “MP has opened up and there are no restrictions for the travellers. The COVID situation is under control due to the vaccination drive.”
Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Secretary to Govt, Tourism Dept, Govt of Karnataka was clear that ” We need to evolve a policy, like vaccination certificates to allow travelling.”
Rohit Kapoor; CEO – India & South East Asia, OYO Hotels & Homes said, “People are choosing and asking for very different experiences. What is travel, what is leisure, what is peace of mind has become so different for everyone that there is almost no single definition.”
It was remarkable how insightful the discussions were and how well these were organised and highlighted by FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality 7 Sub Committees.
For easy reference: 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.
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