2017: A rollercoaster for the industry

Major setbacks like GST, liquor ban and demonetisation plagued the tourism and hospitality industry. Looking back, the who’s who from the fraternity speak on how they dealt with the issues.

TT BUREAU

Satpal Maharaj, Tourism Minister, Government of Uttarakhand

2017 was very optimistic for Uttarakhand tourism, as the 4-dhaam yatra was very successful and saw 22.5 lakh people taking part in it. Even the Prime Minister had visited Kedarnath, when the doors were opened as well as when they got closed. The visit of the President of India to Kedarnath gave enough promotion to the pilgrimage. A thousand pilgrims went for Mansarovar Yatra as part of 18 teams. We are working on promoting winter tourism in mountains and are focusing on skiing and other activities.

Jayanta Malla Baruah, Chairman, Assam Tourism Development Corporation

In 2017, we appointed Priyanka Chopra as the brand ambassador and we are aggressively starting our campaign in national and international media. In October, the Assam Government adopted Assam Tourism Policy 2017, in which we have given so many incentives to investors who are interested in investing in the tourism sector in the state. Besides, we are also trying our best to give incentives and other subsidies in film tourism as well.

Sudhir Sobti, Chief Manager PR & Publicity, Delhi Tourism

2017 has been a great year for Delhi Tourism as we have seen lots of new initiatives, encouragement and learning this year. There has been a surge in tourist arrivals overall. For Delhi Tourism, we have taken some new initiatives, which includes promoting Delhi as a heritage city, and the response was very encouraging. Lots of people and tourists are interested in exploring the city by walking or cycling and we have special tours for the same. We are promoting Delhi as a film shoot friendly destination.

Pronab Sarkar, President, IATO

In 2017 we had many speed breakers, which we took as a challenge and brought up with respective authorities in concern. We are awaiting the last part of GST. Last thing that the GST Council had put forward was nil GST for monuments and abolishing of reverse mechanism charges. While these two points were considered, we are still fighting for the final point, which is the cascading effect of taxes. Double taxation has to be removed and if that is done, it will be good for India tourism and generation of employment. Overall, the year saw a 10-15 per cent growth.

Sunil Kumar, President, TAAI

2017 has been an outstanding year and we had a great team in place, but times change and our new team has been elected recently at the AGM. There is a lot of excitement in TAAI, and we will be meeting on December 21 in Hyderabad, to make sure that all of us spend a good day together, interact with each other, build plans, enlarge the vision that we have, focus on areas that we haven’t done really well in before and try to do them better. I am hopeful to roll out a huge plan for the membership very soon.

P.P. Khanna, President, ADTOI

In 2017, one of the many achievements for the association was the successful Convention in Visakhapatnam. Now, with the support from Andhra Pradesh Government, we are very positive that domestic tourism will see growth in the state. Also, we launched our Andhra Pradesh Chapter, indicating is our move into the southern part of the country

Chander Mansharamani, Vice Chairman, ICPB

ICPB had a very successful year where a major achievement was creating confidence among MICE fraternity and the Ministry of Tourism. Today, ICPB has emerged as the frontal organisation in promoting India as a preferred MICE destination. We strongly believe that time has come to adopt a very aggressive approach and to have a new strategy in place. The new Board has already started deliberating on the various activities which ICPB has been organising over the years and is also working towards ways to strengthen the association.

Rajat Sawhney, Vice President, ADTOI

This year has been full of events for the association and we are on the course to become the top travel trade association in India. We launched two state chapters—Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh–during the year and also conducted two women empowerment programmes for the committee. We organised educational tours in Mussoorie and Corbett for the members and also conducted a session on GST to address the issues of the trade in line with the new tax structure introduced this year.

Jyoti Mayal, Honorary Secretary, TAAI

In 2017, I was holding a specific portfolio for TAAI in which I was the Chairman Airline Council for TAAI. I think I did my best for it and I achieved a lot with Air India increasing our commission, credit cards coming on board, and I even supported my members for GST. We are still fighting for that. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds, as you can see there is a lot of increase in business, but what we have to see is how our members can cope up with it.

Piyush Tiwari, Director Commercial & Marketing, ITDC

ITDC clocked a turnover of Rs. 495.14 crores during the financial year 2016-17 as against Rs. 465.69 crores in the previous year. Corporation’s flagship property hotel The Ashok registered its highest ever turnover of Rs. 152.91 crores and received LEED GOLD certification under Existing Building Operation and Maintenance category. ITDC further expanded the Ashok International Trade Division (AITD) and now operates 12 duty-free shops at Goa, Haldia, Kolkata, Chennai, Mangalore, Visakhapatnam, Mumbai, Paradip, Kakinada, Krishnapatnam, Tuticorin and Cochin seaports.

Guldeep Singh Sahni, India Travel Award winner, Managing Director, Weldon Tours & Travels

The year 2017 was satisfactory, not great. Demonetisation and switch over to GST took a toll on outbound travel. Although a new trend emerged wherein travellers sought to visit uncommon destinations. Even budget travellers opted for luxury during the trip, even if for two or three days on their 6-7 day trip. We had to not only educate ourselves but even compare our prices with online portals to be competitive. Doing business is becoming tough day by day. In addition, confusion of GST leaves us uncompetitive as compared to overseas portals or hotel portals who do not charge GST.

Rajan Sehgal, Director, Arrivals Air Services

The last year saw many new activities related to travel like film tourism, heritage tourism, golf tourism, starting for both domestic and international tourism. We have also been working on other projects so that the travel industry makes some business besides ticketing and tour. In terms of ease of doing business, it is getting tougher rather than being easier to do business in India now.

Ankush Nijhawan, Co-founder, Travel Boutique Online, India Travel Award winner

In 2017, we transformed ourselves under the GST regime to allow our travel partners work with transparency. We saw 30 per cent growth in the airlines business while hotel booking segment grew by 70 per cent. We also launched offices in new markets like China, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines and Hong Kong. The brand TBO DMC was launched to cater to destination management services required by our partners. We have opened 16 new destinations for India like Scandinavia, Morocco, Egypt, Croatia, Bhutan, East Africa etc.

Ashish Vohra, Founder and CEO, Justa Hotels & Resorts

After a long time, we are almost meeting our budgets this year. We must have seen a growth of around 18 per cent. In 2017, the hospitality industry has seen increased occupancy levels, ADRs and overall business despite hurdles like GST and Gujarat elections. In fact, the elections would have a minor effect on domestic tourism from Gujarat into Rajasthan. The business is looking robust and after a long time, hoteliers are smiling. Moreover, e-visa has been a big help for tourists. I think GST is going to be advantageous, especially for the organised sector.

Debasish Bhowmik, Sr. Vice President, Hotel Clarks Shiraz

The year 2017, in terms of business growth and potentiality for future, was good. We consolidated our position both in the leisure and MICE segments in spite of competition. From July, GST is in place and as long as one has a clear understanding, it will settle down as a good single tax accountability. Our industry still faces many issues with the prevailing multiple licensing laws and unless it’s genuinely single-window clearance, there would not be any change in the hassles at present.

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