Garish Oberoi has been elected as the new President of FHRAI for the term September 2017-18. Oberoi has been in the hospitality industry for over three decades. He previously held the post of Vice President and Treasurer, FHRAI. In an exclusive interview, he tells us about his vision for the Association and plans that would help fulfil it.
Q What will you be concentrating on as President of FHRAI?
The last tenure of the President and the Board saw a very shaky year for the hospitality industry from demonetisation and the liquor ban to getting used to the GST. In the liquor ban issue, we went to court and the state governments as well. A lot of effort and energy went into that; I am happy to say that we could win 90 per cent of the battle, where the court appreciated our situation and most of the hotels and bars that were affected by the ban were eventually reopened. There are still a few bars and restaurants that are left since there is a little lacuna at the Gram Panchayat as well. There are states like Kerala and Maharashtra where the Gram Panchayats are the challenging areas, forestalling the opening of new hotels, restaurants and bars. We must address this issue and it is a top priority for me. We have been trying to convince the government to not treat us as a luxury. The GST slab of 28 per cent is still very high. We had been fighting for a low slab of 8 per cent and will keep fighting to get a slab of 12 per cent across the Board to try and end the 18 and 28 per cent slabs. I do hope that we get some success on that. My agenda is that I will be meeting, through my Board and personally, the finance ministers of different states and try and get them on board to reduce this further.
Industry status, categorisation of hotels in Red and other concerns on guidelines issued by CPCB and MoEF, dialogue with Ministry of Consumer Affairs, issues related to MRP, PPL and IPRS, and FSSAI regulations are the major areas wherein the Association needs to focus in days to come. The Association also needs to adapt to the pace of the changing world by embracing the digital age. Providing information to all stakeholders instantly through all kinds of social media is the need of the hour.
Q Tell us about the vision document for the association.
The vision document for FHRAI was first started by one of our former President Kamlesh Barot. I am taking a cue from that document and also trying to bring all four presidents on the same page so that once we have a consensus, we will have a vision document for the next five years of FHRAI. One of the key items on the vision document is to encourage the membership base. The other is to bring all the regional associations and other travel trade associations on the same platform as FHRAI. I am looking forward to implementing that this year itself. All associations are working together but they are being represented individually; they should all be brought under FHRAI, that being the parent body.
Q Is there recurring factionalism in FHRAI?
There had been some dissent within the Executive Committee (EC) as well as outside it. FHRAI’s constitution says that you can be on the EC Board for eight continuous years and then you must take a break, post which you can come back for four more. The last EC Board wanted to make some changes to that because it felt that in 2018, 60 per cent of the Board, that is, the elders on the Board, may have to retire because of this constitution. There was a debate within the Board wherein they said that they should retire, but only one by one and not in one go because then the experience that they held would not be passed on.
FHRAI is a dynamic body where the six Board members are from different regions. So, it’s up to the region whether they want to repeat the person or have a new person come in. In the North, we have always been repeating, as also in the West. In a couple of other regions, the same people have been coming in for the last 3-4 years and that’s where the concern was; they do have their own reasons though. I reached out to some of the senior past presidents who were unhappy with the changes in the constitution and I assured them that as I take over, I will have a consensus with everybody and have a feasible solution to the issue. That consensus has been given and everyone is now on the same page.
Q Where is the next annual convention slated to be?
The next convention will be taking place in Lucknow. The convention has never taken place there in the past; it will be a new destination and the city now offers good connectivity as well. Numerous 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star hotels have come up in Lucknow. We have some exciting things in store for all our members in 2018 in Lucknow.