Every corner of India has something unique that can be showcased to the world, asserts Pronab Sarkar, President, IATO. It only needs to be discovered and promoted.
Q IATO’s next convention will be in Vizag. Is the association choosing states that have been India’s best kept secrets?
We received an invitation from Andhra Pradesh Tourism to host our next convention and we gladly accepted. We want to promote every state of India because they all have potential for tourism. After the division, both Andhra Pradesh as well as Telangana are reviving tourism into their respective states with newer products. Andhra Pradesh is doing its best and they want us to take the lead and put a spotlight on the state, get our members to know their products and promote the same. They are now getting active with the new government and their capital city of Amravati is also under making.
Q How was this year’s convention?
It was altogether a successful convention. All the sessions were very interesting and revitalised our members, which is why we had a full house till the end. They were also very interactive and people enjoyed it. Moreover, the co-operation extended by the Odisha Tourism Board was fantastic. Everyone including the Chief Minister, the Tourism Minister, Tourism Secretary and even the Governor attended our event. We also saw strong support from the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, with the new Tourism Minister himself attending our inauguration.
Q How does their presence help the association?
This served as a good encouragement to our members. Conventions are important because tourism then gets due recognition from the State and the Centre. Our voice is heard and the difficulties that we are facing get proper hearing and attention from them. We hope for a better future for Indian tourism and that we are able to bring in more tourists into the country.
Q What are some of the concerns voiced by your members?
The number one concern is high taxes on tourism which has put us in a difficult situation. We support GST and will take the matter with the Finance Ministry directly. We request that GST should be at a nominal level between six to eight per cent. Only then shall we be able to compete and grow our business. We therefore request all or state governments to take up this issue with the GST Council. There are many other issues which we shall take up separately.
Q Does IATO have any recommendations for the Odisha Tourism Board?
Yes, there are some recommendations for the Government of Odisha and we will send them to Dr. Mona Sharma. Odisha has one of the best state tourism policies and investment opportunities for tourism infrastructure should be popularised to attract more investors and suitable land should be created for this. The state needs a bigger international airport so that it can handle more passenger capacity. We suggest a government policy to have a PPP model of investment for the development of international airports just as Kochi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have done. I want to also highlight the needs for air connectivity between Odisha and Varanasi that will help the Buddhist Circuit. Also, there are many untapped tourist sites like Lake Chilika and activities such as water sports, wildlife parks, fishing and bird-watching, etc. that need development and promotion. Odisha also needs to promote its various festivals, its heritage monuments, its sports events, pilgrimage, etc. For this, the state needs to conduct Fam tours for the trade, attend trade exhibitions in India and abroad and conduct roadshows besides being present on social media. It also needs to have clear guidelines on tribal tourism which is its USP.