The future of India’s tourism sector, after a devastating pandemic that still continues to disrupt, lies in better collaboration between industry and state, and the implementation of more responsible, sustainable action.
Meenakshi Sharma, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, happy with the way tourism within the country has begun, says that the focus now needs to be on spreading the traffic around because right now, tourism is only concentrated in a few places. Amidst hope that things will be better with the vaccine on the horizon, she shares that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has come out with some packages and relief, and that the state governments have also done their bit. Sharma adds, “MOT has started a conversation with MoHA and MEA on how to open up international tourism. Even if the D-day may not be known yet, we need to know how to go about it and what more can be done to make India an attractive destination again.”
Sharing more details on MOT’s international campaign, she says, “Our campaign says that we are COVID-proof and that we are ready to work when the international market is ready. The industry has also seen some drafts, and we should be ready with it in a month or so,” and adds, “We need to have the travel industry come forward and be a part of hygiene protocols because none of them can be made mandatory by the government. I would request the industry to work with the state governments to see that the trade responds positively.”
Domestic tourism stronger
Sharma, accepting that MOT has never really focused on domestic tourism for a campaign, says, “Domestic tourism is a very important sector for all of us and state governments were made responsible for promoting it. However, looking at the present crisis,diverting the outbound traffic towards domestic tourism is the strategy change in the Ministry of Tourism’s mandate. A huge number of Indians travel international every year. Even if we get 50 per cent of them, it will be very good. However, we should work towards making them a satisfied customer. It shouldn’t be a one-off visit, they should be willing to go to a destination within the country.”
Confidence is key
With traveller confidence back, the DG believes that now there will be no stopping for tourism. “Building confidence of international travellers is a global concern. No country can solve them alone. However, we shouldn’t be left behind whenever the international traveller is mentally prepared to travel. This is the challenge towards which Government of India, the state governments, and the industry must work together. It’s easy to say ‘let’s open the sector,’ but to do that there are many considerations that must be looked at,” she asserts.
Earlier, the DG had also said that MOT was in dialogue with the industry about an insurance product that they hope will be a solution to regain the confidence of the international traveller at some level.
Learning from the crisis
Sharma says that there is talk of revising the criteria for Human Development Index (HDI), and that the new criteria, according to her, would focus on one’s carbon footprint, sustainability and consumption pattern.
“Community participation is very important, and tourism must now be considered a ‘responsible’ activity. We have talked about sustainable tourism, but we have not been able to bring it into practice. It is a challenge because we have a ‘crowd mentality’ and we are fast travellers. Now we seem to be becoming slow travellers, and this is one lesson that we have learnt. Another thing we have learnt is that this sector should also be prepared for a crisis. We didn’t know how to handle the crisis well and the value chain wasn’t very well defined; we need to work on that. We should have insurance provision; the social security net for this sector, which is very important, is also neglected to an extent,” she concludes.
For the trade
“We have liberalised the definition of ‘Marketing Development’. There is no need to get approval from MOT for such ‘Assistance’. We are also willing to pick up the tab for promotions to some extent. This should help the industry in a small way.”