Underlining how powerful the industry is, Ajay Prakash, President, Travel Agents Federation Of India (TAFI), talks about bringing gender equality in the field of tourism. The association is also doing its bit to accelerate gender equality in travel industry, alongwith VFS Global.
“I am satisfied with the convention (in Sarawak), and it was the entire team of TAFI – not just the managing committee and the convention committee – but a number of other volunteers who came forward to help out,” says Ajay Prakash, President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), adding, “We worked well as a team and the success of the convention is a testament to that. I am also happy that Zubin Karkaria (for VFS Global) attended the convention and delivered a keynote address, which was apt – he shared a global perspective from a Made in India global leader.”
Speaking about one of the key highlights of the convention, Prakash shares, “We also launched a pledge for gender equality, in association with VFS Global, led by Dr. Elena Primikiri, Head – ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance), VFS Global. The pledge is for accelerating gender equality in the Indian tourism industry. About 50 per cent of the world’s population is female, and the fact is that they have never got their rightful due. Many studies have shown that when you promote gender equality, you end up with a better bottom line. Therefore, it is important that we bring home this message to our members – to make a beginning here and now.”
This cause is also something Prakash is personally passionate about. “This topic is close to my heart and I believe we have made a great beginning and we shall the results of this initiative in the next two years or so.”
Tourism needs to give back
The second highlight of the convention was TAFI’s effort towards reducing waste in order to ‘build back better’. Towards that, TAFI ensured that the delegate badges were made of recycled paper and had seeds that can be planted after the event. “Small things add up. There is a significant power of one, and if we all do our little bit, it will make a difference,” he says.
The other thing TAFI did was to support the programme called ‘Books Build Legacy’ started by Amelia Roziman, CEO, Business Events Sarawak, who established free youth libraries throughout Sarawak’s interior areas for young people. She is trying to create libraries in the interiors of Sarawak. To donate towards this cause, TAFI members were requested to bring at least one book. “The idea is that tourism needs to contribute towards community. So, it is important that we give back to the environment, to the community, to the destination rather than merely take from it. Hopefully, we have sown some seeds in the minds of our members,” Prakash adds.
TAFI also brought in thought leaders to talk about innovation, including a session by Vinay Gupta, Founder & CEO, Nexus DMC. “This seems like a far better, and more informative product that a travel agent can use today. Using this software, an agent can create a professional itinerary including transfers, sightseeing, etc. We will definitely be taking this forward with our membership. The idea is that people now need to upskill and re-skill and discover new ways of doing things,” he says.
‘Always stick to what you do best’
Speaking at his keynote address at the TAFI Convention, Zubin Karkaria, Founder & CEO, VFS Global, elaborated on exploring alternate revenues of income. He is of the opinion that one should always stick to what one does best. “People are looking for specialists. If you do everything for everyone, you will remain average. If you focus on one thing and do it well, that will work. Choose where you are the market leader and where your core competency lies and where you can add more value. It is difficult to let go of large operations, but if you have the courage to do, let go and find your niche. You will serve your customer and your business well. VFS Global is also focused on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) – especially in terms of women diversity. It has signed a pledge for higher women ratio – today it has over 58 per cent women in VFS Global.”