Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) thanks Prime Minister Narendra Modi for promoting inbound tourism during his recent visit to Denmark. Association President Rajiv Mehra urges him to focus on international promotions, which are held up due to lack of funds.
Rajiv Mehra, President, IATO, believes that the central government is working on boosting the promotional efforts after the association had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with regards to no promotional activity taking place abroad due to shortage of funds. “I believe something is happening on that score, but we have not heard it officially. IATO has again written to the PM thanking him for extolling NRIs residing in Denmark during his speech there to contribute and help promote inbound tourism to India and thus contribute to the economic development of the country. Addressing the Indian community, he has urged them to send at least five non-resident foreign nationals from their country to India. That is a very good sign of promoting India. If all Indians abroad start sending or motivating five people to visit India, I think tourism will flourish in the coming years,” he said.
IATO again urged the government to raise the level of promotion for attracting inbound tourists. “We have written to him (the PM) that whatever hurdles we are facing here with different ministries and departments need to be addressed immediately and steps should be taken for the same. I am hopeful things will happen in this regard soon,” he added.
Working with embassies
Mehra shared that some of the Indian embassies abroad are “very active”. “I have had the privilege of speaking with some of the ambassadors regarding promotion of India. We have given them our ideas and some of them have said that they will implement those shortly. If this process starts, we can get some business. This has added a lot of burden on us also, because apart from the 20 appointed officers with whom we are dealing every day, we are also working with other embassies that are very active as they have directive from Ministry of External Affairs for trade and tourism. We have had certain meetings, especially in Canada and Australia, which a large number of tour operators had attended. I am hopeful that this will also create some interest for people to come to India and I think the tourism trade will get this additional business too in the coming years. The only hassle now is hotel rates, availability of rooms and airfares, which should be under control so that more people visit India, resulting in more employment directly or indirectly in this sector. We want a total hassle free experience for our foreign tourists because tomorrow they will be our ambassadors,” he underlined.
IATO had also requested the PM that someone from the MOT should be posted in the embassies abroad. “That person should be under direct control of the ambassador. It will give a big boost to tourism as our people do understand what the requirement is. During my interactions with various Indian ambassadors abroad, I came to know that all of them had a vast knowledge about India and the way they presented India from the tourism point of view was incredible. It is a very good sign that if we have such a person overseeing the day-to-day promotional activities, people will definitely get business from those countries,” said Mehra.
Virtual versus physical
While the MOT has been conducting virtual roadshows called Reconnect 2022, Mehra believes that these online roadshows are not giving the desired result. “We have done a number of roadshows now and there are more lined up in the next one month. However, they are not giving the desired results. Therefore, we have requested the MOT that physical roadshows should begin immediately, along with the MDA scheme,” he stressed.
Mehra shared that IATO is participating in Arabian Travel Market (ATM), but surety on other travel marts and fairs is still not there. “IMEX Frankfurt and other shows are still not finalised by the MOT. They are still not clear because no funds are available. Hence, in the next 10 days, if the ministry gets the desired funds, then we will go ahead with IMEX. Otherwise, I have my doubts. Let us hope that our letters to the Prime Minister give the desired results,” he said.
UK visa ban
Talking about the UK visa ban, Mehra shared that they have been trying and writing to the Ministry of Home Affairs and MOT to allow the UK and Canada to be included in the list of countries allowed to apply e-visa. “Once this happens, I think by October and November, at least business from the UK and Canada would cross the 50 per cent mark of what we had. If e-visa is allowed for these countries, it will be very good for tourism in India,” he pointed out.
Flights key to recovery
Mehra said, “As soon as airlines add more capacity and the war stops, we should reach the 40 per cent mark by October-November this year and about 50-60 per cent next year.