In an exclusive interview with T3FS, SubhashGoyal, Chairman - STIC Travel Group &President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) speaks about the annual convention and key issues of the inbound industry.
Q1. What are your expectations from this year's IATO Convention? What were the reasons behind choosing Madhya Pradesh as the destination for the event?
Ans: Our expectations are very high as we have gone all the way to make this year’s event as the most attended by delegates and have given new look to our Business Sessions which should be informative as also interactive as much possible. Speakers are being located from all over the country and mainly specialists for subjects like Taxation, New Foreign Trade Policy and benefits to tourism sector, implication of GST, Investment Policy in states, Governments New Tourism Policy 2015 (being launched this year), Prospects for New Budget and Tourism status in changing economic scene and government priorities, e-tourist visa with multi entry facilities, charter Policy in new Aviation Policy, Infrastructure developments all these are need based for our tourism sector. Similarly, some regular parts of the convention broadened with Run for Responsible tourism with focus on clean Indian campaign and group discussions etc.
It is our policy to have our convention in a new state specially emerging states who have been promoting tourism pro-actively and even got acceptance from holidayers. On that thing, we had our convention in Odisha, Gujarat, Kerala and Karnataka and last year it was Delhi so that we could have presence of all decision makers of new government and got their support.
We have also looked into the possibilities of having our convention in Goa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where we did not hold our convention at all or had our convention long time back. But we did not receive much support from them. But Madhya Pradesh came forward with full support and offered services beyond our expectations.
Madhya Pradesh stand now as one of the most progressive states with so much to offer. They have all the ingredients (except Beach Resorts), Architecture, Wildlife, Pilgrimage, Mountain, Nature Resorts, Conference, Education, Medical, Sports and they are doing global publicity. Tour operators in overseas are talking about destinations in the state. They are visible in all overseas leading exhibitions. They only needed partnership with Tour Operators which we have provided. Our 1500 members will add their sales promotion activities. Also they have developed conference facilities.
In Indore, a brand new conference center is coming up where we will be first to hold such a big conference where delegates will cross 1500 (approx.). Also they are bringing the center to meet our needs and offering special services. It is for the first time one state Madhya Pradesh who have shown real involvement. Even Chief Minister of the state himself is involved. Special post tour packages they have offered and will showcase with cultural events during the convention. So our choice was right unanimously we decided in favour of Madhya Pradesh.
Q2. How will be this year’s convention different from previous editions?
Ans: There is set norm for our convention operations and we do not change for the change sake. The change is made in specific areas:-
1. In the Convention Committee this year Mr. Pronab Sarkar, Hony. Secretary is the Chairman of the Convention and Mr. Ravi Gosain and Mr. Sanjeev Joshi are co-chairman of IATO Convention.
2. In respect of state venue, which is Indore Grand Bhagwati Palace, we will be first client for them.
3. This year’s theme is “Tourism – We will change the Indian Economy.”
4. Speakers are different, business sessions are different with need based theme and topics like New Foreign Trade Policy, Implications of Budget/Service Tax, Corporate Social Responsibility and many other topics are based on inputs for members.
5. The sessions will be more interactive and participative. So it is not that speakers speaking for hours. Each session will also have raffle prizes for participants for their gracious presence through the sessions and being participative.
6. Some CSR work will be included like clean India campaign “Green Move” through our Responsible Tourism Run. And focused “Messages”
7. Interactive Networking breaks over Tea/coffee
8. Travel Expo at the Venue showcasing new destinations.
So, there will be mix continuity and new initiatives. Continuity is the main focus in our convention strategy.
Q3. What are the issues related to the inbound industry that this year’s convention will take up?
Ans. Issues are of mainly of continuous nature as we have yet to get final conclusion and these are related to:-
1. E-tourist visa: More countries be added like UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden which are very important for us and the countries which offer tourists round the year.
2. Bio-metric process be stopped as it give tourists a lot of inconvenience. In fact for this reason only, they are dropping India from their holiday programme. The loss is ours. We will deliberate on these issues. Multiple Entry Visa be given while giving e-tourist visa nor. Now it is only valid with one entry. Validity period of visa may also be increased for 90 days from 60 days at present.
3. GST be implemented and tourism be given special concessions especially during the off seasons.
4. Civil Aviation Policy be announced at the earliest.
5. Railways have created problems by refusing renewal of Rail Travel Agent licenses we will plead that this is restored.
6. New Tourism Policy be announced and should also announce financial incentives.
7. Infrastructural development Policy with focus on Safety and Security and Thematic tours for tourism growth in a sustainable manner.
8. Development of new airports and regional airlines for better air connectivity in the region.
9. Highway developments and linking hinterland tourist cities.
10. International standard in tourism education.
11. Language speaking guides to service the industry
12. Marketing Development Assistance Policy and revision as per IATO recommendations
13. India Tourism offices overseas and Head of the offices be posted which are vacant over three years.
14. Tourist Transport and special Tourist Taxi Number with seamless movements of cars at the state borders.
15. Withdrawal of restricted area permits in North East to facilitate tour operators.
16. Roadshows and Promotional Activities with the Ministry of Tourism to be givenmore financial assistance from the government
17. Tourism Finance issues for projects.
18. Withdrawal of Luxury Tax which is dampening the interest of tourists and making our packages costly and we can’t meet the packages price given by our competitive countries
Q4. What are your expectations from the upcoming inbound travel season?
Ans: I told you, we are very optimistic and after the convention, many of our issues will get priority attention as many government decision makers will be present in the convention. If all these are duly taken care, inbound will definitely grow by 20 per cent (especially with multi entry visa and bio-metric process if withdrawn). We may cross 10 million figure in 2015 if everything remains in order.