Foreign tourists are more interested in exploring India which is beyond metropolitan cities. They want to experience the soil, culture and authenticity of India and show interest in experiential tourism, says Ravneet Kaur, Chairperson and Managing Director, Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).
“To attract more tourists, we need to build awareness of unseen and unheard pieces of heaven in India. We should promote rural tourism more aggressively with the theme ‘All the way back to roots’.”
What is the overview of ITDC in brief?
Back in 1966, ITDC was incorporated with a mandate to develop and expand tourism infrastructure in the country. The Corporation, thus, has been moving ahead consistently for the development and growth of travel, tourism and hospitality sector. ITDC acts as the prime mover in the progressive development, promotion and expansion of domestic as well as international tourism in the country for all sectors of the society through multifarious activities based on a strong customer focus, building trust, quality service, convenience at a competitive price. Apart from running hotels, ITDC provides ticketing, tours and travels, event management, duty-free shopping, publicity and printing consultancy, engineering consultancy, sound and light shows, hospitality education and skill development services.
India is already a very popular tourist destination for foreigners, what else is being done to attract more foreign tourists?
India has evolved as an unparalleled tourism brand over the years and foreign tourists eagerly look forward to visit India. Currently, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought in strong initiatives to build tourism industry which have affected the sector positively. If we look at the numbers, industry is growing at a healthy pace. To attract more tourists, we need to build awareness of unseen and unheard pieces of heaven in India. We should promote rural tourism more aggressively with the theme ‘All the way back to roots’. As per reports, foreign tourists are more interested in exploring India which is beyond metropolitan cities. They want to experience the soil, culture and authenticity of India and show interest in experiential tourism. The entire tourism and hospitality industry needs to come to a single platform to bring all the stakeholders together to achieve greater heights in this sector.
Do you think that tourism industry in India needs skilled human resource?
Tourism industry definitely needs skilled human resources as this is one industry which requires human and analytical skills to cater to diverse customer needs. Tourism sector is booming in India with upcoming reforms and initiatives towards building new brand image of India in world tourism industry. ITDC too has been actively involved in promoting skills and education to meet the gap between supply and demand in the sector. Centre of Excellence ‘Ashok Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management’ under ITDC is effectively engaged in disseminating knowledge and skill education in line with industry trends.
What are the challenges before ITDC?
Being a responsible public sector undertaking, we also have commitments towards the society and the country. Our challenge is to compete in a competitive and rapidly expanding market. Another challenge is development and retention of skilled manpower, which we believe is not only a challenge for us but for the entire industry. In tourism and hospitality sector, the demand of skilled manpower is more as compared to other sectors.
How do you view the trend of domestic and foreign tourists, even since the existing Government at the centre came to power?
The Government initiatives such as e-visas and visa on arrival, as well as the focus on tourism and infrastructure development, have kept the momentum high. New steps like the new Udaan scheme for regional air connectivity is going to boost growth in tier II and tier III cities.
All these steps are aimed at making tourism a pillar of the Indian economy over the past three years. They have all given a big boost to the travel and tourism industry, creating a multiplier effect and driving an increase in overall economic growth in the country.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, foreign exchange earnings through tourism increased to Rs 14,692 crore in April 2017 from Rs 11,495 crore the same month in the year 2016 and Rs 10,091 crore two years earlier. The number of foreign tourist arrivals in April 2017 was 7.40 lakh, as compared with 5.99 lakh in April 2016 and 5.42 lakh in the same month of 2015.
Some steps like the allocation of Rs 500 crore to develop popular heritage cities have been extremely promising. Greater budgetary support for regional connectivity and revival of small airstrips is another area where the focus needs to continue. The drive for digitisation has also led to rapid adoption of online bookings amongst Indian travellers.
From ‘Make in India’ to ‘Start Up India’ and ‘Skill India’, the present Government has successfully pushed the India story while opening gates for new business opportunities. Transformation through Swachh Bharat and Digital India have made India more appealing to visitors. Unifying India as a single market through introduction of Goods and Services Tax is a major step forward.
Do you think it would be advisable to privatise all public sector hotels?
What is your take on this? The ownership of the public sector hotels is with the Government, therefore decision remains with them.