Need safe travel policy, focus on destination marketing: Rajiv Kaul

In a recent BW Hotelier WebBlast on ‘Future of the Hospitality Industry: An Outside In View’, Rajiv Kaul, Advisor, Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts shared his views on what should be the major domains of focus for the pandemic-hit hospitality sector towards its revival.

Hospitality Industry bodies like Federation of Association in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) have been seeking the attention of parliamentarians for the revival of the aching hospitality industry. Apart from an economic stimulus, Rajiv Kaul,Advisor, Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts thinks the sector needs a much needed ‘Safe Travel Policy.’ The policy which supposed to take into account the challenges posed by the pandemic, he said, would help in ‘kick-starting the tourism’. In fact, in the first week of June, Andhra Pradesh’s Tourism Ministry informed on their ‘restart’ plans with a new tourism policy in order. Stated to focus on attracting investors by introducing investor-friendly initiatives, the specifics of the policy are not in the public domain yet (at the time of filing the story). However, undeniably, the policy has to address the impacts that the sector has suffered so far due to the pandemic. 

Rajiv Kaul was a panellist at the recently held BW Hotelier WebBlast on ‘Future of the Hospitality Industry: An Outside In View’. Having over thirty years of experience in senior leadership positions in the hospitality industry, Kaul’s views and perspectives on the present situation can come as a lifesaver to the industry players.    

Kaul strongly argued that once we see signs of kick-starting for tourism, the focus should be directed towards destination marketing. (Destination marketing is a type of marketing that promotes the destination where the tour will take place with the unique features of the location.) Through the destination marketing (where the idea is to bring customers to a location to sell your services), the dried-up businesses due to pandemic could be revitalized. The tourism industry which contributes to about ten per cent of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and offers jobs to five crores directly or indirectly, the role of destination marketing should, arguably, provide faster employment generation opportunities through increased awareness and attraction, speeding up the revival process. 

Taking the discussion further on the revival of the hospitality industry, Kaul sheds light upon the dire situation the industry is facing. He stated, “The damage that is done is biggest so far in human history. Today we are in a zero revenue zone in hotels."

Moving ahead, he thinks that the domestic tourism market is going to be the backbone during the initial revival period. Kaul stated this keeping in mind there is a minimal scope of international tourism. To tackle such challenges, Kaul recommended a need for 'convergence' at different points. He elaborated that multiple safety procedures at different points(say in the case for a flight journey) can foster doubts rather than confidence.     

Apparently, the pandemic has illumined many structural faults that the hospitality industry was already facing even before the pandemic hit. Kaul shared, “During this period, we should introspect in the way we have been working.” He pointed out the NASSCOM benchmarking for this (introspection). Further, he stated (quoting Amazon head Jeff Bezos), “A simple tip I want to give to all leadership teams: let the world focus on what’s going to change, you focus on what’s not going to change. It is important in this entire time, we should not lose focus.” Kaul also informed, “Now in hotels, health and safety services have become central with hospital-level standards being maintained. Cleanliness will make or break things for businesses.” Along with that, Kaul pointed out that the role of service has not been compromised. He iterated, “Service has an important role to play. Don’t keep hiding behind technology, etc.” On top of that, he asserted to stay invested in quality. “Quality is the single best business model,” Kaul said.


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