Market India as safe destination for tourism: Industry Veterans

In the recently held BW HOTELIER’s Breaking The Pandemic WebBlast – 'Future of the Hospitality Industry: An Outside In View' veterans from hospitality industry discussed major points of concern for the aching sector and what it needs to undergo on the path to economic recovery.

With no support from the government, the hospitality industry has been dealing with the on-going crisis on its own despite being a major contributor to the country’s GDP. From lockdown to the requisition of hotels, the sector is feeling the heat of pandemic, which is turning out to be an unprecedented phase in the history of the hospitality industry.

To get an in-depth perspective on what the sector is facing, BW HOTELIER organized a special virtual session where a panel of industry seniors with several years of experience share their insightful views on government’s support, lobbying, hygiene and safety as new norms, and different phases of recovery. The session titled Breaking The Pandemic WebBlast – ‘Future of the Hospitality Industry: An Outside In View’ was moderated by Dilip Puri, Founder & CEO, Indian School of Hospitality (who has also served as Managing Director of Starwood Hotels & Resorts South Asia). Puri pointed out that the pandemic has led to faster adoption of technologies to meet the needs of the people.

Having over thirty years of experience in senior leadership positions in the hospitality industry, Rajiv Kaul, Advisor, The Leela Palaces Hotels & Resorts, put forth the idea of ‘Safe Travel Policy’ stating it as the need of the hour. He further asserted, “Once we see signs of kick-starting for tourism, the focus should be directed towards destination marketing.” Similarly, Veer Vijay Singh, MD & CEO, Trance Hotels, also stated, “We need to market India as destination (and even for domestic tourism)” He explained, “We need to make a nice taskforce consisting of stakeholders, not just some secretaries or ministers.” Further, Singh gave the example of countries like Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Egypt of having done a great job at domestic marketing, which he feels is crucial in the present times. Also, Singh argued that there has to be some certification that India is a safe destination. 

In the context, Former Senior VP Operations of IHCL (Indian Hotels Company Limited) Farhat Jamal brought to notice the Ministry of Tourism’s special series ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ which he claimed as a wonderful initiative but needs to be marketed properly and needs to have a better reach. 

Taking the discussion further, Rahul Pandit, MD & CEO, Hamstede Living believes “This is the time to exploit the silver linings in the dark clouds. Tourism was non-existent three decades ago but in recent times, the tourism sector has grown to become a global phenomenon.” “Tourism has languished as a state subject, and it is high time that it is added to the Concurrent List not just because tourism serves as ten per cent of the country's GDP but since per dollar investment generates more jobs than the automobile sector, or technological sector, and or financial sector,” he added.

Among the speakers taking part in the webinar are Rajiv Kaul, Former President, Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts; Anil Bhandari, Chairman of AB Smart Concepts and Former Chairman of ITDC (Indian Tourism Development Corporation); Shantha de Silva, CEO, Plus One and Former Head of South West Asia, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group); Suresh Kumar, Founder, KUE Management Services and Founder & Mentor, ROSAKUE Hospitality and Former MD of Fortune Hotels; Veer Vijay Singh, MD & CEO, Trance Hotels and Former COO, Vivanta by Taj; Farhat Jamal, Group Advisor – Hospitality, Hiranandani Group; and Rahul Pandit, CEO of Hamstede Living, Former President and ED of Lemon Tree Hotels.

Delving deeper into the challenges the hospitality industry is facing, Bhandari listed various areas of concern for hotel owners such as shortage of resources, fear amongst the staff, lack of training to accommodate infected patients, and much needed investments on disinfectants and proper gear. He stated, “After the Covid-19 comes under control, the hotels will be delinked from the hospitals and then they will have to fully disinfect and refurbish. This will further add to the losses of hotels, which are already bleeding since lockdown.”

Furthermore, pointing out the situation in India where hotel chains are trying to maintain their brand identity away from the haze of being labelled as quarantine centers, Silva, shared a stark difference with the situation in Australia. “The government in Australia was very supportive in over-sighting operations of hotel-turned-centers,” he said. While giving his perspective on the shortage of infrastructure that necessitated the government to turn hotels into quarantine centers, Kumar said that this will create a loss of confidence with the public. In his personal opinion: "It is not a very good decision to rope in hotels but being a part of the society, one has to give back."


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