‘Every citizen of a country is a travel ambassador’

TAAI head Jyoti Mayal shares how the travel trade body worked to find solutions for tourism recovery

‘Rethinking Tourism’ is just not a thought but a process in itself. Prepared and issued by the UNWTO on the subject, the concept note refers to three major points. First, dialogue to identify solutions to realise tourism’s potential as a vehicle for recovery. Second, tourism as an inspirational and transformational force. And third, mobilise political will and cooperation to ensure tourism is a central part of policymaking. Indeed, a commendable job done by the UN body. Be it post-pandemic or even before that, we should have addressed these concerns. 

Putting the TAAI’s perspective as the President, on some of the key points, I wish to say that as an apex body for travel trade, we took it as a responsibility to identify solutions to bring tourism back on the road to recovery. I would refer to our latest convention wherein we reiterated and pushed for promoting India as a regional tourism hub. Regional tourism has a huge potential. Be it SAARC, BIMSTEC or other arrangements which were formed to bring Asian economies together have still not realised their full potential. Now once the policy is made, the private sector must come forward to invest time and money to achieve the goal and mission of the countries. However, perhaps because of the low investor confidence or return on investments, we have not seen major transformations happening in our sector in many countries except a few. We had representation from five major tourism-driven economies at the convention and we ensured that not only solutions are identified and highlighted, they must be brainstormed to promote regional tourism and support each other. 

Further, in a way, our sector got destroyed by the pandemic. Yes, I’m using the word ‘destroyed’ because we saw maximum number of businesses going bankrupt and millions of job losses. However, it at least made governments realise tourism’s true potential. It is indeed difficult to put it in numbers that how much contribution is there as it can’t be mapped given the fact that every citizen of a country is a travel ambassador in itself. These ambassadors are real motivational factors and influencers who represent nations. We saw transformation happening at both the top and grass-root level. This transformation forced some to walk away from the sector but for many, it was an opportunity to start/ restart their lives. Yes, we saw millions of job losses but the way sector is recovering, with all-time high occupancy at the hotels, and airlines running at full capacity; for some its either revenge or other forms of tourism, but for us – the travel fraternity, it’s the transformation which the tourism sector is witnessing.  

If I may put only India’s stats, then the tourism sector is estimated to contribute 10 per cent to the GDP apart from creating millions of jobs every year. However, the travel trade and tourism as a whole is still pushing the government for granting the industry status to the sector. Yes, there have been some developments whereby states accorded the status, but we still have a long way to go. A recent discussion on tourism in 2047 is welcomed by the industry, however, we have seen and experienced how unprecedented events like covid change the path of the human race. We are mobilising political will and policymakers are also doing their best. However, we must understand that the private sector is still hesitant to invest in the tourism sector and that’s why perhaps we are still unorganised. Investor confidence and engagement at the top level are still very much required.

I’m sure that be it sustainable development goals or objectives of reinventing tourism in 2022, all are achievable in a time-bound manner. However, only with collaborative approach among the governments, policymakers, industry, investors and above all, travellers.  


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