“Everyone talks about tourism, but not many care”

But now is an optimistic time, says MP Bezbaruah, Secretary General, Hotel Association of India, at the BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Summit and Awards 2022

While tourism has been identified as one of the five key pillars of the Indian economy, the past few years have been something of a disappointment, according to MP Bezbaruah, Secretary General, Hotel Association of India. Speaking to Rajiv Kaul, Former President, Leela Hotels, at the 6th edition of BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Summit and Awards, the industry veteran said that for him, the disappointment related to the tourism industry has spanned a quarter of a century.

A specific area where Bezbaruah thinks there is scope for improvement is on the Government front, where things, he believes, are slow and simple issues take a long time to resolve. He cited the example of VISA on arrival, the process for which was initiated in 1999, but which took almost 12 years before being implemented despite having received the approval from the Government Committee.

“The main problem with the sector is that the Ministry of Tourism itself does not control the areas which comprise tourism. Culture has a different ministry, Civil Aviation is a different ministry and that creates problems and things take a lot of time,” he explained.

Talking about recent times, Bezbaruah said that the pandemic is the worst experience the travel and tourism industry faced. HAI, he informed, had requested the Government to recognise the importance of this sector with respect to jobs and income creation and give some relief to those SMEs but then it did not happen. “Our next request was to get sector-specific relief programme for tourism which also did not happen,” he said.

Asserting that he is unsure as to why such aspects are not paid attention to, Bezbaruah stated that there has been a saying around for some time among his peers – “Tourism is something that everyone talks about, but no one cares”.

The reason behind this, he says, is that the impact of the tourism industry is not visible on surface as most of its effects happen as a ripple.

However, he also shared that he believes there are optimistic signs now for the industry. This, he said, comes from a few things he has noticed. “One is that the states have been brought into the picture and told to do their part. Then, the Government is talking about a National Tourism Authority and a National Tourism Board. If this happens with the right perspective, they would have a big role in policy formation and policy implementation,” he shared.

He also added that while many states, for long, have been saying they would give industry status to tourism, it is only now that the benefits have begun to flow. This, said Bezbaruah, has been happening in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab and Karnataka, and other states are likely to follow.

Kaul, sharing his thoughts, said that while Government has had its issues, there are ways and precedents as to how working with the Government can lead to great results. He suggested that instead of going to the Government with multiple demands as different industry bodies do at the moment, it would be more productive to have an annual agenda across the industry with a few points and only take those to the Government and try and get those approved.

To this, Bezbaruah replied that recently HAI had changed its approach and is working from the perspective that the industry and the Government are not two separate entities but partners and collaborators. “We have been reaching out to the Government and asking to let us in on the developments and allow us to help them. The ministry has consulted us and we are in various committees too. We have also been able to meet the Parliamentary Standing Committee three times and all that we had asked for has been a part of the Committee’s recommendations. The approach should not be of demands but reach out to them as associations that bring the voice of the industry to them. And the Government has started listening to us,” Bezbaruah shared.


Around The World