‘Time to think about sustenance, survival and revival’

In an interview with BW HOTELIER, Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, FHRAI, maps the association’s initiatives in keeping the spirits of all stakeholders of the industry high

For over 65 years now, the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association (FHRAI) has been the leading voice of the hotel and restaurant industry, playing a seminal role in supporting the growth trajectory of India’s hospitality and tourism sectors. The apex body of Indian hospitality industry provides a vibrant interface between the industry, government, regulatory bodies, academia, international organisations, civil society and media. Established in 1955, FHRAI is the third largest hospitality assication in the world. In an interview with BW HOTELIER, Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, FHRAI, maps the association’s initiatives in keeping the spirits of all stakeholders of the industry high. Excerpts:

How does FHRAI ensure the progress of all stakeholders in the hospitality sector?

As FHRAI is the only association in the country that represents both hotels and restaurants, it is incumbent upon us to constantly evaluate and identify opportunities for progress. This is not limited to the progress of the hospitality industry but of the entire sector which is an assimilation of F&B, education, aviation and tourism and travel industries among others. Through our regional associations in the East, West, North and South, FHRAI enjoys a good presence and reach across the country offering it a bird’s eye view of the sectors’ ground realities. The association identifies areas of opportunity or policy level hindrances and addresses them at a macro-level at the Centre and its regional associations follow up with respective administrations at the state level. Through this mechanism, we have been able to create a system that seamlessly integrates the industry’s stakeholders for a win-win outcome for all, whilst working inclusively with the Government.

Please share FHRAI plans for the benefit of the industries.

One of the biggest tasks of the association is to continually engage with the Government and try to bring to its attention the needs of the sector for its development and progress. Over the last couple of years, we have relentlessly pursued the Government to ensure that the hospitality industry receives the required support to mitigate the damage suffered due to the lockdowns imposed on it. The industry is still in a revival phase and the Government is not doing enough to help us get back on our feet. So, our priority is to intensify these engagements, make the Government pay heed to our concerns and deliver objectively. Other than this, we plan to engage with the FSSAI to fortify good food habits in the country. We are charting out plans to build capacity and enhance knowledge of the industry, to follow compliance and resolve issues addressed by members in compliance with rules and regulations. In the pipeline are seminars on delivering capacity building training and workshop to sensitise members on various schemes of MSMEs and FSSAI seminars on food safety. The Ministry of Tourism has appointed FHRAI for Hunar Se Rozgar which is a skill development programme with emphasis on the employability of the skills acquired by its recipient.

Highlighting the hope for the hotel sector and its scope in the future, how industry players firm up their investment and expansion plans for responding to the emerging opportunities?  

Right before the pandemic hit us, there was huge investment and demand and the industry was in full bloom. After over a decade-and-a-half of lull, the industry was responding in a positive manner. But everything came to a standstill due to pandemic and since then we have been in limbo. Even today, with the threat of the new variant of Covid19 looming over us, everything is in a state of suspended animation. The scenario is changing almost every day for the industry to act or react and to get adjusted to a routine. It is too early to forecast with any kind of certainty but it’s time to think about sustenance, survival and revival. The industry’s priority now is to survive with whatever damages it has suffered and which by our estimates will take nothing less than two years to overcome. Although the demand will return and reinvestment too will gradually increase in future projects but all this will take time.

As Covid19 restrictions have eased out and the industries are reviving, what message do you have for the students who aspire to work in these sectors?

India’s tourism and hospitality sector has the potential to become the growth engine of our economy by accelerating demand and supply in the market along with generating employment in millions. A qualified and committed workforce is the key for businesses to succeed especially, in the service sector such as hospitality. Keeping this in mind, FHRAI established FHRAI-IHM with the aim of improving the standards and skills of the human resource in the hospitality industry in India. It is the first and only private institution run by an Industry Association to be affiliated with the NCHMCT, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. FHRAI-IHM is built on a sprawling seven-acre campus with state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure at Knowledge City in Greater Noida. It hosts a well-equipped 70-bedded hostel for girls and 200-bedded hostel for boys on the campus. The institute boasts of dedicated and experienced faculty working under Arun Kumar Singh, former Principal of IHM-Mumbai, as its director. FHRAI-IHM assures students of placement after completion of the three-year education programme.

At the moment, the entire sector is reeling under the impact of the pandemic and we are witnessing its cascading effects on the field of hospitality education as well. However, hospitality is one of the evergreen professions of the world. It is one of the oldest institutes which will continue to thrive so long as humans exist, and we encourage students aspiring to pursue a career in hospitality to do so. We also urge all stakeholders to join hands for the growth prospects of the hospitality industry. FHRAI and its regional associations have taken the lead on this by offering a scholarship program for students interested in pursuing a three-year BSc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from FHRAI-IHM.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'INVESTMENT SPECIAL ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 6'

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