Q. As we all are aware that the tourism industry of Kerala is going through a difficult phase due to heavy rains and floods that have devastated the state; what could be the estimated loss and how much time the state will take to get back on track?
A. The recent heavy rains and floods in Kerala were very unfortunate that it affected the life in the state so much. Fortunately this did not last too long and the rains have almost stopped. The Government machinery got into action to help the people stranded by water. The difficult phase of the heavy rains and the flood are being managed by Kerala. Though there were heavy losses, it would be gradually normalized in a short while.
Q. How tourism stakeholders can join the government in reviving tourism in the state?
A. Despite the rains and floods, Kerala will hopefully be ready to receive tourists during the approaching season. The tourism industry is working hand in hand with the Government to alleviate the impact of the calamity on the state. The leaders of this industry are using all their contacts and influence to get support from all corners including the Government of India for the rescue and rehabilitation in Kerala. With all that done, we will all be ready for the tourism season, and all the stakeholders and industry partners of Kerala Tourism will converge at the Kerala Travel Mart. We hope to have good interaction with our partners from overseas coming down to participate in KTM.
Q. How do you look at the upcoming Kerala Travel Mart; do you think it will impact the Mart?
A. I am very hopeful of a fruitful Kerala Travel Mart. It is true that the present situations will have an impact in the back of our minds but, in effect we all would be back to doing effective business. Unless there are some last minute cancellations the participations would be full and normal.
Q. How do you look at the importance of the conventions and travel marts? Up to what extent such events have conveyed their messages successfully?
A. Conventions and Travel Marts are very vital events that strengthen and develop the tourism industry. The purpose of Conventions is different from that of Travel Marts. Conventions bring together people of a trade or a discipline. It is an opportunity to meet with people of the same industry and interact with them for a synergized networking and relationships. It is a time to be together, focusing on matters of common interest, away from the routine responsibilities.
At the same time, Travel Marts serve a still different purpose of creating a market platform for selling and buying and ensuring progress in business. Such events are conducted at very ideal locations in most cases, where more B2B buyers could converge in the case of ‘Destination Travel Marts’ where a destination itself is focused on.
Q. How would you rate the government policies in terms of growth of tourism and hospitality sector in near future? Is there any major challenge in front of industry stakeholders?
A. The Ministry of Tourism as a whole under the leadership of the Minister of Tourism is taking a number of steps to develop and promote tourism, and also to support the industry. Now the Government has put up a target of 20 million incoming Foreign Tourists in 3 years. The private sector and the stakeholders have geared-up towards this objective and are joining hands with the Government. There are challenges on the path.
The industry feels that the GST of 28% for the high-end segment of hotel rooms should be reduced to a lower percentage as most of the foreign tourists avail the facilities in this segment. The industry also feels that the Government should take effective measures to ensure that incidents creating negative publicity about India in the international market should be contained.
Q. What are your plans or idea to be implemented for the betterment of association as well as its members?
A. IATO is trying to make the organization more inclusive and democratic in nature. All are taking up key responsibilities and moving forward. A set of sub-committees are in place to look into different responsibilities, and full-fledged activities are mobilized. IATO strives for promoting national integration, welfare, and goodwill, while it encourages the tour operators and travel agents in their activities for their common good and benefits. It also tries to protect the interests of the members from undesirable practices that they face.
IATO as usual will be initiating various activities to create value for the members, strengthen relationship with stakeholders in tourism, and also to systematically engage in promotional measures such as road shows and events marketing the destination.