While India is hosting the G20 presidency this year with over 200 meetings, tourism in the country is looking at establishing its prominent mark on the global map. To thrive in the longer run, the sector, however, requires a proper focus, investment and popularity in the revenue-generating markets and most importantly, the connectivity to destinations hosting the meets.
Reiterating the connectivity aspect, Muktesh K Pardeshi, Special Secretary, G20 Operations, at the ICONIC Forum in Delhi said that India is conducting G 20 meetings in 59 places which are mostly not metropolitan cities, meaning not many of them have the proper connectivity. Giving an example of Khajuraho, Pardeshi said that there was one unreliable flight that had connectivity to Khajuraho and the government of India has been giving charters out of its budgetary provision to take delegates to Dibrugarh or similar places having poor connectivity.
“This is not a happy situation for us. We must work together to bring more connectivity for Khajuraho and a lot more destinations to bring them on the global map,” he suggested.
Even though several bottlenecks need to be addressed while keeping up the Incredible India brand image intact during G20, the country is still in its best phase with a lot of potential to showcase, Pardeshi expressed. Taking it as a matter of pride, he said that there are no other countries that have hosted meetings in around 59 destinations; India is doing it and with all its best offerings on display, be it the cuisine, culture, craft or heritage.
“This year will remain a landmark event year in Indian history,” he said while listing the five priorities of the G20 Tourism Working Group.
Talking about India’s aviation current framework, Praveen Iyer, Co-Founder & Chief Commercial Officer, Akasa Air said usually, it’s the supply that follows demand, but that’s not the case with India. “That is because any sector you add, any destination you start by definition, you will start seeing growth. And that’s exactly the reason why the initiative with the tier two and three cities, and the connectivity growth around these points is so important,” he said
“Even though it’s coming at the right time, it should have come a little early,” added Iyer. He pointed out that as a country that is poised for tremendous growth in the aviation sector, India is still far behind China in domestic air traffic, with our country at one-third of China’s numbers, despite both having almost the same population.
“Today, where we are positively looking at about 1000 airplanes coming up in the next 10 to 12 years and the air traffic growth going to almost double in the next five years, I still think we don’t have the infrastructure as yet to support it,” he added saying that the things might change in the next five years.
He said that this continues to be a challenge because of the CAGR (compound annual growth rate) with which the transport industry is going to grow, versus the CAGR at which the hotel industry is going to grow, there is a disconnect.
“The CAGR for the airline industry is going to grow at 12 to 15 percent and the hotel industry at 16 percent, which essentially means as of today, we have 145000 room nights till 2021, which is only going to grow to 185000 nights in 2026. When we have a CAGR of six percent and all the availability of rooms versus the growth of the industry, I think that mismatch will need a connection. I think the industry should represent this as well, which will help us build the infrastructure and create a platform which we are all going to benefit from because the tourism industry is going to add a significant portion,” he said.
On the contrary, Abinash Manghani, CEO, WelcomHeritage, expressed that there is no mismatch between both industries; in fact the last couple of years during Covid saw people traveling to new destinations which built a very strong inherent domestic demand in the country, resulting in capacity increase for both aviation and hospitality sectors.
“There is also strong international demand and through this emergence, both our industries need to work in tandem. And to keep the ball rolling for tourism, infrastructure is a must; you get the infrastructure right, and the demand will follow,” Manghani shared.
Manghani said that the hospitality industry in India has now transformed from a middle income industry to a more aspirational experiential industry. “We’ve seen cities and hotels and tourism destinations transform and rigorous hotel constructions are happening,” he added.
Suggesting sustainability as the power tool, Aashish Gupta, Consulting CEO, FAITH, said that since India is also a part of Troika in G20 and one of the emerging economies, it is important to derive the learnings of this platform to make tourism sustainable.
“It is important to have sustainability in the local destinations, in the tourism businesses, hospitality businesses. It is important for the industry, center, and states to work together in making sustainability the design element of a service proposition. Going forward, I think G 20 is a fantastic opportunity to rethink our approach in tourism,” Gupta emphasised.
Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI and Chairperson of THSC (Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council) said that the Prime Minister along with the Ministry of Tourism is cushioning the growth of tourism with initiatives at multiple levels. “From the finance minister’s decision on selecting 50 tourist destinations to challenge modes of pushing domestic and international tourism to planning a facelift of the rural areas of India and the decision of opening new airports; the future of tourism is looking bright,” she added.
Lauding the government’s step to develop tourism with convergence, private partnerships, innovation and digitalisation, she said the country’s ambitious and forward thinking approach with a focus on sustainable growth, could help India become a major global tourism hub.
Quoting Helen Keller’s phrase “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”, Mayal concluded by saying that the industry needs to work in unison to push Indian tourism to the next level.
Mayal and the others were speaking at the ICONIC Forum, organised by Red Hat Communications. The travel and tourism summit comprised three-panel discussions with speakers deliberating on Tourism in mission mode, G20 benefits for India and tech tourism.
The Guests of Honour were Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism and Lands, Govt of Sri Lanka and Ajay Bhatt, Minister of State for Tourism & Defense.
Reiterating that Sri Lanka is committed to promoting sustainable tourism practices, Fernando said the country is all set to welcome Indian travellers with renewed focus and energy. Talking about the potential of South Asia and Sri Lanka in particular, he said both are well known for the MICE segment and this demand is bound to grow more in the coming years.