Even though there is a lot of excitement within the government and Ministry of Tourism in particular for hosting the G20 meetings in the country, the effective marketing strategies could have worked better if the promotions started a year prior, the industry experts and the parliamentary committee pointed out.
“There is much excitement within the government for G20, but instead of striking while the iron is hot this year, we as a tourism nation, should’ve spent the money for pre-promotions last year to take max advantage of 200 meetings happening in over 50 destinations,” said Aashish Gupta, Consulting CEO of The Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH).
This statement was given by Gupta a day after the parliamentary panel had criticised the Ministry of Tourism for failing to make a clear roadmap to increase tourist numbers during India’s G20 presidency.
According to a report from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, the ministry should have set aside a budget for G20 promotional activities and developed a more detailed roadmap to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into the tourism sector. The report also suggested that the Tourism ministry must approach the Finance Ministry for increased budgetary allocations for promotional activities.
It also called on the ministry and suggested not to waste the opportunities provided to tourism through the G20 meetings and ensure that a proper overseas promotion roadmap is in place before the start of the next year.
Adding his views during a panel discussion on “India’s G20 presidency and tourism: It’s time to set realistic expectations,” Gupta added that the Ministry of Tourism and related industry stakeholders must take advantage of G20 as a tourism marketing platform; especially the marketing of segments and experiences.
Besides, the proposed National Tourism Board that is expected to roll out soon, Gupta suggested having a ‘national tourism plan’ where the industry along with the states and centre, can come together for effective destination marketing strategies.
“It is the time to now focus on inbound tourism marketing; domestic will happen as a continuous process,” Gupta said.
Giving her views, Jyoti Mayal, President of TAAI said that G20 and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Tourism meets are a great opportunity for India to be vocal about its diverse offerings.
“What we are showcasing today during G20 should be in continuity and not just a temporary shoutout,” she said while mentioning the Dekho Apna Desh campaign that started on a large scale but today is compressed by the other agendas.
Citing that the industry wasn’t supported much during the Covid period by the government, Mayal said, “It is time for us to take the industry into our own hands. We’ve struggled a lot and it is time for us to be together.”
“Formation of global tourism funds, investing in travel technology, skilling and education, regular meetings with NTOs and having our own roadshows will keep the ball rolling for the inbound tourism in India,” she added.
“We also need to get onto strong private partnership support and how private stakeholders can get together to take tourism to an upper level,” she suggested.
Infrastructure growth and ease of travelling for visitors is a must to carry forward the legacy of India’s current presidency, Mayal further suggested.
Rajeev Kohli, JMD, Creative Travel also expressed that the few years have seen inbound tourism slip off India’s radar, especially during the pandemic that he said also caused a loss of focus on all important revenue generating segments. While throwing open a question to Dipak Deva, MD, TCI & Sita India about what G20 will do for the tourism industry, Kohli pointed out that even though the intentions are positive, the industry does not have any support from the government.
“Inbound is no longer an important part of the tourism ecosystem; the real game changer has been domestic and business travelling within India,” Deva answered.
“India has matured as a destination. Our country has smartly spread the G20 hype all across the country by shortlisting over 50 destinations, many of which do not have a proper conferencing infrastructure. But this has given us a perfect opportunity for India to up the MICE game,” he emphasised.
Promoting and building the MICE-related infrastructure at different places will help us have a very good spread of tourism, Deva added.
“We now have to look around the other countries that are taking advantage of the demand they have. Going forward with effective marketing, we must first have a separate INR 500 crore budget for tourism out of which 160 crore is to be spent on overseas marketing and mega digital marketing push,” Deva added.
He also said that Tata Group-owned Air India’s recent two mega aircraft orders with 250 planes with Airbus consortium and 220 with Boeing Co. will add another level of confidence for the Indian aviation industry.
“This is going to be a game changer for us. In the medium term, we’ll have direct flights from all major places, boosting tourism connectivity like never before. And we’ll also have a decent product representing India and competing with the big Gulf carriers,” he added.
Answering Kohli’s question on what the government can do in the next 60 days to make a difference, Deva said the budgets and digital marketing will give a kickstart to tourism during and beyond G20, like never before.
Deva and the other participants were on a panel discussion organised at the 1st edition of the Economic Times Travel and Tourism Conclave and Awards. Apart from the panel on G20, there were four other insightful panels deliberating on the way ahead for the tourism and related sectors.
From who’s who of the industry to state tourism boards, corporates and the Ministry officials, the day long event was attended by over 500 delegates.