BITB, Bharat International Tourism Bazaar, initiated last October by India’s first movers in B2B events, conducted a stand-alone BITB Conclave – a first time India Tourism Summit, in New Delhi. A number of firsts were achieved, true to the innovative spirit of its organizers. New speakers and new ideas came from the country’s mainstream policy makers, as they found time to share their vision of tourism and how it can be driven forward in sync with our country’s economic and social rejuvenation.
The Summit was endorsed by Niti Aayog, DIPP (Ministry of Commerce) and the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
SK Misra, former principal secretary to Prime Minister Chandrashekhar and former chairman of INTACH, who has had a sterling role in launching Festivals of India and also as secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation advocated the formulation of 100 SMART villages, much on the lines of the Smart city project. He saw tourism as a big driver for economic growth in the country’s rural economy. He also called tourism ‘patron of arts and crafts’ and reflected on its impact in addressing migration and poverty.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, advocated a most radical approach to tourism matters and exhorted the industry not to wait and watch but to become pro-active and become the drivers of their own fortunes. India’s tourism could easily become its key economic driver, and suggested a bold new programme for the tourism sector. Further, he favoured pro-active policies from state governments on the tourism front, asking the industry to work in tandem with state Chief Ministers. Infrastructure, he said, was already in place and marketing was the need of the hour.
‘Joining the DOTS in government’, as a panel discussion, was a great success, chaired by former Governor, V K Duggal, and brought six central ministries of the government onto one single panel. Senior representatives from AYUSH, Highways and Road Transport, Civil Aviation, Sports, Culture, and Urban Development shared their work that impacted tourism and their ideas on enforcing a more cohesive projection of tourism related activity within the larger government. The key takeaway of the session was an over-whelming concurrence by panellists on developing a mechanism to ensure regular Joint Secretary level inter-ministerial meetings. Multiplicity of authorities and turf battles were highlighted as bottlenecks. V K Duggal backed a responsible policy for commercial utilization of monuments to ensure their self-sustainability and maintenance.
For the first time, a senior most secretary from Ministry of Finance spoke at an industry event, when Ashok Lavasa shared how he looked upon tourism and how he thought tourism could become one of the key economic activities of the government, both at the centre and in the states. He sighted multiplicity of authority as a major challenge to integrated growth of infrastructure. He pondered on how India needed to develop tourist-friendly citizens which needed behavioural change, and not only financial investments.
Make in India in tourism has been a new emphasis in the tourism sector. Atul Chaturvedi, Additional Secretary in DIPP, anchored a panel that talked of innovations in tour operator businesses, Maureen Leibl, eminent curator, talked of the crafts and souvenir industry and museums and art galleries; Rakesh Mathur, EC Member of IHHA, was emphatic that heritage hotels were unique products and needed closer hand holding by government; Steve Borgia, mentor, Indeco Hotels, lamented that not adequate attention was being given to heritage and that tourism could be the real saviour. Rajeev Kohli, joint MD, Creative Travel, stressed how inbound needed a closer and more serious consideration as the marketing effort for India had fallen back in recent times.
New age drivers of tourism, such as online and technology, MICE, business travel, circuit development, organizational structure for tourism could help change the way we manage and market our tourism. The employment potential of tourism itself could empower the industry to becoming the big industries of the country, said Sanjay Kothari, former ADG in the Ministry of Tourism, former secretary, DOPT and presently chairman, PESB. Suman Billa, JS, Ministry of Tourism talked about technology and its importance in scaling up presence and businesses. He also outlined ministry’s plans for tapping beaches on the eastern coast. Nikhil Sahni, Group President, Government Banking, Yes Bank pointed out the absence of infrastructure tag to hotel projects, and advocated for the same. He stressed upon the need to build upon tourism circuits, which would provide for a longer tourist stay.
Key note presentations were made by Deep Kalra, Mentor, MakeMyTrip and Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group. The former spoke of online connectivity for the country and stressed how Indian and foreign players should be treated on par. He also shared some of the challenges post the big merger between MMT and GoIbibo. Bhatia stressed how regional connectivity could become the new driver of India’s tourism.
Kapil Kaul, Country Director, CAPA chaired a panel of leading aviation experts that together expressed the need to expand bi-laterals to create more international connect. On infra front, supply would follow demand, unlike the other way around, to ensure financial viability of projects, S. Biswas from AAI said. Panellists placed their wager on regional connectivity scheme and its impact in ramping up air connectivity to tier-2 and tier-3 cities. As Infrastructure improves, and policies become more conducive, it is expected that a larger number of international carriers will expand operations in India. Panellists included Pankaj Srivastava, Commercial Director, Air India; Suresh Nair, GM India and South Asia, Air Asia Berhard; S Biswas, ED, Airport Authority; and Rommel Vallas, GMR Airports.
In another session, ‘Hospitality as the driver of new age tourism’, experts from the hospitality sector, including K B Kachru, Principal Advisor, Carlson Hotels; Manav Thadani, chairman, HVS Asia Pacific; Sanjay Sharma, Market VP-North India, Marriott International; and Dilip Puri, Founder, Indian School of Hospitality shared their views on how hospitality could drive tourism numbers. Hotels could do more, stimulate tourism numbers through innovation and joint action among them in selling destinations.
Andhra Pradesh, the state tourism partner for the summit, was represented by its secretary tourism, Srikanth Nagulapalli, who made interventions talking of the state tourism product. How it was the country’s best kept secret and how it was being nurtured for experiential tourism. Infrastructure was the big focus and the state tourism department was making all out efforts in this direction.
Yes Bank was the banking partner and its chairman, Rana Kapoor, expressed his hope that the Summit would provide fresh impetus to thought processes and expressed his confidence in the future of India’s tourism industry.
Air India, the national carrier, was the connectivity airline partner.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism was the supporting state partner for the Summit.
Driving the change at the Summit were four awards that were given to visionary people and organizations that have impacted tourism like nobody else could have done. They have had their unique impact on the people, and especially Indians, travel.
- Maruti Suzuki, and specially the Maruti 800, changed the way Indians travel and without the Maruti India would not have witnessed the rise of domestic and week-end tourism. The company was represented by Arun Arora, General Manager, Institutional Sales and Gaurav Jain, head of Corporate, Institutional and Fleet Sales, Maruti Suzuki India.
- Haldiram changed the way we carry Indian snacks. It has gone across continents, across India and provided ease in travel. Across cities and across highways it has brought standards to Indian snacks. The company’s executive Director, Dr. A K Tyagi, received the award on behalf of Haldiram.
- FabIndia, the pioneers in popularising Indian fabric and ethnic wear, have also standardised gifting in India. It has also opened stores across India, become a brand standard internationally, for Indian fabric and clothing. The award was accepted by Vimala Bissel, the founder.
- DLF Mall of India in Noida, has created a new benchmark for the country. Shopping is an integral part of the tourism industry, in India and overseas. It has brought Indian labels on par with their foreign counterparts, and entered the tourism industry as its most befitting constituent. The award was received by Pushpa Bector, Executive VP and Head, DLF Premium Malls.