Hospitality and tourism must necessarily be viewed as part of a larger economic and social structure, says Ranjan Bhattacharya, Hospitality veteran.
How is the economy shaping up, and likely to impact travel and tourism?
My sense is that green shoots have been showing up; GDP growth has been over 7%, even as numerous initiatives with far reaching implications for future growth have been taken. This means, our economy has been steady and resilient, and we are in fact poised for major growth. Tourism and travel will be the first beneficiary of this growth. I also believe that big ticket infrastructure spending, initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and numerous other programmes, as we witness them in infrastructure development and defence production, among others, will create jobs and also provide base momentum for people to travel. Tourism is a natural beneficiary of this.
What is your sense of the business of hospitality?
Across the spectrum, demand is seeing an upward trajectory and the supply has been absorbed in most parts of the country. This indicates more people are travelling and using hotel accommodation. Everybody is now expecting rate gain, which too will happen, if done sensibly.
There is a feeling that the last budget did not sufficiently address tourism concerns?
I do not agree! In fact, the allocation to tourism was increased substantially. If addressing tourism concerns means concessions and concessions alone, I cannot comment. In the current circumstances, the government is looking for more revenue generation to fund the infrastructure push and fulfil its social commitments.
How is tourism benefitting from this government’s programmes? In specific terms?
Please see the big turn-around of Varanasi. Infrastructure has always been our limiting factor. And this is being addressed in a big way. This government is changing the way Indians will live in the years ahead. Our quality of life will change with these infra related developments. Tourism will benefit and prosper automatically. I think we should stop thinking of tourism as some big stand-alone activity; instead, see it as an integrated part of a larger whole, and then you will see the big change happening. Do not see tourism as a rich man’s territory, but tourism for all, including those who cannot afford luxury. I think we are on the right track, for certain.
What do you believe can signal the road ahead?
Hotels are becoming pragmatic and started planning differently. They have segmentised their business and plan their budgets according to market needs. They have acquired a sensible approach, removed from ego projections and unrealistic expectations. Travel trade needs to understand the changing dynamics of the business and invest accordingly. I believe the key is going online for greater market penetration and outreach. The government has encouraged start-ups in online space, and I would like to see some bigger models appear in the travel domain.
What are the changes you see?
To my mind, there is a growing consumerism, more recall and sharing of experiences. Overall business is getting more transparent, pricing is up there on the internet for the world to see! People are taking their itineraries in their own hands, booking from homes! New possibilities to travel to places have emerged. There is maturity growing among Indian travellers. All this augurs well as our numbers keep showing robust growth. India is truly emerging as a major centre for travel and tourism in the world!