Vikram Oberoi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, EIH advocated taking advantage of the immediate opportunity, the domestic segment, and urged all stakeholders to look at augmenting tourism products and creating experiences for visitors to create the pull. He noted that while the industry could draw long-term plans to shore up outreach in international markets, targeting the domestic segment could bring imminent economic gains for the state. Excerpts from his speech.
We all talk about tourism and the employment opportunities it creates. As I look at Odisha, there are many young people in the state; people who are positive and looking to grow and do well in life. I think tourism is a great equaliser in doing that. It creates opportunity for employment amongst the young, as well as the old, and I think that really is the foundation that both private enterprise and government needs to recognise. If we can recognise that, then I think we can build a bright future for the state.
Must look at the domestic segment
Many people have talked about international tourism and I have a slightly different perspective. It may be right, it may be wrong but it is certainly different. I think if you look at what is happening in the West, economies are slowing down. If you look at what is happening with travel in the West, people are taking much shorter holidays. They are travelling more frequently, they are travelling in closer proximity to where they live. And if you look at India, India is a large country. We have roughly eight million tourists who come in to India, and they come for a week, may be ten days. I think there are many challenges in bringing a reasonable proportion of that number to Odisha. I think, firstly, we need to first look at the destinations we have; look at the experiences and provide world-class infrastructure and experience which will then take time. And therefore, what I would like to suggest is that we have an India which is growing rapidly. Our economy is growing at a substantial rate; it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and people are travelling more.
So, if I look at Oberoi Hotels. If I look at the hotel ten years ago, we had probably no more than 20% of our guests who were Indians. 80% of our guest were from foreign. Today, if you look at it, it is 50-55% Indian guests. In summer vacations, even going up to 60%. Overall, it is 50% from India and rest are from outside of India – and I think that represents a great opportunity for the state of Odisha to focus on tourism within our country. They know us better. They are closer and understand our culture. And we do not need to do as much to promote the state within the country. I think it will bring immediate or much quicker results that will benefit the economy, create employment and help generate investment. So my suggestion is that private enterprise, to operators, we all come together and see how we can market and promote tourism within India, in the coming short-term. Not to ignore the longer-term opportunity that exist with the international market but there are some things that we can do immediately.
I have been coming to Bhubaneshwar for many years. Ten years ago, there were a handful of flights coming from other cities. Today, there are multiple flights a day and that is only going to grow. It is a great opportunity sitting right at our doorstep.