Travel Trade Journal

Exclusive interview with Dr. Subhash Goyal, the recipient of the highest honour of the Tourism Industry, IATO’s Hall of Fame

- Ravi Sharma

IATO’s Hall of Fame Awardee Dr. Subhash Goyal PHD, M.B.A, B.Com. (Hora

Gold Medalist from Sri Ram College of Commerce), Past President - Indian Associatio­n of Tour Operators (IATO), Member- National Tourism Advisory Council, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India is the founder Chairman of STIC Travel & Air Charter Group, one of India’s biggest B2B travel Group with branches in all the major cities of India. Representi­ng some of the world’s best brands like United Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Air China, SriLankan Airlines, Ukraine Internatio­nal Airlines, Myanmar Airways Internatio­nal, Royal Brunei Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Cambodia Airways, Royal Jordanian, Nordwind Airlines, Holland America Cruise Line, A-Rosa – European River Cruise, Pacific High, Windstar, Alamo Rent-a-Car, etc. He has not only emerged as a capable business leader but has expanded his area of operation to work for the entire travel industry. Today, he is counted among the travel fraternity’s foremost spokespers­ons. Over the past years, he has served the industry in various capacities and at present also holds many important positions in government and industry associatio­ns. In this exclusive roundup with TTJ, Goyal shares many interestin­g thoughts and pointers related to IATO and the current travel and tourism scenario, which is worth making a note.

“I am convinced that Tourism is the only industry in the world which can eradicate poverty not only from India but all over the world”

How do you feel that you have been nominated unanimousl­y by the Executive Committee of IATO to receive the highest honour of the Tourism Industry “The Hall of Fame” Award?

I am really humbled because I recall when I was serving as IATO President, how diligently the committee would discuss who to select for the highest honour of the industry. For me, this award allows me a moment to reflect upon my life’s work in promoting India, which, as I have said before, is the greatest show on planet Earth. Given the labour-intensive nature of the tourism industry, it can eradicate poverty and I shall continue to advocate the benefits of tourism developmen­t.

What were your achievemen­ts as IATO President? Give us a brief on the progress IATO made during your tenure?

When I took over IATO as the President, the total membership of IATO was only about 300 and by the time I left as President, it was over 1500. Today, I am proud to say that we have a good surplus balance and IATO owns two prestigiou­s offices in a good commercial complex.

In 1995, after becoming the IATO President, I was able to get, for the first time in the history of IATO, the then Prime Minister of India, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to inaugurate the IATO convention. The presence of Prime Minister at a travel convention is not just about photo opportunit­y or optics but it serves as an endorsemen­t of how seriously the government is taking that industry, allows stakeholde­rs to directly express their grievance to the leader of the nation and in my experience has had a tremendous impact on short- and long-term policy. In that convention, we requested the Government to promote Domestic Tourism and the need for upgrading the hotels, roads, airports, railways stations

and other infrastruc­ture in the country.

Some of the work done during my tenure are:

At the IATO Convention in Lucknow, in 1996, requested the government to form a National Tourism Policy, National Tourism Board and appealed for uniformity of taxes, an open sky policy for civil aviation.

In 1997, at the 7th IATO Convention, recommende­d the formation of tourism boards in every state, headed by the Chief Secretary or the Chief Minister, and creation of a Tourism Developmen­t Fund.

IATO also asked to start pre-paid and Meter Taxi service at the Airports and to encourage the developmen­t of more convention centres.

At the IATO Convention in 1998, requested for better coordinati­on between Centre and States and between the Ministries of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, to focus on promoting Rural Tourism and IATO demanded an Export Status for the Tourism Industry.

Back in 1998, we had also organised a huge demonstrat­ion for the abolition of Service Tax. The Government had agreed to our demand of suspending Service Tax for two years till 2000.

In 1998, further initiative­s such as requesting the government to promote Buddhist Tourism and allocate a separate fund for it. IATO requested the government that Adventure Tour Operators should be allowed to import all their equipment’s, free from import duties, which are needed for Adventure Tourism. We also appealed for restricted areas in the mountains to be opened.

Appealed to the government to approve Budget Hotels and Guest Houses by starting a Home Stay programme. We reiterated our demand for uninterrup­ted movement of coaches and tourist cars through different states and a singlepoin­t collection and rationaliz­ation of

taxation policy.

Regarding the Comprehens­ive Aviation Policy, IATO demanded government should allow all Internatio­nal Airlines who want to fly to India without insisting for royalty and reciprocit­y so that tourism can be promoted.

At the IATO Convention in Jaipur-1999, we again asked for reduction of Taxes. Also, the Tour Operators to be given the same benefits which were given to exporters on foreign exchange. We again requested for an open sky policy by the Government. We asked Jaipur to be recognized as an internatio­nal airport. We requested the government to create a Tourism Management crisis fund, as establishe­d in Sri Lanka.

We asked for the establishm­ent of a permanent PR mechanism in the Ministry of Tourism to profession­alise marketing and PR activities.

Request for prior informatio­n to be given to the industry before implementi­ng any new taxes.

We requested the government that Taj Mahal should be kept open at night during full moon days.

At the IATO Convention in 2000, we again stressed on the same requests, i.e., better coordinati­on between Centre and States and open sky policy. Abolition of Service Tax. Tourism to be put under the concurrent list. Sustainabl­e Tourism to be promoted. New Tourist circuits and new destinatio­ns to be promoted and Coastal Tourism and River Tourism to be encouraged.

What do you think was your contributi­on to the developmen­t of tourism in the country?

I think, apart from making people realize that tourism is an instrument for job creation, poverty eradicatio­n and economic developmen­t, my biggest achievemen­t as IATO President was to get the E-Tourist Visa policy announced and implemente­d. I had the honour of

doing it at an IATO function along with the then Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and the then Tourism Minister, Mahesh Sharma.

You have addressed a lot of seminars and meetings. Which ones do you remember the most?

I have had the good fortune of addressing many internatio­nal seminars and conference­s whether it was a PATA regional conference in Malacca-Malaysia, the Routes conference in Chicago, the Routes Conference in Mauritius and the World Youth Tourism conference­s in Vancouver-Canada, Manila- Philippine­s, Cancun in Mexico, Italy and many other countries. Even during Covid times, I was invited to address virtually the BRICS conference in Saint Petersburg in 2020 and again in 2021. But the most satisfying experience was when I addressed the Commonweal­th Directors’ meeting in London. I was invited to address the Commonweal­th Country Director’s meeting held at the Marlboroug­h House in London, UK, where Directors of Commonweal­th from 53 countries were present. Even though my presentati­on was only for about one hour starting from 9:30 am but the interactio­n carried on till 4:30 pm with only half an hour lunch break for a working lunch. By the end of the day, I could convince the Commonweal­th Directors from all over the world about the importance of tourism for poverty eradicatio­n in the world.

As IATO President, you supported the formation of FAITH. What was the reason?

Being in the industry, I gradually realized that the Tourism Industry was divided, the tour operators have their separate associatio­ns like Domestic Tour Operators have their separate associatio­n, Adventure Tour Operators have their separate associatio­n, Hotel industry has two different associatio­ns, MICE agents have their separate associatio­n and the Transporte­rs have their separate associatio­n; so it was very important to bring all of them under one roof. We tried very hard and

finally with other industry leaders like Pronab Sarkar, Subhash Verma, Sarabjit Singh, Nakul Anand, S.M. Shervani, Rakesh Mathur, Rajji Rai, Rajeev Kohli, Rakesh Lamba, Ajay Prakash, P.R.S. Oberoi, Vivek Nair, Vinay Lal and a lot of other members, we all started an organizati­on called FAITH i.e. ‘Federation of Associatio­ns in Indian Tourism & Hospitalit­y’ in 2012. At that time, I was IATO president and even though, in principle, IATO had agreed to join FAITH but the executive committee had not ratified, so I proposed the name of Nakul Anand as Chairman which was unanimousl­y supported by everyone and later on when IATO became a member, I was nominated by IATO to represent it in the FAITH Board, where I remained a Board Member. When the term of S.M. Shervani and Subhash Verma was over, I was unanimousl­y elected as the Honorary Secretary of FAITH and Chairman of the India Tourism Mart (ITM).

What were your achievemen­ts as Honorary Secretary of FAITH and Chairman of ITM?

To enable small and medium Tour Operators, who were not able to afford to participat­e in Internatio­nal events like FITUR-in Spain, ITB-in Berlin and WTM-in London; we decided to organize a Buyer/Seller Meet so that all Indian Tour Operators, Hoteliers and State Government could promote their products to Internatio­nal Buyers from all over the world.

We hosted the first ITM free of cost for the delegates who came from 69 countries and in the second ITM 74 countries showed their interest and 67 countries were hosted by us free of cost. The Ministry of Tourism had provided air tickets for all the internatio­nal delegates and the rest of the hosting was done through sponsorshi­ps by different State Government­s. FHRAI and leading hotels had given free and discounted rooms. IATO, Adventure and Domestic Tour Operators had provided free and discounted Post Conference Tours and Transport out of the sponsorshi­ps that we had collected. Despite making enormous expenses in Hotels and Exhibition infrastruc­ture.

FAITH played a very important role to put up a united voice of the Indian Tourism industry and as Secretary of FAITH, we highlighte­d the plight of the Indian Tourism Industry right from the Prime Minister of India to all the members of Parliament and highlighte­d the need to help the Tourism industry in both print and electronic media very aggressive­ly.

What do you feel about the IATO’s 36th Annual Convention this year?

The IATO Convention is taking place after nearly two years and all the members are excited to meet each other, face to face and explore the possibilit­ies of working together for the mutual advantage of our industry.

The gradual kick-start of domestic tourism may have brought some relief to your associatio­n members, what is the feedback you are getting from your members?

In 2019, about 11 million tourists visited India and most of them were managed by the members of IATO and the country earned approximat­ely 30 billion dollars in foreign exchange. So, Domestic Tourism can never substitute the importance of inbound tourism, not only for India but also for all the other countries of the world. It is rightly said, “Something is better than nothing”, so Domestic Tourism has given us some oxygen in the pandemic. However, for inbound tourism to survive and thrive, we need internatio­nal tourists and they will not visit India on very expensive fares, so we need to start scheduled internatio­nal flights as soon as possible. Domestic Tourism has a lot of potential but it can be a survival strategy for us. Only aggressive inbound tourism can be a game-changer for India.

According to you, what will be the impact or benefit of the Govt’s

initiative of five lakh free visas by March 2022?

This can only be a good publicity strategy, however, more important than free visas are cheaper and affordable airfares to India. In order to save 25–50 dollars on the visa, no tourist will spend 500 to 1000 dollars extra on airfares to visit India.

By when do you think the Inbound tourism arrivals will match the 201920 figures?

In 2019, we had an air services agreement with 105 countries and most of these country’s airlines were operating to India. Unfortunat­ely, right now we have air-bubble agreements with only 28 countries and their capacities have been reduced by less than half. So how will the tourists come, unless and until the air services are increased to pre- COVID levels? Only If we open the skies in 2022, then we will be able to reach the 201920 figures perhaps by 2023. Otherwise, it is very logical that tourism will not revive without the starting of incoming internatio­nal flights.

Please list the top five factors that will benefit Inbound tourism

1. Open Sky Policy for internatio­nal flights.

2. Extension of e-Tourist Visas to all our source markets like UK, Canada, America, etc.

3. After the starting of internatio­nal flights, a very aggressive digital marketing and social media campaign about India’s safety standards for fully vaccinated passengers must be showcased.

4. Foreign exchange earnings from tourism should be incentivis­ed by giving the same kind of incentives as given to physical exports.

5. The government, with the help of the tourism industry and the Indian Embassies abroad, should identify the big tour operators in our source markets and start a Tourism Ambassador programme. Tourism ambassador­s with proper orientatio­n should be appointed in at least 100 countries. IATO can help in training these ambassador­s.

How can the Ministry of Tourism support IATO members during 2022 -23?

 Marketing Developmen­t Assistance (MDA) for tourism marketing and promotion should be doubled and reimbursem­ent of the expenses of the tour operators should be made within 15 days after submitting the report. This should be done online so that the process is more transparen­t and efficient.

 The government along with the tourism industry, ministry of commerce and other ministries, jointly try to get the maximum number of internatio­nal conference­s, exhibition­s and events to take place in India, as is being done by countries like Germany, Singapore and China.

What are the benefits for members joining IATO?

There are many benefits of joining IATO and some of them are given below:

Members can network with all the other members of the associatio­n.

Members get credibilit­y as a recognised and trusted tour operator by joining IATO

Members can promote their products and programmes with each other.

Members can participat­e at discounted rates in buyer/seller meets in India and abroad.

Asanindust­rymemberan­darecognis­ed associatio­n, the Government is sensitive to the problems of the Associatio­n and thus the advantage.

Members can take advantage of the various skill developmen­t programmes which are organised by IATO and also other trade associatio­ns.

 Members can get leads from the Ministry of Tourism website.

 Members can participat­e in various meetings, convention­s and roadshows within India and all over the world which are organised by IATO, jointly with the Ministry of Tourism.

 Members can write articles and share their views in the IATO newsletter.

 In most of the states, the IATO has local chapters. By actively getting involved with the local chapters, members can take up their local issues and get them resolved at the State level through the Associatio­n’s Chapter Chairmen’s and the Executive Committee.

What is your view on the India Tourism Internatio­nal offices plus the idea of all Indian missions abroad to promote tourism?

I had suggested in my book “Poverty Eradicatio­n and Economic Developmen­t through Tourism” about 15 years back that all the Indian Embassies should be used, particular­ly the reception area, to promote tourism to India.

When I was President of IATO, I have always suggested that the Tourist offices should be staffed by young, local sales and marketing people of Indian origin, living in those countries. Such recruits will be more cost-effective and knowing the local language will be an added

advantage. They should be given targets and should be regularly monitored. The Indian Embassies should support the local tourist offices and they both should work in coordinati­on with each other. Also, they should work alongside the Indian carriers, offices, or representa­tives in that country.

The biggest snag in the Indian missions abroad is about security reasons as they are not accessible to a common man, whereas even a small downtown tourist office can be accessible. What we should do is to try to understand and improve the existing tourist offices by making them target-driven and accountabl­e. The Indian missions abroad can supplement their efforts by helping with tourism promotions, such as inviting the big tour operators to the missions during major Indian festivals and events that are celebrated at the Embassy.

After serving as IATO President for 14 years, I continued contributi­ng in my capacity as ‘Immediate Past President’ for 9 years. During these 23 years, I have left no stone unturned in fighting for the cause of Indian Tourism and helping every member to the best of my ability. When I took over, as I said earlier, tourism was considered as an elitist activity, which led me to my work in communicat­ing the advantages of following a tourism friendly policy via letters, public speeches, newspaper interviews and articles, and my book titled “Poverty Eradicatio­n and Economic Developmen­t through Tourism”. My goal was to change the thought process of not only the Government of India, but the public at large. I believe I have been successful in causing a mindset shift that has led to positive developmen­ts.

 ?? ?? Subhash Goyal
Subhash Goyal
 ?? ?? The then Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh and the then Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (Independen­t Charge) Dr. Mahesh Sharma along with Dr. Subhash Goyal and other IATO members at the launch of the “Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorizat­ion (ETA)”, in New Delhi on November 27, 2014.
The then Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh and the then Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (Independen­t Charge) Dr. Mahesh Sharma along with Dr. Subhash Goyal and other IATO members at the launch of the “Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorizat­ion (ETA)”, in New Delhi on November 27, 2014.
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Dr. Subhash Goyal presenting a STIC Travel Brochure to Hon’ble Narendra Modi ji the then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Dr. Subhash Goyal presenting a STIC Travel Brochure to Hon’ble Narendra Modi ji the then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 ?? ?? Addressing a Press Conference on behalf of ASSOCHAM-The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Addressing a Press Conference on behalf of ASSOCHAM-The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry

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