Travel Trade Journal
Keen and excited to be a part of travel recovery
Around the buzz of the upcoming 36th IATO Convention, TTJ interacted with a few Chapter Chairmen from the Western and the Southern region to get their feedback on the Convention from their respective regions. From the interactions, the common factors were that everyone is optimistic about the Convention and everybody wants the scheduled international flights to be back so that the normal inflow of foreign tourists starts as early as possible.
The IATO Convention isthemostanticipated and enriching annual business and networking event that the association and trade members look forward to every year. While it was not possible last year due to the COVID-19, the organisers believe that at present it is the right time to organise the Convention as COVID-19 cases are very low, as well as it was time to show the world that India is getting back to normal.
Randhirsingh Vaghela, Chapter Chairman, IATO Gujarat & Diu Chapter says, “The government has already taken the steps in direction by agreeing to issue five lac free visas, so now it is time for the association members to build confidence and get back on the road to recovery. Also, the theme for the Convention, “BRAND INDIA - The Road to Recovery” is apt because it is time to showcase Brand India to the world and to show to the tourists that India is on a path to recovery and normalisation. Also, to note, IATO is an apex body that represents the interest and concerns of the trade fraternity and has always taken up issues of its members with the government. I believe this Convention will lead to some new suggestions for the government to consider that shall help the industry.”
Surely, after the members have been in a state of null for the last 19 months, they are certainly looking forward to meeting fellow trade members and there is supposed to be more participation and enthusiasm among the members. “The highlights for the 36th IATO Convention will be the networking factor once again, which is after a gap of two years. More important is that the members will be taking back with them, the learnings shared and discussed in the sessions which will focus on adapting and equipping oneself to the new business changes and the opportunities ahead,” assures Vaghela.
Though IATO is an inbound travel association, the kick-start of domestic tourism has brought relief for some of the association members. Due to the pandemic, there have been many inbound tour operators diversifying into domestic tourism and its promotion. “Domestic tourism has shown signs of huge potential in the last one year, especially with international scheduled commercial flights not yet being operational. Thus, tourists have opted to explore various destinations in India. This has also led to a huge jump in demand for certain tourist destinations across the country,” observes Vaghela.
Many tour operators and travel agents feel that the Government’s initiative of five lakh free visas by March 2022 is a positive step and shall have a positive impact on inbound tourism. Vaghela says, “It would be helpful if the government can plan a similar initiative for the period 2022-2023 to bring back the much-needed jump for inbound tourism. I feel 2022-2023 shall be the rebound year for inbound tourism. While there are already queries for the early part of 2022, the major thrust shall be seen in 2022-2023, if the pandemic cases are negligible.”
Sejoe Jose, Chapter Chairman, IATO Southern Region, shares his views about the Convention, “The IATO Convention will once again give a positive signal to the inbound players across the world that India is safe to travel. The tourism body getting together at the Convention from different parts of India proves that travel has become normal and all safety precautions are taken care of, even if the conference will
be attended by around 900- 1000 people. IATO Convention is a great platform to bind members together and with discussions get answers to the questions and doubts raised on various issues faced by the industry since the pandemic.”
Reflecting on the rise of domestic tourism during the course of the pandemic, Sejoe explains, “I agree that domestic travel has been a very important part of tourism for a very long time. To quote by example, the total number of domestic tourism figures is 60 per cent more when compared to inbound tourism. But I think it does not carry the glamour of inbound tourism. The pandemic has made a big difference in the context of domestic tourism, as scheduled international flights have not started and hence those who would have otherwise travelled abroad are still travelling in India. This is really helping and improving domestic business in India manifold.”
Sejoe too is positive about the free visa scheme of the government. He says, “The biggest benefit of giving five lakh free visas comes as good publicity to capture the world’s attention. This is also a message that India is very serious about tourism and ready to accept tourists to India. It also makes a statement that India is a safe place to travel. However, the Indian government should look at opening scheduled flights so that it is affordable for inbound tourists to travel to India. The Indian government should ensure a uniform policy in all states when tourists enter the country. Also, in countries like the UK, the embassy is not giving appointments for tourists to apply for visas to India. All such glitches have to be sorted out.”
Regarding the resumption of inbound tourism, Sejoe was of the opinion that the numbers will be again seen from winter 20212022 and 2022-2023, but now it all depends on the course of the pandemic with the new variant in the news.
Fortunately, compared to other developed countries, India has been recovering faster from COVID. Hats off to the efforts of the government in its vaccination drive that has gone a long way in helping in this recovery process. Pandian Kumaravel, Chapter Chairman, IATO Tamil Nadu, says, “We the IATO members are also positive that our industry will recover soon and the IATO convention would become a good starting point for inbound tourism to flow in India and revive strongly as never before.”
According to Pandian, the IATO platform is a real, genuine forum wherein members’ interest is always put first and industry issues are dealt with much precision and care at appropriate levels. Members have found many solutions at the right time through IATO’s intervention, being the apex body for tour operators in India. “IATO Conventions have always been an eye-opener from the time I became a member. The conventions over time have taught me many valuable lessons pertaining to the industry, where we discuss and find relevant solutions to the ongoing issues. The conventions keep us updated with the latest trends, solutions, challenges and ways to tackle them, etc. So, at every convention there is bound to be new insights, and this year as well, I look forward earnestly to the valuable insights as take away messages,” shares Pandian.
Adding on, Pandian further shares, “We all industry colleagues are going to meet each other after around 18 months and will be sharing good things as well as the challenges we faced in the last year due to the pandemic. We will share knowledge and best practises as well. There are a lot of subjects that we need to discuss with each other regarding post-pandemic challenges and how we need to tackle them. IATO always makes an excellent representation for its members with the Government bodies, guides us and supports its members with its valuable suggestions and representations. I am sure this Convention will have full participation from its members.”
Pandian too feels that real travel recovery is possible only when inbound tourism resumes. For the same, the government needs to support the resumption of international tourism by providing clear information to travellers around the world with added safety measures, removing uncertainty in the minds of tourists, and strengthening cooperation between various countries for a smooth flow of tourists.
Jitendra Kejriwal, Chapter Chairman, IATO Maharashtra and Dadra Nagar & Daman, said, “A month ago, even our first physical meet of IATO in Mumbai after the lockdown was well attended and much appreciated by the members. The event concluded with some interesting insights. I was also glad to see many hoteliers attending the meeting. Around fifteen members confirmed for the IATO Convention at the venue and more have joined now. We expect members in large numbers to attend the 36th IATO Convention. Presently, many members are concentrating on domestic tourism but I am sure that the 36th IATO Convention at Gandhinagar will be a great platform and opportunity for members to bond after nearly two years and find out ways and solutions to work towards enhancing inbound travel.”