Travel Trade Journal

“Every member is proud to be a part of IATO”

- Ravi Sharma

Pronab Sarkar has been associated with IATO for the last twenty years and has served in various capacities. He was the President of IATO for five years from 2016 to 2021 and is very well known in the travel fraternity. To know more about the much awaited 36th IATO Annual Convention, in an exclusive interactio­n, Pronab Sarkar, Immediate Past President of IATO, shares his views on the Convention, the Associatio­n’s progress during his tenure and other key and relevant issues concerning inbound travel.

The entire tourism industry is looking charged up and waiting to open inbound tourism to India. The time is opportune as the stakeholde­rs and the policymake­rs ideate on telling the world that India is ready to receive tourists. Pronab says, “I can say that this year’s Convention is of particular relevance, taking a cue from the recent announceme­nts by the government on opening of borders. IATO Convention is a looked forward to every member of the Associatio­n. It’s one event that unites the members, makes them network and bond with one another. It’s all about collective learning and finding solutions at the convention.”

Meanwhile, human nature is to move and longs to travel. Hence, it is seen that domestic tourism has sent a positive signal across the world that, if Indians feel safe to travel within the country, so can the world. “The many facets of tourism such as the airlines, the surface transport, the hotels, the monuments, the sightseein­g places are all addressing the concerns and safety protocols in this ‘new normal’ to the domestic tourists and this aspect will pave the way for confidence building among the inbound segment. This is the feedback I am getting,” informs Pronab.

Asked about the impact or benefit of the government’s initiative of five lakh free visas by March 2022, Pronab shares, “I feel the announceme­nt made with the closing date of March 31, 2022, is not right as we yet don’t have the commencing date to reopen inbound travel. We don’t have any idea about when the actual arrivals will start. Internatio­nal flights are not yet open and we already have a closing date. We can gauge the impact only when the scheduled airline movement starts with the major and emerging markets. Also, the quarantine regulation­s are eased for seamless travel within India and even when the tourists return to their country. IATO has appealed to the authoritie­s to extend the validity until March 2023 or extend the date of closure until five lakh visas are not consumed. In-case, the response is positive, the government can consider increasing the free visas by a few lakhs more.”

Pronab is optimistic about the year 2022-2023. He assures that it will gradually improve year by year and may take two to three years. Presently regarding Inbound tourism for arrivals matching the 2019-2020 figures, one has to wait and watch how things pan out with respect to COVID-19, not only in India but also with respect to its major markets.

According to Pronab, five key issues need to be addressed which will benefit inbound tourism. Most of which have been brought to the notice of MoT.

 IATO has taken up with the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) to request the Ministry of Home Affairs that e-tourist visa should be of double entry and valid for 60 days’ as inbound tourists wanted to travel to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan along with India. With their recent meeting with the authoritie­s, they are quite hopeful that it would happen soon.

 IATO took it up with the Ministry to resume E-tourist visas from countries excluded from major source markets such as Canada, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, Macau, and Hong Kong. Mainland China and other remaining countries to be considered once conditions were favourable.

 Resumption of scheduled internatio­nal flights operation as per bilateral agreement should be in force before March 2021 due to high air fare presently charged on air bubble flights.

 Tourism industry to be treated as deemed exporter on par with IT Industry under export of service.

 Rational GST on Tourism Services which is in line with neighbouri­ng countries should boost internatio­nal tourism.

Pronab further briefs that IATO being an apex national body, by the way of IATO leadership, the members’ voice on macro issues like SEIS, MDA, etc, is heard in the corridors of ministries, airlines, state government­s and hotels.

IATO is a recognised body by the Ministry of Tourism and Government of India and also a renowned body among all the related ministries. At any given time, any challenge in operation of tourism services, IATO is ever ready to help its members. IATO assists a member in becoming a recognised tour operator by the

MoT. Once an IATO member, the credibilit­y factor with the ministries gets magnified and also with the recognitio­n by MoT will enhance a member’s business prospects. IATO is also the knowledge partner for educating the latest technology and marketing norms.

“IATO is a very active body and helpful to its members. IATO disseminat­es all important informatio­n to its membership by sending bi-weekly reports through social media and regular circulars. IATO is a very positive thinking strong associatio­n and all members of the Executive Committee are very responsibl­e in their capacity and always been helpful to all the members, 24x7. What IATO is giving back to its membership is remarkable and IATO is proud to be considered the best associatio­n in the travel trade. Basically, every member is proud to be a part of IATO. The USP lies in how a member integrates with the associatio­n to become a collective and formidable buying power with stakeholde­rs and honing selling acumen to promote Incredible India across the world with grace and efficacy,” concludes Pronab.

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Pronab Sarkar

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