Make In­cred­i­ble In­dia a real­ity

In­dia has now re­leased the se­cond edi­tion of the most well-recog­nised des­ti­na­tion cam­paign in the world. But it will ben­e­fit from tweak­ing the gaps that have widened over the years. Ex­cerpts from World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s white pa­per ti­tled ‘In­cred­i­ble In­dia

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World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s (WEF) white pa­per on In­dia’s tourism in­dus­try re­leased in Septem­ber 2017 out­lines the coun­try’s US$ 20 bil­lion tourism op­por­tu­nity that lies un­der­neath the is­sues that needs res­o­lu­tion. Its Global Com­pet­i­tive­ness Re­port 2016-17 ranks In­dia at 39th po­si­tion, bring­ing it up 16 places in each of the last two years. In­dia has shown im­prove­ment across the board and par­tic­u­larly in goods mar­ket ef­fi­ciency, busi­ness so­phis­ti­ca­tion and in­no­va­tion.

The re­search con­ducted by Bain & Com­pany es­ti­mated that this in­crease in tourism re­ceipts would come from a growth in in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals to 20 mil­lion in to In­dia. To re­alise its ob­jec­tive of wel­com­ing over 15 mil­lion for­eign tourists by 2025 and be­com­ing the largest avi­a­tion mar­ket by 2030, In­dia needs to fo­cus on its op­por­tu­ni­ties and un­der­stand its cur­rent lim­i­ta­tions.

Al­ready en­dowed with in­cred­i­ble nat­u­ral beauty and cul­tural her­itage, In­dia must fos­ter an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for the in­dus­try to pros­per. This White Pa­per puts for­ward rec­om­men­da­tions, high­light­ing the im­por­tance of public-pri­vate co­op­er­a­tion in ex­e­cu­tion.

A na­tional tourism board

A pro­posal to cre­ate a Tourism Board is put for­ward. Cur­rently, In­dia’s travel and tourism in­dus­try lacks a uni­fied public-pri­vate body to rep­re­sent the in­dus­try. In­dia has more than 50 ac­tive for­eign tourism boards, yet the coun­try does not have its own tourism board. While it has a num­ber of in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions and state-level bod­ies, no public-pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sents the in­dus­try, and th­ese bod­ies work in­de­pen­dently to drive for­ward their own agenda. No sin­gle min­istry is re­spon­si­ble for all the poli­cies af­fect­ing the avi­a­tion, travel and tourism in­dus­try. The Min­istries of Civil Avi­a­tion, Tourism, Home Af­fairs, Cul­ture and Road Trans­port and High­ways, among oth­ers, have all been ac­tively in­volved in the in­dus­try’s poli­cies.

This board could sup­port en­hanc­ing in­dus­try co­or­di­na­tion, joint mes­sag­ing, build­ing In­dian tal­ent, driv­ing for­ward in­dus­try-wide pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions and en­act­ing change through poli­cies, as well as public-pri­vate pol­icy ini­tia­tives and small and medium-sized en­ter­prise growth, while con­sid­er­ing In­dia’s real­ity and best prac­tices from other coun­tries.

Bain & Com­pany un­der­took a seven-econ­omy anal­y­sis, in­ves­ti­gat­ing the gov­er­nance and or­gan­i­sa­tion of tourism boards, their roles and ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as out­comes. Their re­search found that most tourism boards in­clude a mix of public and pri­vate-sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

This White Pa­per also rec­om­mends a state-level ap­proach, with a pro­posal to cre­ate a pi­lot in a state that has tra­di­tion­ally wel­comed fewer in­ter­na­tional visitors, and to de­velop a few of its des­ti­na­tions via public-pri­vate co­op­er­a­tion.

Dig­i­tal plat­form

In­cred­i­ble In­dia 2.0 must en­gage trav­ellers on In­sta­gram, Face­book, Snapchat, Twit­ter, among other dig­i­tal plat­forms. It should con­sider which in­flu­encers will in­spire peo­ple to visit In­dia. As In­dia pre­pares to launch In­cred­i­ble In­dia 2.0 with a bud­get of over $46 mil­lion, it will need to de­ter­mine its mes­sage to the world, de­fine its au­di­ence, mes­sen­ger and chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and forge part­ner­ships to en­sure suc­cess.

Trend­ing now

The new sin­gle Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST), ap­plied on the In­dian hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket since July 1, 2017, is likely to be highly detri­men­tal to the in­dus­try. The GST pro­posed in In­dia is the high­est across a broad range of mar­kets in the re­gion, amount­ing to 28 per cent for ho­tels with room tar­iffs of US$115 and above. Given that, over 70 per cent of ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion is con­sumed by busi­ness trav­ellers and the mar­ket still faces sig­nif­i­cant room short­ages, ho­tel rooms are not a lux­ury.

Cre­at­ing a pow­er­ful nar­ra­tive is not enough. In­dia must es­tab­lish an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for busi­ness devel­op­ment and for both do­mes­tic and for­eign in­vest­ment. As shown in the ta­ble and high­lighted specif­i­cally by In­dia’s rank­ing on the first five in­di­ca­tors, em­pha­sis should be put on en­sur­ing that In­dia’s en­vi­ron­ment sup­ports the devel­op­ment of the in­dus­try.

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