It’s early 2021 and we have turned the page of the worst nightmare in the history of travel, tourism and hospitality. To be clear, the nightmare is not over as large parts of the world are having increasing variants as well as cases of the Covid 19 virus. We do have a hope though with an antidote in the form of vaccine’s now starting to be administered across the world, though travel as we knew before 2020 still seems to be a long way of. India, though affected seems to be doing a little better as the no of cases seem to be declining ( unless its just a mirage) and it is starting the world’s largest vaccination drive which can change the paradigm. So we are at a paradox…. do we feel relieved at having survived or do we feel mildly optimistic that the world that is about to unfold could be far brighter and bigger! My intuition tells me to go with the latter but are we prepared ..?
With all the introspection that has ensued over the last few months, there should be a unanimous view that we are not. Of course some of the direction as well as action are an individuals choice but a grander all encompassing vision has to come from the Government which, to my my mind has failed to fulfil that aspect time and again in the past, despite knowing how this sector can change perception of the world, provide the much needed earning and help solve one of the perennial problem of modern day economy…..’Jobs’. So is this then the right time to have this discussion, make the powers that be understand our problems, make them understand the world that can be and what do we need to make that happen both on the macro level and the micro. It’s usual to have this discussion just before the Budget and then to forget it altogether. We will see many webinar’s across all industry forums but really ….is anybody listening? Is Budget time,which is just an exercise in balancing your books ,the right forum to bring your suggestions forward? Sometimes the thought goes out to the striking farmers who too may have felt the same as they seem to have run out of places or forums where they could present their case,before they embarked on an a direct agitation. Certainly not suggesting that method but we need to find a way …
While finding the right forum is critical, it is equally critical to know what you want and how to create that pressure group such that the powers that be take notice. What then would be the priorities from the industries viewpoint as we get over the pandemic? Not looking at a laundry list but here are some key thoughts which could be important :
1. The industry and all its constituents have seen a massive disruption in the last year or so across the world. Whether its the means of travel or meetings or staying, all have suffered due to the dire effects of the virus which could and have been life threatening. Therefore the first rational action has to be to make the receivers of your services safe. With the safeguards in terms of action known ie cleanliness, masking distancing and now pre testing as well as vaccination, it seems to me that industry should come together and join the Government on a massive outreach to say that the industry is open and it is safe to travel. It also means that industry should invest, bring out and advertise safety protocols which they are implementing such that the service receiver starts feeling safe. A joint exercise would be like a massive campaign for travel for the future…
2. The industry while parts of it are formal, it has a lot of informal participation in form of jobs and employment. It besides being a brick and mortar business in some cases, is largely a people business. One needs to be taking action in setting up a safety net for your people. Their safety is equally important as is the safety of the constituents we serve. Only then can one take advantage of the paradigm of new avenues of business which will become available as we get out of this pandemic.
3. The industry forums are the conduit through which one connects as well as partners with the Government of the day. We have experience that the different industry forums either for transportation or hospitality or tourism or infrastructure creation,typically ,while having a commonality of views work at cross purposes sometimes. This has the distinction of being one of the biggest factors of having a haphazard travel as well as tourism policy where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The industry counterparts need to work as a cohesive divisions as only then will the powers that be will hear you! If domestic tourism,which is larger, is to be the key value creator then the cohesion within industry constituents and the Government needs to be a must have.
While Industry constituents need to reinvent themselves, the Government too needs to fulfil its role. It needs to reinvigorate the policy framework, improve travel safety, rationalise the asset ownership as well as construction rules, help with setting up a safety net for informal labour and importantly keep its overzealous protectors of policy in reasonable limits. It’s no secret that besides earning, the travel sector gets the country prestige, big time employment and a very healthy tax income. Everybody is not looking only for tax rationalisation but rather a comprehensive policy framework which is workable and accrues value to all its constituents.
I sometimes wonder when is the right time or the right forum to air these concerns and whether that can be the purview for the years Budget exercise specially this current time ? If it can be then the above should be our wish list for 2021 for the Travel, tourism and the hospitality sector!