India as a country is no doubt one of the most endowed in terms beautiful terrain, mountains, beaches, culture and of course centuries of history. Yet we are not one of the key tourism destinations of the world. We draw less foreign tourists than single cities like Singapore or for that matter Dubai.Our economy grows at and has for some years grown at a enviable rate of growth and despite that our focus on this area has been sorely lacking. We do recognise its potential but sadly have not taken any adequate steps to bring this sector to its potential. Where are we lacking?
Sapphire, a couple of years back did a survey along with BW Hospitality magazine to find out what ailed the Hospitality industry as well as the Travel Industry in general. Some of the key factors which emerged were:
1. Lack of connectivity and Infrastucture – poor roads and poor air connectivity are a hinderance
2. Safety – safety of travel registered very high
3. Lack of quality hotel accommodation
4. Inadequacy of information on the Indian experience both terms of places to see,eat and of course stay
None of these issues are insurmountable but the solutions do lie at the door of the government. Successive governments have recognised these but the action has been patchy if not negligible. With the kind of demographics that we are faced with and if they are to remain positive as well as value accretive we need jobs. Travel, Tourism and hospitality have the potential to create many more jobs than some of the other sectors like manufacturing where you look at the demand for for your goods. Here we have the destination and Government need to take steps to make the investment through infrastructure. These sectors have the potential to give you superior foriegn exchange earning, jobs and improved Infrastucture. Then why the Government apathy?
Part of the fault also lies in how the current industry is organised. The industry associations are different for travel and tourism and hospitality. They often work at cross purposes and do not work closely with administrative government ministries which create infrastructure and provide as well as regulate key services. Another key hinderance are the laws relating to building and running hotels. Permissions are multifarious and take a huge amount of time. These are long gestation as well as expensive projects and hence facilities for credit as well as bank facilities need to be tailored accordingly. The industry associations need to be relentless in bringing forward these problems to the government of the day.
This is not the first time that these issues are being raised but surprisingly nobody is listening!