Focusing on changing the dynamics of the Indian economy, the 31st IATO Annual Convention witnessed a melange of key decision makers and bureaucrats brainstorming on how tourism can drive economic growth By Akshay Kumar
Held under the theme ‘Tourism: we will change the Indian economy’, the 31st Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) Annual Convention recently concluded at the Grand Bhagwati Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The convention was inaugurated by Dr Mahesh Sharma, minister of state for tourism and culture and minister of state for civil aviation, Government of India; Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister, Madhya Pradesh; Surendra Patwa, minister of state for tourism and culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh; Ashok Chandra Panda, minister of tourism and culture, Government of Odisha; Ashwani Lohani, commissioner and managing director, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC); and the entire IATO executive committee.
Speaking about the convention, Subash Goyal, president, IATO, stated, “This year, we have our members present from all over the nation and also the neighbouring nations. Today the tourism revolution of the country will start from the heart of India. This revolution will surely change the face of the Indian economy. Tourism is one segment which creates a lot of foreign revenue as well as employment. The e- visa policy implemented by this government is indeed a game changer for us. Now at this stage we have one request, that the e-visa should be changed from 30 days to 60 days and should be made multiple-entry. Also, the physical exporters are getting a lot of subsidy in taxes. We are the ones who indirectly earn foreign exchanges for our nation, hence we should also get some more benefits from the government.”
While explaining on how to project India as a year-round destination, Dr Sharma opined, “We want to position India as a 365 days destination not only to foreign tourists but also to the domestic travellers. India has everything right from wildlife, mountains, beaches, niche tourism products to medical tourism. We are somewhere lacking in marketing these destinations. Our neighbouring country China, has one of the largest outbound tourist numbers. We must seize this opportunity and attract these Chinese travellers to our country. Tour operators are one of the key stakeholders who can help the government in achieving this. Today the perception about India has changed a lot, around the globe. People are willing to travel and explore India. I promise that this government will not work like a typical government, but like corporates and we are open for suggestions and will surely do the needful.”
The convention included a session on the tourism industry and governance, RH Khwaja, former secretary, ministry of tourism (MoT), Government of India explained, “MoT is positive about development in tourism. But still there are a lot of challenges which needs to be addressed such as taxation, infrastructure development, civil aviation, introducing more niche products. All the stakeholders must have a vision mission approach which is missing. There is no convergence which can be seen.”
For the first time, IATO Convention witnessed a session on the intellectual properties. This session was spearheaded by Dr Anju Khanna, partner, Singh & Singh Lall & Sethi. Khanna mentioned, “Trademark is the face of any business, but it can be easily copied. It is extremely important to register all intellectual properties which a company owns. In the past, there have been many instances in the tourism industry where intellectual properties have been copied. Breach of confidentiality is another major issue which should be addressed.”
Back after 22 years
Known as the heart of India, Madhya Pradesh was chosen as the destination for this year’s IATO convention after 22 years. The last time IATO stepped on Madhya Pradesh soil was in Khajuraho in 1993. Initially, there were a lot of discussions about Indore as a venue.
The state chief minister explained, “Madhya Pradesh is a revenue surplus state and also ranks number one in terms of development. My next step is to make Madhya Pradesh the number one tourist destination. In the last five years, tourism figures has increased a lot in our state, but we still have to do a lot to tap the international tourists. One of the key challenge is we need a direct flight from Sri Lanka to Bhopal, as a lot of Buddhist tourists come here. Also, our state has seen a growth in film tourism segment. One of the major event this year is the Simhastha Kumbh Mela at Ujjain, which will be a unique Kumbh Mela as it comes once in 12 years. We have created all necessary infrastructure and safety facilities for the same.”
Speaking about the destination, Amresh Tiwari, honorary treasurer, IATO said, “Indore is one of the cities with excellent infrastructure. The way the state positions itself as a tourist destination is fantastic. The tourism board has helped us to organise this convention. Also this destination has a lot of unexplored places which many of our tour operators are not aware of. This convention will help a lot in understanding the destination. This year we have welcomed around 1500 delegates from across the nation and also we have a lot of international delegation. The level of bureaucrats present in the event, shows the importance and the position of IATO.”
‘Zaika Dil Se’
MPTDC in association with Express TravelWorld launched ‘Zaika Dil Se’, a coffee table book on the cuisines of different regions of Madhya Pradesh. The book was launched during the inauguration of the 31st IATO Annual Convention. The book was launched by Dr Sharma along with Chouhan; Surendra Patwa, minister of state for tourism and culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh; Ashok Chandra Panda, minister of tourism and culture, Government of Odisha; Lohani and the entire IATO executive committee.