India’s growth story in tourism is positive but issues such as employment creation and taxation need to be addressed so that the growth is not restricted, says David Scowsill, president and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) By Reema Lokesh
How does WTTC view India’s new change in the political circuit?
India has an excellent opportunity to benefit from visa reforms and infrastructure improvements under the new government. India’s travel and tourism economy is due to grow by 7.5 per cent in 2015, which is the highest level of growth of any of the major economies in the world. But the overall contribution of India’s travel and tourism sector to the overall economy is still relatively low (6.7 per cent of GDP, against a global average of 9.8 per cent). This not only shows the depth of the problem that India has faced but also the opportunity. Improvements to the visa programme to make it even easier for tourists to enter would be beneficial as would improvements to airports and high-speed rail across the country. Also, the country has high luxury taxes in hotels and complicated taxes on travel and tourism services and products generally – which should be addressed. However, I would also urge India to step up its Incredible India campaign globally to help counter-balance some of the negative perceptions about tourism, particularly the safety of women which is a global concern.
With E-visas in place, is there a certain trend that one can visualise with respect to tourism enhancement?
There should be a trend in Indian travel and tourism towards international tourism with the improvements in the visa regime. WTTC is forecasting that India will have the highest growth of any major country in travel and tourism this year due to the recent reform of its visa processes, which has been an obstacle for growth recently. This will dramatically increase the number of international visitors. Improving the international visibility of the Incredible India campaign could have the benefit of increasing tourist flows to places across the country, rather than its traditional tourism hotspots.
With respect to the Global Summit, how different will Madrid be in terms of content?
For the first time in Madrid, the WTTC Global Summit will focus on disruption as a major theme in our industry. The industry contributes 9.5 per cent of global GDP (US$ seven trillion) and is due to grow strongly in the coming years – not only outpacing the wider economy, but also growing faster than other significant sectors such as financial and business services, transport and manufacturing. Travel and tourism forecasts over the next ten years also look extremely favourable. But capitalising on the growth opportunity will require authorities to create a favourable climate for infrastructure investments and people development – and governments can also do much to implement more open visa regimes and to employ intelligent taxation policies. It also forces the industry to cope with the opportunities of disruption – either from within our own industry or from beyond it.
WTTC Global Summit in Madrid
This year’s World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit will be held in Madrid, Spain on April 15-16. The annual WTTC Global Summit will venture into Europe after a gap and will aim at uniting travel and tourism leaders from across the world, bringing together top representatives from the public and private sectors, from travel associations and the media in a unique networking and discussion forum.
Are unwarranted travel advisories harming the future of tourism in some places? WTTC’s take on this?
Travel advisories are a big issue in our industry and are causing damage to tourism across the world, including within India. Travel advisories can have a very useful effect on changing the behaviour of travellers that is why they need to be very specific (affecting a very small area, not a whole city) and time limited (not allowed to run and run). And if done badly they are very damaging.
What will be the best practices of tourism vis-a-vis technology across segments, namely, biometrics, self drives, aviation, etc?
Technology is a fundamental element of the travel and tourism industry. While areas such as biometric data are in visas, but can slow up the application process and prove bureaucratic. Rather, the biggest use for technology is likely to come in the area of distribution – this continues a trend that has existed for a long time. Also, companies such as Airbnb and OneFineStay are using technology to have an impact in the hospitality industry.