Old Wine in Used Bottles: Jayachandran slams tourism associations that fail to consult stakeholders
VG Jayachandran, CEO of Tour Designers, says product development and research must be the main functions of the State tourism department, not marketing. At present, in the name of marketing, millions are spent which never hit the target, he says. Any organisation, which doesn’t have the participation of all stakeholders, will not find a place in this situation – whether it is FAITH or any other confederation. They are just old wine in used bottles, he says. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Why do you think governments – both at the Centre and State levels – have ignored the pleas of the tourism sector? It’s almost as if the industry doesn’t exist.
It is very disappointing to see how both the Centre and the State Governments did not give any ears to the “loud noise” created by the associations. But when we look back and analyse why it happened, we can see many lapses, like lack of coordination and excessive untallied claims. Even though the Kerala government gave us a patient listening and offered us a consoling response, the Centre didn’t even look at the claimants. The famous “theek hain” remark from the Union finance minister (when a journalist raised a question regarding lack of support to tourism) will resonate in the ears of the so-called leaders of the industry.
Q: Were you disappointed by the state government’s response or lack of it, considering that the tourism sector has played a huge role in uplifting the state’s economy over the years?
No, I am not surprised by the state’s response. How can the state consider such requests, when priorities are different? Under the new tax regime, states need to wait for help from the Centre and even loans permitted are under strict conditions. But we must consider that our state minister actively interacted with the agents.
Travel associations feel they are the masters and other stakeholders are their workers. We need to change this attitude and include all stakeholders with respect and have a joint dialogue before making any claims on their behalf.
Q: Do you regard FAITH as an industry leader? How would you evaluate its performance as an association?
Any organisation, which doesn’t have the participation of all stakeholders, will not find a place in this situation – whether it is FAITH or any other confederation. They are just old wine in used bottles.
Q: Do you think the voices of the tour operators are heard at the national level? What are the suggestions that you would like to put forward to improve the functioning of the tourism related associations in India?
Unless there is a collective movement, by including all the stakeholders with equal respect, tourism industry’s claims will not be effective. But there are some key points which need to be addressed by the tour agents.
a) The sudden closure of offices and tourist vehicles have abandoned thousands of workers under these agents. We all know the major reasons behind it, but some of the big timers used this as an opportunity to throw their staff out. Immediate attention should be given to how the industry can take care of those who struggle to look after their dependents.
b) One of the major allegations by the tourist guides’ community is the silence of the agents on the tourism ministry’s decision to revamp the concept of guides. This must be addressed.
c) Instead of asking for a financial package for revival of the industry, we must take care of the lives of tourism workers. This will give a more humanitarian face to the demands.
d) The consortium must discuss preparing ourselves for post-COVID business and come out with a strategy. Accordingly, prepare a plan and submit that to the government. It can create more authenticity to the claims.
Q: With the coronavirus pandemic hitting the industry hard, how do you think the travel and industry can recover? What steps should they take in the short term?
First of all, we must realise the tourism industry is not just about tour operators. Only the business part is handled by them. For sustainable development of tourism, we need to identify our roles and allocate responsibilities accordingly.
Product development and research must be the major role of the state tourism department, not just marketing. At present, in the name of marketing, millions are spent which never hit the target.
Q: The industry has seen a considerable number of job losses in the past few months. How do you think the sector can support the people who have lost their jobs?
Once a consolidated effort starts and a new tourism business model evolves these issues will be answered. The job loss crisis is temporary, even though we cannot predict how long this situation will continue.