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Post Pandemic Tourism Sector Will Witness A New Surge

Manas Sinha, Founder-Director, India Sales Associates/ISA Tourism Pvt Ltd, a leading hotel representation, marketing and consultancy services in the luxury and upscale outbound tourism sector of India, is a leading tourism professional and hotelier working with luxury/upscale overseas hotels and resorts covering wide geographies spanning Southeast Asia, Europe, Middle East, Americas, and India. Manas has been steering the company’s success demonstrated by myriads of recognitions & awards achieved by the partner hotels, namely the Travel+Leisure Reader’s Choice award of “Best Boutique Hotel-International”, “Best Spa Resort International”, Lonely Planet Readers’ Choice Travel award for the category Best Hotel for Relaxation International, and many more.

Manas holds International MBA Degree (Cum Laude) from Lausanne, Switzerland, MA (Sociology) from Banaras Hindu University – BHU, Varanasi, India and is also certified in Hotel Revenue Management by Cornell University and in Hotel Sales from The Wharton School of Business, aside several other professional certifications. His exclusive interview.

1. Pandemic has devastated the tourism industry enormously. How do you think as an insider to be done to resurrect this industry?

Obviously pandemic has made a catastrophic impact on the tourism industry globally, beyond the imagination of experts and industry leaders. Last eighteen months of near standstill has led to widespread job and income losses, bankruptcy and closures among aviation, hospitality, attractions and all travel related service providers.

Despite one of the largest employer, tourism industry usually gets relegated to the background among macroeconomic measures. Resurrection of tourism industry calls for a number of fundamental changes, reboot and adjustments. First step should be to recognize tourism as a priority sector by the states and governments. Second step should be to build the confidence both of service providers and travellers alike, i.e. infusion of capital to restart tourism activities, far reaching quick vaccinations, visibly sanitized facilities, open borders and sops to attract travellers. Such confidence boosting measures shall help revive the engine of tourism industry.

2. Your company was into outbound tourism. What measures other countries are taking to reviving this sector?

We, ISA TOURISM PVT LTD, are a dedicated representation, marketing and PR consultancy firm for international brands seeking to attract Outbound Indian travellers. Though our functions and periodic projects do contribute towards attracting foreign tourists to India. Since the international travel for tourism has been negligible since March 2020, our segment has suffered badly because most of the overseas principals could not sustain the cash flow essential to retain partners like us. Though our entire income is in the form of precious Inward Remittance of Foreign Exchange, we pay all statutory taxes, yet the tourism departments do not have any method to support us. The huge marketing money that comes in from international bodies, due to our efforts and gets spend in India can easily match up to the forex earned by inbound tourism, but this is not even vouched by any stakeholder. The success of Outbound over last decade has also enabled extensive foreign investments in India. Regrettably, Outbound Tourism is myopically still seen only as an outflow of money. Whereas countries with more organized tourism industry have implemented several measures to support our counterparts. Be it by direct grant of funds to sustain the organization, or by up to 80% of salary support to employees with tax waivers, corporate tax holiday, easy access to zero interest or low interest loans, existing bold steps to enable scrupulous tourism entities sustain until tourism recovery kicks in. Provide us NOW the means to survive through the pandemic. The enterprising tourism operators shall assure manifold RoI to the Government provided the usual hurdles & obstacles are tackled. A focussed task force comprising tourism, finance, aviation, and foreign affairs ministry can quickly create a conducive environment for the entire tourism sector in India.

3. Given the uncertain nature of pandemic, what alternative/innovative means do you see that can disrupt the conventional model of tourism?

Tourism is fuelled by the innate human desire to explore the unknown. The sensual experience of moving, seeing, touching, feeling the unfamiliar will not change. What is ever changing is the selection of destination and type of experiences (wellness, adventure, explore, culture, cuisine). Should the pandemic exist, vaccinated travellers to assuredly safe and hygienic places will co-exist. Post pandemic era will see a range of qualitative improvement in servicing and demand patterns. In this permanently networked world, public and social media users will grow more. At the same time first-hand experience, reviews and references will get more scrutinized and credible validation may be a game changer. Conventional and AI enabled technology – before, during and after – will play a vital role in growing the demand and creating new ground-breaking ideas. The cycle of introduction-attractiveness-fame-decline shall get shorter as is already seen in the taste pattern of new age travellers. Most would have travelled digitally prior to actually embarking on a journey. Travel consultants will need to become destination experts adding palpable value (beyond brochure and Google) since traditional ‘bookers’ role is routinely getting threatened.

4. If pandemic situation gets ameliorated, what kind of response would you expect from the consumers?

By the time this pandemic is contained, the tourism landscape would undergo a sea change. The service providers shall come out with unusual offerings, lots of consolidation and collaboration would have taken place, consumers would be spoilt of choice or be confronted with a kind of monopolistic sellers. New safety and hygiene SOPs introduced during pandemic will become a standard.

Irrespective to these situation, we expect to see a huge thrust in the upscale-luxury and business travel. Group tourism may take time to recover but number of couples, families and small groups are expected to take frequent short trips. Consumers would demand and pay for better quality of products and services.

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