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Interview

Published on: June 17, 2020, 1:50 p.m.
"Efforts to reduce fear are paramount"
  • Prahlad Singh Patel, The Minister of Culture and Minister of Tourism of India

By Hemang Palan

Q What steps are required to be taken to revive inland tourism in India?


A At the outset, when the situation normalizes and the spread of disease slows down and normal travel resumes, we will concentrate on hygiene and safety related matters in our tourist destinations and other touch points of the traveller as these will be the basic factors determining the decision for travel. Through our social media handles, we have been showcasing the strengths of India and our culture and history to keep up the interest in travelling once things ease. These factors will help in generating demand in some way. The only way to make India an attractive destination is to focus on hygiene, safety, security.

Q How will the ministry and travel associations ensure the safety of tourists?

A The Government of India’s SoPs for hotels and restaurants and other hospitality services aims to minimise all possible touch points between staff and guest while at the hotel. The protocols for travel service providers like travel agents, tour operators, tourist transport operators, tourist facilitators/guides have been prepared with the primary focus on identifying and mitigating risks for the service provider and for ensuring necessary safety and hygiene practices in interaction with travellers.
 
Q What is the estimated loss of revenue in the Indian hospitality sector during first quarter?

A The demand for travel across the world has gone flat. Travel and Tourism is a function of several factors and thus we are in a situation of standstill. The opportunities will open up to those who are flexible and can innovate. The real failure is to give up or to let ‘failure’ defeat us.
 
Q With outbound tourism coming to a standstill, what steps will your ministry take to promote domestic tourism?

A Domestic travel will resume in phased manner. Our priorities to support travel will have to begin at the local level. A few states are encouraging the people of their respective states to travel and explore their own state. During the present lockdown period, our efforts are on engaging with our stakeholders and the citizens of our country and to sustain their interest in travelling within the country once travel restrictions are lifted. A series of webinars on tourism destinations in the country are being organized under the overall theme of Dekho Apna Desh. Participants in these webinars have included tourism stakeholders, students and the general public from all across the country.
 
Q Will your Ministry encourage hotel associations to offer integrated tourist packages?

A The Hotel and Travel Industry in India is a very mature. It will come up with innovative offerings. From our side we will focus our promotions and campaigns to push those offerings. For example, we expect city trips, day excursions, family holidays, weekend getaways, travel to wildlife parks, etc to grow. These are the packages that will come out first. So, our promotional campaign will focus on such products to help hotels and tour operators sell their packages accordingly.

Q What are the major challenges identified by your ministry to revive the Indian tourism industry?

A The main challenge is to help people overcome the fear of travel, and perceptions about certain cities and places. We are addressing this through our SoPs and protocols. For inbound or international travel to revive, the challenge is what kind of advisories foreign governments will give to their respective citizens.

Q Indian hospitality sector has requested they be given infrastructure status. What is your view?

A We will support this demand of the industry.

Q Will your ministry draft a marketing plan to enable the Government of India-owned Ashok Group of Hotels to offer incentives and packages to Indian tourists and Indian companies to revive the tourism business in the country? Please elaborate.

A ITDC is a Public Sector Unit and will continue to run as a business entity. Once ITDC comes to the Ministry of Tourism with its plans and strategy to revive business, we will examine this objectively.

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