Does our industry need a new narrative on how it matters to the Indian economy? Is the present story inadequate to convince the powers that be? Has the time come for the government to fund a new study, both at secondary and primary levels, or would it be prudent for industry associations to get the ball rolling? The time to act is now, when the industry needs a more favourable and urgent hearing?

At a recent virtual CII internal brain storming session, a suggestion was mooted on revisiting statistics on how tourism impacts the Indian economy. Ajay Singh, owner of SpiceJet shared his experience on how many times people in government wanted to understand better on figures provided, in support of impact of tourism and travel on the economy. In fact, our experience is that often these are dismissed, as being unsubstantiated. They may well be most accurate but they do beg the question! Whom we need to convince need some more convincing. They need to be told where we got our figures from? It might just be all there, but not being presented the way in which it needs to be. And therein, lies the bitter truth, that we do not matter when it comes to serious business!

Our experience is also the same, in fact, we would venture to go a bit further. Presumably, these figures are based on qualified research, which needs to be presented again, and perhaps even re-validated. Going further, without questioning their bonafides, we need to understand where these were arrived from. Shirking the question only deepens the lack of trust. What kind of data was used, what was the sample size, and who authored these figures? Credible narrative does not exist and needs to be created, especially in times like these when the entire industry is under such stress. It’s a dire need of the hour – that we need to convince the powers that be, and we need a better documented case study on why we matter?

Tourism employs how many people, from which strata, and with what impact on societies and economies. In which parts of India? It may be safe to say that this now sounds like an old HMV gramophone record that few would listen to, these days, in the age of digital technology. Our current narrative has best retained a vintage value.

Could this answer the question as to why we still as an industry don’t make the cut? In the national scheme of things? It’s a question difficult to answer.

If we scan the hospitality sector alone, branded and starred properties possibly have a miniscule share of the entire spectrum; how do we capture the impact of the entire value chain? When we refer to the shikarwala being a part of the tourism scene, this is true of only Kashmir but there is an equivalent to this segment in every state in the country. Have we put this together?

The time has come to have a more credible narrative on our industry, one that captures the impact of travel, tourism and hospitality in more contemporary idiom, one that relates to technology, jobs across from pilots to loaders, serving staff in restaurants to managers, from IT specialists to call centres involved in bookings on online platforms. It needs to inbuild the impact of the MICE market, weddings, social functions, government to government exchanges and above all, the tourism sector’s vast tentacles that penetrate deep into the entire eco-system of any economy and society. The intervention of technology in travel is the biggest new wave, and it is not even a part of the current narrative. The world of start-ups, the big makeover in food and deliveries, the revolution in the transport sector with the introduction of Uber and Ola. Further, we need to enlarge our vision of tourism for its present and future ability to project the image of modern India, our ability to restore and preserve heritage and tradition, and to harness talent across the length and breadth of the country, which remains unparalleled. The word ‘hospitality’, in its current usage goes well beyond the world of hotels, and now spans so many new sub-sets! They need to be captured for our ability to be the great leveller, the great unifier! 

This new research must ideally be funded by the government, and executed by the private sector. It would be secondary research to begin with, as primary data may be too difficult and time consuming and may still be questionable. We need a first draft asap, as time is running out for our industry! Both primary and secondary are necessary, the first to build the long-term perspective and the second for an immediate course correction!