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It got bigger and better. Entering in its sixth year, the Great Indian Travel Bazaar-2013 (GITB-2013) opened up in Jaipur with bright prospects and more buyers than the previous years, incorporating some new initiatives to make India one of the world-class destinations in the world. This year, GITB had 273 foreign buyers registered from 57 countries and 269 Indian sellers. The inaugural evening at The Lalit, Jaipur, was a clear verdict on how the GITB has grown over the years and how consistent it had been to attract business-oriented people from all over the world.

With more than 9,000 B2B meetings between foreign tour operators and Indian sellers, this year the demand for B2B interaction was increased from 15 to 20 minutes per slot and the last one hour was kept open for on the spot B2B meetings. The number of foreign tour operators wishing to do serious business with sellers of Indian tourism products had grown from 265 in 2012 to 273 in 2013.

The prelude to the main event was organised in the presence of dignitaries like Bina Kak, tourism minister, Rajasthan; AK Gupta, additional director general (MR), ministry of tourism, government of India; Maharaj Jai Singh, chairman, ederation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Rajasthan State Council and director, Rambagh Palace Hotel; Jyotsna Suri, chairperson (Tourism Committee), FICCI, and CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group; Rakesh Srivastava, principal secretary tourism, government of Rajasthan, and Dipak Deva, co-chairman, FICCI tourism committee and CEO – Destination Management India and South Asia, Kuoni Travel Group, India.

GITB-2013 was co-organised by the department of tourism, government of Rajasthan, the ministry of tourism, government of India, and FICCI. It was supported by Hotel & Restaurant Association of Rajasthan (HRAR), Indian Heritage Hotels Association (IHHA) and Rajasthan Association of Tour Operators (RATO).

Opening GITB-2013, Kak, said it is time countries like India realise the immense economic potential of the tourism sector as it has become a key driver of national economies. “GITB’s significance is of particular importance in the context of the fact that over the years countries worldwide have realised the immense economic potential of the tourism industry. The phenomenal growth of the tourism sector has resulted in making a significant contribution to the GDP of different countries. It has, in other words, become a key driver of national economies.”

The minister, highlighting the increased influx of foreign tourists, also outlined various measures that the ministry of tourism is undertaking to facilitate safe and easier movement of foreign travellers like visa-on-arrival, tax exemptions, undertaking of mega projects etc.

Inventing tourism

GITB started in 2008 when not much was happening in terms of tourism in India and very few people considered India as a prospective travel destination. Though international tourist arrivals rose from 682 million in 2001 to 920 million in 2008, the global travel and tourism industry experienced a downturn in 2009 due to the financial crisis. With the initiative to make India one of the most visited places in the world, GITB brought different facets of travel trade in the country under one roof. Since its inception in 2008, GITB has made it a point to make India one of the most sort after tourist destinations.

In its sixth year, GITB-2013 focused on inbound tourism. Bringing international tour operators to discuss business and showcase India to the world, it made a conscious effort to reinforce India as an affordable and safe tourist destination.

The Indian tourism industry did well in 2010 with 5.78 million foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs). The year 2011 also saw a decent rise in the number of FTAs, with 6.31 million tourists coming to India, up by over 9.2 per cent from 2010. But 2012 again saw a decline in the inflow, registering just five per cent growth, mainly because countries like Europe, the US and the UK were reeling under the financial crisis. However, Rahul Chakravarty, additional director, FICCI, is hopeful that 2013 will see a decent number of tourists arrivals in the country.

“We have conducted a survey in which 83 per cent of the people have said that India is totally safe. Foreign buyers and FTAs in India have always increased. The number of tourist arrivals in January-February 2013 as compared to January-February 2012 is much higher. The government has earned about `95,000 crore as foreign exchange revenue from tourism. So the travel market in India is remarkable,” said Chakravarthy.

Our immediate focus is domestic tourism: Jyotsna Suri
The Lalit Suri Group’s immediate focus is domestic tourism. “We are a country with billion plus people, and we have a huge nation to showcase ourselves, so domestic tourism plays a very vital role,” said Jyotsna Suri, vice president, FICCI and CMD, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. She feels that in a country like India, which is so large, one cannot survive only on foreign tourist arrivals. “You must have a robust domestic tourism,” added Suri.

Citing the example of the United States, Suri says, “America’s tourism industry is thriving because of domestic tourism. India is a very large country. Smaller countries want FTAs, but in India because of the diverse nature and the huge subcontinent that we are domestic tourism plays a vital role.”

Suri with FICCI also initiated the The Great Domestic Tourism Bazaar three years ago to boost the domestic tourism bazaar. She said that the third edition of the Domestic Tourism Bazaar will be held at The Lalit, New Delhi, from September 27 to 29. “We had a huge response on the Great Domestic Tourism Bazaar and it is really helping to boost the domestic tourism,” said Suri.

According to a recently conducted survey by FICCI, 83 per cent of the respondents said that the current environment in India was very safe for travel. Suri ensured all foreign travellers that they would have a memorable and safe experience in India. “Government of India is making every effort to provide security and make the environment as safe as possible. Tourism will only happen if the environment is safe,”she said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the GITB-2013, Suri said rationalisation of the GST will be a big boon for the tourism industry as different taxation levels for different states is very inconvenient. She also said that to compete with South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand which saw more than 20 million arrival in 2012, the Indian government needs to recognise the potential of tourism. “It is only then that there will be some change of thought and change of policy,” added Suri.

GITB 2013: Highlights

  • Gujarat was the theme state for GITB 2013
  • Nine partner states participated
  • FICCI released its study on ‘India as a hotspot for inbound tourism’
  • Dates for the Great Domestic Tourism Bazaar announced – September 27 to 29, 2013 New Delhi
  • GITB 2014 will be held in Jaipur. Dates to be finalised soon.

Revenue aspect

Travel industry has contributed about Rs 94,487 crore in terms of foreign exchange in 2012 and was responsible for generating approximately eight per cent employment in India. Despite this it was levied with an extra 10 per cent service charge in 2012 and now an additional service tax on AC restaurants was levied by union finance minister P Chidambaram in budget 2013-14. It came as a jolt to the hospitality industry of the country, which witnesses inflow of lakhs of tourists from different parts of the globe every year.

Chakravarty said that there are certain financial policies which the government has to take a call on. He added, “There are three demands of the tourism industry — industries status for tourism, export industry status and infrastructure status for tourism. Though none of these have yet been met by the Indian government, they are helping the tourism industry in a different way. This year there was a Rs 100 crore increase in the tourism budget.”

Chakravarthy feels that the tourism industry should focus on ‘investment in tourism infrastructure’ if things need to be changed. He said though a lot has been done to promote India as a tourist destination, more needs to be done and can be done. “We are already trying to increase the number of countries on visa-on-arrival. There are different priorities of different countries. India is a country where we have to take care of our agriculture, employment problem, take care of rural India, etc.”

Advantage Rajasthan, advantage India

The share of tourism in global GDP is 11.10 per cent. In India, it is 5.72 per cent of the Indian GDP and internally Rajasthan tourism has made a significant contribution of 13.68 per cent to the state’s GDP, which is higher than any other industrial sector. To facilitate the tourism industry and the safety and security of the tourists, the Government of Rajasthan introduced the ‘Tourism Trade Regulation Act’ in 2010.

Kak said, “Rajasthan is now changing its positioning from being a heritage and cultural tourist destination. It has encouraged innovation in product creation like resort tourism, archaeological tours, tribal cultural tours, sports tourism, rural tourism, eco-tourism, adventure tourism to attract more tourists. The government is also acutely conscious of the environmental degradation that tourism can cause and is therefore at the same time taking a number of steps to minimise the threat.”

Comparative analysis

2013

  • B2B buyers confirmed for GITB – 273
  • Buyers from – 57 countries
  • B2B structured and prefixed meetings – Over 9,000
  • B2B Indian sellers participated – 269

2012

  • B2B buyers confirmed for GITB – 259
  • Buyers from – 54 countries
  • B2B structured and prefixed meetings – over 8,200
  • B2B Indian sellers participated – 230

Increasing reach

Around 50 countries participated in the first edition of GITB. Then, pre-fixed B2B meetings didn’t come into being and was added next year. In this edition, around 269 B2B Indian sellers participated covering around 230 booths sending a strong message about their interest to take part in the event.

B2B meetings and inbound tourism have become the talk point when it comes to GITB. In 2012, 259 buyers from 54 countries from across the world participated in the exhibition with 8,200 meetings to sell India world over. In the sixth edition in 2013, the numbers are just going up. This year it had more than 9,000 meetings. The event provided an exposure to the best tourism products from all across India under one roof.

Chakravarty felt that the level of GITB is completely different and it can’t be compared with other travel trade fairs’ of the world. He said, “GITB is on a different bracket altogether. It’s completely focused on inbound tourism. We have no countries participating here. It’s only India, one country. And our focus is on pre-scheduled B2B meetings between foreign buyers and Indian sellers. Every seller here has their prefixed meeting. This is how we distinguish ourselves from any other travel market.”

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