How is GDTB going to be different from the GITB format?
The format last year focused on inbound tourism and was a one-day affair. This year, we have upgraded to to the Great Domestic Tourism Bazaar, which will focus exclusively on domestic tourism. The inauguration on Day one will be followed by two dedicated sessions, one on technology and its role in promoting tourism and the second on state tourism boards their role in driving tourism. We will also release a knowledge FICCI-Yes Bank report on domestic tourism to promote leadership in domestic tourism so that states come up with plans to remodel their domestic tourism strategies.
The following day, there would be a B2B exhibition at FICCI House with about 53-54 stalls and about 35 table spaces given to various sellers in domestic tourism, including the dotcom companies, airlines and hotels. They will meet and interact with domestic tour operators on an exclusive basis. The evening session will for the first time be open to the direct consumer. They will be able to walk in free of charge and interact with hoteliers about domestic tour packages. We recognise that reaching out to the direct consumer is very important in domestic tourism.
Who has been spearheading this?
We have requested the union minister for Tourism to inaugurate the event. But it has been spearheaded by two people, Jyotsna Suri, CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and Rakesh Lamba, member FICCI Select Committee on Tourism and director Prakriti Holidays. In addition, GDTB is being led by three organisations; Ministry of Tourism Government of India, FICCI and ADTOI and FICCI is extremely grateful to ADTOI and its members for supporting us in this initiative. ADTOI has asked its members to enroll as buyers and it would not have been possible without them.
What kind of growth in domestic tourism are you seeing?
There is an annual growth of 15-20 per cent. In 2011 itself, there were 800 million domestic tourist visits registered, so there is still tremendous potential for growth. During the economic downturn, the number of foreign tourists dropped but domestic tourism sustained the tourism economy. And not just leisure but corporate travel as well. Domestic tourism promotes national integration and sustainability.
Is the hike in airfares affecting domestic tourism, in your opinion?
With growing disposable incomes people have the means to spend. India is driven by consumer demand. Although petrol prices went up, people still continue to spend. The airlines have their own constraints. What’s more important is the connectivity, pricing is the second step.
The constant lament from tour operators is that the state tourism boards are not proactive. Your thoughts.
If you look at one state in relation to another, then you feel one is more proactive than the other. I think they are all actively trying to promote tourism.
What ails in taking domestic tourism further?
There needs to be a strong focus on infrastructure and skill development. Tour operators need to be given more due than what they get at the moment. More budget hotels for domestic travel is a must since people in this category do not want to spend on higher category accommodation. We also need good availability of tourist guides at tourist sites and most importantly, we need good surface transport. We would like to request the railways to introduce special trains during the peak tourist season.