The Centre for Marketing in Emerging Economies (CMEE) organized a webinar on ‘Tourism in the COVID-19 Pandemic Era: Challenges and the Way Forward’ on September 19th, 2020. The webinar was an attempt to discuss concerns of different stakeholders on Tourism in the times of COVID-19 and to also understand the challenges and opportunities of the Indian tourism sector.
Prof. Archana Shukla, Director, IIM Lucknow welcomed the eminent speakers and set the floor for discussion. She mentioned the importance of the tourism sector in India’s economy and called for a joint effort from different stakeholders to revive the confidence of tourists. She expressed four major factors at this time are driving the psychology of consumers for not going out specifically for tourism purposes. The trust factor is going to play a major role across all the stakeholders because it is something perceptual and based on experience. Rising Health consciousness, safety, and hygiene are the other three major prominent factors that demotivate consumers for tourism purposes. Ensuring a trustworthy environment by taking care of safety, hygiene, and health the need of people is critical at this hour for attracting people for tourism. More investment and risk-taking appetite is required in this sector for delivering improved service quality, recruiting new talents to face newer challenges caused due to Covid-19. She also assured all necessary support from the Institute for developing a problem solving approach for revival of the tourism sector.
Prof. Satyabhusan Dash and Prof. Priyanka Sharma were the conveners of this event. Senior leaders from the government and private institutions, policymakers, and academicians discussed the policies and programs made by them to manage the crisis. Prof. Priyanka Sharma opened the discussion of the webinar by narrating the objective of the webinar and moderated the discussion. Prof. Satyabhushan Dash, Chair-CMEE, introduced different activities of CMEE, discussed the underlying stress people are going through, and how tourism consumption can be a coping mechanism to reduce stress. He suggested improving the performance of online airline sites and IRCTC in the face of the COVID-19 crisis by showing findings from user-generated reviews. He also announced the next PAN India research of ‘Tourism consumption behaviour in the times of Covid-19’.
Excerpts from Speaker’s address
Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI ) started with a background on how Covid-19 has affected people and the industry across the globe. She focused on the need for accurate, up-to-date, and reliable information more than ever and also a requirement to relieve the anxiety of the consumers by ensuring that robust frameworks are developed prioritizing the safety and hygiene of the travellers, basically a cogent strategy involving the government and other stakeholders with three phrases – Survival, Revival and Thrival.
Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice-President, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association (FHRAI), President, Hotel, and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), expressed his concern that the industry has almost no consumer confidence as of now and the industry is facing a severe economic crisis. The immediate strategy to be adopted is to address survival which must be in the form of Public and Private partnerships Need support from the government in the form of restructuring of loans and certain tax waivers for the survival of this labor-intensive sector. Basically the industry ships are not be asked to pay any tax or levy for related to the hospitality industry as it has not been able to use the premises for what it was meant to be used for. Automatic renewal of all licenses for the next term etc would help in providing the much-needed working capital in the hands of the otherwise debt-ridden and collapsing industry.
Sunil Suresh, Chief Marketing Officer, MakeMyTrip was concerned but also positive that since the lockdown has been lifted, there are a lot of people who are willing to travel, and signs of business travel are not visible. He mentioned how China, Japan, and India have seen more business during the COVID-19 era as compared to the last year. MMT is taking several marketing initiatives such as MySafety and having an open conversation with the customer and try being as transparent as possible on all aspects of travel and safety-related information.
Rajni Hasija, Director – Tourism & Marketing, IRCTC, Ministry of Railways, Govt. of India said that they used this period for re-inventing themselves and restoring the confidence of the customers. IRCTC is focusing on inbound tourism during 2021, 2022, and 2023. Many awareness programs are launched and campaigns are run to create positivity and awareness among the citizens. Special touring packages and programs were invented during this time and all the safety measures were followed strictly.
Shri Mukesh Meshram, IAS, Principal Secretary – Tourism & Culture, Government of Uttar Pradesh mentioned the importance of digital assistance such as releasing online 360-degree video views of unexplored tourist destinations. He was concerned that people have a lot of psychological problems, so starting with the idea of faith tourism doesn’t cost much. Further, he highlighted Eco-Tourism and Medical-Tourism, religious tours, organic farming and various initiatives with the assistance from the World Bank focussing on infrastructure expansion.
About 200 acres of land available for tourism infrastructure development in Varanasi and Kushinagar. In Ayodhya also land acquisition process is going on. World Bank is providing a loan of about $50 million for the pro-poor tourism activities like income generation of poor people living around in Mathura, Agra, Varanasi and Kushinagar. Thus, by engaging the youngsters, adventure tourism or Swadesh Darshan can be boosted. Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath ji is the most proactive and responsible state in the country in managing the COVID-19 situation with less mortality due to COVID-19 and the economic activities have started with precautions.
Meenakshi Sharma, Director General (Tourism), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India said that being fragmented, the industry is divided into hotels, transportations, tourism, but this is the first time that everyone stands together and stands high. She referred to work on three points: firstly how the pandemic situation grows. It is dependent on how many more people get contaminated by the virus. Second, is the governance of Government as the government is also focusing on the foriegn travels. Thirdly, there needs to be a change in the promotional activity of campaigns like ‘INCREDIBLE INDIA’. The new promotions must include factors like wellness, less crowded tourism, factor of experience and learning based trips etc.
Prof. Devashish Das Gupta, IIM Lucknow mentioned the need to look into Tourism Policy and promotion from purely the tourist perspective. He emphasised that all the information touchpoints especially the website and all the social media handles should stress on communicating the COVID prevention preparedness. There should be complete prevention of physical touchpoints like ticketing in monuments as well as physical frisking. The same can be replaced with technology interventions like e-ticketing as well as thermal imaging. He also emphasised that there should be no ad campaigns but small marketing communication interventions in the BTL mode especially the social media handles.
The official tourism website Incredible.org should be renamed with a more Tourism familiar name. Moreover, the website should showcase that Indian tourism destinations are safe. In this context, he presented a comparison with Netherland Tourism and French Tourism Websites. Prof Devashish underlined the need for inter-departmental coordination for the better tourist experience. He also spoke on the need for developing specific SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) for both preventive and curative disaster management. Concluding, since the situation has become the new normal so we need to think abnormally to overcome the situation. He shared some innovative ideas regarding the online sale of handicrafts to customers, 3D tours, creating one-day trips, creation of national tourism authority, inviting innovative ideas for tourism and honouring the best with awards, professional hiring and new security interventions for tourists.
Divia Thani, Editor, Conde Nast Traveller India, is optimistic about the future of the travel industry. During the past six months during the pandemic, Conde Nast Traveller has seen a 100% growth in their digital audiences. Engagement and interest in travel is at an all-time high for affluent audiences, for whom travel is integral to their lifestyles. The recovery will be led by high-end travellers with high disposable incomes. This is an opportunity for the industry to focus on high-margin, low-impact travellers for whom the priorities are now nature and the outdoors; health and wellness; local, regional, seasonal food and cuisines. Hygiene is a given and must be communicated consistently. Sustainable and responsible tourism is the way forward and governments must focus on this above everything else as the opportunity to make a substantial change is now. One way of doing this is to ensure we measure our goals and successes in travel using not footfalls as a measure but by focusing on revenue instead.
Finally, Prof. Satyabhusan Dash and Prof. Priyanka Sharma gave a vote of thanks and congratulated all the speakers and participants for such an insightful discussion with unique and relevant points to revive tourism in the post-pandemic era.
The Centre for Marketing in Emerging Economies, established in 2012 is a Centre of Excellence at the strategically located Noida Campus of the Indian Institute of Management Lucknow. CMEE is a lively resource centre for scholars, academicians, marketing research practitioners, government functionaries and corporations from around the world who have an interest in emerging economy markets. Celebrating its 8th year, CMEE has been successfully achieving its objective of continuous education, research & publication and networking. The centre is driven with able guidance from an eminent panel of globally renowned academicians and senior industry magnates who constitute its Governing Body & Research Team. Over the years, the centre has conducted 23 workshops and 3 international conferences with 1000+ participants from industry and academia. The papers presented have been published in internationally acclaimed journals. The centre has published 6 research handbooks and 3 conference proceedings. A snapshot flyer of CMEE’s activities over 08 years since inception, is attached herewith. To download, CMEE Flashback: Glimpses of CMEE activities and Membership Guide, click here. To know more about CMEE, please visit our website www.iimlcmee.org
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