IATO Elections: Lally Mathews seeks mandate for big changes

IATO Elections: Lally Mathews seeks mandate for big changes

TnH spoke to Lally Mathews, MD of Divine Voyages, and the candidate of the ‘Team of Change’ for the post of the IATO’s president to know his priorities if his team wins. IATO’s elections to elect its new national team for the term 2021-2023 will be held on March 6.

By Prem Kumar

Terming his team as a right balance of youth and experience, Mathews said, “When we consider our candidates for elections, we decided that we need a team which can bring desired changes. Therefore, we made a team which has both youth and experiences.”

Empowering regional chapters  

A key pledge of the Team for the Change is that they will empower IATO’s regional chapters. “If our team wins, we will amend the constitution of IATO in the next 6 to 8 months to empower our regional chapters. A lot of changes will come through the constitutional amendments,” said Mathews, adding that his team will expand the membership of the Executive Council form its current strength of 14 members to 20. The amendment will be made to provide for four additional vice presidents in the EC, all elected by our four regional chapters, one from each regional chapter. Vice presidents will actively participate in the working of the IATO’s national team.

Women representation

At a time when there is an increasing emphasis on inclusion and women empowerment, women are missing from the IATO’s leadership.We want to give representation to women in the national team. There has been no representation of women in the IATO’s national team in the last 15-20 years,” said Mathews.

No to downgrading

In the last one and half years, more than 50 members have been downgraded by the Executive Committee from active to allied members on the ground that they are not recognised by the MoT, says Mathews, adding even senior members have been downgraded and denied their voting rights. “The downgrading was done unconstitutionally as there is such provision in the IATO’s that requires one to be recognised by the MoT to become an active member,” said Mathews, adding that if his team is elected, they will make sure through the constitutional amendment that no active member is downgraded simply because they lack recognition by the MoT.

Transparency

The Team for Change wants to bring transparency to the working of IATO. If elected the Team for Change will endeavour to bring transparency in the functioning of the IATO, says Mathews, adding that as of now there is no transparency in its working; the EC meeting is held in closed doors; details of the meeting are not shared with members. I think members have the right to know what their elected representatives are doing in the EC meetings. We will make sure that EC meetings are telecasted live either through Zoom or Facebook, and members which are not able to participate in the EC meeting in-person will be allowed to be part of the EC meetings.

MDA scheme, SEIS

At present a tour operator has to have a turnover of not less than Rs. 2 crores to avail the benefit under the Marketing Development Assistance (MDA) scheme of the MoT. This makes many tour operators ineligible to avail MDA benefit. Under the MDA, eligible tour operators are provided subsidy for overseas promotion. Mathews said that Rs. 2 crore is too high. It takes at least 4 to 5 years for a tour operator to have a turnover of Rs. Crore. This threshold should be reduced, according to Mathews, to Rs. 25 lakhs. This will help small tour operators. Mathews’ team will endeavour to convince the MoT to decrease the minimum turnover condition to Rs. 25 lakhs.

The Team for Change will also follow up intensely with the concerned ministry for the release of SEIS amounts for 2019-2020. “We will ask the government to release it as soon as possible, said Mathews.

Furthermore, they have also promised to seek soft loan facility at low-interest rates for IATO’s members.

Membership Expansion

IATO is the all-India apex body of inbound tour operators, but it’s the number of its total membership is not impressive. At present, the total number of IATO’s active members is 351 that is too low. Mathews agrees that there is a need to expand the association’s membership. “We want to expand the association by increasing the strength of our active members. For this, certain membership criteria need to be changed. For example, at present tour operators not only have to be recognised by the MoT to be an active member, but they also have to wait for two years after they have been recognised by MoT.”

Going beyond FAITH

Team for Change wants IATO to act individually and independently on the issues concerning its members and inbound tourism rather than always following FAITH. “Our issues and priorities are different from other trade associations. While in the matter of common interest, we will continue to cooperate with FAITH, regarding our individual problems that only concerns IATO, we will work independently,” said Mathews.

Membership fee waiver

Mathews said that because of the pandemic tourism came to standstill; therefore IATO’s members are facing a severe existential crisis. “As no help came from the government, we have decided that if our team wins, we will waive annual membership fees of our members for the year 2020-221,” said Mathews, adding that although membership fee is not very high,  we think charity should begin from home, so we will waive the fee. IATO has enough funds to waive the fee. “If our team is elected, we will also consider waiving membership fee for the FY 2021-22, if inbound tourism does not improve in the next couple of months,” Mathews has promised.

Skill development  

At present, India does not have enough guides in different foreign languages. Mathews led team, if elected, will also focus on skill development and work for training tour guides in different foreign languages.

The Team of Change’s candidates for other posts are E.M. Najeeb, Chairman, ATE Group of Companies for the senior vice president, Lajpat Rai, MD, Lotus Trans Travels for the post of Vice President, Rajesh Mudgill, MD for the post of Honorary Secretary, Sunil Mishra of Cosmos Tours & Travels for the post of Honorary Treasurer and Sanjay Razdan of Razdan Holidays for the post of Honorary Joint Secretary. In addition, the Team of Change has fielded their candidates for the membership of the EC.

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