Kick-start marketing now to regain pre-Covid FTA number

Kick-start marketing now to regain pre-Covid FTA number

For inbound, India’s immediate target should be to regain its pre-Covid level of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs), according to Sarab Jit Singh. The country can achieve this target within two years of restarting its destination marketing activities provided these are conducted by the private sector.

By Prem Kumar

Covid-19 has been a crisis like no other. Tourism is probably the worst-hit, first to be affected, last to recover and this recovery could be painfully long at the cost of billions in revenues and millions of jobs unless urgent and effective action is taken.

The plight of Indian Inbound is more miserable, with little effort forthcoming to revive it. Even before the pandemic, the state of the Indian tourism was not to be content with. In 2019, India received about 11 million foreign tourists that can’t be termed a remarkable figure considering the country’s vast size and diversity.

Considering the significant role that tourism plays in our economy, the number of people it employs, its survival and early revival is very important. Even the government is losing vast revenues due to stagnation in the tourism sector. Although the Government recognises the role of tourism in the economy but perhaps it is hoping that the sector will bounce back on its own as the rest of the economy recovers. That’s not going to happen. The sector needs support, handholding, but more than that innovation and ideas to emerge from the crisis.

Immediate Priorities & Target

According to SARAB JIT SINGH, Managing Director of Travelite (India), and former Vice-Chairman of FAITH, the government’s and the industry’s immediate priority should be to restart marketing activities to regain the lost ground that is “the pre-Covid level of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in two years.” Singh has also served in IATO as its Sr. Vice President.

The industry veteran suggests that the government and the industry must work in tandem and bring the private sector at the forefront as far as marketing India as a tourist destination is concerned. “With the pandemic considerably in check in the country, and our rate of deaths from the Covid much lower, India is well-positioned to take advantage of this better situation and revive its tourism sector much early. In order to achieve the pre-Covid level of FTAs at the earliest, India needs to restart its marketing activities immediately and with a new approach, with the private sector at the forefront,” said Singh while adding, “The Government has to adopt a completely different approach of marketing, and not the way it had handled tourism so far.”

Singh bats for the leadership role for the private sector in marketing. According to him, destination marketing activities should be driven collectively by the private sector, with the Government’s role limited to setting the target, providing funds and monitoring the outcome. “India can receive annual 11 million tourists within two years from the day it starts its private sector-driven marketing activities,” Singh stressed.

While batting for the leadership role for FAITH, federation of all the national travel, tourism and hospitality trade bodies, in marketing India, Singh said, “FAITH being the umbrella body of India’s Travel & Tourism industry is the right organisation to plan and organise destination marketing and promotional activities on behalf of the government. Like CII or FICCI, which do promotional activities on behalf of many union ministries, FAITH can do the same for inbound tourism.”

He added, “If it is given the mandate, FAITH will develop appropriate infrastructure and hire experts to market India overseas. The association will look after every aspect of marketing. FAITH will be responsible for formulating marketing plans, executing them and achieve the given target. It will be held accountable if it misses the target. All marketing activities of FAITH will be in alignment with the policy and objectives of the Government.”

Effective collaboration between government and private players can do wonder for India’s tourism sector. Singh says that the government has its own style of working which doesn’t allow for faster decision-making in line with today’s demand and competitive tourism marketing and promotion; and therefore, the government should not get directly involved in marketing. “The private sector is more suitable to promote India. The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) should focus on other activities like policy-making and their effective implementation,” he stresses.

Key points:

  • With the pandemic considerably under control in the country, India is better-positioned to revive its inbound tourism sector early on.
  • India’s immediate target should be to regain its pre-Covid FTA number in two years.
  • To achieve the pre-Covid level of inbound tourism at the earliest, India needs to restart its marketing activities immediately with new approach.
  • Destination marketing to be driven by the private sector.
  • Government’s role shall be limited to providing broader guidance, funds and monitoring the outcome.
  • FAITH should play leading role in marketing India.

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