Comments of Prateek Hira to Travel Magazine T3FS in Cover story : BJP – A Game Changer for Travel Industry?

“Last four years have been tough for the tourism industry. With falling arrivals, loss in traditional markets and increased competition both within and with other destinations it has been tough.

Strategic planning for tourism took a back seat in this government. Tourism seemed not to be a priority area, especially if one talks of inbound tourism. Of course, domestic tourism was quite seriously taken up but given the recent depletion of foreign exchange reserves, inbound tourism could have come in quite handy and to a large extent could have addressed the issue. GST on luxury rooms and many other tourism-related services is killing as 18-28% seems to be adding up to the overall costs and making the cost of travel quite high.

With the new tourism minister Mr. K.J. Alphons taking over we were quite upbeat, but for some reason on ground, realities were not as expected. Synchronization between the center and state governments seemed missing in tourism. Third largest foreign tourist arrival state of India, Uttar Pradesh refused to project itself internationally and even its mega-event Kumbh did not figure in any international promotions in any trade-fare abroad, this in spite of the fact that both the center and the state have same and full majority governments. Agra, home to Taj Mahal suddenly got neglected and the tourism industry in Agra is quite demoralized with such a step-motherly treatment being accorded to it. State Capital of Lucknow is one example of the derailment of on-going projects even those nearing completion and those that could have been a game changer for tourism. Same was the case with the state of Uttrakhand.

Government at the center could have brought the states in sync with its own tourism agenda if at all it had one, at least those where the governments were same. Unfortunately, it did not happen and there was also no interdepartmental understanding in this regard.

In its last phase, government of India can still turn the tables and not only clarify its priority status on tourism but also spell out its agenda for future.

There would be many questions that the government will have to answer to the tourism industry and surely tourism industry would want to know if tourism would at all be a priority of the next government. Also, the industry seeks to know, what will be next government’s stand on tourism development in its next term. States that are ruled by BJP will also have an impact on center’s election and so tourism will figure-in and industry’s voting pattern will be quite dependent on how states have treated tourism in their own turfs.

I am particularly seeing areas that were neglected or left un-cared being a tough call. Tourism Industry in India is quite small and seldom drives elections but the general perception of development and growth are evident by the way tourism develops in the country. Also, tourism is directly linked to country’s international image, which seldom our governments realise.

It would be worthwhile that before the election, tourism appears in the party’s manifesto and it spells out its time-bound strategy on tourism. Many places in India where the economy is driven by tourism might be a tough call. As rightly stated by this government itself that times have come when development and growth will be the deciding factor of government formation. Tourism is an integral part of the development and surely helps in perception building of a country thus cannot be overlooked.” Mr. Hira commented on 2019 elections.”