Prateek Hira’s Interview to TTJ-Travel Magazine

Prateek Hira (Chairman – IATO , Uttar Pradesh & Uttrakhand; President & CEO Tornos) Speaks to Bharti Sharma of TTJ in the backdrop of IATO’s 35th Convention in Calcutta (Published TTJ September)…..

Tourism Industry in India is going through a rough patch, specifically the inbound trade. The competition among the destinations is one aspect and then not so timely and war-like approach of our governments is yet another to counter issue that have kept growth at bay.

IATO is the torch bearing association of inbound tour operators and has relentlessly worked in this domain. Today in challenging times its relevance is even more important. IATO is one association that has always thought of its members’ benefits in the larger interest of our country, and based on current issues that plague the industry, IATO rakes up these at the right forums to get these sorted out and addressed. Most recent example is that of visa fee that India had suddenly revised and this move of our country was being criticized everywhere, especially when tourist traffic was declining for India and business was bleak. IATO effectively got it sorted out and the fee was not only reduced but also made rational by way of further reduction in off-season charges. Our members have regional and local level issues and these too are escalated at the right forums with the highest authorities and in time these too are addressed efficiently and effectively.

IATO proactively advices governments both at centre and state levels and its professional advices are benefiting the nation and the industry. Government too comes forward to take IATOs views on matters related to tourism and this synergy is indeed working well for the benefit of our country at large. There are many unsolved issues though that IATO has vowed to address in the due course, especially to address the issue of lowly number of incoming tourists, loss in traditional markets and high GST on hotels which I am sure will be addressed and set right in due course.

Growth of tourism, especially inbound tourists in UR and Uttarakhand may not have been as it could have, and surely nothing as compared to their huge potential. Undoubtedly states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand are trying their very best, but somehow missing the race.

Another issue is the tourism competitive readiness of the states viz a viz other states. Somehow states of UP and Uttarakhand still are not able to tap the full potential and benefits that foreign tourists can bring in for them. Sooner they realise, better for them. Tourism can have far reaching positive economic and social effects that can turn tables around and address many current issues that these states grapple with.

IATO has been playing a positive role to plug all these loopholes and states too are quite forthcoming to accept its suggestions which | am sure will soon set things right and the two states will emerge as preferred states for incoming foreign tourists, as they are for the domestic travellers.

IATO convention is the most looked forward to calendar event for inbound tour operators in India. What has been their contribution to the association and towards the success of the chapter? The fact is that it is beyond networking and partying. It is a collective learning experience that each tour operator should attend.

Today businesses are tough and tougher is its management. In such circumstances it is very important to learn from each other, synergise our efforts and have a collaborative business in place, rather than having a secluded business. IATO convention gives a platform to strengthen and sharpen one’s business acumen and hold the bull by its horns. Tour operators must never miss IATO’s convention if they really have to learn new trends in tourism, meet like-minded people, differentiate in trade and emerge a winner in business. Members of IATO should attend IATOs convention with an open mind and I believe all sessions are equally important and give some input or another to carry home.

Favourite convention ? : Chennai 2016.

Favourite President ? : President is a democratic choice and the best deserving man is placed as one, thus our present President, Pronab Sarkar is the favorite.

What do you carry home from every convention? : Knowledge, Tricks of Trade, New Trends, Connections and Networking.