For those who believed the words of senior tourism ministry officials that the department is ready with the global campaign to roll it out the moment the international borders reopened, it’s time for rethinking. International borders have opened up and scheduled operations of flights have started long back, but still, there is no indication of any activity whatsoever in the name of international marketing and promotions on the part of the government in overseas markets. For the inbound industry which has been on the receiving end for the last many few seasons due to the global pandemic, this indecision on the part of the government is proving costly.
The inbound season in India starts from September onwards till April next year. While various foreign tourism boards have reactivated their marketing and promotion activities in India, India tourism is yet to begin any activity in overseas markets to re-engage the overseas agents to promote the destination Incredible India.
While the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India along with the Indian missions abroad have started Incredible India Reconnect 2022 virtual road shows in some markets, the trade says that the interest and attendance of overseas agents are not encouraging in those events.
The trade questions the rationale of continuing with virtual shows when the world has fully opened up and wants to reconnect physically. “There is very little attendance in many of these virtual B2B shows,” validates a senior MICE operator.
“India is totally missing from the brochure programmes of leading foreign operators,” he added. The industry feels that it was a good opportunity for India to gain the spotlight as the rest of the world is still under distress of different types.
The indecision in relation to participation in important global travel markets is also a matter of great concern for Indian trade. There is still uncertainty about Indian tourism participating in the forthcoming WTM in London. Considering the current delays in UK Visas, any last-minute decision to participate in the show would end up in tokenism without creating any value for the destination or stakeholders, they say.
“It’s really a sad state of affairs,” said a senior official of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the national trade association of inbound tour operators. “The interest in India as a tourist destination is totally missing at this moment,” he said. He attributes it to two major reasons. One, a complete absence of marketing and promotion activities by Indian tourism in overseas markets, and number two, the skyrocketing airfares.
“In this situation, if we are able to get one-third of the traffic that we used to get in the pre-pandemic times, we should feel lucky,” he said.
IATO was also critical of the way the government has entrusted the tourism promotion mandate to Indian missions without empowering them with adequate funds for tourism marketing and promotions.
With no funds, various support schemes of the Tourism Ministry like Market Development Assistance (MDA) are in limbo. “We are told that there are no funds,” said an operator from Kerala who applied for his eligible MDA in April this year.
While the tourism industry in India survived the onslaught of the global pandemic riding on the back of the domestic travel market, the business has been skewed towards a few components of the travel eco-system like OTAs, hotels, etc. The vast majority of the stakeholders of the travel eco-system like travel agents, tour operators, tourist transporters and tourist guides have been without work even after the market reopening.
“We have been jobless for almost three years now. We don’t see any interest whatsoever on the part of the government to resume overseas promotions. Inbound tourism is key as it not only generates vital foreign exchange for the country and at the same time supports employment at different levels of the economy,” says a senior Tourist guide from Delhi and an office bearer of the Regional Tourist Guides Federation.