TTW – Can you tell me in brief about how IATO came into existence? What was the idea behind setting up an association which caters to the Indian tourism industry?
Subhash Goyal :
IATO was founded in 1982 with merely 7 members. It came into existence because we wanted to convince the Ministry of Tourism about the difference between a travel agent and a tourism industry”. Tourism Industry had no real representation. Thus to cater to the interests of tourism industry, IATO was formed and at that time the international tourism arrival was only 1 million and today we have 1500 members and the international tourist arrival is about 6 million. If Visa on Arrival is introduced from other tourism friendly countries, international tourist arrival will further increase.
TTW – Can you tell us if the Indian travel trade benefits from your association, if so, then how?
Subhash Goyal :
Travel trade is greatly benefitted from the association, because we work very closely with the centre and state government. We disseminate timely information to the members about the change in government policies, airlines, hotels etc. Also IATO organises Road Shows in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and India Tourism Offices abroad and all members who are recognised by the Ministry of Tourism Govt. of India are eligible to participate. All these road shows are covered under Marketing Development Assistance by the Ministry of Tourism. During last one year, we have organised road shows in UK, Tel Aviv, Vietnam, Poland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Oman, Turkey, Italy, USA, Brazil and Argentina.
Besides, IATO organises every month a meeting for its members and we invite experts from various fields, government officials from various ministries, airlines head for interaction with the members. Annual convention is held every year where we have participation of over 1400 delegates including tourism ministers from the state government, senior officials from the government departments, airlines, hotels, tour operators.. This give our members an excellent opportunity for interaction. Hence members are highly benefited.
TTW: How many members IATO possess and mainly from which sectors?
Subhash Goyal :
Presently we have over 1500 members which include tour operators, travel agents, hotels, airlines, state tourism departments, tourism educational institutes etc. Membership is from all over India and neighbouring countries. Also some of the overseas trade association like USTOA, ASITA, NATO, NTA are members of our association.
TTW: What are the initiatives taken by IATO to showcase Incredible India on the international podium?
Subhash Goyal : IATO is taking all measures to promote Indian tourism by its members participating in various important international trade travel marts like WTM, ITB, FITUR, TOP RESSA, ARABIAN TRAVEL MART, TTG RIMINI. We go there in large numbers and participate under India National Pavilion set up by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. Besides IATO organises Road Shows in various countries in coordination with Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, where our members participate in large numbers. Our members also go for Sales and Marketing overseas to promote India tourism.
TTW: With the appointment of New Minister of Tourism, are there any new or revised propositions from IATO given to the ministry?
Subhash Goyal : The New Tourism Minister is very dynamic and we hope tourism will flourish under his leadership. Immediately after taking over as the Tourism Minister, he started the New campaign which is very imaginative, focused and showcase the riot of color which is the main attraction of Indian tourism. As country, India exhibits greater ‘Differentiation’ and ‘Relevance’ than many countries and thus stands for customer’s preference. India always has something plus to present and so the tagline ‘Go Beyond’ is very apt.
TTW: How do you foresee 2013-14 for Indian tourism industry?
Subhash Goyal : At the time when India is facing the pressure of high inflation and global and political uncertainty, there are new challenges looming large. Rupee fall against dollar, air tickets cost sky rocketing, high taxation with rise in service tax in successive budget, tax on Air Turbine Fuel and if this trend continues there could be a server downward trend in international tourist arrivals in 2013. This can have a ripple effect in the economy. Tourism helps in creating jobs and boost foreign exchange earnings and that also go down.
At least one good thing is visible ie India’s strong economic fundamentals and its resilience at a time of growing global uncertainties. Reforms for retails, insurance and aviation are giving positive indications for business scene and help in sustaining the growth momentum of the Indian economy. This will boost image of India and in turn bring more tourists. Even airports have been modernized and Air India has been revamped. It has increased air seat capacity from many overseas Countries. Many new countries are expected to start airline operations like from Brazil from South Africa, Canada and this gives a positive prospects for 2013. I am confident 2013 augurs well for Indian Tourism.
Occupancy and room rates of the hospitality industry are showing progressive upward trend and 2013 would be a turning point. Hotel industry is pinning a substantial growth from December 2012 Christmas seasons and all through the first quarter of 2013 (Jan-March).
There is consumer confidence as is visible from the bookings growth, as I understand from trade partners and demand is improving which our members felt in course of 20 plus road shows we had organized in traffic generating markets. Ministry of Tourism’s pro-active ‘Brand Building’ under Incredible India Campaign has started showing its result. Even visa problems are now streamlined and more countries are expected to be included under visa-on-arrival policy of the Government of India, with active persuasion of the Ministry of Tourism and Travel Trade where IATO is actively involved. Government is also doing its best to manage rupee volatility and Tour Operators are taking up innovative programmes focusing on niche tourism packages in tune with the market demand. They are also participating in many new market ‘Travel Shows’ like in China, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil to get clients from these unexplored markets and for the first time specially form Latin America.