The Key Flaw In The Indian Tourism Industry

22/07/2015 12:49 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

"Make in India" is an enchanting slogan rallying the global investment community to come to India and manufacture their products in India. The objective is to attract capital and technological investment and thereby achieve large scale job creation and skill enhancement. All good.

There are 25-odd priority sectors identified in the "Make in India" campaign, and critics along with commentators are all busy pronouncing their verdicts on the performance of the government on the completion of its first year. However, in the entire debate, the Tourism Sector has not found any mention, which incidentally appears to be the second last priority (at least on the page), of the website.

Tourism is a low hanging fruit: If developed with strategy and single-minded devotion with the end customer interests in mind, it has the potential to generate large scale employment in both urban and rural areas. India is a country blessed with natural bounties and a rich composite cultural kaleidoscope like no other. In fact, India is a continent often pretending to be a country! By any comparison, if India sets its objectives right, it can give other countries a run for their money. The potential is humungous but India is punching well below its weight. This sector today, much more than capital, needs professionalisation and discipline to practise the science and techniques of creating immersive and engaging travel experiences for tourists both Indian and foreign and serve them with charm, elegance and sincerity. The intent is not just to make money. It should be to create memories. Seamless, stress-free and end-to-end services that cater to 'every segment' and strata of the tourist population and consistent service quality at every single touch point in the journey of the traveller.

Professionalism: It is erroneous to assume that India's Tourism Sector's problem is lack of capital. Add a dozen five star hotels and spas and resorts and we are good to go is a wrong assumption. India's problem lies in its unorganised, ill-trained, inarticulate, unaccountable tourism departments, and synergy-less private sector professionals and operators. Tourism board officials who have event-organiser mentality, a staff that cannot care less about the results, and finally the lower-rung staff who are the actual frontline people with no training whatsoever are entirely non-indulgent. I heard from a foreign journalist attending a large tourism MICE-related event that he would avoid returning to India to cover any event. It so happened that the accommodation provided to him was shoddy; he cited an example of how empty wrappers and match sticks were conveniently brushed under the bed by the cleaning staff. Here was the glimpse of the "atithiti devo bahava" treatment by tourism board officials who invited the journalists to cover the event at the exchequers cost, and yet our backbone cringes to offer the basic courtesies like a decent room and amenities so as to not distract the journalists good intents of covering the event positively. Here was the word-of-mouth publicity and a first-hand experience that would be read/ broadcast around the world. Tourism boards and its mullazims require a orientation course in principles of services industry and cross-cultural communication competencies.

Us and Them: We don't need a wishbone, we need a backbone if we want to resurrect tourism and its glorious potential in this country. The tourism website looks depressing and the policies are a rif-raf sloganeering. The execution is piecemeal and fragmented. Just to cite an example, Singapore was once upon a time was a mosquito-infested village in the backwaters, today it is a shining example of a daring, disciplined and a world class tourist hotspot. We will delve deeper into it in the later part of the series of article. Malaysia has carved a niche for itself with its infrastructure. Ditto with a young country like New Zealand which has seamless tourism infrastructure that acts as a backbone coupled with top-notch tourism professionals leaving the travellers enchanted forever.

This is the first in a three part series. The following post will explore the steps to focus for making India a proud success in global tourism and earning top dollars.

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