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"It is estimated that one out of every nine new jobs around the world will be a tourism related job and one new job will be created in every 2.4 seconds every day for the next several years."

Subhash Goyal,
Chairman, Stic Travels Group

Incredible India Campaign has led to incredible results

Mr. Subhash Goyal, PHD, M.B.A, B.Com. (Hora Gold Medallist) is the Chairman of STIC Travels Group, one of the biggest airline marketing company with 43 branches all over India. Currently the President of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), he has been unanimously re-elected to this office for two more years (2005-2006). He has also served as IATO's President for two earlier terms (1994-2000). Besides, Mr. Goyal is Chairman of ASSOCHAM's Expert Committee on Tourism and Aviation & Co-Chairman of the Civil Aviation Committee of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India.

He is also associated with several Govt. bodies and contributes frequently to National dailies and magazines on tourism/aviation subjects. Mr. Goyal is a well-known TV personality frequently appearing on STAR News, ZEE News, Aaj Tak, Sahara, NDTV, DD News for interviews/ discussions/ talks. Mr. Goyal, who is also the author of a book entitled "Poverty Eradication & Economic Development Through Tourism" (which has won him wide recognition and acclaim), spared some time to answer some questions filed by Bhuwan Sharma of Amity EduMedia.

Here is a verbatim reproduction of the answers given by Mr. Goyal.

Why should anyone come to India in preference to other known holiday attractions? What are our selling points?

The Sunday Times in one of its issues this year writes about India: “From the proud palaces of Rajasthan to the serene backwaters of Kerala, India’s variety is inexhaustible.”

Yes, the most important unique selling points of India include the variety and beauty of India’s mountain ranges, colorful deserts, green rain forests, virgin beaches and holiest rivers besides its history, culture, religion and people.

Besides India has architectural wonders like the Taj Mahal, The Golden Temple, Jama Masjid, Jain temples of Mount Abu, Khajuraho temples, The Sun Temple, Trimurti and many more. It is also the birthplace of four great religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

All these makes India the greatest show on the planet Earth and attractive to the tourists from all over the world.

Even with the recent boom, tourists coming to India are still just a fraction of those in such popular Asian destinations as Bangkok or Singapore. Why? Have we failed on the tourism-marketing front?

It is true that though the foreign arrivals crossed the 3.37 million against 2.38 million in 2002, the figures are still far behind our neighbours like Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. In fact, Indian tourism’s share in world market is only around .05%.

But India’s failure to compete successfully with our neighbours is not so much because of our failure on marketing front as it is because of poor infrastructure, multiplicity of taxes, complexities and complications involved in issuance of visa and general poor law and order situation besides the undue publicity that the country gets due to incidents of terrorism in some parts of the country.

But we must say to the credit of the Tourism Ministry that its successful launching of the Incredible India Campaign has led to incredible results. It is as a result of this campaign that Indian tourism grew by 25% in volume (tourist arrivals) and 36% in value (in U.S. Dollars terms) in 2004-2005. The success of this campaign, which is an indispensable part of our marketing strategy, has also led to the following achievements:

India has been rated among the top 5 favourite destinations by Lonely Planet in a survey of 134 countries and among top 5 destinations of the world by i explore. The National Geographic Traveler has described India as “ Land of Mystery and Majesty” and Forbes says that “ India is now one of the world’s fastest growing travel markets.”

Industry experts say that in order to attract more visitors, India needs to upgrade its airports, roads and other infrastructure to global standards. Your comments.

There is no doubt that with the unprecedented growth both in Tourism and Civil Aviation in recent past, it is incumbent upon us to create the matching infrastructure to avert the possibility of turning the boom into the doom.

Our 3-4 star hotels, especially in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi, are not only over booked but their tariffs are much higher compared to similar hotels in neighbouring countries.

It is estimated that India is already short of about 1,50,000 hotel rooms – and this number is going to increase with more travelers coming to India in the years to come.

The solution, so far as I can see, lies either in making available to private entrepreneurs land on concessional rates or allowing the existing hotels to add more rooms in the existing floors.

Besides we have to have a larger number of luxury vehicles, air taxis, shopping complexes, roads and highways etc. etc.

Also to ensure the projected growth in the field of Civil Aviation, we have to build and expand infrastructure.

The existing airports are in a mess with ever growing passenger traffic and cargo movement. We need to have more parking bays and look into the slot requirements of the airlines and their flight schedules.

The recent incident at Mumbai airport, in which an Air Sahara aircraft skidded off the runway, delaying several flights for more than 2/3 days, has highlighted the need for better facilities at our airports if we are to cope with the boom in Civil Aviation.

Currently, there are 120 airports out of which only 90 are operational. Just 10 out of them carry a passenger load of 80%; five airports of these 10 make money in real terms.

Thus there is an urgent need for not only more but also bigger and better airports with latest facilities of the international standards.

Do you think that medical tourism will become the next big thing in India? Does your company have something up its sleeves to cater to this segment of tourists?

Medical Tourism, no doubt, has big future in India. Thousands of patients are coming to India, particularly from the U.S., the U.K, Africa and the Middle East countries for Bye Pass Surgery, Plastic Surgery and also for the treatment of dental and orthopaedic ailments.

The boom in Medical Tourism in India can be attributed to comparatively less expenses on surgeries and treatments compared to the same in more advanced countries like U.S. and U.K. Even our doctors are among the best in the world and the technology used by them is also among the most advanced used the world over.

The cost of a bye-pass surgery, for instance, is about 1/6 th of the expenses incurred in the U.K. or any other advanced country.

India attracted around 1,50,000 patients from abroad in 2004 for treatment/surgeries marking a 15% growth in the Medical Tourism segment.

India has the potential to attract 10 lakh health tourists annually, which is expected to contribute up to 5 billion U.S. Dollars to the country’s economy.

So far as STIC Travel Group of companies is concerned we have recently entered in Medical Tourism with a tie up with The World Healthcare Network, a US based healthcare facilitator. STICcare, an initiative of the STIC Travel Group, and its U.S. Partner have set up an organisation, to provide international patients access to world class Indian treatment at a fraction of western prices.

An MOU for this purpose has already been signed between our group and the WHN.

We propose to jointly develop a network of world class hospital facilities in India providing medical care for patients from the United States.

Are you happy with the developments that have taken place in the aviation sector in the past few years? Is there stiffer competition in the offing? Do travelers deserve more?

Some of the developments that have taken place in the Aviation sector in the past few years are as follows: emergence of the low budget airlines like Air Deccan, Kingfisher, Air Sahara, SpiceJet and Paramount.

  • a keen competition not only among the above mentioned low budget airlines but also among them and the regular airlines – both domestic and international.
  • fall in air ticket prices as a result of this competition, which has made air travel affordable for the common man.
  • the move of the airlines – both in the Public and the Private sectors to buy more and more airplanes to add to their fleet, either through direct purchase or leasing them from aviation companies.
  • steps in the direction of modernization and expansion of existing airports at metro and non-metro cities.
  • a tremendous growth in aircraft movement as well as passenger traffic in 2004-05 (financial year).

In view of the above developments, one can certainly look forward to a stiffer competition among different airlines – both low budget and regular airlines and possible fall in the prices of air tickets for different destinations – both domestic and international.

Certainly the travellers deserve more both in terms of lower fares and also better facilities. It is heartening to note that airlines are already moving in that direction.

Where do you see India’s travel and tourism sector five to ten years down the line?

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism in India is estimated to grow at 8.8% ahead of China over the next 10 years.

India is now one of the world’s fastest growing markets – in both directions. Revenue from traveling to India is expected to reach U.S.$ 6 billion this year and to grow to U.S.$ 24 billion by 2015. Indians traveling abroad are expected to spend U.S.$ 25 billion this year and U.S.$ 63 billion by 2015.

What are the key skills necessary for professionals planning to venture into the travel and tourism industry?

Some of the key skills required to make success in the tourism related segments are as follows:

  • workable knowledge of the geographical locations globally
  • information on airlines – both domestic and international
  • the study and mastery of the culture, history, ethos of the country and its important monuments and places of tourist interest.
  • command over atleast one or two foreign languages besides Hindi or English and a good communication power.
  • an amicable and friendly temperament and willingness to accommodate and basic knowledge of public relation strategies.

What is the current employment situation in the travel and tourism sector? Does India have sufficient and the right educational institutions to produce the increased manpower that would be required in the future?

It is my firm belief that the only way to provide the teeming millions with gainful employment and eradicate poverty is through tourism.

In India tourism is providing employment to over 25 million people and with proper planning, this figure could easily double in 10 years reaching 100 million mark in the next 15 to 20 years.

It is estimated that one out of every nine new jobs around the world will be a tourism related job and one new job will be created in every 2.4 seconds every day for the next several years.

It is, therefore, my suggestion that tourism should form part of the present government’s agenda and made into a mass movement for eradication of poverty which has been and shall remain one of the most important objectives of any government.

As for the institutes for training of tourism professionals, a large number of them have already come up in the recent past in different parts of the country and more are due in future. What is more important is not having too many institutes but maintaining international standards and making the courses suitable for meeting the professional needs of the industry.

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