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The 37th IATO Annual Convention held from December 16 to 19, 2022 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

The theme of the convention was INBOUND TOURISM- What Lies Ahead!

Ravi Gosain-Vice President was the Chairman of the convention along with Sunil Mishra-Hony. Treasurer and Prateek Hira-Chairman, IATO Uttar Pradesh Chapter was the Co-Chairmen as was announced by Rajiv Mehra, the President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators in the 40th Annual General Meeting held in New Delhi in November.

The inaugural function was held at Indira Gandhi Pratishthan, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow and the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Yogi Adityanath had given his kind consent to grace the occasion with his presence and inaugurate the convention. The Centrum Lucknow was the venue hotel and all other activities including registration for the convention, business sessions and evening programmes was held at The Centrum, Lucknow.

We expected about 900-1000 delegates from all over the country to participate, including senior officials from the Ministry of Tourism, the Government of India and States, industry leaders, tourism and hospitality professionals and travel trade media. Post-Convention Tours to Ayodhya and Varanasi were an added attraction for this year’s convention. 5 post-convention tours were being organised in various sectors. This year we expected larger participation from the state Government as every state is keen to re-instate inbound tourism to their respective states, said Rajiv Mehra.

During the three days convention, there was deliberations on burning issues during the business sessions being finalised and we had experts in all fields, said Rajiv Mehra.

By Aanchal Sachdeva


RAJIV MEHRA- President IATO

Agenda for the organisation of the IATO Convention

The agenda is to focus on the THEME and seek viable inputs from the Ministry of Tourism, Participating States and key players in the private sector comprising leading tour operators and hotel chains. The networking Luncheons and Dinners would stimulate the required interaction. 

IATO as the common medium between the decision-makers and the industry and its expectations in terms of tourism facilitation

The participation of the Ministry of Tourism, the Government of India and the State Governments are in itself huge support to IATO. Their inputs at the deliberations and informal networking also add that requisite meaningful angle. The government’s expectations regarding tourism facilitation have already been outlined in your first question.

Opportunities offered to the delegates of the travel and tourism sector

The Industry is looking up to businesses leaving Covid behind and at the IATO Convention, the setting is apt with the Theme of the convention. The Convention will offer opportunities to the delegates in the form of a well-appointed inaugural, crafted Business Sessions, and a Special Session by UP Tourism and State Presentations. The participation by the policymakers and the stalwarts from the private sector would offer ample opportunities and input for the delegates.

Significant benchmarks to be achieved

  • Announcement of physical road shows in target countries under the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism
  • Reduction in airfares by reducing taxes on ATF by the centre and the State Governments
  • Discussion on the restoration of e-Tourist Visa for international travellers from the countries such as the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and more
  • Validity of 5 lakh free tourist visa to be extended till March 2024
  • The participating states to kindly consider giving space to tour operators outside the state as a part of their team going for the road shows as these tour operators also promote the states of India
  • To continue SEIS for the Tour Operators in the forthcoming Foreign Trade Policy 2022-27

Panel discussions and sessions post-convention

There will be a business session in key areas of tourism in the format of a Panel Discussion, Presentations will be made by the Participating States and there would be a special session on Uttar Pradesh Tourism.

Uttar Pradesh and Lucknow as thrust regions and potential sectors for Tourism

With the inaugural address by the Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a strong band of 700 plus tour operators at the convention deliberating and participating in the key business and State Presentations, a session on Uttar Pradesh, culminating in the post-convention tours at the strategic tourist sites of Uttar Pradesh catering to onsite marketing of the destinations of Uttar Pradesh, the city of Lucknow and the state of Uttar Pradesh would experience a boost in tourism with the convention.


RAVI GOSAIN – Chairman 37th IATO Convention & Vice President IATO

Key Proposals during the Convention

We are going back to Uttar Pradesh after 26 years for our 37th IATO annual convention to be held in Lucknow. IATO Convention is the marquee event for tourism in India where professionals from the tourism and hospitality industry gather at one place for networking, exchanging ideas and rebuilding their relationships. This year we are expecting over 1000 delegates for the period of 3 days. We are planning meaningful educational sessions for the delegates which may help them to reshape their businesses post-pandemic. We have negotiated special rates from hotels, and airlines and kept our registration fee unchanged from last year to attract a large number of members to attend the convention.

IATO’s glorious legacy and the way forward

IATO is the apex body of inbound tour operators in India and its leadership has always worked to secure members’ interests since its inception. With every passing year, IATO is becoming the stronger voice of the tourism industry with the central as well as various state governments. In the future, we are planning to brainstorm and explore various avenues to make it useful for members.

Department of Tourism bucking up to bring back the lost glory of Indian hospitality and tourism

During the pandemic, we were in regular touch with the ministry of tourism, and the government of India for facilitating our members be it through the opening of international borders, resuming flights, Indian e-visa, relaxing covid protocols for travel and many more. Now that borders are opened and most of the flight schedules are resuming we are pushing the tourism ministry for aggressive overseas marketing in international media both digital and print, as well as full-fledged participation at international trade fairs, multi-country roadshows and inviting FTOs on familiarisation trips to India. We are glad a few of mentioned activities are already undertaken in promoting inbound tourism but still a lot has to be done and we are happy with the proactive approach from senior government officials at the centre. Together we have to synergise efforts to bring back tourism to India. Apart from this IATO is also actively participating with the Tourism ministry for revamping the Incredible India portal and setting up the National tourism digital mission, lots of manhours and work have already been done under this.  IATO is also cooperating with state tourism departments in developing new product lines and educating our members by organising seminars and study tours.

IATO’s international acceptance and linkages

Moving forward we are also in touch with various international tourism trade bodies and signing MOU with them for promoting tourism and business among our members.


PRATEEK HIRA – Co-Chairman 37th IATO Convention & Uttar Pradesh Chapter Chairman IATO

Game changers for Uttar Pradesh tourism making tourism one of the key drivers for the economic growth of the state

Uttar Pradesh is central to tourism in India. Since tourism started in India, the Taj Mahal has been one monument that has helped India achieve its numbers and until the present, it is recognized as India tourism’s mascot. Similarly, Varanasi has been a centre of attraction for a long time for tourists wanting to understand the spirituality and culture of India and this goes for both, inbound and domestic. Kumbh in Prayagraj has been yet another product that has left the world awestruck with its unimaginable numbers and smooth operations despite all being the world’s largest congression.

Recently, Uttar Pradesh has rediscovered itself giving the world its newest destination, Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama. Now next in the line are Mathura, Vindhyachal and the region of Bundelkhand which are being spruced up for tourism and huge tourism infrastructure is being developed in all these places. We will very soon get to see and experience a plethora of tourist destinations in Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from this, UP is strengthening itself in River Tourism, Rural Tourism, Wildlife and Eco-Tourism which will be a game changer for the tourism destiny of the state.

A New Tourism policy recently launched by Uttar Pradesh incentivises all domains of tourism and is by far the most well-planned policy with an emphasis on smooth implementation. I am very hopeful that in only a few years, all potholes that till now were responsible for retarding the growth of tourism in Uttar Pradesh will be cemented. After all, it is the vision of our Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to see UP as a $1 Trillion Economy and tourism is one of the key areas that will contribute to achieving it.

Strategies deployed for the betterment of Uttar Pradesh’s medical tourism

The tourism policy of 2022 has clearly emphasized Medical & Wellness Tourism in Uttar Pradesh. We are very few states that have given just the right push to alternative medicines and are bringing it to the frontline along with the modern medicine system.

City of NOIDA, Lucknow, Gorakpur and Varanasi have excelled in medical facilities with world-class hospitals and medical colleges. Our medical response system was put to test during COVID but we are proud to say that UP proved its mantle and surprisingly UP was the best in COVID management despite being the most populous state of India.

You would be surprised to know that Patanjali, the sage who is known as the father of Yog (Yoga) was born in Uttar Pradesh so it is imperative that as a tribute to him, we excel in preventive and alternative medicines. Uttar Pradesh’s thrust is holistic – spiritual, mind, body and soul.

Working closely with tour operators for robust growth in Uttar Pradesh tourism

IATO is the only apex body of tour operators in India that works in synergy with the union and the state governments for the betterment of tourism. We have always believed that working in tandem with the ministry of tourism and state tourism departments will be beneficial for tourism and then only we as businesses can benefit.

Uttar Pradesh has always taken along the stakeholders while planning for tourism and the state has always come forward to empower the travel trade so as they reach the benefits of its policy and schemes announced from time to time. IATO works to empower its members and bridge the gaps between the tourism departments, its policies and its members to iron out all issues that our members face. In the area of skill development too, IATO has been working very closely with its members to empower them with knowledge and provide an edge to them in the market. The voice of IATO is heard, and the voice of IATO is the voice of its members.

Sustainable tourism initiatives are taken by Uttar Pradesh tourism

The state of Uttar Pradesh has experienced a surge in tourist arrivals and sighting this, it became imperative that it comes up with a robust policy on tourism along with it, it became important that its policy confirms the sustainable and responsible tourism that lies at the core of new-age tourism. In the new tourism policy, there is a huge 360-degree thrust on sustainable and responsible tourism in Uttar Pradesh. Special incentives are being offered to such projects and entrepreneurs are being encouraged to adhere to sustainable practices in tourism. Not only is UP upgrading and enhancing its infrastructure but is doing all this, confirming sustainable practices.

Below extract from UP Tourism Policy 2022 will clarify the thrust of Uttar Pardesh on Sustainable & Responsible Tourism:-

  1. Eligible tourism units would be reimbursed up to 75% of the cost of carrying out energy audit by a recognized institution/ consultant, water harvesting/conservation and environment-friendly practices like green buildings, solar and other renewable energy measures, subject to a maximum amount of INR 1 lakh per unit. The amount shall be disbursed only once during the operative period of the policy. Subject to a maximum of two individual units per year per entity post submission of the certificate stating the sustainability of the unit.
  2. Reimbursement of 20% of the capital cost of setting up effluent/ sewerage treatment plant subject to a maximum of INR 20 Lakh per unit; subject to a maximum of two individual units per year per entity.
  3. Reimbursement of 50% of the certification fee paid, up to Rs 10 lakh to a hotel/wellness resort obtaining Green Building Certification under IGBC / GRIHA / LEED or any such international accreditation/ certification as identified by the board from time to time
  4. Reimbursement of 50% of certification fees paid, up to Rs 5 Lakh to tour operator for obtaining GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) certification through GSTC accredited agencies e. 100% reimbursement on achieving the certifications and standards from the Responsible Tourism Society of India, for up to an amount of INR 1 Lakh, subject to a maximum of two units per year.

E M NAJEEBVice President IATO

Areas of interest to be touched upon for better representation of the Indian Tourism
We shall touch upon the key area of Inbound Tourism. In this facet, we shall dwell upon Marketing, Connectivity, Infrastructure, Relationships between Hoteliers and Tour Operators, New Ideas, Neighborhood Tourism and of course projecting Uttar Pradesh as a leading tourism destination. Policy issues and impediments faced by our members will be taken up with the Ministry of Tourism, the Government of India and the participating State Governments also.

Key proposals during the convention
The convention is a platform to deliberate on the key agenda as outlined above. It is generic in nature. The key issues and the suggested proposals are documented and taken up with the relevant government authority continuously throughout the year. At the convention, we shall briefly touch upon a few very important issues like Physical Roadshows and the opening up of E Visa for the UK, Canada, Germany and other European countries.

IATO’s glorious legacy and the way forward
IATO will continue its winning run like before in the service of our valued members. We shall endeavour to identify the key problems faced by our members in the realm of tourism and meet up with the policymakers to address them over a one-to-one meeting, document it and follow it up at intervals till we reach a logical conclusion. Our IATO Convention will be the forum for members to interact among themselves, exchange ideas, engage with policymakers and onsite marketing of destinations.

Department of Tourism bucking up to bring back the lost glory of Indian hospitality and tourism
The need of the hour is physical roadshows in target countries under the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism. The government needed to start physical Marketing and Promotions; Participation in major international travel marts/fairs and Road Shows, we have requested that the required funds may be allocated to the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India for this purpose: overseas marketing and promotions through electronic and print media can be an add on; reduction in airfares by reducing taxes on ATF by the centre and the State Governments; restoration of e-Tourist Visa for the international travellers from the countries such as the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain etc. and Validity of 5 lakh free tourist visa to be extended till March 2024. IATO wrote to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Tourism Minister, High Commissioner of India in London and Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Tourism.
Tour operators who are recognized by the Ministry of Tourism Government of India are being issued Commercial Airport Entry Passes on payment, to receive foreign tourists at the airport and to the departure hall immigration counters to facilitate foreign tourists. Mumbai International Airport Ltd. has recently increased the Charges for Airport Entry Passes exorbitantly for the tour operators i.e. Rs. 168785 plus GST Rs. 30382 total of Rs. 199167/-  for one year pass with effect from 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023. Similarly, the charges for airport entry passes in Delhi and other metro cities are very high. It is requested that charges should be reduced and should not be more than Rs. 72000/- plus GST for one year (Rs. 6000/ per month) for airports in Tier – 1 city and proportionately be reduced for airports in Tier-2 and Tier – 3 cities.
Since the current Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 is likely to be replaced by a new Foreign Trade Policy, IATO recommended that: The benefit of the SEIS scheme should be continued for the tour operators and travel agencies for the next 5 years. In case SEIS is not going to be continued, an alternative incentive scheme should be introduced.
Cascading effect of GST on Tour Operators Services: The tourism industry is to be treated as a deemed exporter at par with the IT Industry under export of service.
Special Status for the inbound tour operators to be given under which an incentive between 7 to 10 % on the net foreign exchange earnings during a financial year might be given and to reintroduce the new policy to consider our request. Free insurance for foreign tourists is a must-post Covid.
Under the EPCG (Export Promotion Capital Goods) scheme, tour operators need to be allowed to import high-end electric vehicles. These are not available in the country for the next few years. While at the same time, the requirements for electrical vehicles, whether demand from tourists, the Government or visiting state guests and such dignitaries, are only increasing.
Refund of IGST paid by the tourist while leaving India on supply of goods taken out of India under Tax Refund for Tourists (TRT) Scheme for which a provision is there in IGST Act but has not been implemented. This shall enhance the export through tourism which not only brings foreign exchange but also creates millions of jobs.

Details of all the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India recognized tour operators are uploaded on the portal. It is imperative to declare Tourism as an Industry by the State Governments. Its contribution to GDP and Employment merits the case so that tourism avails the benefits associated with it.
A uniform transport tax for all state governments would usher in seamless connectivity and augment the facilitation of the transport infrastructure. Presently tax percentage differs from state to state. Reduction of taxes by the Centre and the State Government on ATF will go miles in reducing airfares and luring both Foreign and Domestic Tourists.
To allow Transportation with 100 % seating in Cab, Maxi Cab and Tempo Traveller. Flowing on the above the same request was made to the Secretary of Tourism, Government of India to take up at his end with the Delhi Government and all State Governments to allow Transportation with 100 % seating capacity in Cab, Maxi Cab and Tempo Traveller. It is in the pipeline as we are about to start tourism

IATO to enhance the untapped potential in India through research assistance and scholarship in tourism development

We have dedicated personnel to look into the aspect of Skill Development and we go to the states, with the help of our chapter chair there undertake a skill development discourse on a chosen topic that shall benefit our members.


SUNIL GUPTA – Northern Chapter Chairman–IATO

IATO’s glorious legacy and the way forward
IATO is and will always remain the voice of the industry as a united front. Over the years, IATO leadership has made a place for itself and most important policy decisions are consulted with IATO and we regularly provide our advice.
IATO’s role in tourism policy will always be crucial, through the efforts we have seen relief in the TCS policy, and E Visa Policy among many others. While there are various aspects for the government to consider we, at IATO, remain hopeful that government policy will be industry-friendly.
Department of Tourism bucking up to bring back the lost glory of Indian hospitality and tourism

We have seen a sea-change in focus moved to domestic tourism as opposed to inbound tourism. While domestic is important but inbound tourism brings foreign exchange to the country and DOT should focus on international marketing and campaigns and ease the Visa hurdles. A suggestion would be to revive the Incredible India campaign with new rigour, take advantage of social media and travel influencers, better MDA assistance to private players for efforts overseas.
IATO to enhance the untapped potential in India through research assistance and scholarship in tourism development
In association with the Dekho Apna Desh campaign, IATO has been pushing the education of its membership about various possible tourist destinations in India. At every convention, we learn from state department presentations about areas of tourist potential.
IATO is now taking steps towards training guides, staff and even management of tour companies. With specific research assistance, we are open to the idea and welcome proposals.

Strategic plans for the growth of the association in the Eastern region
More online meetings, WhatsApp groups and representations are being carried out for the region.

Working closely with tour operators in the Eastern region

The problems and suggestions of tour operators are being represented on various levels with local, state and central government bodies with increased frequency on social media, print and TV.


J K MOHANTY – Eastern Chapter Chairman–IATO

IATO’s glorious legacy and the way forward

The IATO, being the national apex body of the tourism industry, having more than 1600 members, is always aggressively promoting the tourism industry of the country, by closely interacting with all chapter/state and regional chairmen and putting up the critical issues affecting the tourism of their respective states before the Government for growth of the tourism in their respective states as well as in the country.

With its international acceptance and its constant interaction with other tourism associations in the US, Nepal, Indonesia and more to increase its international networking for better facilitation to the foreign traveller visiting India, in coming years IATO will take the tourism industry to greater heights in India as well as in the global market.

Department of Tourism bucking up to bring back the lost glory of Indian hospitality and tourism

We are thankful to our Hon’ble Chief Minister Sri Naveen Patnaik for considering tourism as a priority sector and Department of Tourism is putting its best efforts and aggressively marketing various tourism products of Odisha to attract huge footfalls to the state as well as investors to invest in the hospitality sector. New and innovative initiatives such as Eco Retreats, Boat Riding, Yachts, Caravans, Camping and many more have been started by Odisha Tourism to attract youth tourists to our state.

Recently in October 2022, the Tourism Department jointly with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) conducted the 4th Odisha Travel Bazaar was a grand success and was a big exposure to many international and domestic tour operators. The OTB was attended by 22 foreign tour operators from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Bangladesh & Tanzania along with leading domestic tour operators across the country.

Future goals of the Eastern Chapter, IATO to promote inbound tourism

Eastern India gets very low tourist traffic as compared with the Southern Sector, Western Part and North India Sector.  To come up in the tourist map of India, we should come forward to highlight the tourism products of the states in Eastern India which are filled with rich tourism potential and have the choice of beaches, mountains, eco-tourism, tribal tourism, lakes, wildlife, art & culture, mangrove forests and much more than what other states in India have to offer.

The need for tourism today in Eastern Region is adequate publicity of its rich tourism potential both through electronic and print media. The Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India has been aggressively promoting the Incredible India Campaign but unfortunately not much is said about Eastern Region and Odisha in particular. We expect the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India to give more support in terms of publicity in both electronic and print media.

Working closely with tour operators in the Eastern region

As chairman of the IATO Eastern region, it has been my continuous endeavour to promote the vast tourism potential of Odisha as well as the eastern region by closely interacting with all chapter chairmen of the eastern region and following up the critical issues with the concerned Government officials for growth of the tourism.

Post-pandemic, now domestic tourism is the main driving recovery to the tourism sector. The most important thing now is to focus on the vast potential of domestic tourism and the vigorous marketing plan required. We are emphasizing the new innovative initiatives that Odisha Tourism has started such as Eco retreats, boat riding, yachts, caravans, camping etc to increase tourist footfalls.


SEJOE JOSE– Southern Chapter Chairman IATO

IATO’s glorious legacy and the way forward

IATO Southern region is growing fast with more operators signing up to become members of IATO. The recognition given by the state tourism board makes IATO stronger. Today IATO state chairman is in the advisory council of the respective state advisory council. I can see more involvement of IATO in shaping tourism in South India in the years to come. Thus, making IATO one of the strongest tourism associations in South India.

Department of Tourism bucking up to bring back the lost glory of Indian hospitality and tourism

Tourism is the most affected Industry due to the pandemic. The industry lost many of its people as most have now changed their careers and moved to a different industry which has caused a big dent in experienced manpower. There is a huge shortage of transport as many of the operators sold their vehicles and experienced drivers again moved to different industries. The government should incentivise by offering a support scheme that would encourage manpower to come back to tourism, and help people invest in new transport thus building back the infrastructure of the respective state. Even if the lost glory comes back if the infrastructure is not built to handle the business we will see the glory for only the short term.

IATO to enhance the untapped potential in India through research assistance and scholarship in tourism development

The tourism industry has a huge shortage of manpower and demand is more than supply. During this period research assistance has not been the focus of IATO. However, going to colleges and schools and supporting or initiating travel clubs so more youngsters are encouraged to join the tourism industry.

Strategic investments for the cost-effective growth of the association in the Southern region

IATO has always believed in sustainable growth and not just taking members for showcasing numbers. IATO has been doing different sessions along with the government of India tourism offices in respective states to make awareness of the Government initiatives in the tourism industry so more people become Government recognised. IATO is also doing various skill development classes for its member staff so high-quality service is provided for all tourists visiting their respective states. IATO is also investing in training its members about technology and making its members ready for the future.

Future goals of the Southern Chapter, IATO to promote inbound tourism

IATO South India chapter’s main objective in the coming years is to create a data bank and update of new products for the tourism Industry. At this IATO convention, we will be discussing with MC, how we can get support from the centre to help in building the database. Sharing information in different sectors of tourism like medicine, wellness, adventure, culture etc. will help the world know the potential of South India, thus helping the members to get more business.

Working closely with tour operators in the Eastern region

To be honest, no changes are brought at the moment as we want to focus on building the infrastructure and supporting our members by following the various schemes announced by the Government and also asking the government to change some policies which will help the industry in the growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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