It’s the season of annual conferences in the tourism industry. Starting with the ICPB Convention India Conclave (CIC) early August, various travel and tourism associations and their federations will be holding their annual conferences in the next couple of months. While these are routine affairs, the result, as everyone knows, is the usual mundane discussions and networking parties. Therefore, it is high time the leaderships of these bodies revisited the format of their annual conferences.
The changing political order the world over demands that industry associations become more like a pressure group so that they can influence the public policy, which concerns the industry and the groups. It is not the sheer number of the trade associations that counts, but the quality and the leadership acumen of these associations to influence policy-making that matter the most.
In our parliamentary history, it is difficult to find an instance where any parliamentarian has raised an issue concerning the tourism or hospitality industry. Whether it is the ticketing commission (a livelihood issue), or heavy and multiple taxation that directly impacts tourism in India, the industry has not been able to influence parliamentarians to raise the issue on the floor and get the government’s attention. This shows the lack of lobbying abilities of our industry, in spite of chief ministers, MPs, etc., having stakes in the industry, directly or indirectly.
Lobbying might be a bad word in our system, although practised surreptitiously all these years. But the outlook is changing. Of late, a top-ranking Tourism Ministry official dared to give an open call to the industry to up their ‘lobbying power’ to get the cumulative tax burden on the industry ‘fixed at the lowest level’ under the GST.
A recent report by a British daily is worth taking note of. Three Welsh MPs, cutting across political affiliations, recently raised the issue of increasing VAT on the tourism industry in the British Parliament. They strongly supported the nation-wide campaign, ‘Cut Tourism VAT’ by British Hospitality Association (BHA), and advocated a VAT cut to drive visitor numbers and boost investments in the tourism sector. The Association has been able to garner support from parliamentarians across party lines and make it an issue for debate. In contrast, what are our trade leaderships doing, besides feeling happy about a ‘selfie’ opportunity with the powers that be?