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Friday, 16 September, 2016, 17 : 08 PM [IST]

Chairmen’s View

With the IATO Convention set to throw the spotlight on the domestic tourism segment in India, Anurag Tiwari & Akansha Pandey speak to IATO Chapter Chairmen across India to ascertain the status of the segment in their region and the opportunities and challenges they face.

Pandian K, Chairman, Chairman, IATO Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Island and Puducherry

Earlier, there were no meetings held in the Tamil Nadu Chapter. But after I took over as the Chairman, we have had six meetings till now. Earlier there was no recognition for tour operators, but now there is equal cooperation from the state government. One of our biggest achievements is that we are hosting this year’s IATO Convention in Chennai. The Tamil Nadu Chapter is also working closely with Tamil Nadu Tourism towards developing the state as a preferred destination choice.

Sejoe Jose, Chairman, IATO Chapter Kerala

We are facing a challenge because of the Kerala Liquor Policy. We have submitted letters to the state government to reconsider this to boost tourism in the state. We are working with the state government towards promotion of destination Kerala. Also, IATO members are a part of the Kerala Tourism Advisory Committee. We are also invited to participate in Kerala Tourism roadshows. Our members are getting benefits of recognition that the IATO Kerala Chapter has received from the state government. We are looking forward towards helping in Kerala’s ‘Green Carpet’ mission.

S Mahalingaiah, Chairman, IATO Chapter Karnataka

Inter-state Vehicle Tax imposed by Kerala government on entry of vehicles from other states is a major concern for us. Tourists have to pay heavy taxes for travelling to and fro from Karnataka to Kerala. We have requested the PMO, CM of Karnataka, Ministry of Tourism and other concerned authorities resolve this issue. Apart from this, the Chapter is working with the state government to encourage tourism. We have suggested the government to organise state tourism awards and also conduct roadshows, and other activities to promote Karnataka tourism. The Chapter is looking forward to honour the stalwarts in the Karnataka Tourism industry from all sectors who have been working immensely for the success of tourism in the state.

Ashish Phookan, Chairman, IATO Chapter, North East India

Infrastructure development in the North Eastern states is not up to the mark. Infrastructure development problems of roads and resorts in the hilly states like Arunachal Pradesh need to be addressed. State governments are working towards resolving these issues. In the recent past, the North East region has emerged as a popular destination, and this is one of our biggest achievements.

Deepak Gupta, Chairman, IATO Chapter Sikkim and North Bengal

We have worked towards improving the services delivered by travel agents. The registration fee for tour operators and travel agents in our chapter has been abolished. Our aim is increase inflow of tourists in our region. We were conferred with four tourism awards from Ministry of Tourism for our efforts in promoting tourism in Sikkim and other neighboring regions. We are working aggressively towards strengthening the role of IATO in the state’s tourism promotion strategy and also eyeing on increasing our member base.

Jayendrasingh Jhala, Chairman, IATO Chapter Gujarat

IATO Gujarat Chapter has increased its strength. We have started regular meetings which wasn’t the case earlier. We are working closely with Government of Gujarat towards keeping a check on fraud travel agents. I feel that Gujarat Tourism Department and Government of Gujarat should work aggressively towards improving their services and promoting tourism in the state.IATO Gujarat is making efforts to promote inter-state tourism and bring people from India and abroad to the state.

Gagan Sarangi, Chairman, IATO Chapter Odisha

IATO Odisha Chapter has worked with the state government on simplifying the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) guidelines. The state government is training and educating the guides from PVTG for offering better tourism insights. The other area of concern which we are focusing on improving is the state’s infrastructure and connectivity to other parts of India. With the support of state governments many tour operators registered with IATO have been able to participate in ITB Berlin. The IATO Odisha Chapter is looking forward towards increasing its membership and aggressively promoting tourism in the state. We are also planning to organise FAM trips for IATO members from around the country.

Debjit Dutta, Chairman, IATO West Bengal Chapter

Our main focus is on knowledge enhancement, availing business opportunities and supporting the members in times of crisis. We have been organising result-oriented activities for member welfare than mere get togethers. On the lines, two international buyer seller meets were organised which witnessed approx. 20 agents from Sri Lanka and 17 from China. This has given rise to good business between both destinations. One of our members opened two offices in China and others have booked group travel to Kolkata from these destinations.

We have been triumphant in getting permission for luggage carriers to be allowed on tourist vehicles in West Bengal and ensure hassle-free movement of tourist vehicles across North Bengal and Sikkim. We have suggested 15 tourist pick-up and drop points to be introduced in the city. A workshop will soon be organised with the IATO WB Members and the officers of the transport department along with RTO to discuss the issues in All Bengal Contract Carriage Permit for Tourist Vehicle for necessary amendments to encourage tourist transport operators in the state. Other matters have also been addressed with the support of Ajit Ranjan Bardhan, Principal Secretary, West Bengal Tourism for smooth tourist experience in the state.

Bhim Singh, Chairman, IATO Rajasthan Chapter

We are presently working on improving air connectivity. Fortunately, low-cost carrier - Scoot will inaugurate services between Singapore and Jaipur on October 2, 2016 which is a great achievement for us and will certainly boost the inbound traffic to Rajasthan. Simultaneously, we are also following up with the Rajasthan Government on intra-regional connectivity and we are hopeful of connections between Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur. Things will shape up better post the launch of the Regional Connectivity Policy. Potential tourist destinations such as Jaisalmer and Bikaner can also get a major boost with air connectivity.

Harmit Singh, Chairman, IATO Chandigarh, Haryana & Himachal Pradesh Chapter

Tourists coming in to Chandigarh are keen on visiting Capitol Complex, Secretariat, High Court, other open hand monuments and schools. These buildings were designed way back and attract travellers because of their noted architecture. However, the entry is restricted to select days and timings. We are trying to get permission for all days and possible timings from the policy- makers. We have also been chasing the issue of different rates of passenger tax and other heavy taxes levied particularly in Chandigarh. After writing in to the Prime Minister’s Office, the letters are now being acknowledged by the local officials. Going forward, we aim to seek legal help to get the issues resolved. The only irony is that it seems a lone battle as members aren’t supportive enough. Majority membership here comprises hoteliers who are least concerned.

Manmeet Singh, Chairman, IATO Punjab Chapter

Punjab is not a regular tourist destination like Kerala. The chapter has been trying to get the much needed focus on the tourism sector here by pushing the political will. Earlier, tourism wasn’t considered as a priority sector but over a period of time, the positive sentiment of government for tourism has grown. Besides, Punjab has been a ticketing dominated market with growing outbound. In such a scenario, we have been successful in bringing IATO into the limelight.

Time to time, we ensure regular meetings with policy-makers. Currently, we are eagerly awaiting the launch of amphibious bus service between Amritsar and Harike wetlands via Tarn Taran by November. With an ability to run both on water and land, it will

Khaliq Wangnoo, Chairman, IATO Jammu & Kashmir Chapter

The Jammu and Kashmir tourism industry is fragile in nature. This year, we observed good business until July 1. However, during the time of unrest and curfew, the electronic media has blown the security issue out of proportion. The image of the destination has been tarnished in India and abroad. In their coverage it seems as if every part of Kashmir is going through turmoil and is not safe to travel whereas a lot of travel keeps happening round the year such as adventure travel, which is never highlighted. Here, the locals are very much dependent on tourism and their livelihood is badly hit by such negative reporting.

From 18 to now 55 members, we have grown from strength to strength. Our members enjoy great network with other IATO members pan India. At the convention, I will address the concern of strict criteria for active membership. In J&K, we don’t have active membership as we don’t qualify for the same and thus are not eligible for the benefits enjoyed by active members. We would urge the IATO Executive Committee to look into the issue.

Prateek Hira, Chairman, IATO Bihar, Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand Chapter

We feel overwhelmed on the launch of new tourism policy in Uttar Pradesh which is being considered as a benchmark policy by other states. Our chapter has been victorious in getting the recommendations heard and listed in the policy. Uttarakhand’s tourism policy is at draft stage and will be launched soon. We have also convinced the state of Uttarakhand to have a Safety Policy in place as the Garhwal region is prone to natural calamities. This will give a major assurance to travellers.

Overall, I believe IATO needs to play a bigger role in ensuring the holistic development of the destination and not just select areas. Local issues need to be highlighted and addressed at policy level.

Gopal Rai, Chairman, IATO Madhya Pradesh Chapter

Madhya Pradesh is rich in cultural heritage and has immense tourism potential. In the region, we are also trying to increase membership base to make IATO stronger in the state for resolving tourism-related issues. As the Chapter Chairman, I have been assisting the stakeholders and government in unveiling new sectors and destinations. Though the state has strong infrastructure, but still there are some destinations where there is dearth of quality accommodation options. In this regard, the state government along with private partners is actively calling for potential hoteliers. The shortage of tourist guides well versed in English and foreign languages are also being addressed. The state tourism department has overcome the shortage of licensed tourist guides by conducted training workshops.

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