World Tourism Day 2023: An Indian perspective

How Indian travel trade is meeting sustainability & talent pool challenges
/ New Delhi
World Tourism Day
World Tourism Day 2023: An Indian perspective

The focus this year, as identified by the UNWTO, revolves around sustainability and inclusivity

The World Tourism Day 2023 is focused on issues revolving around sustainability, management of talent pool and the increasing advent of technology in the tourism industry. The Indian travel industry, notably the outbound tourism stakeholders, are also gearing up to play their role in meeting the challenges that the industry faces and to find solutions around them.
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As the main celebrations for World Tourism Day 2023 get underway in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, the focus this year, as identified by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), revolves around sustainability and inclusivity, with issues like green investments, with the need for more and better-targetted investments for people, for planet and for prosperity. Now is the time for new and innovative solutions, not just traditional investments that promote and underpin economic growth and productivity. 

The UNWTO says that World Tourism Day 2023 will be a call to action to the international community, governments, multilateral financial institutions, development partners and private sector investors to unite around a new tourism investment strategy. 

As India is the largest nation in the world and leader in outbound tourism, notably in the post-pandemic era, no global effort to achieve the goals outlined by UNWTO can be successful without a proactive part being played by Indian travel and tourism industry stakeholders.

India Outbound reached out to key leaders of the travel industry to see how they are responding to these issues.

Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India

Jyoti Mayal

Jyoti Mayal

It is indeed a very fascinating and scintillating global industry that is moving rapidly forgetting the pandemic to explore the unexplored. But this comes with new challenges for the people and the planet. What needs to be taken care of on this World Tourism Day is that we have to give a thought to not just productivity but what we are leaving for future generations.

In the words of Bruce Poon Tip, producer of the documentary The Last Tourist, ‘travel is a privilege, not a right’. It encourages us to be ‘conscious consumers’ when deciding where and how to travel. As tourists, we need to think more carefully about the impact of our choices & ask some questions, when we decide to stay at a beautiful resort, who is going to benefit monetarily? Is the hotel owned by the local community? how can we minimise our contribution to pollution and climate change? To protect the beautiful places we love to visit, and the people who live in them, we need to rethink tourism and act responsibly. We need to be vocal for local.

Smart tourism is the future of your tourism, imagine travelling to a brand new place, where you don’t speak the language, but your phone does. It can translate signs, menus, and even hold a conversation with the locals. It can guide you through the streets, recommend the best local dishes, and even help you make new friends. This is the power of smart tourism, and this is continuously changing the way we travel. Sustainable and experiential travel options are gaining popularity as people become more conscious of their environmental impact.

Ankush Nijhawan

Ankush Nijhawan

Ankush Nijhawan, Co-founder and Managing Director, TBO

This year’s theme, Tourism and Green Investments, reminds us that now is the time for new and innovative solutions. The need for more and better-targeted investments for people, planet, and prosperity is crystal clear. Beyond traditional investments, let’s embrace eco-friendly practices and sustainable tourism to promote growth and productivity while preserving our beautiful planet. Together, we can make travel a force for positive change.

Sheema Vohra, Managing Director, Sartha Global Marketing

Sheema Vohra

Sheema Vohra

Sustainability is very important. I think the travel industry has been fairly proactive in adopting sustainable practices and green practices At our company we are very cautious. We take a lot of measures in our daily work life to make sure that we follow all green practices from things like all plastics are banned, use of paper only when needed and off course using both sides. Printing of brochures only when it is essential. We have adopted a lot of technology, for us to, use green practices. The other thing is energy. Making sure that instead of central air conditioning, we have air conditioning which can be shut off in spaces when it’s not being used.

Riaz Munshi, President, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India

Riaz Munshi

Riaz Munshi

We are on the right track. We have been encouraging the commitment to sustainability on eco-friendly initiatives, especially in the Indian perspective. If you look at the collaboration India is doing and the financial and economic growth and environment, I think it is quite good. There are lifestyle practices that can promote climate friendly behaviour. Then there are some subcategories that have energy saving, water saving, abandoning the use of single use plastic, sustainable food system, waste reduction, healthy lifestyle, proper e-waste handling, and I think these are the right threads. 

The world can learn from India. We are doing fairly well. But there is a long way to go for sustainable tourism because awareness is not there. People don’t know about responsible tourism. So the government must do put up signs to create awareness about the major signs ethics, what are the do’s and don’ts. 

Knowingly or unknowingly we may throw plastic on the beach, and we don’t realise then it is bad for the wildlife. And I think all across the world people should involve the local community to manage and protect the environment. For that they should instantly connect because nobody does otherwise. Maybe they can give them some ideas as to what they can do, what they can sell, local stuffs that comes up or buy those local stuff. 

I think there is a big crunch of manpower in the industry and it is all across India, but then the tourism is not a very highly trained industry and the young generation they all want to grow big, they do not see much potential in the tourism sector.

Also they think about what is the highest post they can reach, compared to other industries. So that’s definitely going to be a fight to recruit and right now it is not only in India but all across the world. People are getting lazy, people do not want to come out, they only want to work from home. But it is not a good sign, the younger generation they should step out, they must not even opt for work from home because if they don’t interact they don’t learn.

Amit Kishore, Founder and Director, Eastbound Group

Amit Kishore

Amit Kishore

As a company, Eastbound group is most particular about the talent that it brings on board. Our belief is that a team is not a group of people who work together, but a group of people who trust each other. Therefore our selection process across all our verticals is very stringent. There are several interactive rounds of interviews that are truly reflective of the candidate and whether or not he/she would be a good cultural fit in the organisation. That remains our number one criterion and is non-negotiable.

Travel and tourism is a sunshine sector and youngsters are more interested than ever to get a piece of the action. The culture of 9 to 5 desk jobs is steadily dwindling and being replaced by work opportunities that are fuelled by passion and inherent interest. We strongly believe that an organisation is a sum of its people, and we take pride in the fact that our talent pool is not only culturally aligned with the organisation but is also genuinely passionate about travel. That we feel has been our key competitive advantage in the industry.”

Rajeev Nangia, Chief Operating Officer, Trac Representations

Rajeev Nangia

Rajeev Nangia

The future of humanity is connected with sustaining our green planet and making investment in the same not only on the World Tourism Day, as we celebrate it, but on an ongoing basis. Each individual connected with the industry is making efforts in adopting the best possible green practices in their line of operations. We as a company are also committed to the same and making best possible efforts in this direction. However, it is pertinent for the governments to make bigger efforts and take more initiatives in this direction. We as part of industry also must involve the clients using our services to follow best possible sustainable practices. 

Post-pandemic, especially from India’s perspective, things in tourism sector have changed drastically. As we all know that there have been layoffs and salary deductions on large scale. It has impacted the talent pool that we lost to come back into the industry or work space. This has also impacted the others specially new talent to join. The efforts required in the travel and tourism industry are very high and many a times the growth prospects remain slim. 

We all need to look at inducting new generation into this industry from a new direction as well as with better online and digital skill sets. The sooner we make changes the better it would be for all the people providing opportunities as well as younger generation seeking the opportunity in this industry. The capability of this industry is immense in providing jobs as well as these resources are the biggest asset that we all have. So while we hire a younger resource, we also need to start treating them like an invaluable asset we have procured. 

Hemant Mediratta, Founder and CEO, HMC Enterprise

Hemant Mediratta

As one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, the hospitality sector has the potential to have a significant impact on the environment, society, and the economy. Therefore, the shift towards sustainable practices has become imperative for the industry’s growth and future.

Indian travel industry has always been pioneering in sustainability and green initiatives. One of the examples is the launch of eco hotels way back 20+ years ago with ecofriendly and sustainable practices. Today, we build our Hotels and Resorts with certification from the global best practices and engage leading certification agencies so that our facilities are not only energy efficient in long run, but the use of material makes us a responsible practitioner towards environment – these are in the areas of construction material, air-conditioning, bath fittings etc.

Being in a large people centric business, we have constantly build our training programs and the roll-out of ESG centric structure that has started showing us results in paper, water and energy consumption savings – with practices such as locally sourced materials, rain water harvesting, QR code capable menu reading to payments being settled through electronically or through UPI etc. – all these have allowed us to bring cost efficiencies and thereby profitability.

We didn’t stop our initiatives within our hotels in the big cities – we moved closer to the ‘mother nature’ and started opening lodging facilities in remote areas, with the launch of homestays. These facilities were born to engage with the local community, a major step in the direction of sustainability of local population and sensitising our guests.

I can proudly say that the lodging industry is very seriously working towards food waste management and sensitising our suppliers & consumers to partner with us in our endeavours to promote the cause of ‘saving the earth’.

Here are 3 small steps we have taken in our organisation to follow sustainable practices:

  1. Our office has been fitted with 80 pc recycled or upcycled material. We proudly showcase this
  2. All our colleagues, numbering over 50, have planet, other than people, process and profit, as part of their Key Result Areas and it forms a part of their appraisal system
  3. We have a team of volunteers within our organisation who form the green team, who are continuously working to make our office a better place.

With these steps there is an attitudinal shift in the mindset and all of us have started thinking of sustainable solutions in whatever we do. Whether its producing ecofriendly marketing collateral or creating sustainable gifting solutions, we are surely moving forward to a make a positive difference to our planet.

Talent has been a challenge for the industry in general however we have been fortunate in attracting and managing talent. It stems from our people philosophy which is built on three pillars.

Hire them Right: We spend an inordinate time and effort to hire the right talent. It is not about hiring just the brightest minds but also looking at their cultural alignment in what we stand for. Skills can always be taught, we hire for attitude.

Train them Right: A strong on-boarding program is critical for every new colleague that joins the team. We have earmarked a time every week called as Friday Knowledge Sessions which helps the team stay abreast and take time off their hectic lives to sit back and go to classroom type learning. Exposure training through international Travel also forms an important part of the learning. Almost all our colleagues travel at least twice a quarter out of the country.

Empower To Perform: We respect individuality, and our colleagues are quite independent to perform to their optimum within the framework of the organisation.

As we are continuously expanding, so is our team and we are always looking at hotel sales, marketing and PR professionals who understand luxury and are willing to make a difference in this world. Our guiding philosophy is that we want to be number one or the only one in what we do.

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