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GUEST COLUMN

Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 11 : 31 AM [IST]

An Overview on the Tourism Industry

BEING associated with the travel Industry for over 4 decades has been an overwhelming experience. It has been great interacting with a broad spectrum of people from the Airlines, Consulates, Domestic & International Tourism Boards, Colleagues from the Travel & Tour Agencies, Passport & Immigration Authorities,Travel Associations and last but not the least our Bread & Butter...The Client.

PASSPORTS - THE HOLY GRAIL
To begin with, the first thing that comes to my mind is the our process to obtain a Passport - The Holy Grail of Travel has evolved over the years. In the good old days, one had to stand in a queue when the milkman went out for delivery to queue for submission. A handwritten passport, which meant being left to the mercy of a lower division clerk who interpreted the spelling of your name within his understanding rather than copy it from a form. This included your parent’s names, wife’s name, date & place of birth all which could be jumbled up with the stroke of a pen. For frequent flyers it used to be a nightmare with just 20 odd pages provided for Visa, Departure & Arrival stamps at both ends and then addition of a piano accordion type of additional pages stuck within the passport which was looked at with suspicion, but a dream for the forgers who wanted to get anyone across to foreign shores. However, within the last 10 years, things have changed with introduction of machine readable passports, jumbo booklets with 60 pages and 10 years validity. The application process itself has been made online; tatkal for out of turn passports and TCS has been doing an excellent job in synergy with the passport authorities. We are now way ahead of most countries in the process of obtaining a passport kudos to the MEA.

VISA - WHAT, are you kidding?
I remember having to stand outside the US Consulate, collect a token and wait from 4 am to hopefully be able to submit client’s application Then run to some other Consulate to submit applications for each individual European country and finally hope that all would go well. Due to upgrading of security, lack of space and staff, thankfully the visa application process has become online in most cases and outsourced by Governments (Kudos to VFS Global & few others) so that one can do it in the comfort of a large office space without having to stand on the footpath, come rain or shine. Governments have also realised that issuance of a hassle-free visa can be a great promoter of business and tourism.

AIRLINES - OPEN SKIES HERE WE COME
In the good old days, our option was Indian Airlines for domestic, Air India & a few international airlines for foreign travel at prohibitive prices. Obtaining a seat was like winning the lottery or happening to know someone who could help you through the backdoor not to mention of the premium one had to pay under the table in-spite of paying a high price for the seat itself. Thanks to the Open Skies policy, one not only has multiple choices, but it has become quite affordable and more luxurious if you are ready to cough up a decent amount. Many a times, one can obtain an air ticket for less than the price of a train ticket.

TOURISM BOARDS - INCREDIBLE INDIA...INCREDIBLE JOURNEYS...
Those were the days when one had to depend on some blood relative or 42nd cousin for information on foreign travel, places to visit, availability of vegetarian food, etc. Don’t know anyone? Get yourself the The Arthur Frommers or Fodders Guide, Lonely Planet & country specific maps. In the last decade, governments realised that one had to not only do roadshows but set-up your tourism office to engage with the travel trade as well as public in general. Thus, by this dissemination of knowledge, they have been able to encourage millions to travel based on their promotions. Once again, Digital Media has played a big role in this process.

INTERNET - SOCIAL MEDIA
The introduction of digital marketing and online availability of information, hotel bookings, air/rail/sea/car bookings has made life so simple for travellers and thus encouraged people to travel. It has changed our lives dramatically to the extent that you can do all the above from the comfort of your bedroom without having to call someone in most cases, except for obtaining a travel document or visa.

Our country seems to be on the right track, albeit a little slow but steady in the race to become a tourism hub for Asia. The travel Industry needs to invest some of their own money, rather than look for funding from the government. Once again, an appeal to the travel industry associations to come together on the same platform and without leaving anyone out, help take this country to its rightful place in tourism.

 
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