Economic Times’ TravelWorld Interviews Prateek Hira
“For tourism to revive, we need to change the present perception of India: Prateek Hira”
In conversation with ETTravelWorld, Prateek Hira, who dons many hats, that of the Chairman of IATO for Uttar Pradesh for the fourth consecutive term and the Chairman of FICCI Tourism Committee, Uttar Pradesh State Council, says, he’s confident that inbound tourism will return, albeit slowly.
Peden Doma Bhutia
May 17, 2021, 08:50 IST
There’s no doubt that the international perception of India has taken a huge beating and Prateek Hira, who has been appointed the Chairman of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) for Uttar Pradesh for the fourth consecutive term, says he’s been worried about the way in which the global community is perceiving India since the beginning of the pandemic. He goes on to elaborate how the second wave has battered the international image of India, “The kind of images doing the rounds has caused enough harm not only to the image of India but also has shaken the confidence of intending inbound travellers.”
Pointing to the fragility of travellers’ confidence, he says, one negative news is enough to break it and in the present circumstances that’s precisely what’s happened. He says the most immediate concern would be to instill confidence among travellers, and inbound operators should shoulder this responsibly along with the Ministry of Tourism and take it up as a challenge. “The primary responsibility of course lies with the government and I’m sure they will do their best to change the perception, but we as individual operators and trade bodies too should put in our best to do that in our own little way.”
When asked if inbound tourism is indeed coming back to India, Hira is quick to retort, “Those who claim inbound tourism is not coming back soon, are sadly mistaken. We have hordes of vaccinated tourists from our traditional markets of UK, US, Russia, Europe and even the Far East waiting in the wings, only monitoring the situation to get better here so that they can pack their bags for India. Of course, it goes without saying that the return of inbound tourism will not be a spiking upward graph, but there will be a gradual upward slope.”
Hira, who has recently been appointed as the Chairman of FICCI Tourism Committee, Uttar Pradesh State Council, says that chairing a committee at this time is much more of a responsibility than it could ever have been. Explaining his position, he says, “The industry looks up to the chairman with hopes of bailing them out at the earliest, while the government bodies look up to the committee for simple, low-spending solutions to bring back tourists to the state and reinstate its position in tourism. I look at it more as a challenge and a responsibility.”
Taking up the challenge, Hira, with his 27 years of experience in the tourism industry, has resolved to make all this happen in a time-bound manner to help the state regain its position in both domestic and inbound tourism. “If our planning and policies are well structured, we will revive much earlier and with it the woes of the tourism business will also end much sooner.”
Talking about his plan of action, Hira goes on to say that FICCI’s Tourism Committee will be presenting a detailed white paper to the government that will enlist the measures required for the earliest revival of tourism. He goes on to say, “FICCI’s Tourism Committee of UP State Council will be much more structured now and our primary focus will be the earliest revival of tourism through creation of an interactive platform and encouraging frequent dialogues between the government and the industry for mutual benefits. FICCI’s Tourism Committee in all seriousness will make Uttar Pradesh, ‘tourism ready’ so that we have much more and much better to offer than we ever had.”
When asked to comment on the deadline for the whitepaper, Hira says, work is already underway and the committee intends to submit its report by June-end. Doling out more details, he says, “This report will be divided into three major parts, the first part will deal with the impact of the pandemic on the tourism of UP, second will talk of requirements to nullify these in shortest possible time, while the third will deal with how the state can project itself as much better and more attractive destination to post-Covid tourists. This report will also enumerate potential regions, new circuits and innovative themes along with the areas of concern to develop these as tourist attractions.”
Hira informs that this would in fact be the committee’s second report, as just last month they submitted a report on the state’s tourism potential for culinary tourism, where they have highlighted cuisine as an attraction for tourists to Uttar Pradesh.
Enlisting the priority areas, Hira says his focus would be on developing tourism all around the state, rather than just limiting it to a few already popular destinations. “The more destinations and products we have and the bigger radius we cover around these destinations, we can attract much more tourist traffic across all segments and get much more equated economic benefits, including employment generation for the locals. We will soon map the state’s tourism potential, beyond its popular destinations, encourage local participation in tourism and showcase the state to attract meaningful tourism investments and get in optimum tourist traffic.”
Calling the surge in domestic tourism when India opened up after the first wave, a future marker of the return of inbound tourism, Hira concludes, “Let’s all be positive and treat this only as a sabbatical to learn and come out as better and more knowledgeable tour operators.”