Reviving Tourism and Hospitality in the new normal
Bhubaneswar: The decade 2020 started with a much unsettling and unfortunate occurrence of COVID-19 outbreak, which has also taken a serious toll on the fragile tourism and hospitality industry. New normal is changing every day. It is important for the industry to keep changing and adapting to the new normal. In this context, a webinar “Reviving Tourism and Hospitality in the new normal” was organised by FLO Bhubaneswar Chapter on Tuesday with an objective to discuss the economic and social consequences of pandemic on the tourism and hospitality sector, the potential and feasibility of revival and to explore the cross nation avenues towards the resuscitation in the new normal.
Vishal Dev, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Department of Tourism, Government of Odisha, was the chief guest of the event. Janhabi Phookan, National President, FLO, Women Wing of FICCI, was the guest of honour. Jacqueline Lundquist, Indophile, Author, Brand Ambassador of magazines and corporate and Dr Stal Kumar Palbabu, CPO, International Trade Centre, Myanmar were the special guests on the occasion.
Dharitri Patnaik, Chairperson, FLO-Bhubaneswar, in her welcome address, said the Economic Survey Report 2019-2020 suggested that Odisha needs to expedite its investment tourism infrastructure to attract more tourists which has a scope of huge revenue generation. The development of infrastructure for tourist has enormous potential of employment and income generation, foreign exchange earnings and value addition to the State. All progress made in the last few years in the State had suffered a lot due to the pandemic. However, the State Government has made an encouraging progress in rejuvenating the tourism industry through “The Odisha by Road” campaign and “Eco Retreat,” the resilient and bold initiative considering the challenges of exclusivity.
Sharing the estimates of Global Tourism Council, Dharitri said, “we can all be optimistic about the tourism industry and its contribution to global GDP by generating jobs which promises that the industry will generate 330 million jobs globally.” While highlighting passive representation of women in tourism sector, she emphasised on empowering and engaging women in the sector by addressing the issue of missing numbers and their participation in casual labour force. She also shared the FLO’s national initiative, the village adoption programme in Odisha which is being implemented in partnership with Humara Bachpan Trust and Chilika Development Authority (CDA) in four villages of Satapada in Puri district. The programme focuses on resilient and sustainable community based tourism development where youth and women are promoted to adopt tourism-based income generation opportunities.
Janhabi Phookan, who is also an entrepreneur and co-founder of two national award winning companies which are involved in travel and hospitality, while sharing her vision, stated that FLO has always worked for women empowerment and this year the focus is on sustainable change with promotion of sustainable livelihood. Tourism sector is a sustainable economic upliftment model, but women’s role in the sector has been unrecognised, unacknowledged and under monetised. Tourism can provide women the opportunity of workforce participation, employment and entrepreneurship development and leadership scope more than any other sector. Tourism puts less emphasis on formal education and training and promotes hospitality skills and has the flexibility of working hours. To promote women participation in the sector, FLO has signed MoU with Ministry of Tourism, Government of India to support women in informal workforce. The women’s participation in India in the travel and tourism industries is increasing remarkably as the “World Travel & Tourism Council Report” highlights. This year, when COVID has changed the situation in the world, sustainability has to be the heart of the new normal at a time when “we are looking into the tourism and hospitality sector.” While sharing her experience of impact of COVID on tourism industry, Janhabi said ‘Eco tourism’ is the concept which is not just a business model, but a community-centred eco system development model which has a sustainable harmony with nature. Shifting the focus from overseas tourism to domestic tourism is a way forward. The business strategies and the value propositions are to redesign focus on domestic market potential. She reiterated the importance of eco-tourism as the sustainable tourism model which has to be promoted at all level.
Vishal Dev shared the FICCI’s strategy of ‘Survive, Revive and Thrive’ with regard to the revival of most pandemic impacted business sector, that is, tourism industries. The State Tourism department is now working on redesigning new policies and strategies adhering to health and safety protocols towards generating confidence among the travellers and promotion of domestic tourism market. Odisha has gone through a true transformation in last two decades through value addition of minerals, increasing the production, rural infrastructure development and prioritising the good governance. The State Government, in order to endorse safety measures, has organised awareness and sensitisation programmes for the tourism and hospitality sector drivers such as people from hotels and restaurants, cab and taxi drivers and the tour operators. To encourage women participation in tourism industries, 47 Eco Tourism Camps have been organised which is managed by women community based institutions and the 80 per cent of the income is generated by them. To prop up domestic tourism, on the occasion of ‘World Tourism Day,’ the Tourism department launched the ‘Odisha by Road’ campaign to encourage tourists from Odisha and places from neighbouring States such as Visakhapatnam, Raipur, Durg, Bhilai, Jamshedpur and Kolkata to unravel Odisha’s tourist spots by travelling through roads. Odisha Tourism department also has conducted virtual road shows for tour operators and travel agents with travel trade in the neighbouring States to revive tourism through regional tourism. To revive the cultural heritage in the new normal, the State Government organised the Konark Dance festival and the Sand Art festival in the open air auditorium with a reduced capacity of 500 viewers and adhering to the COVID norms. Several other festivals highlighting Odisha’s tourism legacy such as Chilika bird festival, Bhubaneswar dance festival and Brindavan Mahostav are in the pipleline to be organised in post pandemic period.
Besides ‘Odisha by Road’ campaign, the State Tourism department also announced the launch of ‘Nimantran’ restaurants, the chain of restaurants by OTDC, to promote Odia cuisines on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2020. The restaurants are launched at Bhubaneswar, Puri and Sambalpur in the initial phase.
Vishal Dev also said the State Government is focused on sending the message out to the world that Odisha is safe to visit by ensuring complete compliance of tourist destinations, hotel and restaurants. In addition to these, the department has taken several other initiatives to promote State tourism, water recreation campaign, heritage and hospitality programme to name a few. While sharing the policy level interventions, Vishal Dev said there are three policies that have been enacted to revive the tourism and hospitality industries. One is promotion of homesteads at some specific locations of the State, replacement of water boats with modern boats and promotion of heritage properties. Currently, the tourism policy is providing 20 per cent subsidy on the capital investment with 5 per cent extra subsidy to women entrepreneurs. This is the most viable opportunity where FLO and State Government can collaborate to encourage more women entrepreneurs in the tourism and hospitality sector to promote their project initiatives.
Vishal Dev also said that the State Government is in discussion with the Centre on the cross State tourism area development initiatives. A total of 360 places in the State have been identified as Tourism destinations, of which 44 areas are prioritised to be developed with amenities and other facilities with an objective to improve the tourist footfalls and increase the average duration of stay.
Jacqueline Lundquist, Indophile, author, a business promoter and a social worker refreshing her memory of visit to different parts of India including Odisha, said she is passionate about India’s tourism places, its people and its rich cultural heritage. She has been encouraging people to visit India and also has accompanied them as a tourist guide. Many of them are coming back again and again.
Sital Kumar Palbabu said the community-based tourism initiatives in Myanmar includes initiatives such as community-led tourism development plans, linkages building and community resource development. Based on the emerging examples, economic incentives and trust between communities are the decisive factors which need to be promoted which has a strong potential to generate revenue and contribute to the nation’s GDP, Palabhu emphasised.