(Right to Left) Veena World’s Sudhir Patil,MTDC’s Aashutosh Rathod, Charson
Advisory Services’ Carl Vaz, FPJ’s R N Bhaskar, South African Airways’ Sajid Khan,
FPJ’s Abhishek Karnani and FPJ’s Rahul Nayar after the discussion.
(Right to Left) Veena World’s Sudhir Patil,MTDC’s Aashutosh Rathod, Charson Advisory Services’ Carl Vaz, FPJ’s R N Bhaskar, South African Airways’ Sajid Khan, FPJ’s Abhishek Karnani and FPJ’s Rahul Nayar after the discussion.

Mumbai: The tourism industry in India will not see a downturn for the next 20-30 years, making it a very attractive place to be in. This would be driven by food, heritage and overall experience that the industry will offer to inbound and outbound tourists. This was the key takeaway from a round-table discussion on Tourism which was organised by The Free Press Journal (FPJ).

The panelists for the discussion were Sudhir Patil, managing director, Veena World; Carl Vaz, chairman and CEO, Charson Advisory Services; Sajid Khan, country manager India, South African Airways; and Aashutosh Rathod, joint managing director, Maharashtra Tourism Board Corporation (MTDC). It was moderated by Free Press Journal’s consulting editor, R N Bhaskar.

“Its population is India’s strength,” stated Patil. Citing the example of the aviation industry, he said growth is happening there. He added over years — especially during the past few years — respect for India has grown which has resulted in tremendous shift. “With e-visa happening, miracles will happen within 2-3 years (for the industry).”

Meanwhile, Rathod said, “Tourism is at the stage of transformation.” This is due to the advent of cruise tourism. He added that today many tourists come to Mumbai but move on to visit other states. The state plans to have airports in Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad (the present ones are owned by the defence services) to get tourists to travel to other parts of Maharashtra. MTDC is planning to come with tourism circuits related to forts, religious places, nature-sites etc. “We know that the journey is more important than the destination.” India is known for its food and heritage and MTDC plans to touch those areas.

Many Indian states have not been able to achieve what states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa and Kashmir have been able to achieve. “These states have been able to act independently,” stated Vaz.  This is something that Maharashtra has not been able to do as yet. “I think Maharashtra is trying to position itself,” he added.

There has been an increase in outbound tourism but in inbound tourism there is a lot that needs to be done. “India has tremendous potential to increase business,” added Khan. He added that Indian tourists have begun to travel to other countries more frequently because of the food (vegetarian) that is now being served. He believes that if India works towards offering an experience then the pain and inconvenience due to visa issue and other things will ease.

Rathod added that MTDC and other state tourism organisations are also undergoing a transformation. He added that they are now working towards an integrated approach which will help tour operators in making travel easy for tourists. Vaz suggested that India should go with a twinning approach. States should offer tour packages as combination destinations.  That, he said, could attract more tourists into the country.

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