Ravneet Kaur, chairperson and managing director of ITDC talks about this government undertaking’s growth plans.
Ravneet Kaur, IAS, chairperson and managing director (CMD) of India Tourism Development Corporation Ltd (ITDC) speaks to Rahul Trivedi about this government undertaking’s growth plans. Edited excerpts from the interview:
ITDC’s financial performance has been on upswing in recent quarters. What is fuelling this growth?
ITDC has established itself as a pioneer in the tourism industry. In today’s time, our prime focus remains on improving efficiency and boosting bottom lines through better services, diverse activities and new initiatives. ITDC has been a pioneer in the tourism and hospitality space and each day, we continue with our sustained efforts aimed at delivering best in class service to all our patrons and stakeholders, across all levels.
The industry is changing at a very fast pace and ITDC aims to deliver the best to all our stakeholders, consistently at all times. The hospitality segment has always been touted as the harbinger of new ideas, new trends and new possibilities. What we believe in creates our reality and we are confident of contributing to the segment through our best-in-class service offerings, rich legacy and experience. Great companies are built by people who never stop thinking about innovative and strategic ways to improve the business and we have been doing just that.
Our education division, AIHTM, is focusing more on job-oriented short-term courses. Apart from imparting skill development training in areas of food production, F&B service, front office and accommodation operations, it aims to work towards making a difference to the academic culture by offering a globally competitive curriculum and infrastructure; and eventually on contributing significantly to the supply of trained manpower for the hospitality industry.
Another major source of business, duty-free shops under the international trade division, is growing as ITDC has ventured into major seaports in India with 13 duty-free shops at Kolkata, Haldia, Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Chennai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Goa, Krishnapatnam, Tuticorin, Cochin and Ennore (Kamrajar).
Ashok Events (AE) division proudly presents ITDC’s expertise and capabilities in holding mega events of national importance by successfully organising cultural extravaganzas like ‘Bharat Parv’ at India Gate and Red Fort under guidance of the tourism ministry. Last but not the least, we are signing MoUs with international tourism organisations to make ITDC go global. To name a few, we have recently signed an MoU with the Moroccan tourism agency, SMIT.
What are the trends in tourism in India? How does ITDC plan to benefit from them?
Currently, India is the seventh largest travel and tourism economy in the world. In 2017, the contribution of the sector to the economy was Rs 15.2 trillion (US$234 billion).Tourism is among the key sectors wherein the government is leveraging the unique brand image of India. With several schemes like PRASHAD, Swadesh Darshan, and E-Visa, it is quite evident that the future of tourism is very bright.
The scheme of rural tourism has aligned the concept of new-age travellers and Swadesh Darshan has given a huge boost to domestic as well as international tourism. According to reports, the Indian travel and hospitality sector continued its steady growth with 15.6 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) rise in foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) and 20.8 percent y-o-y growth in foreign exchange earnings (FEEs) in US dollars during 2017. Further, in 2017, the travel and tourism sector was estimated to directly contribute to 25.9 million jobs and Rs 5,141.1 billion ($75.8 billion) to the country’s GDP.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) forecasts that the total number of jobs which are dependent on travel and tourism will increase from 42.9 million in 2018 to 52.3 million in 2028 accompanied by robust growth in the tourism sector in the near future.
With the increased focus of the government on tourism infrastructure in the country and the private sector also stepping in to strengthen tourism infrastructure and to promote tourism; we are constantly part of the tourism ministry initiatives on a national scale.
How does ITDC view the cabinet decision to transfer hotels to the states those were held in partnership with states?
Hotels owned or run by ITDC are being disinvested as per the disinvestment policy of the Government. Either the hotels have been returned to the State Governments or they are leased in certain cases.
We have a strong outlook towards Hospitality and Tourism Industry. With ongoing divestment of hotels, ITDC is focusing more on strengthening other verticals like Ashok Travels & Tours (ATT), Ashok International Trade Division (AITD), Ashok Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management (AIH&TM) and Ashok Consultancy & Engineering division to improve our footprint, turnover and profitability of ITDC. Special focus is on AIH&TM and Centre of Excellence (COE) at Hotel Samrat to promote Skill India initiative and meet one of the biggest challenges that the Hospitality, Travel and Tourism industry is facing presently.
The Ashok, in the heart of Delhi, is one of your largest and oldest properties and the flagship hotel. What are your plans for it for 2019?
At present, our main concern for the upcoming year is the renovation of the hotel ‘The Ashok’ to restore it to the stature of a world-class hospitality pioneer. Alongside, we strive to revamp our websites, launch an ITDC mobile app, and form tie-ups with state tourism and private players to strengthen business verticals thus pushing our limits to achieve excellence.
ITDC has tied up with both online and offline travel agents for various marketing and promotional activities. We understand that travel agents are the backbone of our tours and travel business and their contribution to strengthening our business is invaluable.
Digital marketing would be used more and more to have improved visibility as well as to reach the younger generation.
The Ashok recently won the National Tourism award for the hotel with best facilities for differently-abled guests. What made you to win this title? Also, tell us more about your social sector initiatives?
Since inception, The Ashok has been serving guests with care, providing the best facilities for differently abled guests. Indeed, 2 percent of the hotel inventory is dedicated for differently-abled guests, with 11 rooms including three suites furnished with special fittings, the largest in the entire hospitality industry.
Apart from that, we are also working closely with the tourism ministry to provide skill upgradation to the inmates of Tihar and Mandoli jails, as also under the ‘Hunar se Rozgar Tak’ scheme in which we impart quality education to people to increase their employability. We at ITDC always strive to benefit the society at all levels.
ITDC was the executing agency for an interactive exhibition called Paryatan Parv organised by government on the Rajpath lawns in the capital. Do you have any upcoming plans or events in the pipeline around the country?
Ashok Events, a division of ITDC, was appointed by the tourism ministry as the event management agency responsible for making all arrangements for Paryatan Parv during September 16-27, 2018. The Parv was organised with the objective of drawing focus to the benefits of tourism, showcasing the cultural diversity of the country and reinforcing the principle of ‘Tourism for All’. The next big event organised by ITDC would be the Bharat Parv, from 26th to 31st January 2019.
Hotel The Ashok would continue to host important events, conventions as well as special short-term festivals and fashion exhibitions. The major focus would remain on capturing MICE segment as The Ashok, New Delhi has been privileged to host numerous international conferences and delegations in past years. n
(This interview appears in the January 31, 2019 edition)