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Time for Annual Tamasha!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017, 14:43 Hrs  [IST]

Indian travel and tourism industry associations are currently in a ‘convention’ mode. They have put all their issues on the backburner and started focusing their energies in making their annual conventions remarkable ones. In trade bodies, stakes are quite high at annual conventions and it is a real test for leadership of the time to deliver memorable annual events for its membership. From negotiating destinations to selecting venues, arranging good quality accommodations for delegates to food, evening dinners, quality entertainment, and arrangements for spouse, all the arrangements have to be spotless. At the end of the event, these components are really talked about and weighed against among the delegates. In this whole so-called annual tamasha with a much hyped about convention theme, knowledge sessions are attended or heard by hardly 10% or even less number of the delegates.

Conventions are big ticket events for trade associations and their leaderships. The high stakes involved in these conventions make leaderships of these associations remain subjugated and tread cautiously in their dealings and interactions with the powers that be at different levels and among stakeholders of the industry. They try not to antagonise by words or deeds the powers that be even when policy decisions go against them, as government agencies, whether domestic or international are some of the prime sponsors of these events, depending on where they are hosted. Unlike the past, in most cases, the large players in the private sector have stayed away for these conventions, which have become more or less inconsequential to them and the industry at large. The hush-hush talks about the sponsorship money that an overseas tourism board committed for an Indian travel trade conference in a neighbouring country, which had to be called off due to diplomatic standoff, was quite jaw-dropping!

Even the trade media lose sight of the trees for the woods in the industry when it comes to associations and trade-specific groups. In the hospitality business, there are associations for every trade or skill-set today making the counting cumbersome. How many in the trade know that there are associations for hotel engineers, hotel IT professionals, hotel stewards, etc.? More visible and eloquent ones are, of course, Chef Associations, Purchase Managers Associations, Concierge Associations, and Housekeepers Associations.

All these trade bodies have their periodical conferences and meetings, which by and large are mere ‘fund raising’ events. In the absence of a clear vision or purpose, many of these conferences end up as networking and deals-making exercises for few with scant regard for any serious discussion or deliberation. Even issues seriously deliberated are not followed up once the conference is over. I remember an apex hotel industry federation conference last year where the current hotel classification system of the government was being bashed by one and all, and proposing an alternate model. But one year down the line, the people proposed the alternate model seems to have forgotten about it. I was witness to another ‘eventful’ anniversary celebration of a trade body, which more than discussing issues of the trade, spent time and money in instilling patriotism and nationalistic fervour by performing mock drills. I haven’t heard chefs associations discussing jobs, working hours or working condition related issues of its members in hotels. I haven’t heard housekeepers’ forums taking up issues of poor working conditions at work places, issues of training, empowerment, etc. at their meetings. Rather, I frequently hear champions of the trade asking new generation to slog to prove themselves without bothering for rewards!

P Krishna Kumar
Assistant Editor

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