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Growth v/s Happiness

Friday, January 5, 2018, 12:38 Hrs  [IST]

Year ends are typically the time to both look back and then look ahead. This is true for individuals, businesses as well as industries. For the tourism industry and people associated with it, 2017 was a ‘mixed bag’ for many. The industry carried the baggage of demonetisation, which was followed by the liquor ban on highways from the previous year. The roll out of the much-awaited GST towards the middle of the year made the road bumpy for the industry for a while with ambiguities galore around multiple tax slabs within one industry. However, if international consultancies and research agencies are to be believed, the hotel industry valiantly resisted all these adversities and came out with flying colours with pan-India occupancies reaching record high and room rates showing upward march after a long sabbatical. However, we have to take it with a pinch of salt, as a large section of the ‘non-branded’ industry has a different story to tell. They debunk that all these reports are cooked up to keep the India story alive and kicking internationally so that the advisory business continues to make money. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between!

Similarly, the government has got its own growth story to tell. After all, growth in India is still understood in terms of numbers, and not in terms of happiness. After changing the post umpteen times in the past of achieving the magical 1% of international inbound, the government finally decided to do a statistical jugglery to achieve the figure overnight. In this regard, it created a category of international arrivals comprising NRIs, PIOs, etc, and added them with foreign tourist arrivals – Simple!

The problem with all these growth stories making rounds is that they are not reflecting on the growth and happiness of the people associated with it, known as stakeholders. By stakeholders, I don’t mean only the private industry alone. There is resentment even in the bureaucracy for the way Indiatourism offices abroad are being closed down. They will concede at least ‘off the record’ the hollowness of the growth story by throwing figures which actually reflects signs of deceleration from key source markets like Europe. The sentiments in the private industry are no different. They are also not ready to swallow the growth story in toto. ‘You look where the growth is happening. How many are actual tourists?,’ is the general refrain. A relevant question at this point of time is how long the private industry in the country can live in excuses and finding faults with government policies. The New Year is likely to see more of NITI Aayog-driven tourism agenda roll out, which advocates strong public-private partnerships. It would be interesting to watch how the private industry which has been indulging into eating each other’s business so far, join hands with the government to grow the overall pie to make India tourism sustain itself.

P Krishna Kumar
Assistant Editor

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