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The Indian Spring and Tourism

The just-concluded state elections have vindicated the market’s stance on the anti-incumbency factor. Even as experts draw multiple scenarios for the 2014 General Elections, what with state elections shaping the permutations and markets remaining euphoric in the short term, all this may or may not really matter much to you depending upon various factors. It can be investment in India for a common investor, the feeling of removing corruption for the common man and for me both and a positive feeling that transforms to boom in Travel.

 

 

So after the Arab Spring, we now have the Indian Spring. Well what more could you call it after the recent success of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi elections. Look at the statistics – The number of votes that the first timer, Arvind Kejriwal (44269) got is more than the combined votes of Sheila Dikshit (18405) and Vijender Gupta (17952).

 

aamadmiparty_AFP

 

If that’s some signal of things to come, I would term this as a good signal. Having said that, the overall win of BJP in the 4 state elections also came up with a positive sign for the economy.

Whatever be the outcome of general elections in 2014, economic reforms and fiscal improvement are the only ways out for any ruling government given the current state of affairs; failing which, the outcome can be too harsh to face for the nation. Hence, while the governance style could change, the direction of reforms may not vary much, come NDA or UPA or a third front. The only positive factor that I see is that now you will have party like AAP that will sit in opposition and challenge the ways of governance.

Yes, sentiments do play a pivotal role in changing the investment climate, both internally and for foreign inflows. To this extent, the State Elections appear to be setting the stage for positive sentiments.

Historically, markets do not wait for events to happen. They anticipate events and discount them. And here, we are not talking of just the elections; we are talking of the host of domestic macro and market factors that are slowly but steadily turning favorable. So, we are talking of markets reading into these changes.

The equity markets rallied as part of the Indian Spring by 14% between September and December 2013 – an indication that it was not just anticipating election results (too early then) but reading into early signs of what could be an economic recovery.

And these are some of the conspicuous signs that are purely data based and therefore can not be ignored:

  • After nearly 10 quarters, GDP growth in the September quarter was marginally higher than expectations. And more importantly, the demand side of the GDP, especially gross fixed capital formation (representing investment demand) and consumption demand grew better than the previous quarter after a slump.
  • Inflow of dollars has considerably eased the liquidity tightness and ensured better money availability for short-term borrowing. Huge dollar addition to the forex reserves through the swap window for FCNR (B) and bank borrowing has also helped stabilize the rupee at around Rs 62 to a dollar.
  • The current account deficit has drastically fallen to 1.2% of GDP from 6.7% not long ago on the back of higher exports and lower imports.
  • FII flows have remain buoyant through 2013, notwithstanding the constant fear of a US tapering. fii
  • While US Fed tapering may be a factor that could continue to weigh on markets, it is widely believed that this has been discounted to a large extent by the debt market, which saw large FII withdrawals in the second half of 2013 thus far.
  • While corporate earnings have been lack lustre for several quarters now, the September quarter earnings of Sensex grew in double digits, compared with the 4% decline in the June quarter.

And how does this all transform into travel and tourism. With all the inflow of funds, comes the travel and therefore contribution to the Tourism Industry.

 

 

The scenario for the coming months has been positive though the seasonal traffic will go down during the festive dates in December. These are times that will provide opportunities for investors to come in and explore opportunities. Having said that, will it impact the Average Rates for the hotels – that depends from city to city as there is plenty of supply that is ready to come in.

 

 

By March 2018, Bangalore will rival Mumbai’s as the city with the largest branded hotel room inventory in the country, as per a research note by one of the world’s leading hospitality consultants HVS. India’s southern metro city is expected to have a hotel room inventory of 16,581 by that year, higher than Delhi and second only to Mumbai. And the difference with Mumbai would be a mere 300 rooms. At present, Bangalore is the third largest hospitality market with 8,536 rooms, following Delhi with 11,338 rooms and Mumbai with 12,807 rooms.

 

 

Whatever be the impact of economic conditions, with that much supply coming in you are looking at a 100% growth in room supply. This not necessarily transforms to a growth in Room Nights. And hence puts pressure on Average Rates that in turn puts a lot of pressure on the ROI of these new hotel projects.

 

 

Look forward to a similar scenario with Aero City in Delhi. The industry fears aggressive competition, with the addition of 5,000-odd hotel rooms to the current inventory of 11,000 branded rooms in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). This may result in pressure on ADRs. Hotels like Radisson Blu Plaza, which overlooks the Aero City and was the first Airport Hotel of the city has already invested in upgrading and renovating its property, expecting greater competition from the coming cluster of hotels in its neighborhood.

aerocitymap1

 

 

 

So while everyone agrees that there will be a short term pressure on ADR, there is also a feeling that in the long run this will convert to greater demand and therefore the ADRs will rationalize over time. There is a big emphasis on MICE business as well. With the capacity of the Delhi airport’s terminal-III expected to exceed 75 million after the completion of phase-I, hotel companies feel the airport would become a hub for long-haul routes passing through Delhi, for conferences and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) business.

 

 

According to HVS India, occupancy at upscale and luxury hotels in Delhi for 2012/2013 hovered at 60 per cent, with ARRs between Rs8,000-8,500 (US$130-138), a six to seven per cent year-on-year fall.

 

 

All in all a positive sign of times to come for the Indian Tourism. What you don’t want now are the external factors – Economy to be positive in US and Europe. A stable government as and when it comes in and a no nonsense business from our neighborhood (referred usually as external forces)!!

india-tourism

 

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Hospitality & Tourism, TOURISM | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HOSPITALITY

The use of the term “social media” has risen steadily since July 2006 and today is part of our day to day life.
Wikipedia defines Social Media as “media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.”

Social media supports the human need for social interaction, using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one too many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content or consumer-generated media. Social media utilization is believed to be a driving factor in the idea that the current period in time will be defined as the Attention Age.

Research on the need for Social Media Interaction points to three broad factors: creativity, expertise and collective intelligence.

Users do believe that it’s a great platform to express their own thoughts and expressions without any fear. So whether it’s about giving views for an airline or a hotel service or expressing ideas on how to improve on a particular aspect – the views are there for all to read and comment upon further (read debate)

As far as expertise is concerned, an online social network is perceived by consumers as an expert tool, as it offers a basis for the detection of emerging social trends and recognition of changes in consumer behavior, including member profiles, behavioral patterns and associated lists of contacts and further more their individual experiences at a hotel or airline.

Additionally, Online Social Networks may be a means of aligning individual thinking with collaborative intelligence, leading to group consensus. This can be about announcing an event, new job openings or promoting a social cause.

Social Media @ The Hospitality Industry
In ’06 and even much later, the hospitality industry continued to ignore the concept of using Twitter or Facebook or any other social media platforms for their promotional activities. The marketing initiatives were either off line or on very limited and repetitive online options. However, things have changed now and the same marketing teams are relooking at their strategy to reach the end customer through these channels. But they have a new challenge today.

While almost all are keen to get into the space, most hospitality companies today are not sure where to allocate funding or resources for the management of this critical aspect of their business. The reason for this is because to effectively manage and reap the benefits of social media a combination of skills and resources are required including public relations, operations, revenue management and marketing.

The recent emergence of online social networks (OSN) has changed the technological and communications landscape of the hospitality industry. The bloggers becoming self proclaimed critiques sharing travel experiences, recommending preferred accommodations, offering views on restaurant ambiance, quality and service, as well as hospitality companies monitoring and contributing to self-sponsored sites or using these channels for their HR needs (LinkedIn particularly) have all changed the way the industry is looking at Social Media in current times.

Social media monitoring gives hotel marketing managers an opportunity to keep their fingers on the pulse of how consumers are responding—to what extent current marketing campaigns are successful, how they need to refine campaigns or packages over time and, ultimately, the business outcomes.

How to enhance the .Com experience?

A recent research acknowledges that toolbox technologies can be used to monitor and analyze brand equity, market influencers and consumer intelligence. Social media monitoring and analysis are also capable of identifying sensitivities about a customer experience without necessitating market intrusion. Additionally, the technology can profile or delineate influential consumers for targeting. Customers that engage in blogging or photo or video sharing are more likely to assert influence in the marketplace. By identifying individuals who disproportionately influence markets or consumer behavior in the market, a business can determine a strategy of appeal.

Various technology options like ChatterGuard.com, an online social media monitoring and reputation management system, HotelSocialBlogs.com, a turn-key Travel 2.0 Distribution & Marketing service, CommentCards.com, a full-service business-2-consumer comment card service,

eProposalSystem.com, an online RFP response system hotel Sales Managers, RFPLink.com, a group RFP lead generation, HotelDirectBook.com, a consumer hotel portal, and reporting system, DiningClick.com, Internet Marketing Services for the restaurant industry, and Spa Interactive, Internet Marketing Services for the health spa industry are available today to effectively utilize the power of Social Media in the Hospitality space.

What’s happening out there?
For the E-Marketing Managers – Microsoft’s Bing and Google have already announced that tweets from Twitter will be included in the search duo’s organic results. Facebook status updates are likely to follow. For travel and its relationship with search, indexing of live Twitter and Facebook updates will trigger an evolution – once again – in how travel companies think about Search Engine Optimization and social media.

In the Google-Twitter arrangement as an example, it is unclear as yet how Google will index and rank the stream from Twitter – but if it uses the same relevancy and linking protocols it applies at the moment to natural search, then this is a powerful change in engine’s capability. This is just one in a series of steps by Google to address real-time information. Recently they quietly added a parameter which allows granular time search: for new results within the last 5 minutes, 30 seconds, 10 hours, etc

As in the past, results for a search for “XYZ Hotel New Delhi” on Google would probably have returned the property’s website may be along with a Google map image, a Trip Advisor review, Yahoo Travel reviews, a handful of aggregator sites (where aggregation is entirely automatic, using algorithms which carry out contextual analysis and group similar stories together e.g.: RSS Feeds, Google News), an Online Travel Agent or OTA like the Make My Trip or Expedia or Travelocity, and maybe a blog post or forum entry in the first few pages. And yes you can always count on the sponsored links on the top or on the right that depends on the money you spent for electronic marketing.

But now the good news is that the results may include relevant tweets from Twitter. The relevancy may be determined by how many other Twitterists have re-tweeted the post, number of inbound links from respected and page ranked authorities, number of followers for the tweeter, etc.

In one quick stroke the search engines will be including the essence of travel: the here and now of the travel conversation or what the web community is saying about destinations, airlines, hotels, tour operators, agencies and, most importantly, the reaction to it. If this is the case, Twitter becomes a powerful channel for travel companies and can no longer be ignored. And the fear is that travel companies may well possibly flood Twitter or Facebook with hundreds or even thousands of messages in the hope that it ends up on an organic search result relevant to their brand. This is relevant from the plenty of fan pages on Facebook in the hospitality space.

The Social Media platforms might at the same time may simply become a huge distribution network of offers and late deals by the travel companies. So it’s not far away when the leading hotel companies can have a special offer right there just for its fan club on the social media network or launching an opening offer for a new hotel only by sending tweets to its regular customers.

One of the interesting tightropes of social media is that what makes something Happening in one moment where it was Outdated just six months prior. Users on Facebook are more discerning about making suggestions simply because if the person has a bad experience at a hotel as a result of that recommendation, it might just come back to bite them post the “Moment of Truth”. Twitter users, on the other hand, are more impulsive and less likely to screen their recommendations.

Or, to put it in a travel context: Facebook suggestions are like suggestions from a hotel concierge and Twitter suggestions are like reviews you read in a magazine. If the XYZ hotel concierge sends you to an exhibition venue that is closed, the hotel will compensate you with may be a meal or even a cash credit. However, you’re not going to get that response from the magazine — or with a Twittered comment. That is why Facebook status comments have greater utility than Twitter.

Who are using it already?
AIR FRANCE KLM, European based airline holding company and one of the largest airline companies worldwide, launched BLUENITY (http://bluenity.com/) what they claim to be the first social network launched by the airline industry. All usual social elements such as sharing, recommendations and reviews flights, hotels, restaurants and destinations are included. Next to that, customers are able to display flights booked through Air France KLM on their profiles, find other members on the same flight and find members at similar destinations.

Bluenity is the first community site for travelers in the airline. The consumer can communicate with and meet people who travel with Air France and KLM, at the airport, in the plane or at your destination. The trip becomes an opportunity to meeting people: for example, one can exchange favorite addresses (hotels, restaurants, shops, events, excursions…), share a taxi on arrival, use your travel time to make new contacts. One can also submit good travel tips, views and comment on tips given by other members of the community.

This social media platform is hoping to get a reasonable market share with a potential target group of over 75 million consumers who fly with either one of the two airlines.

Another leading airline – BRITISH AIRWAYS has also launched their social network and service METROTWIN (http://www.metrotwin.com/) on similar service offerings.

However one of the most successful examples of utilizing the social media space in hospitality industry is one of the major cruise companies worldwide. The Miami-based CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES has over 80.000 employees and about 13 billion U.S. Dollar revenue recorded in 2007 and is operating 22 ships which are expected to carry over 2.6 million passengers this year.
Blogging

With close to three million visitors already since 2007, Carnival is having quite a popular blog, written by Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director John Heald (http://johnhealdsblog.com/). The blog, which was started to give insight to the behind-the-scenes activity in the life of a cruise director, originally was a one month project but due to its success continued and is still growing strong.

Besides the enormous amount of visitor traffic and brand exposure, the blog is also stimulating consumers to be part of discussions, resulting in over 25.000 comments. Due to the tremendous success of the blog, earlier this year John Heald hosted his first blogging cruise, to which over 800 enthusiastic blog visitors took part.

Social Networking
Carnival has set up its own social network and community for their customers http://www.carnivalconnections.com/ featuring several social functionalities such as photo and story sharing, scrap blogging, cruise and trip planning, event organizing and a message board forum.

Of course carnivalconnections enables customer to connect to friends, invite friends and share experiences of previous cruises and expectations of future cruises with each other. Also, the social network provides customer to write reviews about cruises which they can share with the public.

Not having exact numbers of members available, we would have to conclude from the amounts of topics and posts on the forum, over 5000 topics featuring 30.000 replies, that the network is quite successful and a great example of how a travel company can interact with its customers. Only image the amount of knowledge Carnival is getting from communicating with customers through this channel.

Virtual Tour
Carnival has created a complete virtual tour of it’s Fun Ship Island at FunShipIsland.com, featuring social elements such as sharing and personalization, which enables customers to view all parts of the ship online. Other features include a downloadable content such as wallpapers, ringtones and mp3 music.

While interacting with this website, quick, optional questions and individual preferences are collected for each visitor, which results in tailored recommendations for of course carnival cruises.

Using twitter already in May 2007, Carnival can be seen as an early adapter of twitter. Since then, carnivalcruise features over 300 updates and managed to get close to 500 followers. Carnival is using their twitter account to monitor their brand, listen to questions from customers, communicate promotions, share news about carnival and wish customers a safe journey. Also, people are asked and stimulated to use other their social networks to share their cruise experiences.

Photo Sharing
Since 2004 Flickr has become the most popular website for everything related to images and after having been acquired by Yahoo in 2005, the service continued growing. Carnival Cruises has its own photo stream on Flickr, a location where all images uploaded by Carnival can be found. Having uploaded close to 250 images on different topics such as their ships, locations, interiors, crew and construction sites, carnival is providing an interesting insight into the brand Carnival.

Online Video
You Tube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips, owned by search engine Google. Carnival has its own ‘channel‘ on youtube, where it publishes its videos, coverage and presentations.

Measuring success
Although it is hard to measure the success of social media without data on costs and revenues, it appears Carnival successfully implemented social media. Brand awareness, customer services and customer intelligence through social media is difficult to measure.

By February 2008 both carnivalconnections.com and FunShipIsland.com managed to record over one million visitors. In terms of transactions, the only number available we could find is 20.000 transactions through carnivalconnections.com, which is significant and expected to have increased since 2006.

Using social media
Carnival has introduced a general audience with all comforts of long and short term cruising and is successfully using social media to spread their message and increase their brand positioning. Although the numbers of followers on twitter and members on youtube are not even significant, the efforts of Carnival do illustrate how innovative the company is and how active the company is participating in the conversation with their customers.

Strategizing Social Media for Hospitality Industry
An effective strategy in the hospitality space to cover social media should consider these points:

The monitoring service should cover more than one or two social media websites or blogs. Depending on the market and clientele demographics, the consumer reviews may appear on non-travel websites and blogs or on social media sites that are popular within that region or even from it’s key inbound territory.

When monitoring social messages one needs to segment them by attributes. For example for your hotel, the attributes may include rooms, perceived value, dining and housekeeping. A different set of attributes will apply for a restaurant, conference facility, spa services or golf. Segmenting by attribute also makes the process of applying this information internally to improve a service, inform your staff or to write a response so much easier.

A scoring method is needed to measure the trend of reviews by attribute so one can measure or compare trends up or down over time. If all reviews about the business are good, then the organization needs to know that and can take advantage of this input by posting or linking the messages to it’s brand website.

It is important for the organization to post responses to both good and bad reviews on the social media websites that allow response postings and where it is a blog one can generally add the comments. The response should be brief and address only the specific issue raised in a review. The comment should not read like an advertisement. In the social environment, consumers are on these sites to see the reviews, one-on-one information and not a commercial message. The value of the response is in the participation rather than interruption. The participation shows the companies’ willingness to listen and to be responsive; where as a commercial message may appear deceptive.

Conclusion
Simply monitoring one or two social media websites or blogs requires time and resources. It may give piece of mind, but there is no value or return on the time and resources without a strategic plan as to how this important information will be utilized. To reap the benefits of social media requires a measurable plan and clear expectation. The strategy should enable to benefit not only from negative reviews, but also the good reviews as well.

As part of overall strategy, the following key points can be considered while planning:

Social Media:
• Best Practices for Monitoring Customer Reviews
• Facebook Fan Pages for the hotel: Set-up or Optimization, Ongoing

Campaign Management, Content Postings, Fan List Growth
• Twitter Profiles for the hotel: Set-up or Optimization, Ongoing Campaign Management, Content Postings, Follower List Growth
• Flickr Profile for the hotel: Set-up and Optimization, Ongoing Management,

Content Postings
• YouTube: Flash Video Production, YouTube.com Hotel Profile Set-Up and Optimization, Ongoing Video Uploads
• Social Media Advertising (Web 2.0 Search, Banner Advertising, Sponsorships)
• Reservation Tracking and Conversion Reporting from the social media initiatives:
o Via the online booking engine
o Via the special 1-800 numbers used in the social media campaigns

Web 2.0 Features/Functionality on the Hotel Website:
• Interactive Calendar of Events (content managed by the hotel)
• Interactive Sweepstakes (e.g. 100th guest Free Room Giveaway)
• Blog on the Hotel Website (content managed by the hotel)
• Interactive Contests (Photo Sharing, Scavenger Hunts, etc.)
• Interactive Games (Good for resorts & casinos)

Building the Hotel Web 2.0/Social Media Strategy
• Hotel Defensive Strategy
• Hotel-Sponsored Social Media Initiatives
• Social Media and Hotel Employees
• Web 2.0/Social Media Marketing Initiatives
• Best Practices and Recommendations
• Brand/Corporate Level
• Property Level
• Destination Level

Because each site and each component of social media strategy has different objectives, they each have their own success metrics. One definitely needs to track engagement, satisfaction, and leads/sales. But to have a truly successful social media strategy, sales shouldn’t be the number one measure of success. From launching a new site to simply opening a Facebook fan page, each and every one of these initiatives involves a strategy and a foresight.

For some brands it doesn’t make sense to participate in every social networking site available, so one definitely tends to ease into new applications. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from and get into action…

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Hospitality & Tourism, TOURISM | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Saga of CWG & Incredible India

I am on board Indian Railways as I continue my journey from Agra to Jaipur (of course on business!!) and this story is on the brand standards that we have created for ourselves across the world

I started the day at 0400 hrs, took the Bhopal Shatabdi at New Delhi Railway Station at 0615 hrs after picking up a colleague from The Lalit hotel at Barakhamba Road New Delhi. Onboard I was going through a daily newspaper and was not so amazed to find quite a few articles on the Commonwealth Games preparation whether it’s infrastructure or our own readiness or the proposed change in behavior that is now being sought after (maybe to shift focus from the slow pace of infrastructure)

We are talking about getting ourselves ready for the CWG and I was taking a train early in the morning from Paharganj side. The traffic jam that prevailed at the traffic light right in front of the entrance of the station was amazing. Of course I had a good dose of honking in the morning to begin with. The good bit was that the train started on time (considering it originates from Delhi), the service was good (if not great) and the meal quality was also fine (I am not going to compare it with in-flight meal service here).

And there I was reading all those articles. Reached Agra and was welcomed to the city of monument of love by nothing less than a mess. It was raining when we reached and the site of the railway station, the only other option apart from road, would have put our railway and tourism minister to shame. The exit of the station on both sides has for some reason iron bars in zig zag manner so the crowd has to wait and go one by one to move out. The problem is that the taxi operators are pouncing on one another to get the foreign tourist into their taxi. Even though the pre paid taxi service booth is just in front with two policemen doing the clerical job, there is absolutely no control on the way the cars are moving out, the way drivers are dressed, check on the car numbers leaving the parking bay. And if you hear these taxi men fighting with each other, it further puts you to shame. They use all kinds of abusive language thinking that only foreigners are around them and talk in a nice sweet language the moment they approach the tourist.

The rain had ensured that both sides of the exit were full of standing water. While leaving the parking, a policeman is just to be shown even from a distance that the pre paid slip has been collected. The main exit of the station is again worth visiting. The road is surrounded by the “Shudh Vaishno Dhabas” on both sides with of course a Sarkari Theka!! There is absolutely no drainage system that I could see and hence the roads were flooded with rain water. The moment you leave the station, you find endless planter guards in green triangular shape that are supposed to protect saplings from getting destroyed by the easily available herd of cattle on roads. Unfortunately there are hardly any saplings that are being protected by these metallic guards and all they are doing is to provide a good marketing opportunity for advertising and you see the LIC and the BSNL advts all along. Someone has been smart enough in the government to first come up with a great idea and then sell it within the public sector to get further advertising revenues. The best is yet to come though. Amongst this endless sight of guards I found a few that had some broken flowerpots placed in the centre with of course a dead sapling hanging from it. Why on earth you will place regular earthen flowerpots on road sides and cover them with metallic guards. Half of them would have got picked up on the night they were placed and the rest were left to die a natural death.

I reached my hotel to again find a pool of water at the entrance and the reason was simple, there was absolutely no famed Nalla anywhere. Where will the water go and I am on Taj Road the one that actually leads to the Taj Mahal.

So this is the plight of affairs at a destination which is bound and destined to get the maximum pull of visitors when the CWG begins or ends as part of various itineraries and I am sure using the morning Shatabdi or Train for that matter will be a sought after option for most of the tourists.

Just in case Delhi is able to change, let’s imagine for a moment, I am sure the tourists are going to get a shock treatment at Agra. My humble request to the ministers in Delhi Government to please ask Behen Mayawati to get the Agra taxi drivers and guides to attend the training sessions in Delhi. All in the name of brand standards and the brand being Incredible India!!

My journey continues now from Agra to Jaipur and the 2965 Gwalior Udaipur Superfast Train is already running late by 30 minutes. Another eye opener for the tourist of 2010. When you travel AC Chair Car on Shatabdi you will be given a newspaper, a Flask of Tea, Breakfast, Mineral Water bottle. Now when you continue your journey from Agra to Jaipur (and the AC chair car in this train is full of these tourists) you just get nothing. Boarding the train at 1745 and a scheduled arrival time in Jaipur at 2215 hrs. An attendant with water has passed now at 2131 hours. I requested for a cup of tea and the attendant is yet to come by. The attendant serving snacks – veg cutlet and omelet + bread had nothing even close to warm snacks and of course you are to pay for everything unlike the complimentary stuff that you got in the morning. Now look at the math:
Delhi to Agra – 195 kms – 740 Rs – AC Chair Car Approx 4 Rs per Km
Agra to Jaipur – 245 kms – 610 Rs – AC Chair Car Approx 2 Rs per km

So by saving 2 Rs per km, the railways decided to not offer anything on board the 5 hour journey. Ok, but at least give some decent options and above all the service. Or may be learn from the LCAs. You book on Indigo online and have an option to add a meal of your choice. Why not copy that? Alternatively, please mention on the tickets that you will be served any meals or not. We could have got some decent stuff packed from the hotel and had on board.

My journey will now continue to Jaipur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Khajuraho and will end in Delhi thereafter. I am sure I will some more eye openers for the people responsible. But is there someone listening?

October 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tourism Education in India

 By the very nature of tourism as a service industry, its efficient management and successful operation depend largely on the quality of manpower. In India, the shortage of skilled manpower poses a major threat to the overall development of tourism.

In particular, the rapid expansion of hotels of an international standard in India is creating a high level of demand for skilled and experienced staff. The nature of the decisions facing hotel management is continually expanding. For their business to remain competitive, managers must be skilful in many diverse areas. Tourism statistics reveal that both domestic and foreign tourism are on a robust growth path. This growth will need to be serviced by a substantial increase in infrastructure, including air-road, rail connectivity as well as hotels and restaurants

 

The availability of skilled and trained manpower is a crucial element in the successful long-term development and sustainability of a tourist destination. Skilled and trained human resources will ensure the delivery of efficient, high-quality service to visitors, which is a direct and visible element of a successful tourism product. High standards of service are particularly important in sustaining long-term growth, since success as a tourist destination is determined not only by price competitiveness or the range of attractions available, but also by the quality of the services provided, there by the qualified human capital. 

 

The hotel sector is labor-intensive with an average employee-to-room ratio of 1.8: 1 in India, compared to 1.5: 1 globally. However there exist a huge gap in manpower availability, especially so with the budget hotel segment.

 

Currently there are 26 Institutes of Hotel Management with 180 other Institutes providing Degree/ Diploma courses in F&B service, F&B production, Housekeeping. These training facilities produce around 10,500 graduates in various courses every year. However this doesn’t solve the crisis faced by the budget hotel segment, given the preference of graduates for the 5 star segments.

 

One option now is to look at opening more quality Hotel Management institutes and ensure that the country is geared up for the kind of targets that are being made and aimed in terms of tourism in the country which includes not only inbound foreign tourist but also the domestic tourism that is slowly picking up the pace.

 

The above seems to be a genuine option that needs to see the light of the day.

 

However, I am shocked and surprised by what is happening in the country – thanks to some eagerness of the Ministry of Tourism. Kind of reminds me the latest DMRC metro rail accidents in Delhi where in the quality has been sacrificed in our eagerness to complete the projects within the CWG 2010 deadlines.

 

I passed out of IHM Bhopal in 1998. At that time the institute was decent enough to accommodate the kind of numbers are batch possessed though we still felt that things were overcrowded at times. We were a batch of around 100 students and the numbers had actually gone up from 50-60 that our previous batches used to be. I was at IHM Goa recently and had a chance to meet the faculty there. Somewhat similar story in terms of the numbers in 1998. However, the new batch that was joining now had 275 students and add on to that another 25 failures from the last years batch. That gives you 300 students to manage in the Ist Year course of B.Sc. in Hotel Management by National Council and degree being awarded by IGNOU.

 

And Mind It!! There has been no change in the infrastructure. The professors are expected to pull up their socks (with the age) and ensure that they have full control on 300 students. So from a time when there used to be one person on a range making to learn a Mayonnaise Sauce or making Chicken Chettinad, there are now 6-7 students trying to learn from the act. It might remind you of Munnabhai MBBS wherein our man claims to provide him a separate dead body at the medical college so that he could learn something considering there were so many students pounding on to get a look at how the professor was trying to cut open the stomach.

 

And things are not over here, in fact the problems start much earlier. The entrance test to IHM colleges in India comes now with an option to write the exam in English & Hindi. While I have complete respect for the national language and with no offence meant to the BJP & RSS political leaders, I am wondering how a student who writes in Hindi, gets selected and joins, is expected to understand the course content which is totally in English. Let’s face it, we are preparing the manpower to take care of the foreigners coming in to the country, if I go by the numbers targeted. Domestic Tourism is yet to get into shape and even if it does Hindi still can’t be taken as the common language for communication.

 

6 students per table, English Language, Poor Infrastructure, Disgusting Campus Placement success rate – Where do you expect this 3rd year pass out student to stand in the industry?

 

And add to that the fact that over 43.5% seats (15% SC + 7.5% ST + 18% OBC + 3% Physically Handicapped + 1 Kashmiri Migrant Seat) are reserved for SC/ST/OBC. I feel reservations in such kind of professional courses should be a strict no. A student who gets over 15000 rank, still gets admitted if he is part of the quota seat. I wonder, what will he/she go through during the 3 years at college and a bleak campus recruitment scenario.

 

The fact that there are 26 institutes is good to read. However, while the established institutes like Bhopal, Delhi, Gwalior, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc go overbooked, the institutes in Sikkim, Patna and other remote locations go half full.

 

The Government could constitute a steering committee to review the demand and supply of the human resources in the hospitality industry and prepare plans for developing qualitative human resources which are require for the present day global industry. They should concentrate on the following issues mainly:

 

• Create a policy on Industry institute interaction

 

• Establish an apex body to coordinate all the hospitality management institutes in the country

 

• For conducting Common entrance test for all Govt. University/AICTE/Private institutes in the country

 

• Curriculum development from time to time as per industry requirement which is very important.

 

• Fees structure for different courses in different institutes

 

• Appoint a committee to identify the requirements of qualified manpower for International Hotels and also identify the ways to develop.

 And going back to college if required to impart some training or share your own experiences is something we all can start at our end and I am sure our faculty at colleges will be more than happy to have us there.

July 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment