Favouring an overhaul in the tourism development strategy in the country, Craig Smith, President and Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Marriott Inc. advocated for an enhanced focus on a selected few destinations in order to develop them as tourism hubs. Expressing confidence in the Indian market, he said that Marriott Inc. was bullish on India. “Tourism helps in creating jobs. We need to work together…You need to pick 4 -5 destinations and make them hubs,” he said, speaking at the India Economic Forum in the capital. He also emphasized that the country needed to develop five special tourism zones like Jaipur.
Pressing for wedding out red tapes to expedite hotel projects, he appealed, “cut red tape. It takes so many permits to do anything. It is at every level and it is complicated.” Noting that delay in projects owing to red tapes was making them financially expensive undertakings, he drew an analogy between India and Japan. “It takes 2 years to build a hotel in Japan. It takes 7 years to open a five-star hotel in India. That capital sits and (remains) unused for 7 years…it becomes expensive,” he lamented. “About 180 permits are required to open a hotel anywhere in India,” APAC MD further added.
Batting for reforms in order to better harness the potential of tourism sector in the country, he suggested a more rational taxation structure, making a mention of GST. “The objective of GST is good, but 28 per cent (tax slab) is very high,” he said.
Craig Smith noted that there was a need for a shift in how tourism was viewed and “people should understand that tourism is not luxury, it creates jobs,” he said. Making a mentioned of Kerala and Goa, he lauded tourism in these states, calling them “great examples in tourism.”
The debate for a fresh look at ways and means to augment destinations and tourism therein is not a new one. Several industry stakeholders have been of the view that hubs would create more traction, help develop better related infrastructure and provide the much-needed pull for long-distance travellers – who aim at sampling diverse elements with limited time in their hands. Craig Smith’s suggestion of looking at key destinations and developing them as hubs merits serious consideration.