As ASSOCHAM and ICPB came together to hold a seminar on MICE tourism in India, several government and private stakeholders discussed ways and means to further India as a MICE destination. Despite divergent views, there was unanimity on boosting outreach, creation of world-class convention centers and closer co-operation between centre and states.
The current status and future of MICE tourism in India came under scanner, as senior government representatives and heads of various tourism associations came together at a seminar organized through a joint association of ASSOCHAM and ICPB. Serious deliberations by industry insiders brought out some pertinent challenges, opportunities and solutions to bolster MICE segment in India.
There was an underlying concurrence on the fact that India was right and ready to assume its position as a favoured MICE destination, especially in Asia Pacific. Some of the important reasons for this belief stemmed out of witnessing sustained economic growth in the past year, increased visibility of India on the global platform – thanks to a globetrotting PM whose visits to distant shores had re-invigorated world’s interest in Indian markets – and government’s focus on skill development.
India’s richness in heritage and culture also propped up as innate strengths in attracting MICE travelers from world-over. Some speakers argued that with over thirty World Heritage sites, MICE meetings and conferences could be held at these venerated venues, lending a unique opportunity for participants to enjoy a blend of work and pleasure, in equal measure. High on agenda was, also, to leverage the plethora of religious destinations dotted across India’s distant corners. It was heartening to note that the government had already initiated construction of conference centers at destinations like Khajuraho, Varanasi and Bodh-Gaya. Given that these destinations are frequented by people from a number of countries, it can be expected that their fame and adequate conferencing facilities, together, would act as a pull enough to attract MICE tourism.
As senior government representatives laid down their vision for the future ahead, they stressed on the need for closer cooperation between centre and state governments. They also believed that the government was meant only for hand-holding, and it was the private sector which needed to take the lead in propelling India to its rightful status. Calling for a closer cooperation between private and government bodies, they also exerted the need for aligning all stakeholders – who formed the value chain – in order to be able to project and market India in a formidable way.
Taking stock of the future ahead, panelists believed that India needed to negate the impact of global slowdown by highlighting its thriving economy. Also, the success of e-visa in lending to ease of travel needed to percolate to business visa holders. However, some panelists quipped that it was cheaper to hold conferences abroad, compared to holding them in Delhi, and unless there was a concerted effort to make travel and accommodation competitive by rationalizing taxes, these measure were only going to have a limited impact.
To sum up, it is true that India’s tourism is tremendously lopsided in the favour of leisure segment. Driven by domestic travel, leisure segment is likely to rule the roost in the foreseeable future. But, as India embarks on an ambitious mission of increasing its trade with global markets, and strengthening its manufacturing sector through undertakings like ‘Make in India’, increased corporate travel will be a natural outcome. The challenge lies in synchronizing singular efforts by linking stakeholders and rationalizing taxation. State governments’ must be made to realize that the taxes they may forgo would be minuscule compared to the potential of generating revenue by easing taxes. India also needs to muscle up its public relations and marketing machinery to highlight itself as a destination. However, all these efforts would only bear fruit when, we as a nation, come up with some truly world-class convention centers – which have, barring a few exceptions, eluded us.