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"Focusing on tourism will lift the Indian economy"

"What started as a small travel and information center for students in 1972, Stic Travel Group has now emerged as one of the largest travel groups in India with offices in all major cities across the country. Stic Group Founder and Chairman, Mr Subhash Goyal, is described by his business counterparts as the captain and visionary of the travel sector. A regular contributor to various leading newspapers and magazines and author of a book titled, "poverty Eradication and Economic Development Through Tourism," Mr Goyal shared his rich experiences he has had with the tourism sector with
India Empire's Sanjay Kaw, Sneha Samaddar and Gunjan Sharma

How did your journey into the world of travel and tours begin?

I was the president to the Delhi University Students' Union in 1966-67. I got an invitation for an international conference on unrest and peace in Japan in 1969. My Vice Chancellor was willing to provide me a free air ticket, but I refused. I came to know if I could collect 15 people, I would get one air ticket free. I did it. Not only I got my free air ticket, but I was also paid a commission of Rs 1,000. In 1970, I organized a full charter for Expo 70, in which I made good money. A year later, I was invited as a student leader for UNESCO conference to Israel. Then I went to London, where I saw the functioning of student charter. Finally, in 1972, with one chair and one table, I started a small travel and information center for students near Palika in Connaught Place. We specialized in student travels and gave special discounts. During Emergency, my small office was razed to the ground. But I sold tickets in an Ambassador car. Then, I set up my office in York hotel. And finally I moved the office to Imperial hotel. Now, we have 40 offices all across the country. We are the largest wholesale travel group in India. Our customers are primarily our tour and travel agents.

How is tourism sector doing globally?

One billion people are travelling all over the globe every year. But India's share is not even 0.5%. We have just 6 million tourists. France has 75 million, Spain 60 million, China has 50 million and even Malaysia has 15 to 20 million.

Why India receive only 6 million tourists?

The biggest problem is getting a visa for India. When passengers want to come, we make it so difficult for them that they drop the idea. We should provide visa on arrival. Even Sri Lanka provides this facility.


What are other bottlenecks?
There is too much of taxation on this industry. We have luxury tax, service tax, road tax, VAT, and so on. The product has become very expensive. We need to rationalize taxation. Then, our domestic flights are too expensive. It is cheaper to have a conference in Dubai or Bangkok then having it in Chennai, Kerala or Cochin. The tax on turbine fuel is too much. Our airport landing charges are the highest among the world. And we even discourage new airlines to fly in our country.

Other reasons which deter tourists from visiting India……

We don't have a sense of public hygiene. We are the birthplace of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. We have beautiful beaches and islands, Because of dirt, filth and bad infrastructure, tourists don't visit us. Even if one visits, he does not come here again. What's important is that we should educate children from school about cleanliness and environment. And above all, there is no coordination between the Centre and states in marketing and sales promotion.

How is the political leadership dealing with this sector?
All political parties want to eradicate poverty in the country. But there is a lot of leakage in the route when it comes to money earmarked for poverty eradication programmes. We need to create more jobs to eradicate poverty. I am sure that the maximum number of jobs will be in this industry in the next 20 years. But politicians are just doing a lip service. In some budget, there is no mention of the word tourism.

In 1999, Malaysia launched a worldwide campaign "Malaysia, Truly Asia," which helped it bring in over 7.4 million tourists. Do we need such campaigns to increase our tourist inflow?
Our "Incredible India" brand is much better than that of Malaysia. But unfortunately we have not been able to cash on it. This is primarily because of our rigid visa policy.

Who are the tourists who visit India?
Of the 6 million tourists, about 3 million are NRI's. Of the remaining 3 million, 50 percent are business travelers. To be precise, leisure tourists are close to one million only.

And the large number of these tourists is from which countries?
The majority of our tourists are from the United States, U.K., Germany and France.

Even the Canary Islands have about 9 million tourists annually?
The case of Canary Islands is totally different. They are totally dependent on tourism sector. But our priorities are different. But now we have realized the importance of this service sector.

Which states in India are aggressively marketing their tourism sector?
Earlier only Goa, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir used to market their tourism packages. Now other states like Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab and Gujarat are also doing a good job. If each state can attract just one million tourist every year, we will be getting about 100 million in the next few years. We can eradicate poverty by only promoting the tourism sector.

Three or four generations-old Indian Diaspora want to visit their roots, but our Government seems to be doing nothing for them?

No Government in the world can distinguish between the diaspora and other tourists. Its for the travel agencies to create special packages like "Discover Your Roots, Back to Roots" for them. See Saudia Arabia makes the maximum out of the Haj pilgrimage. We too have many darghas of sufisaints. They are very much in demand. One of the 12 disciples of Jesus Chriist was buried in Chennai. We have a Synagogue in Cochin. What all we need is to create special packages for such religious places.