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TN needs a larger vision; ban on alcohol will impact revenue, say industry insiders


As CM Jayalalitha takes over the reins of TN one more time, hotel industry is hoping for a fresh impetus on travel, tourism and hospitality in the state. Some key areas of concern remain lack of adequate skilled manpower, obtaining clearances and sky-rocketing real-estate prices. They also expressed concern on lack of sustainable tourism measures and toying with the idea of going dry – which could hit Chennai’s standing as a cosmopolitan city.

Four key states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam, representing a substantial chunk of India’s population, went into polls a couple of weeks ago. As the dust settles on bitterly contested elections and the cacophony of election gives way to new governments’ taking centre-stage one more time, indus-try stakeholders’ are hopeful for a fresh impetus for tourism in these states.

As we engaged with industry insiders to understand key bottlenecks in furthering the cause of tourism and hospitality in Tamil Nadu, some of the important concerns that propped up were related to the need for re-looking at tourism as an industry and faster clearances to ensure timely implementation of projects. Another major concern for hospitality indus-try has been the ongoing discourse on banning alcohol – a bandwagon that TN seems eager to join.

Steve Borgia, CMD, InDeco Hotels alleges that tourism never figured in the list of priorities for Ta-mil Nadu government, irrespective of their political affiliation. Calling the last five years catastrophic for tourism and hospitality, he said “it has really been as bad as it gets. Tamil Nadu, traditionally, has been overtly pro-poor; the government is living in past glory. State government aside, the central government must also look at tourism in southern states with renewed interest.”

Referring to the absence of robust policy and guidelines, he said that while the world was talking about sustainable tourism development, central and state governments’ in India was yet to begin talking about tourism development. “The eco-tourism society has recently inked a MoU with MoT. We hope to carry this initiative for-ward to several state governments,” noted Steve Borgia.

When asked to further elaborate on possible and immediate initiatives, he highlighted the need for sustain-able development initiatives stating “our hill-stations are being ravaged, and are losing their pristine ecological balance. Western Ghats is being threatened by over-exploitation. Munnar, famed for its tea plantation, is fast losing its charm. So there are several pressing issues that need immediate attention.”

Dismayed by lack of efforts on the part of the government, he said “if we can simply stop this ongoing destruction, instead of looking for solutions, it will be a major contribution to the cause of tourism.”

While commenting on the current state of hospitality in TN, Daniel Chao, GM Novotel-Ibis hotels Chennai OMR and GM Delegate AccorHotels said that hospitality sector in Chennai, and Tamil Nadu as a whole, was facing a new phase of growth. “Over the past few years, several domestic and international hospitality groups have entered the city and existing groups have ex-panded their presence across all segments, from budget to luxury,” he said. He added that with the development of the Chennai Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, Chennai had turned into a major upcoming commercial destination. “The region is expected to see some major planned commercial and industrial development in the long run,” he said.

Sharing his understanding on current challenges faced by the hospitality industry in the state, he argued that hotels faced similar problems like those in other countries and it needed to be addressed with more robust confidence-building measures in place. “The policies and initiatives to promote the sector often falter at the implementation stage. Multiple agencies involved in granting clearances make securing the required clearances for a project a long and cumbersome process. The need for single-window clearance in infrastructure projects is stronger than ever. This will reduce the time taken for obtaining clearance and remove ambiguities on the status of infrastructure projects,” the GM said.

Noting that the cost of acquiring land for hospitality projects was exorbitant and was fraught with a high chance of litigation, the GM batted for moderation in real-estate prices. “The government should also take steps to moderate real es-tate prices and thus help to create the necessary infrastructure for the hospitality sector to achieve high growth,” he said.

Besides, availability of skilled manpower continued to be a challenge for the sector countrywide, he felt. “The government must take steps to address this, adopting the PPP model where we can impart training to the manpower and improve the quality of their skill sets is the way forward,” GM said.

Suggesting a way forward for the larger tourism industry, Steve Borgia mooted joint efforts from diverse industry stakeholders, noting that “a region specific plan must be devised, keeping in mind the nature of peculiar challenges faced by each of these regions.” He urged the government to go a step beyond brainstorming matters like policy and guidelines, and work on developing tourism which was sustainable and local in nature.

All of these issues aside, the hospitality industry is, also, grappling with a lurk-ing fear that alcohol might be banned in the coastal state. After Kerala and Bihar, Tamil Nadu could become the next victim of populist poll promises. Daniel Chao noted that while it was too soon to comment on the enforcement of prohibition in the state, it was definitely going to impact the hospitality sector as well F&B establishments in Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai. “A major part of the revenue for such establishments comes from alcohol sales. Interestingly, with revenue from liquor amounting to over 20 percent of the state’s own tax revenue, a total prohibition may not be viable for the government either. We hope that the government can regulate the law for the sale of alcohol, instead of totally shutting it down, which could result in Chennai losing its standing among other cosmopolitan cities in the country,” he argued.

Source: Tourism First

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