Draft National Strategy: Stakeholders upset with proposal to include National MICE Bureau as a division of ITDC
By releasing three draft strategies with roadmaps to promote India as a rural and medical tourism destination and to position it as a place for conferences, meetings and exhibitions, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has made its intent very clear. But a lot depends on adoption of a pragmatic approach to make these segments truly vibrant. Also, there is need for the government to address the perennial problems and listen carefully to suggestions from the industry players and implement them.
By and large the industry stakeholders have hailed the move. However, the proposal to set up the National MICE Bureau as a division of the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) has not gone down well with the industry stakeholders. Their contention is with allowing an organisation that competes with private sector becoming an impartial industrial body.
“The MICE policy proposes a MICE Board, and that is indeed a very good idea. But the way the policy wants to structure will, for sure, create just another toothless body with little skills or qualified input,” pointed out Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel. He suggested that the industry needs something professionally-operated, filled with people with real life skills and experience (in the industry) and not bound by archaic ministry rules. Kohli is disappointed as the policy seems to diminish the presence and efforts of ICPB (India Convention and Promotion Bureau).
“A body that was perhaps one of the first public-private sector partnerships in our industry, ICPB may be flawed, and there is certainly room for improvement, but whatever it has done over the years is on the merit of the private sector alone without any financial support from the government. It is of concern to see that the Ministry proposes to hand over the MICE Board to ITDC,” he said. “You cannot have an organisation that competes with us (private sector players) in business as an operator of what is supposed to be an impartial industry body. That is not fair play,” Kohli adds.
Another industry veteran on the condition of anonymity said that it’s a move to destroy the ICPB system. “ICPB is working very closely with the MoT under the chairmanship of Joint Secretary Tourism from the past 32 years as an independent body to promote MICE in India. It has been helping and offering its members – hotels, venues, DMCs, PCOs, PEOs and other service providers an unbiased platform since ages. On the other hand, ITDC is a PSU with commercial interest and having direct competition with hotels, venues and PCOs through their arms – Ashoka Events and Ashoka Tours and Travels. Globally, MICE Bureaus are non- profit organisations and work with government support. The National Advisory Council of MICE and India MICE Board must have a Vice-Chairman of ICPB as part of this decision-making body, which is also ignored,” he lamented.
Terming the policy document as comprehensive, Jyoti Mayal, President, TAAI (Travel Agents Association of India), said that the MoT has targeted three important avenues of tourism-MICE, Medical and Rural. “All the three streams of tourism are very important aspects especially, post-Covid. India has a lot to offer and should en-cash on its strength. The document is comprehensive and has been created with inputs from the associations,” she said.
Mayal feels that it is imperative to have a roadmap with proper implementation of the policies and should be offered with incentives and milestone driven. Encouragement and support to tourism organisers and travel agents to promote the three streams are also important. “If this does not happen then all the work and documentation has no relevance,” Mayal stated.
She also emphasised that to make it a success story the stakeholders must closely work with the government. “To convert the policies into a success story, stakeholders certainly need to be in partnership with MoT to develop these streams. The government should concentrate on the infrastructure and leave the rest to travel providers to make it revenue-driven and offer new opportunities to the struggling industry and in turn revive the economy of the country,” Mayal suggested.
Commenting on this, (Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality), said that implementation is very critical, but the intent has been captured very well. “India is a land of many tourism sectors. It would be great if we could develop some of them as focus segments. FAITH will come forward and share their own thought process with the government to make it a truly public-private partnership to ensure that the uniqueness of India is highlighted and developed through the policy documents,” said Gupta.