A COMPENDIUM Of IDEAS
A look at FHRAI’s 52nd annual convention held from 14-16 September, 2017, at Bengaluru where delegates got a chance to network and take back knowledge from engaging panel discussions
Eminent guests, keynote speakers, and industry stakeholders congregated for pertinent deliberations at the 52nd The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) Annual Convention, which was held from 14th to 16th September, 2017 at Shangri-La Hotel, Bangalore. At the three-day event, delegates got a chance to attend panel discussions on relevant topics and network with fellow hoteliers.
The theme for this year’s convention was ‘Hospitality 2025 – The Future is NOW’. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation presided over the inauguration ceremony. Ananth Kumar, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ashok Chandra Panda, Minister of State, Department of Tourism, Government of Odisha; RV Deshpande, Minister for Large & Medium Industries and Infrastructure Development, Government of Karnataka, and other dignitaries were also present at the event.
In his opening address, T Nataraajan, executive council member of FHRAI, said, “It’s not easy to have such dignitaries on the same dais. FHRAI, one of the oldest associations in existence, has addressed quite a few issues of hospitality. To bring the convention to Bengaluru was a dream of K Syama Raju, our erstwhile president. He often used to tell me that the last convention of FHRAI that was held in Bengaluru was in the early 80s and he was eager to showcase modern Karnataka to everyone.”
Speaking at the inaugural session, Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “Hospitality is in the DNA of Indians. We need to learn teamwork from the Japanese, precision from the Germans, etiquette from the English, and marketing from the Americans. India needs improvement in its infrastructure. Its tourism has increased by 11% over the previous years; 8.6 million people visited the country this year. However, we are still far behind a small country like Greece that welcomes 30 million tourists every year.”
According to him India also needs better infrastructure, more hotels and restaurants. There are so many opportunities for spiritual tourism, medical tourism, and now even rain tourism where people can enjoy the monsoon here.
RAMPING UP INFRASTRUCTURE
It is evident that there is a dire need to promote infrastructure development in the country so that other sectors can also thrive as a result. While agreeing to this, and addressing the audience at the convention, RV Deshpande said, “As far as Karnataka is concerned, tourism is our thrust sector. In the last four years, we have strived to improve roads for better connectivity for tourism. Karnataka has always been a visionary state. The budget for tourism in Karnataka has brought about rich dividends. Footfalls have increased and we are one of the top five states in the country leading in tourism.”
However, he pointed out that tourism in coastal states has not grown much and he recalled that the union government was considering relaxing CRZ norms, which in turn will give benefit states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
Later, Ashok Chandra Panda, minister of Tourism & Culture, Government of Odisha spoke about the comprehensive plans that have been drawn for efficiently and effectively tapping Odisha’s tourism potential, targeting a substantial increase in arrivals to the state. Talking about these initiatives, he mentioned that the state had hosted FHRAI’s golden jubilee convention and also organised Indian Association for Tour Operators (IATO) convention.
Ananth Kumar, Union Cabinet Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India elaborated about the efforts being put in by the government to boost the growth of hospitality and tourism. He said. “Recently, a hotel delegation came to Delhi during the parliament session to talk about Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates. While GST implementation was a welcome initiative, there exist some teething problems. There was some relief when the upper limit was revised from 28% to 18% for tariff from INR 5500 to INR 7500.”
He maintained that hotels and restaurants are the backbone of tourism and agreed that more leeway is required when it comes to GST. “In 2014, the total domestic passengers in aviation were six crore; they now stand at 10 crore, bringing about 21% growth. I suggest that to prepare a charter to the union and state governments and also discuss this with finance and tourism ministers.” He promised to act as a facilitator and speak to various ministers to ensure ease of doing business in hotels and restaurants for the growth of tourism in India. Later, Nakul Anand, executive director, ITC Hotels shared his vision delving into the rise of digital and mobile consumer usage where control has completely gone into the hands of the consumers. “We see a flurry of industry changes. Online search engines are exploring advertising models and metasearch companies are moving to assisted bookings. There is a blurring of industry value chains and data is the new oil. The travel industry remains the leader in e-commerce maturity with high online penetration. It is this twin rise of mobiles and social media that has made all the difference.”
The convention received good feedback from the industry. R Ravichandar, CMD of Nandhana Hotels has been attending FHRAI’s convention for five years and finds it worthwhile. He especially like Nakul Anand’s session and some of his doubts about GST were cleared during the panel discussion on the topic.
K Mohanchandran, director-operations, Taj GVK Hotels & Resorts and general manager, Taj Krishna Hyderabad especially liked the panel discussion on outsourcing of restaurants in a five-star setting as it made restaurateurs and hoteliers think differently. “The session on GST highlighted the plethora of issues that exist as we struggle to settle down in this new regime. Tax assessors, the government, hoteliers, vendors, and everyone else understands the importance of GST, but to try and understand the perspective of other people who have similar concerns is also very important. This is the value that the convention brings,” he said. Ajay Goel, MD of Shimla British Resort found the sessions to be good and as an owner of a heritage property he felt the event was a great place to learn from experienced hoteliers and restaurateurs. However, he opined that could be improved further by inviting more international participants. “International speakers and experts on food and hospitality could add more value to the sessions,” he stated.