Mumbai: Director, New Airways Travels and the newly elected President of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Jyoti Mayal and MD, Triway Travels and the new Honorary Secretary General of TAAI, Lokesh Bettaiah, share their priorities and views with Destination Reporter.

The newly elected TAAI leadership is on a mission mode to engage with the government to arrive at a formal structure for the industry

What are your key focus areas as the new leadership of TAAI?
Mayal: We want to be the face and voice of the industry and work closely with the government. We wish to have media, both mainstream and trade, supporting us to grow this industry. We are working with the Union Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and IATA. We are setting the agenda for the next two years.
The TAAI constitution is undergoing a revamp with certain amendments coming in. From a technology standpoint, we are trying to bring in processes and practices for the effective day-to-day working of the association nationwide.

Bettaiah: The full team under Jyoti Mayal’s leadership won the election this year so our mandate is clear. We will have a dynamic team working across 20 regions and chapters of TAAI to promote travel and tourism. We want to make each travel professional prepared to do business in these changing times. We also want to encourage sports tourism and inbound to India.

Can you share details of some of the major activities planned?
Mayal: We have signed an MoU with Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi. We are discussing the possibility of celebrating 2020 as Abu Dhabi Tourism Year in India.

Bettaiah: We have also signed an MoU with MATTA (Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents) for promoting travel to Malaysia. Similar engagements are in place or in the process of being finalised with Destination Canada, Belgium Tourism Office, Dubai Tourism, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office, and many more.

Which are some of the policy recommendations you would like to see in the new Union Budget?
Mayal: We want to see a formally structured travel industry. Decisions taken by the government should have our inputs. I have to say this even if it may turn controversial: What are FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM doing in the travel and tourism industry? Why are they talking to the government on behalf of our industry? TAAI is the face and voice of the travel industry in India and it is we whom the government has to engage with to grow and shape the industry.

Bettaiah: We have given inputs to MoT regarding the growth of critical tourism infrastructure across destinations in India and hope to see some allocation in the budget. Our PM has said that tourism is a focus area for growth. We also hope the government will address our concerns around GST.

Airline commission has always been a bone of contention?
Mayal: We are preparing a White Paper and presenting to the MoCA on how to work together. We have already moved the document regarding the airline commission. We are an integral part of the ecosystem. We are agents. Anywhere in the world, an agent is protected by the supplier. Or let us agree that we are principals and then explore how we can work together. We have OTAs, mom and pop shops, reseller model, agent model, MICE model – so we are losing focus on who we really are. It’s a conflict of thought process. So the government has to sit with us and agree on rules of engagement in the travel industry so we have a formal structure to it.

What is TAAI doing to ensure agents are digital ready?
Mayal: We started a platform called TAAI Connect some time back. We are exploring how to take it forward.

Bettaiah: Educating consumers through social media seems to be more effective these days than traditional channels. Consumers need to understand our business, for example, that we don’t receive a commission on airline tickets, so don’t seek discounts.

Mayal: Consumers have to be responsible when putting stuff out on social media. Please don’t kill a tourism product instantly because someone slipped up somewhere. There is a lot of money, careers and families riding on it. Kindly be positive about things and explore solutions along with us.

How is TAAI facilitating education and skill development?
Mayal: TAAI will hold joint roadshows with various tourism boards to facilitate awareness building and destination education for its members across India. We are also looking at soft skills training for front line staff.

Bettaiah: We will continue to conduct Knowledge Conclaves on topics relevant to the travel trade. In 2019, we had five such sessions.

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