6th HAI Hoteliers Conclave: Hospitality – The Engine for GDP Growth & Employment

Indian hospitality industry came onto centre stage at the one-day annual convention of the Hoteliers Association of India, held at the Taj Palace Convention Centre in the capital. It was a one of its kind, providing a rare interaction with the drivers of tourism, culture and urban development in the country, sharing their views on how they perceive the merits of hospitality industry, engaging with seniormost leadership in hotels in India. A gathering of some 250 senior delegates belonging across the industry, the discussions brought to the fore, how increasing emphasis on infrastructure is giving a new momentum to travel and tourism in the country.

Hospitality industry, like some others, is witnessing a new upsurge like it has probably never seen before. And imagine this is just a few years since they were stuck dumbfounded with the covid lockdown. From zero, it has moved to hero, with a new enthusiasm, confidence and robust outlook to more development. Gone are the days when the industry was obsessed with fancy five stars, hospitality is today about mid-market, practical and responsible business ethics, accountable to their shareholders, associates, local communities and to the country.

The emerging understanding and realisation that is dawning across corridors of power is how the industry is NOT luxury, how it is indispensable to the growing economy and community. That too, after the recent successes of the G20 summit and full year events, which hotels across the country hosted as essential and pre-requisite components of all these events. Hospitality, in fact, must have played an integral part in all the international delegates going back to their homes, delighted with their India experience.

At the conference, among the sessions that stand out for their engagement with the outside world, was a conversation with Smriti Irani, Union Minister, who professed proudly how she was the daughter of a former Taj Mahal associate. She had seen the contours of hospitality industry as a young girl, who eventually made it to her desired school, thanks to a Taj fellowship. Kudos to Ms. Irani for that revelation, loudly cheered by the audience.

And other session that stood out was an address by Delhi’s Lt Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena, who extolled the achievements of the present government in building suitable and much needed infrastructure in the country. Here, we produce his elucidation of the developments in the capital.

A keynote on the occasion came from Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa and a strong and consistent believer and campaigner for tourism in India. His emphasis and advice to the hotel industry was to drive home the advantage you create about jobs. Hospitality is the bigger creator of jobs across price points and education levels.

As Puneet Chhatwal, president, Hotel Association of India and MD/CEO of IHCL Hotels, said the industry has a small ‘ask’ at this juncture. An ‘ask’ that would give a new boost to more hotel rooms, as currently there is a mismatch between demand and supply, and only likely to widen more. His ‘ask’ was for grant of industry status in the states, to be implemented in full measure, and in the grant of infrastructure status at the centre. These two measures alone will provide a new momentum in hotel building.

There were other sessions, too, which we cannot carry on these pages, for restriction of space. More details are available on the website of the association.

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