Students need to step up with hygienic, sustainable and eco-friendly tourism practices, says Tourism Students Festival chairman Vinod Zutshi
The traveller’s spirit won’t be put down by any pandemic and the tourism industry is slowly, but steadily, recovering in keeping with the demands of the New Normal.
Vinod Zutshi, the former secretary, of the Union ministry of tourism, president of the New Tourism Foundation and chairman of the Tourism Students Festival (TSF) 2020, spoke to ABP Education about tourism studies and how the travel industry is gearing up for the challenges of the future.
Are there signs that the tourism industry is bouncing back? How does the changed landscape look like more than seven months into the pandemic?
There is no doubt that the tourism industry is back on the revival path. The pandemic has not dampened the spirit of travellers or travel industry entrepreneurs. The landscape has changed tremendously with the new operating procedures such as social distancing and revised hygiene protocol.
Other than these considerations and some changes to the public transport network, all other indicators suggest a positive future for tourism in India. The focus on experiential tourism has increased sharply. Innovative travel and employment opportunities are now beginning to emerge.
What changes are likely to be introduced in tourism education and curriculum?
Tourism education has already started moving towards innovation-driven and experiential learning. In the post-pandemic world, some roles will change and a lot of new opportunities will emerge. The key to the revised curriculum will be integrating the emerging needs into the existing framework. There has to be much greater focus on ancillary tourism activities and courses/certifications on experiential travel such as farm tourism where the tourists get an authentic taste of rural life.
We anticipate that the future of tourism education lies in empowering the informal workforce such as drivers, hawkers, local artists and crafts-persons. The tourism industry generates millions of new jobs every year. We need to further increase the numbers through innovative skill development of the workforce. They need to be trained in sustainable and environment-friendly tourism instead of conventional travel that had been the norm so far. Greater transparency and ability to deliver unique experiences will be the key to success and we hope that these become focus areas for tourism education.
In post-COVID times, which areas of tourism do you think will take off and offer better career opportunities?
As a tourism destination, India offers almost everything that a tourist can ask for. Areas such as medical tourism, leisure, gastronomy, heritage and adventure tourism are already well-established and now the niche segment of experiential tourism will gain prominence. Farm tourism, tribal tourism, agricultural experiences, where tourists get to live with local people in local settings instead of standardised hotels, will attract a larger number of tourists. Tea plucking in Assam, treks with herders in Himalayan areas or fishing in the coastal areas/backwaters might be some of the new and high-potential segments. We look forward to discussing and discovering new avenues.
Are there any new skill sets that students of tourism must equip themselves with as they prepare for a career in this field?
In the post-pandemic world, tourism students must acquaint themselves better with practices related to hygienic, sustainable and environment-friendly tourism. The time has come for us to gain experiential and innovative knowledge and to go beyond the conventions of hospitality and standardisation of tourism services.
What would be your advice for tourism students who want to become entrepreneurs in this sector?
My advice to aspiring travel entrepreneurs will be to adopt an innovative approach and sync their vision with the local needs, unique offerings and potential. We need to identify special aspects of experiential tourism in India and focus on promoting them in a sustainable and environment-friendly manner. If you are looking at making a career in this sector then you should go out there and experience the country first-hand. Put yourself in the shoes of the travellers, the local travel service providers and ancillary workforce and create solutions that make everyone happy.
What was the idea behind the Tourism Students Festival? What were its objectives?
The Tourism Students Festival (TSF ’20), a virtual event organised by New Tourism Foundation — a registered charitable trust — was conceptualised as a platform for bringing together students of tourism, academicians and industry leaders on a single platform. The event served as a connection between what is being taught to students of tourism and the actual on-ground practices with an aim to facilitate mutual learning, unlearning and relearning.
The idea was to witness and contemplate the changes in the world of tourism. This is a national forum to demonstrate the abilities and creativity of our young entrepreneurs and to instil in them the confidence to choose tourism as a preferred career.
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