‘Tourism needs to give back’

Underlining how powerful the tourism industry is, TAFI President, Ajay Prakash, recounts key initiatives undertaken during the convention recently in Sarawak that were focused on not just rebuilding businesses but also on how the industry can give back to the environment, the community and the destination.

Hazel Jain

“We did achieve what we set out to do with the convention,” says Ajay Prakash, President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI). Analysing the convention, he adds, “We had also set ourselves a target of doing this convention a little differently – in terms of content, in terms of attitude, in terms of approach. And we did manage to raise a few pertinent questions in our members’ minds to get them thinking about how all of us need to re-orient our thinking and our approach to business.”

The idea, he adds, was to bring home the fact that we ought not to be looking at going back to business as usual having come out of the devastation of last two years. “It is important that the tourism industry realises how big an industry it is, with 10% of global GDP, and one in 10 people being employed in this industry. So an industry this size needs to be able to make its voice heard. We have the power to actually influence global events if we come together. This was one of the ideas we wanted to bring out – how resilient our industry is, and how it can be a force for positivity, for growth, for sustainability,” Prakash adds.

Talking the walk

The business sessions were very well-attended, which is always a challenge at conventions, Prakash jokes. The B2B show that Tourism Malaysia organised also went off very well. There were over 120 Malaysian sellers there and it gave TAFI members an opportunity to discover new products and return with a better understanding of Sarawak.

“So I am satisfied with the convention and it was the entire team of TAFI – not just the MC and the convention committee – but a number of other volunteers who came forward to help out. We worked well as a team and the success of the convention is a testament to that. I am also very happy that Zubin Karkaria attended the convention and delivered a keynote address which was apt – he shared a global perspective from a Made in India global leader. We also launched a pledge for gender equality, in association with VFS Global, led by Dr. Elena Primikiri, Head – ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance), VFS Global. The pledge is for accelerating gender equality in the Indian tourism industry. About 50 per cent of the world’s population is female, and the fact that they have never got their rightful due. Many studies have shown that when you promote gender equality, you end up with a better bottomline. Therefore, it is important that we bring home this message to our members – to make a beginning here and now,” Prakash shares.

The second highlight of the convention was TAFI’s effort towards reducing waste in order to ‘build back better’. Towards that, TAFI ensured that the delegate badges were made of recycled paper and had seeds that can be planted after the event. “Small things add up. There is a significant power of one, and if we all do our little bit, it will make a difference,” he says.

The other thing TAFI did was to support the programme called ‘Books Build Legacy’ started by Amelia Roziman, CEO of Business Events Sarawak, who established free youth libraries throughout

Sarawak’s interior areas for young people. She is trying to create libraries in the interiors of Sarawak. To donate towards this cause, TAFI members were requested to bring at least one book. “The idea is that tourism needs to contribute towards community. So it is important that we give back to the environment, to the community, to the destination rather than merely take from it. Hopefully, we have sown some seeds in the minds of our members,” Prakash adds.

BOX: ‘Find your niche’

Speaking at his keynote address at the TAFI Convention, Zubin Karkaria, Founder & CEO, VFS Global, elaborated on exploring alternate revenues of income. He is of the opinion that one should always stick to what one does best. “People are looking for specialists. If you do everything for everyone, you will remain average. If you focus on one thing and do it well, that will work. Choose where you are the market leader and where your core competency lies and where you can add more value. It is difficult to let go of large operations, but if you have the courage to do, let go and find your niche. You will serve your customer and your business well. VFS Global is also focused on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) – especially in terms of women diversity. It has signed a pledge for higher women ratio – today it has over 58 per cent women in VFS Global.”

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