PATA CEO Mario Hardy suggested that the demand for authentic and unique experiences was on the rise, adding to the need for a robust narrative. He asked the Indian industry to bring to fore key elements, such as culture, cuisines and history, through the art of storytelling. Excerpts from his address at the recently held Tourism Powerhouse in Delhi:
Reflecting on the importance of storytelling, Mario Hardy suggested that the humankind had been sharing stories with each other since times immemorial and a similar notion applied to tourism too. He exhorted the Indian industry to share stories of the Indian culture, cuisines and a “phenomenal history”. There were several ways through which stakeholders could share their stories, he argued. “You can write about it, blog, create a video or a movie. There are many ways through which it can be shared with the world,” he said.
Sharing his own example, he noted that he was a globetrotter and his job took him to distant shores, providing him a first-hand experience of churning in the tourism industry. “I have travelled to 93 countries as yet. It gave me an opportunity to hear numerous stories, ranging from good, bad and ugly,” he said.
In the past 18 months, the gamut of PATAs engagement had truly expanded, and with focus on harnessing skills, programs such as ‘Human Capital Development’ had been rolled out. “One of the greatest success stories of our training has been the art of storytelling,” he said.
He believed that it was the responsibility of every Indian, and not only those involved in the business of travel and tourism, to share their stories. He stated that such an effort could lead to dissemination of those stories through a word-of-mouth sharing by travellers with their friends and families, resulting in an increased likelihood of more business.
Sharing a global overview of travel and tourism, PATA CEO noted that a never-before number of people were travelling to distant shores, leading to an unprecedented surge in businesses. He, however, was quick to caution that the growth had also posed a unique set of challenges facing the industry. “Waste management, water consumption, electricity, and the need for infra, and many more,” he further listed. He asked whether the industry was prepared to handle such an exponential growth for a sustained period of time. “We are seeing a tremendous growth in Asia. Some cities, in the world, are now even complaining of having too many tourists, and are now asking to be left alone,” he said, indicating that excessive tourism numbers were taking a toll on local ecosystems.
Countries now needed to focus on promoting secondary and tertiary destinations, yet off the public radar, for dispersing traffic from the core and often crowded tourist destinations, he mentioned.
He suggested that tourists, including millennials, even the wealthiest, were seeking “unique experiences and authenticity.” “Creating unique experiences is a challenge facing all of us, to be of interest and remain in business,” he insisted.
Making a mention of the fast-altering technological landscape, he noted that the changes in the past decades were going to be trivial in comparison to what lied ahead for the industry. “Technology is going to change things very rapidly. While concepts such as autonomous cars, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other such innovations might feel like science fiction, but it is here stay and is happening in many industries. The Tourism industry will not remain exempted from those changes,” he propounded.
Looking ahead, he declared that a massive change in the global demographics was expected in the coming years, with as much as 80 percent of the world’s population living in cities by 2050, making it essential for businesses to reflect on the changed dynamics in the next decades. He stressed that the industry was responsible for creating the narrative and a deep introspection was needed to moot a way forward.
Pointing towards a tense and a more protectionist global order, he quipped that a tweet from a person living in a “big white house” was sufficient to throw the world in a tizzy, adding that there were more such individuals, across the globe, posing a strain on the overall tourism ecosystem. “This aside, there are issues such as extreme weather patterns, climate change, and cyber security which need to be kept in mind. So, we need to be prepared to deal with a whole lot of disruptions, whether we like it or not,” he elucidated.