Travel Industry and Tourism Organization


Travel Industry and Tourism Organization

We are going talks about the travel industry worldwide and the place of tourism in the world's economy. Writers for tourism cover a wide range of interest. This could cover among the fast array of technological, economic, social and political determinants of tourism.

Travel has various departments and ministry of tourism whose policies or lack of them or deviation from such, are always subjects to the writer's scrutiny advance information about the destination is a necessary investment for a successful and rewarding holiday.


Travel Industry and Tourism Organizations

Tourism is already the world's largest industry after oil and is fast growing. It is_ expected to overtake oil in a few years. These figures tell the story clearly: in 1950 only 25 million people crossed international borders; by 1970 the figure had jumped to 160 million and in the year 1993 the magic figure of half billion (150 million) was reached. Tourist expenditures in the same period grew from $ 2 billion in 1950 to $ 324 billion in 1993 or in simpler terms almost one billion dollars were spent by tourists every day of the year. Not just statistics (and there is a vast sea of domestic travel) but the social, Technological, economic and political determinants of tourism are among the vast array of subjects for writing. That Spain with a population of 34 million should be hosting 50 million tourists a year or the tiny island of Singapore should be receiving four times the number of visitors to India or Indonesia should be able to treble its arrival in three years are subjects of great interest for writers on the industry. For instance, India's seemingly dismal share of 0.4 per cent of the world's traffic becomes respectable when translated into bed nights with an average stay of 28 days. Or take some other interesting contrasts. Some 70 per cent of the world movements are shared by just 15 countries. 90 per cent travel within a region that is within North America or within Europe or between Europe and North America. India again gets 52 per cent of all visitors to South Asia. Singapore city alone has more than 30,000 rooms against the all-India figure of 48,000. New Delhi has more five star hotels than the whole of Spain (but the number of mid market hotels must be legion). Hotels, travel agencies, tour operators, guides, transport, shopping (and shopping commissions) packages, off-season bargains, stop over, sops for frequent fliers or loyal hotel guests are all part of the wide fare for the writer. Achievers like the famous Rai Bhadur who raised from a hotel clerk in Shimla to an International acclaimed industry leader, the little boy from Peshawar who introduced the tandoori chicken to Delhi and the rest of the world. Dale Keller who blended raw concrete finish with cottage industry beads, bangles, swords and shields or the humble potters of villages whose creations adorn the lobbies of star hotels; how the desert safari came etc. are all interesting themes in the area.

No industry is complete without the regulating authorities. Travel has the departments and ministry of tourism whose policies or lack of them is always subjects of the writer's scrutiny. Their role in tourism promotion, especially abroad, has always had a mixed response from writers from critical to so-so. Tourism officials' pleadings with other segments of government, the finance ministry on matters of taxation, home and external affairs on immigration and visa hustles, the inadequacy of statistics and data, the lack of transparency in the working of officialdom can keep writers busy even in lean periods. The industry's performance, its contribution to employment, foreign exchange earnings, modernization and claims of "the friendly travel agent" can be attractive subjects for not only travel trade magazines but for economic writers contributing to business newspapers and periodicals as well as business programmes on television. The role of the public sector Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria) FTAN (is a good example) is another subject of interest. In such cases the writings are not just informative but analytical and critical also.

Tourism has given rise to a number of trade associations which have long offered a platform for national debate. The Travel Agents Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Hotel Association (NHA) is the oldest of such trade bodies which in the recent past have been joined by the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATO) and Nigeria Association of Tourist Transporters (NATT). But the industry still lacks an apex body where all segments could meet together for a common objective. FTAN conventions have however become a kind of a national forum and they are now appropriately titled Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria.

The various trade bodies which keep pressing the authorities for this or that concession or amendment of rules and regulations provide a lot of copy for industry writings. The lack of unity in the industry is itself a subject on which many writers devote attention. The annul conventions of the trade associations are major media events as both government representatives and industry leaders get an opportunity to state their views on current issues concerning tourism.

Apart from trade organizations the state tourism corporations (every state is supposed to now have one) are good sources of information and subjects to write on. Many state corporations are planning embarking to put destinations and build infrastructure. They even offer tour packages. A hot subject for media discussion is whether these enterprises should now be privatized. A few state corporations have on their own offered hotel properties on leave to the private sector. At the central level, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation has also been trying to make an acceptable improvement.

At the international level there are a very large number of organizations which are always in the news. There is the World Tourism Organization (WTO) United Nations affiliated bodies on which-governments are represented.

Among other things it provides vital statistics and offers technical aid in tourism projects. Then there is the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) on which are represented national tourist offices, airlines hotels, travel agents and others in travel related activities. This too provides tourism agencies and the industry with statistical information and technical assistance. Its annual conference, half in a different country every year, draws worldwide participation and the accompanying travel mart witnesses millions of dollars worth of business where buyers and sellers meet across the table. The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is another trade body whose world congress held in different parts of the world draws the largest participation — 7,500 delegate participants attend its meetings both for promotional work as well as for direct business. There is also the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which brings together international air carriers regulating fares and other matters relating to aviation.

Apart from these organizations there are many trade events held annually which draw big crowds of industry professionals. The international tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin is perhaps the largest gathering of travel agents and tourism promoters. It is held in the first week of March every year. There are many similar meetings but not on the scale held in other parts of the world like the World Travel Mart in London or the Incentive Travel Mart in Switzerland. Media attendance at such gathering is always of high order. ITB attracts no less than 4,000 travel writers.

Aviation and Surface Transport

The aircraft appeared in the skies a long time ago. Even the jumbo is two decades old. But the sight and sound of an Aeroplane still has a certain romance and attracts the attention of all age groups. So does air travel. And also rail and road travel. For served in flight or the movies shown (and now even BBC newscasts), the goodies given to business and first class passengers, the plethora of fares ranging from full economy to excursion to group and glaring anomalies like London-Sydney-London being cheaper than London-Lagos-London all make good subjects for writers. Bilateral, royalties, pilot exodus, strikes, airhostesses, services all make good copy as to technological advances like bigger fuel efficient aircraft, sky phones, pay by credit card or fly your spouse free. The emergence of air taxis offers a new canvas to writers.

The railways too have maintained their newsworthiness. The steam engine and the coaches of yesteryear are still operated on certain routes to lure tourists and rail buffs; many have been consigned to museums again for tourists to view. Old Maharaja Saloons have been turned into Palace on Wheels and new such trains are being crafted with modern chassis but old princely charms. Then there are fast trains, Shatabddi, Rajdhani and Deluxe. The Indian Railways have for the first time offered well designed weekend packages taking in historic places like the Sabarmati Ashram or famous pilgrim centers. There are plans to let the private sector run some of the train circuits. The railway system in Nigeria is, unfortunately on the verge of collapse and has nothing to write home about.

And for those looking for stories on road travel there is no dearth of ideas. There are local sight-seeing tours by sleek air-conditioned coaches and limousines and the ambassador taxi or its more modern brother the Contessa or the Maruti 1000. There are intercity coach services (the Pink Line between Delhi and Jaipur) and enterprising transporters offer tours from Delhi to Trivandrum and back for LTC travellers. That consumer protection courts have decided to intercede on behalf of those who are cheated is another area of writing that has opened up. And, of course the taxation on inter-state road transport and the agonising wait at border crossings make good reading. Also of interest are moves to let the private sector spend on infrastructure like building highways, the lack of which makes road travel so much less comfortable and enjoyable. The wayside tourism pioneered by Haryana continues to be a talking point as the other states (barring a few) have been slow to follow suit. Air-conditioned luxurious buses are also available in Nigeria for tourist or tour operators that can afford the price for road travels, and local sight-seeing. A good example of this is the ABC transport service, Jibowu, Lagos terminus.


Social, Economic and Environmental Concerns

The social impact of tourism has been a matter of concern for government ever since the adverse effects started showing on local values and traditions in the Caribbean and some Southeast Asian Countries.

Although the Indian culture has shown tremendous resilience in standing up to foreign cultural invasions and influences there are fears in some quarters and they would like the authorities to be vigilant. The watch or monitoring offers serious writer a subject of great importance.

Tourism in Nigeria has not developed to a stage to create alarm for cultural invasions.

On the economic side the benefits of tourism are obvious: earning valuable foreign exchange, employment, multiplier effect on the economy, international understanding (and in India's particular case national integration). But there can be imponderables or `hidden' aspects. For instances the net outgo of foreign exchange can leave very little get earnings for a country. Haphazard or unplanned growth of tourism could create developmental imbalances in the country. Too much tourism movement and related activities could create local resentments as could cornering of the best of facilities like breaches and parts for 'tourists only' kind of segregation.

Environmental concerns, though recent in origin, are perhaps going to have far greater impact on the future development of tourism than anything so far. In a way Nigeria being a late starter in the quest for tourism and still accounting for a miniscule share of the world market has an advantage. It can learn from the mistakes of others and can take preventive measures now for the future. The decision not to permit construction on beaches closer than 200 metres (the earlier stipulation was 500) from the high tide will be a great safeguard not only for the ecological balance but also for preserving the natural beauty of the coastline. There is also considerable concern for sustainable tourism and the carrying capacity of each destination will have to be determined before any permanent damage is done. Hotels are being forced to control pollution and travel agents are talking of eco-friendly tours. Each of these issues matter at the local as well as regional levels and needs attention of writers.


Promotions Tourist Literature and Video Scripts

Promotions are integral to any commercial activities, especially so when Nigeria is one of the one hundred and twenty developing nations competing for a mere ten per cent of the international tourist. The promotional efforts are handled by the:

i.          NTDC (Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation)

ii.          National carriers

iii.          Travel agents

iv.          Tour operators

v.          Hoteliers

The tools they use are tourist literature, advertisements, posters, audio-visuals films.

Tourist literature accounts for the biggest area of creative writing. This literature can vary from an attractive poster, a bird's eye view brochure on a whole country or a part of it a brochure on a city or a monument or on a theme like folk dances, tribal like, food or golf. Though in varying degrees they may give some details but by and large it is a soft sell. For hard sell there are brochures which indicate prices, choice of hotels, details of eating places and shopping centres. The national tourist offices or the departments of tourism) usually produce this soft sell literature which can be backed by audio-visuals and films. Travel Agencies and hotels offer hard sell material with rates and commissions although they too have to introduce an element of soft sell like the destination in which their hotel is located for the circuit the travel agency is promotion. The target audience in such cases is that the would-be tourist or a company intending to have a convention or meeting. In many cases these brochures are addressed to various other constituents also. For example a tourist office abroad addresses on two sort of brochures one for would be tourists and another for tour operators. This depends on the marketing strategies. Advertising skills are needed for such write ups.

Outside of this area is a vast field of tourist aids like city and country maps, guide books and shopping directories and survival kits. Marketing wise this may have helped tourism because these publications are available in the originating markets and in their own languages. But it is time the Nigerian-writers and publishers produced guide books which are acceptable overseas. There is a growing scope for coffee table books on travel.

Tourism films have been in vogue for a long time and this has led to a crop of good film writers. Television has opened up a much bigger area for writers especially networks like CNN, BBC, and Star TV. Video scripts on tourism deal with information as well as promotion. There is scope for practically every theme listed in earlier Sub-sections to be used in video scripts also.


Special Interest

This is yet another area of writing to cater for the needs of those travelers who have special interests. These could range from mountaineering and trekking to fishing, golfing, cycling, skiing, heli-skiing, museum hunting mystique tours, meditation and yoga, and even desert safaris. In this kind of communication the writer needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the special interest, preferably be a keen participant in the activity. First person accounts for mountaineers have been best sellers and the tales as told by achievers to professional writers easily come next. In the past, writers used to accompany mountaineers; now many mountaineers themselves have become writers. No accounts of a trek can be the same. For example, a writer fond of trees will be talking of foliages he noticed. One interested in birds will recount the varieties watched. An odd hamlet or a recluse living at a great height could be the central point for a trekker. The nimble footed goat or the yak will fascinate an animal lover. An angler will tell you how adventurous it can be to catch a masher: you may have to run a kilometre along the beast before you can subdue this sturdy fighter. The nature lover will tell you where, when and how you should tee-off-in the rarefied atmosphere of a park the temperate climate of Jos, the mellow winter sun of Lagos or the Scottish countryside course in Obudu.

Enterprising tour operators have put together cycling tours within a city, inter-hospitality of the people make for good copy. Museums provide material for a quick article, a book or a treatise. The materialistic west finds props in the deep religious traditions of the old world.


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