Herd Mentality and the Non-Discerning Mind

Like all of you, I have also witnessed several posts from travel agents of all shapes and sizes in India claiming to be “Local”, stoking patriotic sentiments to ask for support and quite openly asking for a boycott for foreign owned travel brands. We are told that Indian tax payer money is being looted and sent overseas and that we must protect the national wealth.

It is ironical that few months ago we used to speak about a globally connected world and take pride in the Indian MNCs becoming Global but now suddenly we are so inward looking. It’s just been barely 14 weeks and we seem to be unable to think clearly and distinguish.

Frankly I think this bandwagon has reached ridiculous proportions and its time to put some element of objectivity in this debate around “Vocal for Local”.

Let’s list down the considerations from the travel & tourism industry perspective:

  • The money spent on booking tickets with India based airlines stays in India so should we stop booking tickets on foreign carriers because they take all that money out of India and don’t even pay taxes here? Is every Indian ready to fly only Air India on all long haul International routes? Will we now finally stop running down our national carrier and be vocal for local?
  • It is no secret that Indians spend several hundreds of millions in foreign currency on foreign trips each year. Every tourism board in the world is wooing Indian Tourists because they are high spenders. So should we consider every Indian spending money overseas an anti -national? Is every Indian ready to do all MICE and leisure travel only in India to support Indian Tourism and be “Vocal for Local”? That would truly be an atmnirbhar decision.
  • I believe the airlines have not given a level playing field to the OTAs forcing them charge a convenience fee to cover their costs. I mentioned about airline market practices vis a vis OTAs in my open letter to IATA as well on 7th April 2020. Despite charging a convenience fee the OTAs have a growing market share. It is the consumer choice it seems so where does the real problem lie ! Regardless I believe every agent must charge a convenience fee for the services they provide to their customers. Why only the OTAs? Even the Airlines charge a fee for their web bookings. Every time you order food online don’t you pay a service charge?
  • Where do you think all the hotel content comes to you from? Its through foreign based content aggregators. The list is endless. But look at the flip side and see the amount of business they give to the Indian Suppliers – Hotels, Tour operators – there is a large industry out there beyond ticketing.
  • If a “local” agency lists on the stock exchange in India to generate funds for growth, can it ensure that no foreign fund buys its stock? I am sure most people understand how financial markets function and what PE funding means. Can an Indian promoter stop a South African PE Investor from selling its stock to a Chinese strategic Investor or a UK based Bank? I don’t think so.
  • Does foreign investment render the decades of efforts of the India promoters, null & void in one big sweep because the fund belongs to a company based in a country just turned hostile or because they are listed in US stock exchanges for strategic reasons? The Indian entrepreneurs who dared to dream big and created truly iconic brands with foreign funding, should they now be abandoned? I don’t think so.
  • There is a difference between a foreign ownership and a foreign funding. Spare a thought for the promoters
  • Foreign owned Travel companies – Online and offline, B2B and B2C as well as B2E – run operations in India, employ lakhs of Indian youth, pay taxes in India. Should they be asked to shut shop & leave?
  • God forbid if you land in a country that has good relations with China or has huge Chinese investments like the UAE …Should we also boycott anything and any one that is Pro- China? Should we forget about the fantastic collaboration between India & the UAE and the wonderful services provided to us by the likes of Emirates, Fly Dubai, Etihad and Air Arabia?

With due respects to the homegrown travel companies, I think they are all great guys, have worked damn hard in life and if they can offer a competitive product or service then they deserve all the success in the world but I urge people to step back, think objectively and shun the propaganda because it raises more issues than it addresses.

Travel Agents must speak in One Voice otherwise It will only take attention away from the real issues the Industry at large is facing and the foreign owned travel brands are not responsible for the state of the industry. Who or what is responsible? You all know well enough!!

In my future articles I will write about the steps you need to take for becoming a globally competitive and trusted travel brand in a positive and constructive manner.

Seema Luthra – Aspiring for The Travel agent