Thursday, 5 April 2018

Public Affairs Practitioners in India and the road ahead


Public Affairs Practitioners in India and the road ahead
(A note prepared by Ajay Singha, member PAFI,
former Executive Director AMCHAM & Deputy DG Indo-German Chamber)

Public Affairs practitioners are now the external face for a corporation which has multiple stakeholder engagements across functions. In a fast evolving economic-political landscape in  Emerging Economies like India, the Government, Regulator, NGOs, Media and institutions play a crucial role in economic policy formulation and impacting the business landscape. The Public Affairs professional has become the fall guy for countering all challenges faced by a corporation in its growth and business expansion plans in the country. 

Today the pace of change in the economic policy environment has further accelerated and continues to evolve the world over. Real time monitoring of change and managing the subsequent reactions by managements has become a daunting challenge for Public Affairs practitioners. The PA function has therefore become critical to the success of the corporation and is being accorded increasing importance by the corporate leadership across continents.

In order to be effective the Public Affairs practitioners must strive to maintain relations either directly or through multiple intermediaries to:
·        Political leadership at the Local, State and Central Government levels.
·        Bureaucracy at various levels and at multiple geographical locations.
·        Consumer organisations, Local communities, Trade Union leaders, Pressure groups.
·        Mainstream media and Social media.
·        Prominent client leadership.
·        Chambers of Commerce and Industry associations.
·        Not-for-profit organisations and NGOs.
·        Think tanks, Foundations and Policy Advocacy organisations.
·        Parliamentary committees and empowered committees.

In carrying out their duties the PA practitioners must oversee the following functions either directly, through designated colleagues or intermediaries:
·        Guide and oversee writing of briefing papers and research documents as inputs for senior management.
·        Produce media briefings and if required act as the Spokesperson.
·        Interact with and ensure compliance for Regulatory Affairs with various Regulators.
·        Network with stakeholders and public policy influencers.
·        Create and maintain channels for public outreach and stakeholder participation.
·        Initiate and manage Events and related activities for stakeholder and public outreach.
·        Oversight on corporate communication and ensure homogeneity.
·        Participate in public debate on issues of importance to the corporation.
·        Maintain a line of communication to think tanks and policy influencers.
·        Public Advocacy work and related coordination with external partners.
·        Monitor and guide economic policy legislation and ensure policy issues are addressed well in time. 
·        Keep a tab on international treaties, bilateral, pluri-lateral or multilateral arrangements impacting trade policy, market access and related business in the near and medium term.
·        Influence public perception, image and reputation of the corporation.
·        Articulate and explain the organisation’s point of view on emerging government policies.
·        Assist the top management to take studied and balanced stands and positions on policy announcements by the Government.
·        Provide strategic advice on issues of economic importance with political undertones.
·        Provide strategic advice on issues of political importance with economic undertones.
·        Check counter lobbying efforts of pressure groups and competitors.
·        Build a public narrative or a counter narrative to address emerging policy challenges.
·        Coordinate the crisis management team and work closely with media and PR outfits for strategic government and media intervention during crisis situations.
·        Build a common ground for taking industry positions and collective stands on issues of common interest to industry, trade and globally acceptable business practices.
·        Care for the overall reputation of the organisation in the public domain and stakeholder perceptions.
·        Maintain real time communication with the corporate leadership on issues strategic importance.
·        Promote transparency and internal compliance as per international standards.

The strategic importance of the Public Affairs function is now deeply embedded in every aspect of a corporation as the fast evolving economic-political scenario requires speed and accuracy in policy development, compliance and subsequent course of action. In view of the changed, expanded and evolving work profile of Public Affairs, professionals in the field must deliberate and discuss issues enumerated above and find synergies for working together to collectively address common challenges. They must move to consolidate their thoughts and develop a consensus on the course of action for the PA profession in general. The PA professionals must collectively indulge in some “Crystal Ball” gazing to figure out the future direction and work trajectory which they are expected to take globally.
April 2018

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Perspectives for Growth & Development - Tourism in Rajasthan, India



Tourism in Rajasthan
Perspectives for Growth and Development- by Ajay Singha
Background:
In 2015 tourism created 107 million jobs worldwide and supported 284 million other jobs. The ILO estimates that this number will grow to 136 million and 370 million respectively by 2026. Policymakers must appreciate the immense potential in this sector for job creation and employment opportunities for the less skilled work force available in the State of Rajasthan. With this background a brief report has been prepared on what can be done to further improve the attractiveness of tourism sector in the State. Rajasthan is a leading tourism destination of India and in 2014, the annual growth of tourist arrivals in the state was 8.9% for domestic and 7.1% for foreign tourists.
Visitors to Rajasthan now comprise new as well as conventional segments of tourists. Visitors increasingly come for business and conference meetings, wedding parties, music and dance festivals, film shooting programs, ecotourism, nature walks, wildlife sighting and health rejuvenation. This is in addition to the traditional heritage, culture, shopping and related segments. As the reason for travel varies the expectations from existing infrastructure and service providers also differs.
To sustain and further attract the varied and non-conventional tourist flow to the State a number of additional initiatives are required. Implementation of these recommendations would result in increase in arrival numbers, job creation and prosperity for the people of Rajasthan.
Special impetus may be given to develop the following:
·        Adventure tourism
·        Eco-tourism
·        Film Shootings
·        Health medical and wellness tourism
·        MICE and Weekend Tourism
·        Night tourism
·        Religious festivals and special events
·        Rural Heritage, Handicrafts and Farm tourism
·        Weddings tourism

·        Wildlife tourism in Special zones

General recommendations:
·        Identify and Promote lesser known destinations
·        Develop and Provide Innovative, non-conventional and emerging tourism products and services
·        Facilitate infrastructure development on PPP and other models
·        Sustain the recently commenced Regional AirConnectivity with small aircrafts in the State
·        Skill development in terms of language, heritage knowledge and professionalism in tourism sector
·        Develop Chinese tourism by taking necessary steps
·        Constant and regular meetings and interaction of all governmental agencies with entire Rajasthan tourism trade. Ensure that such meetings are organised when industry is available before the tourist season starts
·        Encourage small guest houses, home stay B&B facilities by increasing the number of rooms allowed under such schemes and monitor their services to ensure quality


Administrative action:
·        Develop an “Implementation tracking” mechanism which must submit periodic reports to the CMO on work progress by different departments on tourism.
·        Ensure effective inter-departmental coordination within various arms of the administration.
·        Forest, PWD, UDH, Local Self Government and Panchayati Raj/ Rural Development Departments should be used for Tourism Development. What they do specifically for tourism must be tracked and reported.
·        Guest houses of PHED, PWD, Fisheries, Forest and other Departments across the State must be identified for privatization. The quality of service and facilities can be improved by leasing out to private operators and then offered for use by tourists. The facilities will continue to be used for government officials against minimal payment.
·        Government gardens and Heritage properties of the State and open space in offices of government undertakings and departments to be identified, listed and subsequently offered for hosting events, MICE or weddings. One window clearance for all permissions for using such venues.
·        Identify remote Heritage monuments which are not in good condition and which can be out sourced for maintenance and exterior lighting to corporate giants in return for branding opportunity at the monument.
·        Increase number of rooms allowed for small guest houses and home stay B&B while introducing a self-regulatory system
·        Coordination meetings between tourism industry stakeholders and officials of DOT, Civil Aviation, Water Resources, Transport, Police, PWD, LSG Departments for resolving issues, developing guidelines, obtaining clearances, identification of sites and other tourism related work to ensure transparent decision making and stakeholder participation in all activities.
·        Make special cell and websites in Chinese for focus on China and Chinese speaking tourists.
·        Approach Central Government on harmonization of tax rates for the entire tourism industry and do away with slabs for various segments.
·        Reduce excise fee for outlets serving beer and wine with food.
·        System to encourage and also improve small guest houses, home stay B&B to ensure rooms and facilities meet expectations.

Adventure Tourism: Aero Tourism(Hot Air Ballooning, Paragliding etc.), Aqua Tourism(Boating, Paddle Boating etc.) Land Tourism(Trekking, Nature safaris, Rappelling etc) and Equestrian Tourism(Horse riding trails and Camel safari paths) are on an increase worldwide. Adventure tourism is done from special locations requiring camping sites and support facilities. Activities like bike riding, cycling and other recreational exertions can be added by identifying cycling paths and safe areas.
Action:
·        Training courses for skill development in executing adventure tours, imparting knowledge of equipment, safety and emergency procedures and developing Standard Operating Procedures SOPs.
·        Offer incentives to registered operators of Adventure Sports by way of reimbursements of equipment cost and long-term project financing on special terms.
·        Water Resource Department to notify and issue safety certification of places suitable for aqua tourism and issue guidelines for conducting water sports.
·        Identify and earmark Horse riding trails and camel safari paths in rural areas with help from equestrian association, local people and special operators in this field.
·        Identify locations and give necessary approvals for Hot Air ballooning, Para gliding, Rappelling etc.
·        Local Horse shows and Camel livestock shows to be identified and listed in publicity materials.

Contemporary Music, dance, art and literary festivals: These festivals are emerging all over the country and very popular with the young travelers. Rajasthan is best suited for hosting such events due to various factors in favor of the State.
Action:
·        Approach organisers of dance, art and music festivals globally through Indian embassies abroad and directly through associations and DOT for organising shows in Rajasthan.
·        Financial incentives may be offered to event management companies who can put together a festival and sustain it for three years at new destinations.
·        Care to be taken not to offer established destinations and only new destinations must be encouraged.
·        Upcoming Indian musicians and bands with established fan following should be approached through event organisers for holding the festivals in new destinations.
·        Private marketing agencies should be roped on to ensure outreach and information dissemination.  

Eco Tourism: Identifying Eco-tourism sites, access routes by public transport with last mile connectivity must be put in place to reach the location. Ensure other factors like wildlife sighting, heritage monuments in vicinity, availability of medical facility etc. Involvement and acceptance by local population are met when selecting sites.
Action:
·        Identify and select Eco-tourism sites on the periphery of nature parks and sanctuaries.
·        Ensure involvement and support of local population.
·        Allow and permit only Zero pollution modes of transport in Ecological areas.

·        Forest Department to form a management and eco development committee in collaboration with NGOs and environmental specialists to identify, conserve and operate specific forest and wildlife areas for tourism.
·        Development of Herbal Gardens in various locations in the state through PPP mode.
·        Organize village home visits for interaction with local people and increase acceptance of eco-tourism.

Film Shooting: Film shooting in Rajasthan has been made easy by waiving application fees, security deposit and processing charges by amending Rajasthan Film Shooting Regulations, 2012 (As amended in 2016).
Action:
·        List of film shooting locations, details of various film shoots, information of facilities, approved agents etc. should be made available online.
·        Time bound “Single Window Clearance” to film makers should be provided.
·        Film shooting permission may be deemed if not issued after 15 days of applying. Single window for fee collection and bringing uniformity in charges levied by different Departments.
·        Nodal officer in DOT must be designated and suitably empowered for this purpose.

Action:
·        Approved hospitals and doctors to be included in a list which should be uploaded on DOT website.
·        Meeting of management of all major hospitals in the State with the DOT, tour operators, travel agents and officials to take steps for making Rajasthan attractive for medical tourism.


Rural Heritage, Handicrafts and Farm Tourism: Villages with Heritage hotels should be declared as Heritage villages and special incentives to be offered to villagers to encourage them to sustain, maintain and encourage the special attractiveness of the heritage destination.  Lesser known arts and crafts, traditional clothing and skills should be promoted along with Heritage walks, Rural cuisine and local Fairs and Festivals as part of Heritage Culture Tourism.

Action:
·        Identifying heritage and handicraft rich village locations and artisan clusters in tribal and rural areas.
·        Marketing of their handicrafts products through NGOs promoting job creation at local level.
·        Give financial incentives for home visits, interaction with Indian families at private homes.
·        Culinary programs to offer learning Indian cooking at private homes.
·        Incentives for these activities may be offered by the MSME Department.
·        NGOs to develop Craft Based Tourism for sustainable livelihoods: Financial support to private thematic museums which showcase diverse cultural heritage. Exclusive local souvenir shops located in private homes to be encouraged to sell local handicrafts exclusively.
·        Self-help groups and NGOs to develop Heritage Walk routes, identify local sites of religious, cultural and historic importance. Registered NGOs or private players organizing Heritage Walks on Government Property must be incentivized by revenue sharing of tickets.
·        Rural Home stays to be incentivized by reimbursement of partial cost of building the additional accommodation by villagers for tourists.
·        Training programs through NGOs for activities such as pottery making, animal care, black smithy, weaving, basket making, handicrafts and similar village based activities.
·        Use of vintage cars to ferry tourist on designated routes. Incentives must be given to Vintage Cars owners who provide their cars for such use.

MICE & Weekend Tourism: MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences & exhibitions) operators are constantly looking at new destinations. With increased connectivity weekend tourism specially for people from high pollution cities will increase as Rajasthan offers pollution free locations.
Action:
·        Identification of weekend circuits, educational circuits, business traveler weekend circuits in consultation with stakeholder groups.
·        Identification and development of new MICE locations with stakeholders for MICE tourism and facilitation of approvals for establishing convention centers.
·        One window clearance for music and dance festivals on the weekend at rural locations.

Night Tourism: Contrary to popular belief night tourism is not restricted to alcohol consumption and food. It is an extension of weekend tourism as busy people from polluted cities take a break in Rajasthan and make use of night time to enjoy full range of handicrafts show, dance and music festivals etc.
·        Night markets should be specially organized at all major tourist cities of Rajasthan.
·        Local administration must give clearance for operating night markets on designated days.
·        Ensure Police, LSG and other authorities cooperate and not hinder the night market and their organisers.
·        Mechanism to be in place to report any untoward happenings and incidents.

Religious festivals and special events: This is an extension of traditional tourism but has found high acceptability and interest from national and international tourists.
Action:
·        Identification of Religious tourism circuits in consultation with stakeholders.
·        Persuade private trusts for maintaining surroundings of temples to attract tourists.
·        Arrange Regional Air connectivity to small new airports.
·        Visitors should be briefed on participation etiquette acceptable to local population.
·        Every religious festival or celebration of a festival should be highlighted on websites.
·        Special arrangements for tourist enclosure at such festivals and safety to be made.



Wedding Tourism: Wedding Tourism is on the increase as big cities are getting polluted and prices of hotels and related arrangements are competitive in smaller destinations.
Action:
·        New wedding destinations to be identified and listed in all advertisement and promotional materials.
·        Market list of wedding destinations to wedding planners and event management firms through private operators and professional marketing outfits.

Wellness and Rejuvenation tourism:  This is a new and high growth segment for tourism world wide.
Action:
·        Identify new properties offering Wellness and rejuvenation programs.
·        DOT to monitor these Centres and their activities to ensure facilities are functional and not just on paper.
·        List out therapeutic centers which offer physiotherapy, Ayurveda, naturopathy, yoga and herbal treatment and sensitize them on handling tourists.
·        Incentivize spiritual, wellness and rejuvenation centers. Private players should be encouraged to provide services at international standards and a certification program installed.


Wildlife tourism in Special Zones: Special zones around nature parks and periphery of wildlife reserves (10 km radius) can be encouraged.
Action:
·        Eco Certification Scheme for hotels, restaurants and tourism related establishments in these zones.
·        Environmental awareness workshops in collaboration with Eco-tourism society of India can be conducted.
·        Elephant village in Jaipur and Sambhar can be developed as stand-alone tourist destinations.
·        Develop special Birding circuits and wildlife circuits with advice of WWF and similar agencies.
·        Wildlife tourism and special zones must operate in conjunction with eco-tourism and weekend tourism activities.

Improvements in infrastructure and Ecosystem:
·        Development of wayside amenities, toilets, drinking water, cafeteria, souvenir shops etc.
·        Air Connectivity: To connect different cities in the State through private small aircrafts by increasing connectivity and lowering taxes and duties while underwriting seats to promote airline operations.
·        PWD to ensure last mile connectivity to tourist destinations and approach roads to Heritage Hotels.
·        Drainage system of heritage villages to be improved and sewage treatment plants installed.
·        IT department to identify and provide high speed WiFi at selected tourism sites.

Skill development and Capacity building:
·        Stakeholders such as hotel service providers, travel service enablers, tourism service providers, public agencies and state officials to be trained by identified trainers on tourist expectations, handling and business execution.
·        Developing curriculum for tourism services related courses and diploma certificates in tourism from accredited universities and institutions.
·        Start Chinese language courses for tour guides and service providers to tap the Chinese speaking market.
·        Redefining of syllabus in accordance with the potential areas of employment in tourism sector.

Conclusion:
Government of Rajasthan may take note that the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked India 40th among 136 countries in 2017. The ranking was based on price competitiveness, availability of historic sites and strong cultural base.
India ranked low on the parameters of an enabling environment for tourism and how actively the Government promotes the sector. Safety and security was also a concern along with environment sustainability.Tourism is now a “global constant” as every country markets their destinations in an effort to increase tourist arrivals and the resulting benefits to society through job creation and economic improvement. There is no reason why India, particularly Rajasthan cannot do well on all parameters impacting tourism which is a proven job creator and economic growth engine.