The Rise of Indian Outbound Travel

Prospects for Capitalizing on This Emerging Empire

By Larry Mogelonsky President & Founder, LMA Communications | November 02, 2014

Much attention has been given over the past few years to the rise of Chinese outbound tourism. And rightfully so, the nation of roughly 1.35 billion souls has undergone profound urbanization and gentrification during the last three decades. Its burgeoning middle class now represents a consumerist powerhouse greatly influencing the future of worldwide tourism. I've written extensively on ways for hoteliers to capitalize on this, but now let's turn our attentions to another part of Asia – the Indian subcontinent.

As the globe's second most populous country, India, has experienced tremendous economic upheavals in recent years. In this flat and outsourced world we live in, this ageless and ethnically diverse democratic nation of 1.2 billion people now has a sizable tech and telecommunications sector on top of its strong agricultural and manufacturing export industries.

A large economy and populous are, however, not immediately synonymous with booming outbound tourism, and indeed there are many factors both for and against India immediately following China's lead in this regard. Rest assured, though, it's a country that hoteliers across the globe must pay attention to, and a thorough examination of present and future conditions will give managers a better idea of how best to approach this fast-growing travel market.

The Present

If I were to liken India to a person, it would be a future hall-of-fame linebacker in the midst of puberty – lots of haphazard growth with erratic hormonal fluctuations and nothing wholly solidified as of yet. As with the vast majority of us in our adolescent years, we are just starting to envision our full potential as we grow into young adults. Only in India's case, when the nation matures, it brings with it the world's largest democracy and over a billion potential consumers.

There's no question of India's growth, but it is still a country with strong ties to its agrarian past. India has deeply entrenched regionalism with numerous religions, languages and ethnicities slowing the road towards total economic synergy. Additional obstacles include a lack of appropriate infrastructure for trade, sluggish bureaucratic systems, corruption and widespread poverty. Since the liberalization of its monetary policies in 1991, however, India has been making consistent-yet-modest strides towards full-fledged free market capitalism and not even the recent global financial downturn has had a lasting effect in stalling this advance.

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.