IIHTTRC 2021: Hospitality and tourism sector in the post Covid-19 world

As the world is slowly and steadily inching towards normalization, recovering from the onslaught caused by Covid-19, it’s the hospitality and tourism industry which faces a gargantuan task to re-build, re-create and re-establish itself. To explore new ideas, strategies and develop a roadmap for the hospitality industry, several suggestions were put forward by experts during the recently concluded 11th India International Hotel, Travel and Tourism Research Conference (IIHTTRC). The three-day conference focused upon the theme “Re-Strategizing Hospitality & Tourism: Through Food Facilities & Films” and was organized from Feb 25-27, 2021 by Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, New Delhi.

During the inaugural session, Chief Guest Padma Bhushan S K Misra, Former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, extensively spoke about the need to look at new avenues of tourism and to create more engaging experiences for the discerning traveler. He emphasized on the need of  National and State bodies to closely work together towards this goal. Keynote Speaker Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, Endowed Chair Professor & Director M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Muma College of Business, University of South Florida, USA, spoke about the efforts by hospitality industry to inculcate confidence inside every traveler. He coined the word Contactless-ness which holds equal importance in order to control the spreading of the virus further. He presented some of the contemporary solutions taken by hotels, worldwide in order to make travelers feel safe and secure. Among the many steps like Contactless Check-ins and payments, use of robots and advanced AI (artificial intelligence) in hotel operations are trending now. He mentioned that although jobs are getting lost due to the role of technology, new avenues are being created for the professionals who upskill their talent for the hospitality sector.

Prof. R. K. Bhandari, President, India International Hotel, Travel & Tourism Research Conference, in his inaugural address, mentioned about rural economies and the need to incentivize the development of handicrafts, local culture and cuisine and ofcourse, facilitating easy travel to tourist circuits also. He stated that it is significantly important for hotels to identify required action plan that will address both current state and future growth in hospitality industry.

“Ecologically balanced and healthy practices will be the priority with a renewed focus on safety so as to motivate reason to travel for tourists. Improvement in sentiments regarding the pandemic and business activities will help in reviving our industry from the precarious impact of Covid-19,” he said.

The Conference brought together Industry Managers and researchers in Tourism and Hospitality together to share experiences, opinions and examine trends and innovative practices in the field of Tourism and Hospitality. During the course of three days several prominent researchers and experts shared their views, including  Dr. Eugeni Osacar, Research Director & Professor at CETT-UB, Barcelona School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy, University of Barcelona, who spoke on  “Film Tourism as key factor for Destination Promotion”, Dr. Macario G Gayeta, Professor, University of the East Caloocan,  Metro Manila, Philippines, Board of Director for Research, Tourism Educator and Movers (TEAM) NCR , who spoke on “Contemporary Issues and Recent Trends in Strategic Quality Management in Hospitality & Tourism” and Dr. Enrico Panai, Human Information Interaction Specialist & AI Ethicist. Adjunct professor- Digital Humanities in the Department of Philosophy, University of Sassari, and President (EATSA), who focussed on “Emerging Ethical Problems of AI in Tourism: How Independent Auditing can help to Reinforce Trust?” Several panel discussions on the role of films and food in tourism promotion were also organised.

Other prominent speakers in the conference were Dr. Yanki Hartijasti, Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas, Indonesia, Prof. Sudhir Andrews, Distinguished Professor Thoughtful Leader & Author, Dr. Ali Afshar, Professor-Architectural Studies, Eqbal Lahoori Institute of Higher, Education, Iran, Rao Narender Yadav, Founder-Director, Woodpecker International Film Festival (WIFF), and Dr. Jenny Cave, Associate Professor, Swansea University, UK.

According to Dr. Arvind Kumar Saraswati, Convenor, India International Hotel, Travel & Tourism Research Conference, Global pandemic of Covid-19 has registered its presence in world history and will always be remembered in future.  Complete lockdown across the globe has shattered the world economy. Tourism, Travel & Hospitality industry were among those that were severely affected during this phase. It presents before us the new challenges and also the opportunities to look at the world with a completely new perspective. The 2021 edition of the conference focused on re-accessing the industry as per the prevailing environment and devise future strategies. Food, Facilities & Films are the three dimensions considered to be talked upon and discuss during the conference to re-strategize Hospitality, Travel & Tourism Industry. The conference was successfully conducted through virtual mode.

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