New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) Leaders of the tourism and hospitality sectors see the expected cent per cent occupancy figures during the upcoming G20 Summit as only a short-term gain, compared to the longer-term impact of the government’s decision to hold 200-odd meetings across India in the run-up to the big two-day powwow beginning on September 9.

What the run-up to the G20 Summit has done for India, pointed out K.B. Kachru, Chairman Emeritus, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group, is exposing the world to the diversity of our tourism products and positioning the country as a credible MICE (Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions) destination.

In the $876.42-billion global MICE business, India has so far been seen as the poorer cousin in Asia of China as well as the Pacific Rim and ASEAN countries.

Now, with the unveiling of the Bharat Mandapam at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi and by showcasing the state-of-the-art convention centres in Hyderabad and Gandhinagar, India rightfully can expect a bigger share of the global MICE pie, said the founder-editor of ‘Destination India’ and long-time industry specialist Navin Berry.

Developing this theme, Satyajeet Krishnan, Area Director (Operations) and General Manager, The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, said: “Unlike an Olympics, where the interest in a destination ends with the Games, the G20 Summit will have a domino effect because it is essentially a business summit. I can see a series of business delegations coming to India in the months and years ahead.” He added that the Bharat Mandapam, in fact, is a “brilliant showcase” of what India can offer to the world.

Krishnan pointed out that even as the world prepares for the G20 Summit, which, incidentally, attract more than 40 delegations from the member countries, associations and multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and IMF, New Delhi is all set to play host to the B20, the summit of the G20 business leaders beginning on Tuesday, August 22.

Interactions such as these won’t stop with the G20 Summit, Krishnan emphasised, noting that business leaders have over the past year been exposed to places in India where they had never been before.

As many as 200 ministerial and track meetings have been held across 60 cities in the run-up to the G20 Summit, and these have been attended by representatives of not only the 19 G20 nations, but also nine invitee countries and 14 international organisations.

Mandeep Lamba, President (South Asia), HVS Anarock, a hospitality industry consultancy, called this “a unique opportunity for the Indian travel and tourism industry”.

He said: “Thousands of delegates belonging to 110 nationalities, industry watchers pointed out, have visited India and been exposed to the country beyond the ‘gateway’ cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata — for the meetings have been held in places as diverse as Kumakom and Srinagar, Shillong and Gandhinagar, Varanasi and Goa.

Explaining the significance of these meetings, Lamba said: “We have been able to showcase our country’s rich heritage, cultural diversity, and unique tourism experiences not only to the international delegates of these meetings, but also to the entire world, thanks to the global media coverage these events received.”

He added: “The cherry on the cake is that the average hotel rates and occupancy rates in the host cities have increased significantly in the days leading up to the Summit.”

Kachru even predicted that these places are definitely going to see an uptick in leisure and corporate travel, and that is good news for the gateway cities as well, for anyone flying into India has to first land and spend the first night in one of these cities.

“India is now getting known for destinations beyond the Golden Triangle,” Kachru said.

Adding a personal note, Krishnan said that he was talking to a couple of ambassadors some days back and they couldn’t stop talking about Hampi, which was once the capital of the Vijayanagara empire, and its tourism as well as business potential.

Similarly, Krishnan added, one of the meetings leading up to the G20 Summit was held at Diu, a tourist destination that was waiting to be showcased to the world.

These meetings, according to Lamba, have also helped place some of the country’s lesser-known destinations and heritage sites such as Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Siliguri, Hampi, Khajuraho and Mahabalipuram on the global tourism map.

“The Ministry of Tourism and state bodies have made every effort to maximise the returns from this opportunity, putting their best foot forward to make these events memorable for the delegates, and in the process, raising awareness about India as a global tourism and MICE destination,” Lamba said.

Closer home, in New Delhi, hoteliers such as Vikram Aditya Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Claridges Collection, expect the average room rate for luxury hotels finally to stabilise at Rs 15,000-18,000, with significant spikes in the peak winter season, although it will still be nowhere near the levels of New York City or London.

Singh expects the “long overdue” beautification of Delhi to increase tourist confidence in the city, which doesn’t see leisure travellers spending more than a day each after landing in and before leaving Delhi.

This shift in perception will enable five-star hotels, Singh said, to demand and get higher rates. He agreed, though, that the all-time high rates that five-star hotels are expected to command during the first fortnight of September are going to see a course correction.

Industry insiders also expect hotel rates to come down in the first half of 2024 because of the general elections when government-driven business, which is what is driving up hotel rates in the G20 Summit season, hits an all-time low because all new projects are on hold in view of the Model Code of Conduct.

There is, however, unanimity about the benefits of beautification. Even Himmat Anand, an industry veteran and founder of the Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels, who believes the G20 Summit will do precious little for the cause of travel, tourism and hospitality, said that the beautification drives across cities would make them more “presentable to the world”.