Travel industry takes you places
The task of sending people on a holiday is serious work for those employed in the tourism sector, writes Biswajiban Sharma
THERE was a time when a holiday meant fleeing the heat and dust of the plains to cooler climes. During the sojourn, the family would mostly stay cooped up in its salubrious surroundings, play cards, take the mandatory daily walk up the 'Mall' and go for the weekend picnic at the edge of a waterfall.
The LTC changed all that; so did the increase in the disposable income of the Indian middle class, the explosion of the Internet, the travel bonanza on the Discovery and National Geographic channels, the discounted airline fares and the mushroom growth of the hospitality industry. All this has given a fresh perspective to holidaying.
No wonder the tourism industry in India is growing by leaps and bounds — there was a significant growth of 16.5 per cent in foreign arrivals in 2003 — accounting for an estimated 24,456,000 jobs. The country is the second largest travel and tourism employer in South Asia. The icing on the cake is that India has the potential to register the fastest growth in the region in the next five decades. Already, it is being rated among the top five destinations in the world.
Take the ticketing route
There are a host of career options in this industry for youngsters who are dynamic, like to think on their feet, and are creative. Take the trusted travel agent, the lynchpin of the trade who has all the facts at his fingertips. Most agents have their own outfits and act as intermediaries between the providers of the holiday and the client.
A travel agency, in turn, may have a number of employees. The larger the agency the more specialised the role of the employee: he could be entrusted with the task of negotiating with the hotels, organising the foreign exchange, making the train and airline reservations, planning the tour itinerary or chalking out some key element of your vacation.
Most institutes offer a crash course — 3 to 5 months — in airfares and ticketing; the certificate facilitates entry into a travel agency. For instance, the Delhi chapter of the Indian Institute of Travel and Tourism Management (IITM) offers basic courses in Computer Application in Tourism and Travel Agencies; in Air Travel Fares and Ticketing; in Tour Operation Management and in Foreign Languages. Some institutes like the Delhi-based Travel Academy also offer an advanced course, which is designed for students who have a basic knowledge about fares and international airline operations.
Work as a holiday consultant
Surfing on the Net, trying to decide where to go on a holiday, can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you are scouting for something unusual and different. That is where the holiday consultants come in. They specialise in organising tailor-made tours and group jaunts — it could be spiritual retreat in Buddhist Lanka, a safari in the rainforests of Malaysia or a trek to Timbuktu. Explains Ruchika, a holiday consultant, ''Requests range from rafting in the Amazon to finding the best site for trout fishing in the Himalayas.''
The holiday consultants have the experience and the necessary skills to give you a dream holiday. They not only market holidays that give you value for money and make the most of your annual budget, but also take care of the nitty-gritty so that your vacation proceeds like clockwork. Increasingly in demand, they are employed in airlines, in five-star hotels, in timeshare companies and by big players in the business.
The IITM runs a 24-month diploma course in Tourism Management at Gwalior. Graduates not exceeding 28 years are eligible to enroll in the course after qualifying the entrance exam.
Be an adventure tour operator
Adventure tourism is an emerging niche market for budding youngsters high on adrenaline. The operators organise wildlife safaris, rafting expeditions, cross-country treks, paragliding, mountain biking, bungee jumping and outdoor camps for a predominantly foreign clientele. This entails making travel, board and lodging arrangements, organising visas, inner line permits etc. The operator is also expected to provide guides, porters and trained hands for the jaunts. However, there are very few trained professionals in the field.
Make moolah as money changer
Given the extent of our foreign exchange earnings from tourism, one can gauge the need for money changers who are authorised to deal to a limited extent in foreign currencies or securities. They usually get licenses by virtue of their association with a travel agency or on account of their business which might involve dealings with foreign tourists. Their main activity is to buy and sell foreign exchange either in the form of currency notes or travellers' cheques. A person may obtain a license to act as a full-fledged money changer by making an application to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). However, certain documents are to be submitted to the RBI for this purpose.
Get set to interpret
Expertise in a foreign language, especially Spanish, French and German, can easily land you a part-time or a full-time job as interpreters. The latter are needed in tourism, the hospitality industry and airlines. They are well-paid, often by the hour. Universities as well as institutes run by embassies offer diploma/certificate courses.
Show the way as a tour guide
They are in demand in the domestic as well as the international circuit. However, despite the record foreign arrivals and the surge in domestic tourism, there are no professional courses for guides. Mostly they are untrained, but make up for it in other ways: they are familiar with the turf on which they operate, have facts on their fingertips, know the local folk lore by heart and are good raconteurs. The remuneration is good but they make more money from tips, usually in dollars if the clientele is foreign. Guides are also in demand at tourism development corporations, but the assignments tend to be seasonal.
Tourism as a career option offers many intangibles, which can't be
measured in monetary terms. The imponderables are: a pulsating career,
with ''not a dull moment,'' an opportunity to rub shoulders with people
from all over the world, the ease with which one can enter the industry
without having to clear grueling entrance tests, excellent future
prospects for the performance-oriented and good monetary incentives in
the form of tips that enable you to supplement your income and, last but
not the least, the fact that your skills are transferable anywhere in