Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tourism sector beckons

There are a host of options for those looking to make a mark in the lesser-explored but relatively new job areas. Tourism is all set to be an industry that will be the world's largest by 2010, reports Geetanjali Gayatari

It's next only to the booming IT industry. The service industry today is a happening field, beckoning those who can serve with a smile. Be it travel and tourism or hospitality, retail businesses or event services, the sky is the limit as far as scope and opportunities are concerned in these fields.

As per the statistics available, India , with her 17 per cent jobless graduates, could very well cash in on this booming sector. A study carried out recently has pegged the job availability in the service sector at almost 120 million of the total 200 million by 2020.

And, while others tread the traditional path in choosing their professions, there are a host of options for those looking at making a mark in the lesser-explored but relatively new job areas.

Tourism, it's predicted, is likely to assume dramatic proportions with the world turning into a close neighbourhood. It is all set to be an industry that will be the world's largest by 2010.

According to Dr Devesh Nigam from the Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, Bundelkhand University, Jhansi, once the students complete a diploma or a masters degree in tourism, they can branch off into opening a travel agency or working at one, get employment as tourist guides and interpreters, organise tour excursions and do a lot more. In the aviation field, these graduates can get into sales and marketing or becoming ticketing agents or even pick up a job in cargo operations among others. The more you explore, the greater the opportunity that exists in the service sector.

Besides adventure tourism and historical tourism, medical tourism in India , too, is coming of age. Interestingly, while a beginner's salary can be anything from Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000, the trend is gradually to move towards target-oriented payment in the private sector. The private industry wants results, which explains this shift from fixed salaries to flexible salaries. However, it is still in its nascent stage though it is likely to spread its wings soon. Companies are now beginning to set targets for their employees and pay them accordingly, adds Mr P Thryambakam from the Frankfinn Institute, Hyderabad.

Another developing field in the service sector is that of banking and related services. The days to come spell out a lot of expansion in the loan sector as also credit cards. Call centres and the software sector have already arrived as far as India is concerned, maintains Mr Kamal Manak Tola of a tourism institute at Gurgaon.

The only requirement for the service sector, experts point out, is that candidates and employees should be willing workers, serving with a smile and a certain fluency in communication skills. However, they are of the opinion that this growing industry would soon be in need of specialists for which most institutes are ill-prepared.

We lack education and training programmes in most upcoming fields. While some headway has been made with regard to tourism, with a handful of universities providing some courses, there exists a yawning gap between the demand and supply of professionals in these upcoming fields. We need to address that through a concerted effort and by beginning short-term courses in these fields, maintains Dr Nigam.

The service industry, being a people's industry, also takes into its fold the hospitality services, the ITES and BPOs, transportation, telecommunication and communication, retail business and event services. The list is endless.

Medical tourism growing by 30 pc
Aditi Tandon

Potukuchi Thryambakam, tourism management expert from Hyderabad
Potukuchi Thryambakam, tourism management expert from Hyderabad

The medical tourism sector of India is booming like never before. With the Ministry of Health stating that the sector is growing at the rate of 30 per cent every year, several new specialties are being added to those already covered under the sector.

Currently best known for its expertise in psychiatry, cardiovascular diseases/ surgeries, ophthalmology and dental services, including "smile designing", India is now also covering specialties like neurology, neurosurgery , dermatology and urology to attract foreign tourists to add to its forex reserves.

Giving this information during a presentation at the international convention of the Federation of Educators and Scholars of Tourism, which concluded in Chandigarh, Mr Potukuchi Thryambakam, a tourism management expert from Hyderabad said government studies had shown that medical tourism could help India earn US dollars to the tune of $1-2 billion by 2012. He has conducted a comparative study of the difference in the cost of some medical treatments in the USA and India.

Presently on the faculty of a private firm offering training in the service sectors, Mr Thryambakam said medical outsourcing was another field where India was fast emerging. "Hyderabad, besides being a centre for medical tourism with hospitals like Apollo and CARE, is now also a hub for medical outsourcing. There are several trained youngsters now providing services to the overburdened healthcare systems in western countries. The field of medical transcription also has many job opportunities".

Among the specialties attracting maximum medical tourists are dental services (as these are not covered by insurance companies abroad) like metal free bridges, dental implants and porcelain metal bridges. Bone marrow transplants, liver surgeries and cataract surgeries are also very common, with maximum enquiries coming from the USA, the UK and Germany.

Quoting his PhD research on medical tourism, Mr Thryambakam said,"Bone marrow transplant costs 2 lakh dollars in the USA, as against $69,000 in India. The difference in the cost of liver transplants is also massive 3 lakh dollars in the USA and $69,000 in India.

Cataract surgery costs also vary significantly $2000 in the USA and $1250 in India."

Pointing towards the growing employment potential of the sector, Mr Thryambakam said India had been adding to the total number of foreigners it treated annually. The Ministry of Health figures show that Apollo Hospital alone has treated 95,000 international patients till date. Chennai's Shankar Nethrayala leads in the field of ophthalmology. LV Prasad Eye Institute is also among the best rated institutes in the field of medical tourism.

Kerala is the best destination in India for naturopathy another emerging area within the medical tourism sector.