Dare to be Different
Mr. Jose Dominic CEO and Managing Director CGH Earth Hotel

Mr. Jose Dominic, CEO and Manag­ing Director of CGH Earth Hotel needs no description. He is one of the stalwart in the Tourism and Hospitality industry in Kerala and immediate past president of CII Kerala chapter. Under his leadership, CGH hotel groups underwent huge transformation and became one of the best green hotels in the country. Mr. Jjose Dominic, shares his thoughts, philosophies to Brand Kerala. As a veteran in the indus­try, he speaks elaborately on the challenges and strengths of an entrepreneur of Kerala and its tourism industry.

Kerala tourism is completing its 25 years as an industry. Do you think we need a rebranding or re-positioning in marketing of our products? Are we on the right path?

We need to market our villages and tap the potentials farm tourism, village tourism, and Ayurveda. Kerala is growth story began with indigenous and small home grown entrepreneurs. Unfortunately an environment for promoting small time entrepreneurs is lacking here. Government must enable the local entrepreneurs to do what they did in the beginning and promote small and micro level investors to come forward. Now I doubt we are departing from the old policy and only promoting big projects for creating Disney lands. The moment you want to go out of this path and to make Kerala, a Goa, we will be completely lost.

What do you think the USP of Kerala tourism?

The imagery of Kerala is totally different, while comparing with other major destinations in India like Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, We draw another kind of travel­ers .Kerala attracts more alert independent traveler. It’s a good thing for us, that what enables us to grow to differ­entiate itself from others and provide the USP. It allows the spreading out of tourism. We are not confined to any cities like other states in the country.

Now the investors were no longer afraid to put money here. Though we don’t have eight lane high way, the trav­elers are quite happy to travel through the village roads, luckily we have very good village road.

What are challenges Kerala tourism fac­ing now?

Kerala is becoming an expensive tour­ist destination now. It’s a big challenge. Look at the budget travelers and price as the criteria. Kerala is a costlier destina­tion than others. In this case, we are not competitive in terms of price comparing with Malaysia or other South East Asian countries.

If you look from the point of travel­ers, whether it’s domestic or interna­tional, Kerala is farthest away destination in India and they need to take another flight to get here. So budget travelers can’t afford this they are interested in anymore. The whole package of travel is quite expensive affair.

The bandh and strike culture is giving us a bad image and it’s strongly established. We can only wish a way out. Let it be voluntary, if you want to strike you strike but life should go on. But a serious traveler is always looks for new and better travel experience and not serious about the cost factor. We must focus on ‘Alert independent Travellers’ to Kerala.

A Lot of big hoteliers are coming up in the state. Do you think this will lead to an oversupply and upset the bal­ance between demand-supply?

The way the industry moves is always like this. You will have scarcity and then you will have surplus. That’s the cyclical rotation that takes place. Now I think we are not at all surplus. If you look at the tourism scenario, during the peak season- October to March- everything is taken no rooms are available. So during April to Septem­ber peak summer days and monsoon season everything is vacant. This the pattern here already established.

So many international players are coming up here; will they pose a threat to the domestic and local hoteliers?

That will not be threat, there is enough place for all kind of products. Big brands will come and open their hotels in big gateways but rural and village Kerala still requires a kind of enterprise. This will work together.

How can we sustain the tourism in Kerala?

Kerala should be seen as the place of non-compromis­ing on ecology and environment is concerned. I would say very often that ‘Red make Kerala green’. It’s true. We must put all our effort to preserve our cultural heritage and environment. These are the bedrocks for tourism to grow. We must keep our nature clean and green. Our vil­lages, farms, agriculture are the strong components of our destination. The challenge will be how we can retain this and our unique entity.

This is the era of digital revolution; do you think that tourism industry has succeeded in incorporating latest technologies for its operations and growth?

Whole the new developments in the last two decades have been digital. Internet population of India is ex­ploded like anything. It is entirely a new world out there. But most number of people in tourism industry are stuck somewhere in the old world. We still adopt the out-of-date methods in marketing also. New technologies are constantly changing. Ability to use and recognize these technologies is important. We need to learn the effective and creative use of customer relationship management (CRM) tools too.

How do you see the development of Kochi and its role in the growth of tourism in the state?

Kochi is now the threshold of two things. One is its gateway to travel to Kerala and Kochi has a major role to play in the industrial development of the state particu­larly in IT industry. If you look at the number, exports from this main IT city’s in south India namely Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Trivandrum Kerala’s contri­butions in export is 4000 crore per year. The IT export turn over in Chennai and Hyderabad its 40000 each per annum, when it’s comes to Banglaore its 80000 Crore. If you look at IT potential in Kochi, We are really not anywhere now, so the space is left is huge.

Do you think Kochi needs more hotels and travel facili­ties?

Look at the Kerala’s growth in tourism in the last 25 years in terms of numbers. From about 30000 inbound visitors in the 25 years ago to 7.5lakhs are our inbound visitors over the years and similarly there are multiple numbers in domestic also.

Kochi being a gate way city needs higher capacity. It’s a pre-requisite to enable tourism to flourish and travel to happen. I don’t think there is not a big increase in the number of hotels. If you have no rooms in Kochi you would find it difficult to find one in other places here. Transportation to destination is another big problem. One has to take two or three flights or trains to travel from a destination to another. It’s very expensive here.

And come to MICE tourism, only convention centre in the state is at Kochi So futuristic role of Kochi in the industry is big. Closer to airport is a pre requisite for any con­vention centre. So in that context we really need the increase in numbers. It’s a necessity.

How does the green tag help you grow in the industry? What are the strategies you adopt while being green?

The strength of the product, es­pecially tourism, grown when thereis community involvement. For example, take on our hotel in Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep. We tried to be as local as possible as Bangaram as possible else we may be ruining the island for building a big hotel. For me, the best comes from the local. The difficulty will be less if you localize your resources.

Green is a good business practice also. Look at the corporate social responsibili­ty (CSR) initiative. I don’t believe in that, this someway translates to 2 % for CSR budget and the other 98 percent you do whatever you want. You have to embed your corporate social commitment into your business plan. That is what we have done.

Your mantra of success?

Sustainability, inclusivity, and localization I believe are non-negotiable things and proven reason for success. There is no need to do more of the same. Constantly do break and make the product.

What do you want to say to the young entrepreneurs?

Dare to be different, challenge the models even if it was being successful. Use your energy, thought, and idea to create something new and competitive. Be a leader instead of a follower.