Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

5 Oct, 2023

A tribute to Pran Nath Seth: The veteran Indian travel journalist who saw tomorrow

As “sustainability” is dominating discussions at the PATA Travel Mart in New Delhi this week, I felt it would be a good idea to hark back to the words of the late Indian travel writer and analyst Pran Nath Seth, arguably the first journalist to warn way back in the 1980s about the risk of poor destination management, congestion and overcrowding (known today by the fallacious misnomer “overtourism”) in Asia.

Over the course of a career dating back to the 1960s, Pran Seth steered clear of “puff pieces” and wrote with depth and clarity about issues that mattered. In one of our early meetings, he gave me his book “Successful Tourism Management”, published in 1985. It was the first textbook designed for use in Indian Universities. Because he had worked with the Indian tourism NTO before switching to writing and lecturing, he knew the subject matter well.

Indeed, India in the 1960s was a leader in Asia-Pacific tourism, spearheaded by privately-owned entities such as Air India and the Taj and Oberoi hotel groups. At the same time, warnings about the impact of the upcoming travel boom were being sounded in the 1970s and 80s when the behemoth 350+-seat Boeing 747 took to the skies.

While the operational and technical aspects of doing business changed, the principles of tourism management did not. Destinations had to protect and preserve the plant. But Pran Seth feared they wouldn’t, especially in Asia. He has been proven right. The fact that the issue is getting such a burst of delayed-reaction coverage today, inspite of all the early warnings, raises two questions:

(+) Is the Travel & Tourism industry really as smart as it thinks it is?

(+) If it was unable to deal with the challenges of growth in those days, can it seriously be counted on to seriously deal with the multiplicity of new crises and threats?

In this edition of Travel Impact Newswire, I am publishing a few screenshots of his prescient words (along with my pointers) as a reminder of how the industry failed its mandate…