The coronavirus crisis battered India’s travel and tourism industry as the central and state governments imposed curbs like nationwide lockdowns, weekend curfew and imposing Section 144 in containment zones in order to contain the contagion. Due to this, industry experts are looking at a ‘One India One Tourism’ approach for the industry and increased allocation for the tourism ministry in the upcoming Union Budget among other incentives and sops for the sector.
Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has sought a ‘One India One Tourism’ approach in the upcoming Union Budget 2022-23 to revive the coronavirus-ravaged domestic travel, tourism and hospitality industry. It also wants the government to consider e-visa fees waiver for all tourist visas for 2022-23 to support inbound revival export status for tourism export earnings.
“For this, it is extremely important for both the central and governments to work in tandem to facilitate this sector and support it to be included in the concurrent list to get industry status to make it more structured,” the Association said in a statement.
The TAAI has also sought double expenditure allocation for the tourism ministry to enable intensive global reach-out to support the inbound revival and domestic income tax travel credit for Indian citizens and Indian companies to support domestic retail and domestic meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) pick-up.
The Association is also eyeing a global bidding fund in the Budget 2022-23 to enable bidding support to Indian MICE companies to bring global events to India. TAAI added that travel agents’ payments to principals are unsecured credit and there is need to ensure that some form of mechanisms – escrow/guarantee/underwriting mechanisms are in place for securing travel agents’ money.
CEO and co-founder of the online travel platform ixigo Aloke Bajpai is looking forward to incentives for the sector such as IT deductions on domestic travel and tourism and tax breaks and waivers for the airline sector on the potential bounce-back of domestic tourism due to pent-up demand, vaccine roll-out and revenge tourism.
Bajpai also expects the government to consider bringing ATF under GST in a bid to bring relief to the coronavirus-battered aviation sector. The ixigo founder also pitched for introducing ‘sandbox schemes’ that are being currently followed in Indonesia and Thailand to help India build a more resilient tourism economy.
“We also expect the upcoming Budget to allot incentives for domestic tourism and promote it within the country. IT deductions on domestic travel and tourism spends will help incentivise tourism and boost domestic travel further. Tax breaks and waivers for the airline sector will also help aid faster recovery of the industry. Bringing ATF under the ambit of GST (which currently comprises 40-45 percent of the total operating cost of an airline) will bring much-needed relief to the aviation sector,” he said.
Group CPTO and co-founder of ixigo Rajnish Kumar also expects that the government will also focus on reinventing the railways sector in India in the forthcoming Budget as the sector saw a swift recovery of reserved train ticketing. “The upcoming Budget has the potential to re-invent the railway sector by adopting smarter strategies that prioritises health and safety of train passengers. We believe that digital distribution of unreserved train tickets through IRCTC and OTAs should be prioritised to reduce queues at the railway station. Re-inforcing public transport systems and SRTC bus providers with advanced technologies like QR code based ticketing and IoT can help build a safe commuter environment by uncrowding public transport spaces,” Kumar said.
He added that the government can take initiatives like contactless systems, automated sanitisation, voice or motion activated devices in order to minimise contact with high-touch surfaces and prevent cross infections at crowded railway stations and bus stations.
(With agency inputs)
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