In India, travel and tourism has been decimated. Following the current protocol in place with regard to international travel, businesses involved in inbound tourism have overnight lost their relevance. Zero revenues in a highly competitive industry almost immediately triggered massive job losses and huge salary cuts. Thus, it’s an existential issue for the industry and its various stake holders, ranging from the most humble cab driver or guide which has come to the fore. It is an irony that an industry that contributes 9.4% of our GDP and 8.16% of total employment is gasping for breath and desperately seeking attention as well as resuscitation.
In these unprecedented times, to show solidarity and to appeal to the Government, a group of young, dedicated and motivated members of the industry got together to conduct a peaceful drive-through various cities of India. They had been behind murmurs within IATO, last month or so, explained one of the convenors, Vishal Yadav, asking for some more pinpointed action, beyond sending memorandums and petitions.
This group, coming together under the name of Tourism Fraternity, going beyond barriers of inbound, domestic and outbound, clearly breaking a new path that went across industry associations.
On 27th September, commemorating World Tourism Day, they embarked upon an awareness campaign throughout the country where the attempt was to bring into public attention this current situation. Given the paucity of time, the activity was largely restricted to Delhi, where some 100 cars come together, practicing social distancing, observing the laws of the land, where gatherings of more than 50 are not permitted.
“There seems to be no proverbial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel! Facing an inevitable and painful extinction we have no other option but to come out to the streets in form of a peaceful drive-through various cities of India. We also have the following immediate remedies that would help SAVE TOURISM AND ALSO SAVE LIVES”, said Vishal Yadav, 39 year-old entrepreneur, who has been in the business for the last 18 years. He employs 48 member staff through his own offices, has seen a turnover of almost Rs. 20 crores, during the pre Covid times. All this business has come to zero.
Vishal said his fraternity is seeking an immediate consideration for the following relief in their businesses:
* SEIS (regular subsidy) – Immediate Release for FY 2019-20 & enhancement by 10 % for FY 2020-21.
* Atma Nirbhar Loans: Collateral Free & deferred loans with low interests @ 6% with moratorium till October,2022 with an enhancement from 20% to 50%.
* Tourism Ministry, Government of India approved and MSME Registered to be given soft loans even if they do not have past borrowings.
For increasing tourist flows, for motivating tourists to experience India’s tourist attractions, the members suggested the following:
* Entry Fees to be either free or, reduced at all Monuments and National Parks till March, 2022.
* Road taxes on Tourist Vehicles to be withdrawn or reduced till March, 2022.
* Create Tourism Bubbles between Friendly Nations that have a simple VISA regime.
* Faster RT-PCR Tests and results so as to facilitate travel between countries.
* Abolish tax regimes like TCS that put Indian companies at a disadvantage. Clients and overseas tour operators would be incentivized to book directly with destination companies. This would entail severe losses of revenue including foreign exchange to the Indian government.
Other measures were cutting across other industry segments and may call for a larger perspective review, and these suggestions included:
* Higher Income Tax exemption limits to smaller companies
* Subsidies electricity and license charges for hotels till March, 2022.
The above steps, feel the fraternity members, would help the tourism fraternity of 5 Crore families to survive the current challenges and be both alive and robust, in taking advantage of the pent up travel demand that could be anticipated when we begin to see the end of the pandemic and when vengeance tourism is largely expected.
“Tourism could become 20% of GDP then as the tsunami of visitors is unleashed. With prayers on our lips and hope in our hearts, we stand before you with folded hands seeking your compassion, support, leadership and understanding”, said Vishal and his fraternity in their statement issued on the occasion.
Is there another industry association in the making? One cannot say, at this juncture. Our observation is that this group has immediate plans to do more, feel considerably buoyed by their one-off success, and are supported by adequate numbers of the old guard. Therefore, they deserve to be watched, they are keen and energetic and can revive the sagging spirits of the industry.