Travel and Tourism

The revival of tourism will be catalysed by the policies of the Government

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Tourism industry needs to be treated as a deemed exporter at par with the IT Industry under export of services, elucidates, Rajiv Mehra, President, IATO. In an exclusive with Reema Lokesh, founder, Reemarkabl, he speaks about the IATO convention and more…

This is the first Convention in the post-Covid world. What is the primary differentiator?
Our previous convention was in 2019 at Kolkata. All conventions have their own USPs, this Convention will have a major impact as we are ready to capitalize on the borders opening up and hence timely networking, adapting to strategic ideas emanating from the sessions and presentations will leave our members to view the road map and rejuvenate their business.

Can you elaborate on the theme?
India is gearing up, it is ready to welcome tourists with all SOPs in place, the government is supporting the industry with its policies, the states are looking at seamless travel, the stakeholders are keen on networking and discuss issues with the policymakers, the recent Covid variant challenge has churned our thoughts, consequently, it is imperative that we put our minds together and chalk out a plausible road map that shall steer India to the path of recovery. The case is thus ripe and a perfect fit for the Theme of the convention.

What’s the value the convention aims to bring to its members?
The Convention will deliberate on the road to recovery for tourism in India that has gained even more importance considering the recent challenge of the Covid variant. The meaningful inaugural, crafted Business Sessions and the State Presentations will add to fertile ideas emanating from experienced minds. Besides these the networking luncheons and dinners will lead to informal meeting of minds all auguring well for tourism.

As an industry expert, what according to you is the revival plan for inbound tourism?
The revival plan for tourism will be catalysed by the policies of the Government. The Industry has suffered for the past 20 months and was looking forward to the 15th December starting of the scheduled flights till the new variant challenge put things on hold. No doubt the country comes first but in our plan we need to have a cautious optimism. A total shutdown or a strong detrimental policy will impede the tourism which had just begun to see the light of the day. Thus a watchful vigilant opening up of the borders, planned commencement of the scheduled flights is the first step. The major budget inputs that will add to the above are – Tourism industry to be treated as a deemed exporter at par with IT Industry under export of services, Withdrawal of tax collection at source (TCS) for the foreign tourists and Extension of Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) for the tourism industry for the next 5 years in the upcoming Foreign Trade Policy, 2021-25

Are tour operators ready to welcome international visitors keeping the Covid situation in mind and erratic Covid behaviour?
Yes, we are ready to welcome International visitors with the new normal and guidelines by the government in place.

What’s the loss that the industry has faced due to the pandemic?
February 2020 all visas were stopped, borders closed, International flights were put on hold – the next 19 months were an ordeal. The economic impact followed. No business for tourism, offices of the tour operators were closed, staff began to be sent on furloughs, money stuck with airlines due to cancellation of flights, hotels were not in a position to refund so was the case with safaris. Appeals for survival were being placed before the authorities. Tourism impacted more than 10% of India’s employment.  This means almost 5 crores jobs Assuming a 75% loss in tourism would imply a proportionate impact on job loses of almost 3.5 crores + jobs loss.

The inbound tourism Impact on the economy was almost 95%+. That means loss of almost $ 27 Billion value almost 2 lakh crores + on a direct basis. On an indirect economic basis, the loss is of almost 6 lakh crores. The domestic tourism market has an impact of almost 60% to 70% of total value. This implies almost ₹2.5 to 3 lakh crores of Direct domestic tourism loss. On an indirect basis, the economic impact is almost 6 to 9 lakh crores. Tourism impacts almost 9 % of India’s GDP assuming 75% loss of tourism business throughout the year, it would imply almost 15 lakh crores loss.

What’s the message you have as the President of IATO?
The message is clear. We the Executive Committee of IATO will leave no stone unturned to serve our valued members of IATO in the best possible manner with respect to addressing policy issues with the government and implementation of the policies for revival.

About author
a senior journalist, clarity coach, classical dancer, panel moderator and an eternal optimist.
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