A quick review of the recently announced Union Budget 2016-17 reveals absolutely nothing in terms of its direct relevance to the Indian tourism or hospitality industry. Notwithstanding the paltry increase of INR 17 crore in the overall tourism budgetary outlay for the country, most experts in the industry are unanimous in the view that this Union Budget from Arun Jaitley has been a huge disappointment for this sector. None of the demands and pre-budget pleas by the various associations have been even considered, and this seems to have shocked the entire industry which had pinned its hope on the fact that this relatively new government would finally deliver on the country’s tourism promise and potential, this time. This optimism was largely fuelled by the fact that the Modi government had come into power touting the ‘5 Ts’ agenda, where one of those Ts, surprisingly, stood for tourism! As the tourism industry, we were really pleasantly surprised to see that an Indian government was finally close to recognising the contribution and potential growth that tourism could activate in the context of the overall Indian economy.
But alas, history seems to have repeated itself with the government not only meting out step-motherly treatment to this sector, but ignoring it altogether without even so much as a mention of the word tourism in the entire budget speech or draft. However, if one goes beyond the cursory glance and delves a little deeper into the implications of this Union Budget, there definitely seems to be a silver lining for the tourism and hospitality industry. The reforms suggested in regional airports and defunct airstrip development, or the focus on building roads, infrastructure development, The Clean India movement and port expansion, etc - all of these definitely create a more conducive environment for investment, business, and thus will result in a direct positive impact on tourism.
International arrivals or inbound tourism will still have a large question mark hanging over it for the coming year, largely affected by the slowdown in global economies and by the overall business sentiment. The reforms that may have a direct impact on this industry, would be largely restricted to domestic tourism sector given the number of measures announced to augment connectivity within the country. In fact, there was far better news for this industry in the Railway Budget for the coming fiscal which was announced just a couple of days before. I daresay that measures announced in the Railway Budget served to increase the expectation of this industry from the Union Budget. In effect, one has to be practical and realise the fact that India as a country and all Indian governments are a long way from recognising the true value of tourism. We should stop pinning our hopes on any specific budget or government, and get back to business without lamenting too much about unfair treatment we have received in the budget. The Indian tourism industry is here to stay and will continue to grow, dynamically in the domestic sector, above par in the outbound sector and moderately in the inbound sector. All of this, in the past, has been achieved largely without any government support, infrastructure and adequate policies. And we can do it again. Let’s put these budget blues behind us and move on...Sheldon Santwan
Editor & COOsheldon@saffronsynergies.in