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Monday, 18 May, 2020, 17 : 20 PM [IST]

With no government support, disappointed stakeholders to decide on future action plan

At a time when the travel & tourism industry was hoping for some handholding from the government to tide over the pandemic crisis, its sheer disregard by the Centre has come as a rude shock. In a televised address last week, the Prime Minister had announced a bailout package of INR 20 lakh crore for the country, and the industry was hopeful that tourism and hospitality would find mention in the relief measures since it contributes 10% to the GDP and is a huge provider of employment. 

However, with the final announcement of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman witnessing no mention of the tourism and hospitality, uncertain future and sheer collapse of the industry that has come to its knees with the COVID-19 inflicted pandemic at the peak of summer season seems eminent. 

TravelBiz Monitor spoke to industry stakeholders to ascertain their views, and their immediate plan of action. 

PP Khanna, President, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) said that it seems like the government that spoke of encouraging domestic tourism last year has not bothered to offer any relief or rebate this sounds like a death kneel. “We have had multiple meetings with the Tourism Minister, NITI Aagyog, Commerce Ministry and various departments in the government to voice our concerns. We are highly disappointed because such a treatment meted out to the industry will only discourage entry of new players and the start-ups would be forced to pack up. For companies that have been in the business for long, they will inevitably cut jobs, as no player is going to avail loans offered for MSMEs to pay salaries when there is absolutely no business.”

Echoing similar views, Pronab Sarkar, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) said that the industry will witness mass unemployment. “It seems like we have landed in a situation where surviving the storm alone has become our own responsibility. We were seeking for government support to revive, and not survive. However, the sheer lack of recognition of tourism as crucial industry despites its contribution to the GDP, forex earnings and job creation continues because it is still seen as a luxury.” He said that no player will avail loan at a time when there is no support existence of the industry. 

Sarkar mentioned that the industry stakeholders, under the aegis of FAITH, will be meeting tomorrow to finalise their action plan. Both Khanna and Sarkar were unanimous that their approach would be towards the Centre, since state governments, themselves have no funds are waiting for support from the national leadership. 

Sharing his views, Sanjay Sethi, MD, Chalet Hotels, said, “We are disappointed that the hospitality sector which is on ventilator support did not get specific relief.  We urgently needed the government to facilitate a one-time restructuring of loans by banks without having to take a provisioning hit. We needed soft loans for working capital. A significant contributor to the GDP, employment and forex earnings has been put out in the cold. We now look to states for relief on benefits as an industry for electricity tariff, excise fee waiver, property tax reduction and ease on labour laws.”

Pradip Lulla, President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), said, “It's a big disappointment that in the huge bailout package of INR 20 lakh crores, the travel and tourism sector has received no stimulus or positive cash flow solutions as we are the most vulnerable with zero business. As 10% GDP contributors and paying taxes for all these years we have been left on our own to weather the storm.”

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