Planning to travel soon but not sure whether to step out or not? Major travel and tourism related announcements from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday have cheered India’s travel industry and brought a ray of hope that it may be safe to travel, keeping all safety guidelines at the forefront of all travel plans.

More confidence, more jobs in the travel industry?
A key question remains: Will the recent announcements increase confidence in the travel segment? We reached out to a few stakeholders for more clarity on the impact of FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements on the travel and tourism segment.

IATO pitches for free visa grant for all tourists
Welcoming FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcements, IATO termed the free visa grant as ‘an excellent policy decision’ that should be extended to all tourists till March 31st 2023 and not restricted to 5 lakh tourists only.

According to Rajiv Mehra, President IATO, “We are grateful that the government has recognized our distress and made key announcements with relief for the tourism sector. We hope e-Tourist visa will open soon and appeal to the Hon’ble Prime Minister that visas that have a duration of 30 days should be free for all who apply for the visa till 31st March 2023.”

Expressing thanks to the government for the announcement related to personal loan for tour operators and guides, Rajiv Mehra pitched for a one time financial grant to all recognized tour operators, which could be around 50 per cent of the wages paid by the latter in 2019-20 and about Rs 2.5 lakh to every tourist guide who has been recognised by the Ministry of Tourism or the state government.

“We are on oxygen right now. The grant would prevent us from being put on a ventilator,” Mehra adds.

Much needed kickstart for inbound segment
Sourav Mukherjee, Head of India and Middle East, RateGain observes, “Giving 5 lakh free VISA (worth approx 100 cr) will give the much needed kick start to the inbound segment mainly for tourists. This step will be the key to ensure international tourists are inspired enough and feel safe to visit India. Of course it will also depend on the much talked about Delta plus variant third wave and how the government works to contain its spread. But this is a much needed move for the industry and the leisure destinations. We still need to wait till the process starts. This will not be a boost as such but will act as a kick start.”

Meanwhile, Colonel Manbeer Choudhary, Chairman & Managing Director, Jewels Group of Hotels, feels gladdened by the recent announcements.

In his view, “Without these initiatives, it would have taken the industry longer to bounce back. These initiatives have shown the thoughtfulness and inclusive approach of the government. These are not only encouraging and progressive towards attracting global travellers but also reassuring and supportive for the tourism and hospitality brands along with nurturing the people who work in the industry.”

Earlier, the Karnataka government had earlier made an announcement of a 50 per cent reduction in property tax for resorts, hotels, restaurants.

Welcoming the state government’s announcement, Vineet Verma, Executive Director & CEO, Brigade Hospitality termed it as a ‘relief’ for the ‘acutely suffering hospitality sector.’

“We appreciate the government’s earlier decision to accord industry status to all classified hotels in Karnataka and now we await the actual roll out of the policy that will bring succour to our sector,” Vineet Verma adds.

What about medical infrastructure?
Notably, from a health perspective, there is appreciation on many of the announcements made by FM Nirmala Sitharaman.

Vivek Tiwari, Founder & CEO, Medikabazaar says, “This is a step at the right time from the Finance Minister with a loan guarantee scheme of Rs50,000 cr for scaling up medical infrastructure in smaller cities and towns. This will also enhance access to the best of healthcare that is otherwise available only in the metros. The specific emphasis on paediatric patients will help prepare our health infrastructure for any third wave that is expected to have a greater impact on India’s younger population. Overall, these are commendable steps that have been taken by the government.”

Not all travel stakeholders view the recent announcements as a boost for the travel industry.

Sourav Mukherjee, Head of India and Middle East, RateGain informs, “We could have said this was a boost only when the inbound sector would have had some movement already. But if the government could also create confidence among the tourists , it’s gonna immediately have a positive effect on the leisure segment. There will be an increase in jobs , increased demand for all modes of transport; food and restaurants business will see loyal customers coming back, ancillary tourism services will get a fresh ray of hope and there will be a chain reaction of increased buzz around the sector. Also working capital and personal loans for travel tourism stakeholders and registered tour guides is also gonna help in some much needed liquidity to ramp up their business or startups.”

In 2019, about 10.93 million tourists visited India, their average daily stay for a foreign tourist clocked is 21 days and the average daily spending is pegged at $34. The recent announcements are expected to further boost the severely hit travel and tourism industry.

Colonel Manbeer Choudhary sums it up best when he adds, “The fight has been tough and lengthy. It is time we brace ourselves for a better future.”