As the Union Budget 2022-23 approaches, Naveen Kundu, Managing Director, EbixCash Travel and Services, outlines his expectations for the tourism and hospitality sectors, which could be key in bringing momentum. Kundu says, “We all know that the tourism and hospitality sectors have been worst hit, and it is now the third year in a row with practically no revenues. We have lost talent, lost business, and everything is in a standstill mode. Even domestic tourism that shows some signs of recovery gets into a lean patch with every wave, leaving everyone guessing what is coming next. Investments in tourism are at an all-time low and if not now, then I feel there will never be a time when the tourism sector in this country will get its due. Imagine that the sector that generates 50 million jobs a year, contributes almost 10% to India’s GDP and forms the core of large indirect taxes gets just Rs 2,000 crores in budget allocation with no specific plan ever narrated by any Finance or Tourism minister on the plan.
Personally, I have huge expectations for this budget and what the finance minister will offer in terms of tourism, hospitality, and industry status: Declare the tourism sector as a priority sector for the next two years and offer it industry status; provide a budget for loans with rates of interest as offered to industry, with the flexibility of re-structuring the loans at least twice due to the lean cycles we observe every now and then; provide tariffs that are competitive with, if not lower than, the industry; provide tax breaks to travel agencies that promote inbound tourism (forex earning agencies), as well as incentives to earn forex as an export sector; provide tax breaks to hotels and resorts in India to boost demand for domestic and inbound tourism; create a budget to appoint several large PR companies globally to promote Product India with all its diversity and hospitality; provide tax refunds to hotels and resorts; domestic travellers who spend a large portion of their vacation budgets in India; offer financial tax support to corporates and associations who conduct their meetings and events in India; offer direct financial support up to 1000 crores for all global companies and associations who conduct their events, conferences and exhibitions in India; announce a state-of-the-art skill development institute on the lines of IIM, which will be India’s first tourism university offering various courses; and reduce haulage on luxury trains and offer tax subsidy on operating more luxury and Bharat Gaurav trains in India.”