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Indian Tourism industry goes into a state of shock and disbelief

The “entire tourism industry has been totally disappointed that out of the 20 lac crores bail-out package, not a single rupee has actually come for the bail-out of the travel tourism & hospitality industry,” said Subhash Goyal, Honorary Secretary-FAITH.

"The Indian tourism industry has gone into a state of disbelief and shock," was the strong statement put out by FAITH (Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality). It added, "With no announcements to support tourism in the financial package announced by the Government of India, after 10 weeks of constant discussions, the Tourism Industry has gone directionless."

Pronab Sarkar, President, Indian Associations Of Tour Operators (IATO) has expressed deep disappointment: “We have been completely disappointed by the government's lack of empathy for the suffering of the tourism sector. This sector, directly and indirectly, employs about 4 crores people yet there is not a single word of solace for the sector in the entire five press conferences held by Hon’ble Finance Minister.

"The tourism industry has borne the maximum brunt of this pandemic and an industry of the size of Rs.18 lakh crore is on the brink of collapse. The tourism industry was the first, which was affected even before the lockdown in the month of February, when international flights and visas got cancelled starting with China, followed by Italy, Iran, Korea and then followed by all the countries.

"Lack of any mitigating announcement by the Finance Minister in the series of announcements made only goes to show that the government considers the entire sector not worthy of any attention. The government says to take loans to pay salaries. By the way, which business takes loans on interest for paying salaries? Loans are meant for expansion. When the business is not happening what will we expand?

"We had requested for financial support, the refund of advance payments made to the airlines for air tickets, the refund of advance payments made for luxury trains and wildlife safaris and all these funds are stuck with the parties.

"The neighbouring countries are already ahead of us in relief measures and as and when inbound tourism starts we shall go down further in the wish list of travellers."

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) and President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) said “We are in a state of shock because of the insensitivity shown by the Government! As always, the hospitality industry has been completely ignored. It’s almost as if our existence or imminent doom does not matter at all. The hospitality industry pledges its hotel rooms to the Government for accommodating the quarantined, we prepare and distribute lakhs of free meals to lakhs of people and we support the government whenever they call for us but unfortunately we do not even figure in their list of sectors that are in desperate need of help.

"We are very concerned how Tourism which was specifically mentioned by the PM in his address at the Red fort as one of the five pillars that drove the economy of the country was not featured as one of the pillars in his updated list in a recent address to the nation.

"We have made several representations to the Government informing it about the current state of our industry. We have clearly outlined the consequences in terms of the economic repercussions, the set back to tourism and hospitality and most importantly, about how it is and will affect the employment of the millions who depend on this sector directly and indirectly."

Jyoti Mayal, President TAAI & Vice Chairperson-FAITH says “It is very sad that such a huge industry of travel tourism hospitality & aviation has not been mentioned even once in the entire bail-out package of our Finance Minister. We are going to see a lot of unemployment and businesses getting shut.

"We understand that the PMs focus on better infrastructure and for the underprivileged but what is the use of infrastructure if the industry only doesn't survive? What is the use of reduction in GST TCS TDS for a couple of months if there is not going to be any business?

"Unless we get a survival package as requested for, there is not going to be a thrust in revival for our members. We were also looking for ease of transacting business which doesn't cost the government anything. The government has left us 'nirbhar' on ourselves.”

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

Amaresh Tiwari, Vice Chairman, India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB) reiterates the MICE industry’s immediate demands: "Allow us to open Meetings and Conference venues both hotel and standalone venues. MICE participants and gathering are two different things. MICE has standard, guidelines and adheres to all rules and regulations of safety and hygiene. The creation of the India MICE fund under ICPB to market and promote MICE under Champion Sector Schemes of Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Tourism will be a step forward."

PP Khanna, President, Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) said: "There is no cash flow at all in the domestic touris

m sector and it has not been supported at all. Travel within the country may slightly ease up post lockdown but will be highly restricted due to fear of travel among elders and children, social distancing norms, corporate travel freeze and the closure of the holiday season impacting all adventure, heritage, spiritual, cruise and niche tourism segments."

Capt. Swadesh Kumar, President - Adventure Tour Operators Association of India said "Today the tourism industry is numb and we do not know which direction we should move and what is next.

"All of us in the tourism fraternity, especially the adventure tourism industry, have been anxiously waiting for some financial benefits and relief measures to save our industry in the current situation from the Hon’ble Finance Minister, but to our total dismay, no such announcements came to support us.

"This industry is scattered across the country, even in small towns, where people completely depend on adventure tourism activities for their livelihood. For example, in Leh, Ladakh, there are more than 5000 taxis and more than 3000 motorbikes which are presently vacant and waiting for the business to restart. Similarly, a large number of Home Stays across the country have no business at present and are struggling for their survival. As per our estimate, it will take at least six months of time to restart the operations and they all need support at this crucial period."

Satish Sehrawat, President, Indian Tourist Transporters Association (ITTA) said: "The tourist taxi operators have not been able to pay the EMIs of the vehicles they own in the absence of cash flow. Also, they have not been able to pay the salaries to their drivers."

The Indian Heritage Hotels Association said: "Despite the sector having made numerous requests and appeals to the Government for assistance and bailouts, the industry has been viewed as a part of the ‘Luxury’ category. This has created immense grievances for those needy citizens whose livelihood has been affected during the Corona pandemic. These include tourist guides, auto drivers, taxi drivers, souvenir sellers, shopkeepers, craftsmen, handicraftsmen as well as folk artistes who perform for tourists."

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