The Indian government has announced a few fiscal relief measures for the tourism sector reeling under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This marks the first such initiative that the government has rolled out to aid the tourism sector since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Addressing reporters in New Delhi on Monday (April 28), finance minister Sitharaman said that once the tourist visa issuance for international travel is restarted, the first five hundred thousand tourists will be issued visas free of charge. The benefit that will be available only once per tourist would be applicable till March 31, 2022. Since March last year, the Indian government has suspended issuing tourist visas.
The minister also shared that travel agents and tour guides will be eligible for loans up to Rs. 1 million (US$13,470) and Rs. 100,000 respectively, without any processing charges or collateral requirement.
“These are much-needed steps towards the revival of tourism – a sector that is a significant contributor to the (country’s) GDP, foreign exchange receipts and employment generation – with a cascading force multiplier effect on allied sectors. The 5 lakh (five hundred thousand) gratis visas will serve to catalyse much-needed inbound inflows,” said Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook India Group.
“Without these initiatives, it will take the industry much longer to bounce back,” commented Manbeer Choudhary, chairman, Jewels Group of Hotels.
However, a section of the industry feels that the measures announced have failed to address the woes of the industry completely. A few were disappointed that loans are only being offered to around 904 travel and tourism stakeholders registered with the Ministry of Tourism.
Jyoti Mayal, president, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), said: “We have been recommending our members to register with the Ministry of Tourism over the years but the process is tedious and requires a lot of documentation. Most of the members engaged in domestic tourism are registered with state tourism departments. The outreach of this relief is minuscule.”
TAAI has urged the government to also consider stakeholders registered under the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to widen the eligibility of loans.