With the Union Budget 2023-24, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has shown solidarity towards the tourism sector and has left the travel fraternity hopeful. However, there is a huge wave of disappointment among the travel agent fraternity as the budget holds nothing for this large section, which contributes 11% of employment and generates over 10% of the revenue in GDP. Jyoti Mayal, President TAAI says, “We’re shocked that instead of abolishing it, the government has raised the TCS from five to 20%! (This is quoted as based on the first document as received. We are still taking clarity on the same) For foreign remittances for other purposes under LRS and purchase of overseas tour program, the TCS rates are proposed to go up from 5 per cent to 20 per cent, which is going to be detrimental for our business. Nothing has been done for our request on ease of doing business be it on TCS abolishment or ITC for Tour Operators on interstate GST credit which is one of the main concerns requiring urgent redressal,” says Mayal.
TAAI also highlights how the travel industry is in dire need of a bigger corpus. “Considering the significant foreign exchange of more than $ 100 billion generated by tourism over the past few years, at least Rs. 5000 crores of global branding budget must be allocated to Indian tourism,” adds Mayal.
Furthermore, TAAI notes that the budget hasn’t met any of the expectations of the travel agents community. “We expected some of our demands met with the Union Budget, none of which have unfortunately been adhered to. Some of our major demands included -a Concurrent Status for centre and states to have a synergistic and coordinated approach in tourism planning and execution; Tourism forex earnings to be effectively zero rated for GST; underwriting fund for travel agents and tour operators; an income tax exemption within India to make domestic tourism market main stream part of Indian economy. “Unfortunately, the Union Budget 23-24 has not fulfilled any of these demands.
Jyoti Mayal, President TAAI says, “While as travel agents, we’re unhappy with the budget but as part of the larger travel fraternity, we’re very pleased that the FM gave importance and mentioned tourism as a priority sector for providing jobs. The budget shall be advantageous for overall tourism growth especially domestic and tourism infrastructure development but the growth of travel agents and tour operators remain unchanged this year too.
Mayal adds, “TAAI has always been vocal about the role of private partnerships and FM has reiterated this in her speech today. This is such a huge step forward alongwith the emphasis on women empowerment & youth entreupreneurs.”
TAAI is happy to hear about the FM’s decision on selecting 50 tourist destinations through ‘challenge mode’ to push domestic and international tourism. “Facelift and development of these destinations will encourage both inbound and domestic tourism. With a loud and clear declaration of taking up tourism promotion on a large scale, the FM’s decision of promoting tourism on ‘mission mode’ is quite encouraging,” says Mayal. The travel industry is happy about the Swadesh Darshan scheme for integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits. “The Vibrant Villages Programme, tourism infrastructure and amenities facilitation in border villages will encourage sustainable development,” adds Mayal.
The decision of developing 50 additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes, advanced landing grounds has too been embraced by the industry. “Good to hear emphasis on building and reviving of more airports & also the increased budget of railways to run many more tourist circuit trains. Regional connectivity is very important for the country,” says Mayal.
“It is also good to hear importance given to drive more investments in states and extension of interest free funds. All this will surely improve tourism,” adds Mayal.
TAAI applauds the efforts to achieve the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ initiative where sector specific skilling and entrepreneurship development will be dovetailed & push the middle income group to explore beautiful enriched India.
The decision of setting up a Unity Mall in their state capitals or most prominent tourism centre for promotion and sale of their own ODOPs (one district, one product), GI products and other handicraft products, and for providing space for such products of all other states is also a step ahead in promotion of domestic tourism and ‘Atmanirbharta’.