Tax­ing times not yet over for agents

The Chap­ter Chair­men of OTOAI share with TRAVTALK the trends, achieve­ments and chal­lenges that the travel agents and op­er­a­tors are fac­ing in their re­gion. They also elab­o­rate on the var­i­ous ini­tia­tives taken to ad­dress the is­sues of the mem­bers and their


West In­dia is one of the high­est con­trib­u­tors to out­bound and is show­ing a steady growth year-on-year. We have taken up the is­sue of lack of clar­ity on tran­sit visa rules in the Schen­gen coun­tries (when fi­nal des­ti­na­tion is not USA or Canada) with the Con­sulates and high­lighted the chal­lenges faced by the in­dus­try. Tra­di­tional des­ti­na­tions and long-haul mar­kets like the US, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Aus­tralia and New Zealand are still very pop­u­lar. Is­land des­ti­na­tions like Sey­chelles and Croa­tia are do­ing well. I hope that the con­ven­tion will re­in­force great busi­ness po­ten­tial of the in­dus­try and ed­u­cate the mem­bers.

East In­dia is highly un­der­served in terms of air in­ven­tory. The only ma­jor air­port for this en­tire re­gion is at Kolkata and the num­ber of flights serv­ing this re­gion are far and few, which slows out­bound travel. The as­so­ci­a­tion has not taken many steps to ad­dress this is­sue. We are hop­ing Turk­ish Air­lines, Oman Air­lines and Malaysian Air­lines will com­mence ser­vice to this re­gion. This year, New Zealand and South Africa have picked up very well from the east­ern re­gion. With the OTOAI Con­ven­tion in RAK, tour op­er­a­tors will be able to add a new des­ti­na­tion to their itin­er­ary for UAE other than Dubai.

Out­bound mar­ket from the South has been con­sis­tent, es­pe­cially with cities like Chen­nai, Madu­rai and Coim­bat­ore driv­ing busi­ness. There is in­creased fam­ily travel to des­ti­na­tions like Bali, Dubai, Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land’s Krabi and Koh Sa­mui is­lands for short-haul whereas Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa are pop­u­lar long-haul des­ti­na­tions. An emerg­ing travel trend in the South is trav­el­ling for bach­e­lor par­ties, wed­ding an­niver­saries, etc. The big­gest chal­lenge in out­bound in this re­gion is un­cer­tainty of tax­a­tion poli­cies and the con­fu­sion cre­ated by GST. The OTOAI team in the South has made ef­forts to con­nect travel agents with var­i­ous tourism boards in or­der to grow their port­fo­lio of busi­ness.

Through this con­ven­tion in Ras Al Khaimah, we will be able to open a new win­dow in the UAE and till now have re­ceived a very good re­sponse from the in­dus­try in terms of par­tic­i­pa­tion for the con­ven­tion. I feel that the 5 per cent GST on tour op­er­a­tors as against the 9 per cent Ser­vice Tax on tour pack­ages is an achieve­ment. The Gov­ern­ment is also aid­ing the growth in the out­bound tourism in­dus­try with the de­vel­op­ment of air­port in­fra­struc­ture. As a re­sult, this year, Aus­tralia re­ceived 33 per cent more In­dian vis­i­tors, and Canada too has shown a good growth in In­dian ar­rivals.

The north­ern re­gion for OTOAI has al­ways been the most proac­tive re­gions when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion, net­work­ing and strate­gic tie-ups. Ini­tia­tives taken so far in­clude knowl­edge ses­sions in the form of train­ing work­shops and road­shows in col­lab­o­ra­tion with var­i­ous NTOs, ho­tels and other valu­able part­ners from time to time. Strate­gic tie-ups with gov­ern­ment bodies, em­bassies, ho­tels and air­lines have also been taken up for the bet­ter­ment of the mem­bers. From de­mon­eti­sa­tion to GST, the in­dus­try had taken a set­back, but we at OTOAI have tried our best to get the right re­sources and in­for­ma­tion for our mem­bers to over­come th­ese chal­lenges. Clar­i­fi­ca­tion on GST was one of the ma­jor is­sues for the in­dus­try.

Trav­ellers are now seek­ing ad­ven­tur­ous and be­spoke hol­i­days. City tours and shop­ping are passé, and trav­ellers ask for yatch char­ters, deep sea div­ing etc. Cities like Kanpur, Luc­know, Pun­jab, Nag­pur, etc. are emerg­ing as travel hubs while the met­ros are now more of gate­way points. The out­bound tourism in­dus­try has yet not been iden­ti­fied as an ex­ports in­dus­try, which has at­tracted un­nec­es­sary tax­a­tion. We are hop­ing that dur­ing this con­ven­tion, we will be able to open the mind­sets of the tra­di­tional travel agents to­wards ex­per­i­ment­ing with this seg­ment of travel.

Man­ish Kri­plani

Vi­neet Gopal

Ma­hen­dra Vakharia

Sa­jan Ku­mar Gupta

Gur­deep Gu­jral

Kapil Ber­era

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