‘Capping of airfare crucial for industry’
IATO President Subhash Goyal voices his opinion on the various challenges in the Indian tourism industry and identifies several areas that need swift improvement for a more competent industry.
The year 2015 has been quite an eventful one for the travel trade and tourism industry in India, with reforms taking place in every aspect – some for the better, some for the worst. One of the major milestones achieved so far is the implementation of the e-Tourist Visa, a radical step taken towards boosting inbound tourism in the country but one that still needs some fine-tuning here and there.
President, IATO, feels that several other issues need to be looked into for these changes to have an effective impact and says, “For eTV to achieve the desired effect, it needs to be well publicised by the Indian embassies abroad. There are still so many tourists who have no clue about these developments and I have heard of many such instances where a group of tourists have been left waiting for a normal visa. Another matter of importance is that at the airport, some of the machines that clear approval of eTV at immigration either do not function, or are not sufficient in number. It should ideally take just 23 minutes to clear the visa, but currently, it takes about an hour.”
Goyal highlights several other matters that need to be worked on. “One of the biggest challenges, I would say, is the exemption of service tax based on foreign exchange earnings,” says Goyal. “This is very important because we feel that we are being discriminated against since the physical exporters based on FEE are exempted from service taxes. Therefore, the tour operators, especially the smaller ones, are really being hassled because of this. Additionally, the Swachh Bharat cess of 0.5 per cent has also come into effect. Although we have always been supportive and have participated in the Swachh Bharat campaign since the very beginning, this levy of cess, I feel, is not justified. I’m not in favour of over taxation as we are already a highly taxed country,” he elaborates.
Goyal also throws light on the compulsory licensing of travel agents and is of the opinion that although they are against the idea as an association, bringing about discipline in the industry is crucial. “If you are recognised by MOT, all you need to do is present your registration papers to Delhi Tourism and you will get the license. The misuse of the Incredible India branding by unscrupulous agents needs to be curbed and strictly regulated,” he says.
He goes on to address the issue of lack of coordinated efforts between Civil Aviation and the tourism industry. “We want air services to be liberalised,” he states. “The most crucial factor for the benefit of the consumer is the capping of air fare. It is a common fact that during the peak season, the airlines charge a higher fare on frequently travelled routes. When the Government of India is regulating hotel tariff and taxi tariff, I fail to understand how they can not stabilise air tariff. There needs to be an upper limit to the fares – people today are not travelling just for leisure.”
If one-window clearance for tourism and hospitality industry can be created, a lot would be achieved. This would
also encourage investment.