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This is what the travel industry wished from the last Budget

DELHI

Since the BJP government came to power in 2014, the tourism sector has risen in prominence with none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself extolling the employment and revenue generating virtues of tourism. There was lots of action too with the launch of two new airlines Air Asia and Vistara, one going bust – SpiceJet, the easing of the visa policies with VOA being extended to 43 nationalities and quick visas for SAARC patients as well as the initiating of the much needed dialogue and action around cleaner and safer cities. Yet, there is much more needed if the Government is indeed serious about gaining from tourism’s potential. Its against this backdrop that Budget 2016 gains importance. It will be closely watched for signals for real intent for bolstering India’s travel trade. Here is what industry leaders’s expect.

Vikram Malhi, Expedia Asia, MD: More tourism circuits and better infrastructure

We would wait to see more impetus on tourism in this Union Budget, with not only development of newer areas and tourist circuits, but also up gradation of infrastructure at the existing high traffic tourist destinations. This will help India be seen as a complete destination for a tourist, that is at par with the current standards of infrastructure and technology.”

Rakshit Desai, MD, FCM Travels and Flight Shop, India: Simplified tax regime, easier access to foreign exchange

Factoring in service tax exemptions on certain types of services will be a much needed impetus for sectoral growth. This would be especially beneficial for travel operators in case of services rendered to foreign offices of global and multi-national companies, where travel originates outside India and payments are received in foreign exchange. We also look forward to some fundamental changes to simplify tax structures. A case in point is the CENVAT credit currently applicable to only rent-a-cab services and tour operators. This needs to be expanded to cover the complete gamut of travel related services.

Also, there is a pressing need to review taxes applicable to air travel, probably the most heavily taxed product/ service in the country, where the tax component in an air fare often exceeds the underlying price of that ticket. Further, cash purchase of foreign exchange on presentation of PAN details can be enhanced from INR 50000 to 100000 as these are typically for set quantities of 1000 or 1500 USD, which isn’t sufficient at current exchange rates.

Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra: Infrastructure, HR training and tax simplification

A significant improvement in transport, road and hotel infrastructure is required to boost tourism. India has an unbelievably wide range of tourist experiences across the length and breadth of the country but most places are extremely difficult and time consuming to reach. Another area which needs some focus is skilled manpower. Training and retention of talent is important for this sector to grow. Travel and tourism in India is a very highly taxed industry, which makes India an expensive tourist destination. Leniency in tax structure will help boost inbound tourism. And last but not the least, stringent safety and security measures need to be introduced particularly for women travelers.

Sunil Gupta, CEO, Avis India: Completion of existing road projects and better roads

Removal of hurdles in completion of existing road infrastructure projects is urgent. Most delays relate to land acquisition and lead to high NPAs. Creation of a land acquisition policy exclusively for roads is an imperative. And this holds true not only for road infrastructure but all ground transport infrastructure including railways and port linkages.

Abhilash K Ramesh, Group Director, Kairali Ayurvedic Group: Marketing of India’s Ayurvedic heritage and potential for medical tourism.

With the positive mention of Ayurveda at various Government forums, we are hoping for a substantial increment in terms of Budget allocated to Ayush and all the relevant Ministries & departments to promote Ayurveda with a strong focus on research and cementing Ayurveda’s credibility globally. The focus should be on increasing international arrivals in terms of medical tourism through alternative therapies like Ayurveda”.

Musafir Namah Bureau

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