Urgent need to establish quality service system across all tourism products & destinations: Kadakampally

“India is a land that has tremendous potential when it comes to tourism. With countless destinations and experiences to choose from, India attracts millions of domestic as well as international tourists. However, the tourism industry in India is increasingly facing a lot of challenges, which include high rate and rationalization of taxes; connectivity and high air fares; service standardization and accreditation and increasing competition,” said Kadakampally Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Govt of Kerala while speaking at the Tourism Minister’s Conclave at The Leela Raviz Kovalam here today.

The GST Council of India has imposed 28 per cent tax on hotel rooms that have a tariff rate of over Rs. 7500. 18 per cent tax is levied on rooms with tariffs between Rs 2500 and Rs 7500. Destinations like Singapore, Sri Lanka and Japan offer low tax rates when it comes to hospitality. This is one of the main reasons why these countries top the wish-lists of tourists across the world. There is also a substantial difference in the rate of inter-state taxes that are charged on tourist vehicles, as the taxation criteria varies from state to state. This works against tourism trade interests, which is why there is an urgent need for rationalization of tax rates across all states in the country, the minister said.

There’s a need to improve the quality of way-side amenities and comfort stations in the tourism circuits. Rail infrastructure can be made more tourist-friendly with better hygienic conditions in trains and railway stations, better tourism information dissemination in trains, introduction of hi-speed trains and set up of multi-mobility hubs. Moreover, an extensive and efficient transportation network – especially air connectivity to two tier and three tier cities/destinations is very important to ensure and achieve sustained growth in tourism. High airfares during peak season and festival periods also make tourists opt for other economical destinations. Unexpected closure of certain airlines/carriers has also led to increased airfares, which in turn has worsened the situation, the minister said.

Many Asia-Pacific countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka have realized the ever-growing potential of tourism and are promoting it as their key sector. Low airfares and cheap packages to these international destinations are posing a serious threat/challenge to inbound tourism in India.

With the tourism industry witnessing a rapid growth, there is a need to establish a robust quality service system across all tourism products and destinations in India. The services standardization needs to be carried out in a structured, efficient manner with the participation of central and state agencies as well as service providers, to ensure improvement in the overall quality of products and services offered by tourism industry, said Kadakampally.

Tourism products like Ayurveda, yoga and cultural packages need to be authentic when presented to tourists; with mandatory accreditation/certifications being the key element of standardization. Besides, it is important to provide valuable and reliable information on quality standards to tourists. Accreditation processes need to be streamlined and expedited to ensure efficient implementation, he said.