Series of steps required to revive tourism: UDS CEO Raj Gopaal Iyer

UDS CEO Raja Gopaal Iyer

Firstly, the coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. It is also having a growing impact on the global economy and the impact would depend on how long the epidemic lasts.

Travel and tourism industry has been hit economically due to outbreak of coronavirus with many prospective domestic and foreign tourists cancelling their travel plans. This global pandemic has prompted the Indian government to impose increasingly tough restrictions on travel resulting in further drop in hotel occupancies since the imposition of the ban.

Here I would like to emphasize on a few points how the government can help the tourism sector to sustain itself during this crisis and benefit when the economy recovers.

The state government has to come out with a clear route map on how to overcome the current crisis in the tourism industry. Accurate collection reports and suggestions from both the state and centre on tourism have to be taken into consideration. Associations such as FHRAI and SIHRA should come forward to submit reports on losses in the hospitality industry. Hotels should be audited.

The first step I suggest would be to lift the GST at least until the end of June 2020, which is a huge weight on businesses until the situation recovers. Relaxation on taxes and license renewals for newly opened organisations along with employee welfare support will help organizations maintain employees and avoid unemployment. The government should prioritise the larger organizations, who contribute largely to the economy.

It is clear that time is of essence and it is very unlikely international and national tourists will choose to travel anytime soon. A feasible strategy when the lockdown is lifted would be to reduce the airport landing charges to 40% to attract more flights to cities like Trivandrum and free visas to major countries.

Another important aspect the tourism industry must invest heavily on is marketing, which includes the trade fairs as well. An exemption or reduction on these costs for the coming six months will be a big relief for bringing sufficient results. Yoga and ayurveda are two potential marketing strategies we can always apply and with the government support, we can boost inbound tourism.

On a general note, foreign investments have to be looked into aggressively prioritizing NRI investments. Investment plans for a minimum of 10 years that in return benefits the investor, subsidies and exemptions on taxes and facilities, should be looked into. Creating employment is crucial, as I believe unemployment is the next big crisis after the pandemic.