INDIA. Delhi: India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced a relief package to support the Indian economy in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial support to revive tourism in the country was announced with support to many other sectors to stimulate economic growth. The reactions of the tourism industry were very much positive as expected.
Financial support to more than 11,000 registered Tourist Guides / Travel and Tourism Stakeholders was announced in form of a Loan Guarantee Scheme for COVID Affected Sectors, and working capital / personal loans to people in the tourism sector to discharge liabilities and restart after being impacted due to COVID-19. Free Tourist Visa for 5 lakh tourists will also be issued once Visa issuance is restarted.
These moves are expected to immensely help the stakeholders in the sector by providing them much required liquidity and gear up for the operations in near future. Similarly, it is also expected to provide much-needed relief to the government-approved tourist guides who have been affected by the ongoing slowdown in the sector due to the pandemic.
The tourism Industry welcomed these measures announced by the Government. “The tourism-focused announcements are very welcome. This is a step in the right direction. We however do request that the sum of Rs 10 lakhs be increased. The industry has been damaged very deeply and we need greater support not only to survive but to work on recovery. On the Visas, a very good gesture, but let us show the world the true spirit of Atithi Devo Bhava and make it free for all till December 2022. Today’s announcements are a positive start for sure, but more assistance is needed very quickly to help with our recovery” opined Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel & Past Senior Vice Present IATO and Vice-Chairman ICPB.
Mr. Rajiv Mehra, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the apex association of tour operators in the country said “We are grateful to the Prime Minister and Finance Minister for giving some relief to the tourism industry including 5 lakh free visas applicable till 31 March 2022, whenever visas are open, and we are grateful to the Tourism Minister for supporting the industry, giving relief to the affected sector including Tour Operators and registered tourist guides in the tourism sector. IATO thanked the Government for considering loans to the tour operators and the guides but requested that the Government should also consider giving a one-time financial grant to all recognised tour operators.”
Reacting to the announcement, Mr. Ashok Sharda, Past President, Tourist Guides Federation of India said, “Decision by the tourism ministry to provide some financial assistance to regional guides and exempt visa fee to first 5 lakh tourists is a welcome step. Regional guides who have been unemployed for the last 15 months were hoping for some relief from the ministry. It may not be substantial but good to know that we have not been orphaned”
Expressing satisfaction on this move of the Government, Ms. Ekta Watts, Executive Committee member of Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) & Chairperson Women empowerment CSR activity and LEO Initiator said “A very positive step by Finance Ministry to announce financial support for the tourism sector under reviving tourism scheme. This surely is appreciated and long-awaited move by the government which will definitely give travel industry revitalisation.”