With reinforced conﬁdence after the recent budget allocated to MOT and a plan in place, the ministry is now looking to address the industry’s concerns over TCS and other issues. Meenakshi Sharma, Director General, Tourism, says they will work hand-in-hand with trade.
Upbeat about the budget allocated to Ministry of Tourism (MOT) for the period 2020- 21, Meenakshi Sharma says that they will use these funds to work on both new and old schemes. “Our focus will be on iconic sites, Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD schemes, while global promotions will continue being important under the Incredible India 2.0 campaign that has panned out well. For domestic promotions, we will continue focusing on the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ campaign,” she says.
We are writing to Ministry of Finance to consider the request made by outbound tour operators. I think we can discuss this issue further
Concerns & issues
When asked about the issue of TCS or Tax Collected at Source under Section 206 (C) and the growing concern over outbound tours getting costlier, Sharma says that outbound tour operators have already written to them about it. “We are writing to Ministry of Finance to consider the request made by outbound tour operators. I think we can discuss this issue further. However, MOT has not really analysed this issue in depth, which it is in the process of doing presently,” she adds.
Commenting on the new MOT criteria of recognising inbound tour operators, which IATO is discussing with them, Sharma says, “Let them come out with a proposal. We also want more people to become a part of the business, whether through registration or by just being attached to us. We have to find a method and bring in more people, more industry voices, so that we can discuss issues with each other. Hence, we will look at IATO’s suggestions and work on them. The ₹2 crore revenue limit has been discussed many a time. I think, times have changed and this should not be the way it is. It is under discussion.”
Sharing her view on the MDA scheme, she adds, “In my personal view, these schemes have outlived their importance, but we will look at what the industry wants and how it helps them. This ministry has always been interactive; all the decisions are taken in consultation with stakeholders.”
Conclaves and events
The ministry has already rolled out its global campaign and will be focusing on promotions in a big way. Sharma says that the promotion of iconic sites will hopefully begin from April this year. “We also have the international Buddhist conclave this year. We are going to decide the venue for the same and will invite all our Buddhist tour operators, opinion makers and media as well. We hope to have a very good conclave sometime in September or October,” she adds.
Among international events, she insists, ITB Berlin is the biggest and most important one for the Europe market, and that MOT is looking to go ahead with a high-level delegation, one that may be led by the tourism minister himself along with the joint secretary. “ITB Berlin is a place where most of the travel community comes together and a lot of interaction happens. We hope to get some good interactions with our source markets, where we can talk about our strategy going ahead and also learn some new practices,” she says.
Growth rate of inbound tourism for 2019 was lower than that of 2018 and Sharma says that though the final numbers have not come in yet, the rate has declined. “However, we are still much better than the global growth rate. We would see the impact of recent initiatives in this year because all things, like the liberalisation of GST and the visa fee, came towards the end of 2019. Hence, we will see its impact in 2020,” she says.
With 2019 having been a good year for Ministry of Tourism and its schemes taking off well, Sharma says that the number of travellers or the foreign exchange generated are only an outcome. “What the ministry has to do is to create the right environment for people to come; we are working towards that. The recent downturn due to coronavirus in China may have some impact on global tourism, including in India. We are yet to see the impact and we are waiting for the numbers. Otherwise, we are hopeful, as infrastructure is improving, connectivity is getting better, the visa policy is more liberalised and things are upbeat. This is what we are looking for in 2020,” she concludes.