Arvind Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, shares that in addition to the relief measures recently announced for tourism stakeholders, SEIS payments will also be released soon. MOT is also planning to extend financial incentives to foreign tour operators.
After the Finance Minister’s announcement of relief measures for tourism, Arvind Singh, believes that it is a start for things to come for the sector. “The scheme that they have given under the Credit Link Guarantee Scheme of providing loans to the tour operators, will provide some relief to the person whose revenues have dried up because of COVID-19. I think that’s an opening that has started for the tour operators and the tour guides. Details of the schemes will be worked out in coordination with NCGTC and in consultation with Ministry of Finance. It will ease the financial constraints faced by them due to COVID-19 pandemic. This will help them in discharge of their liabilities and restart their business impacted due to COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. He adds that the announcement of first five lakh tourist visas to be issued free would give boost to the tourism sector.
Engagement with industry
Singh claims that MOT is in talks with the industry on what relief measures they further want to protect job losses. “In our meetings with the industry, we analyse things that stakeholders have been demanding, including certain benefits, incentives, etc. We have been in dialogue with various ministries of the government, like Finance Ministry and we are taking up both short-term and long-term measures required for the revival of the industry,” he claims.
“Besides the above, Ministry of Tourism under the Scheme of ‘Incentive to tour operators for enhancing Tourist Arrivals to India’ will extend financial incentives in the range of $30/ $50 to Foreign Tour Operators (FTOs) and inbound tour operators approved by the MOT for bringing 100 tourists per quarter from the identified markets. This scheme will be operationalised on a pilot basis in 17 short-haul, medium-haul and long-haul markets – Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea and Spain,” he adds.
In addition, MOT has extended the validity of approvals/classification certification of accommodation units till 30th September 2021. “MOT has framed guidelines which have been issued to State Governments and industry stakeholders in order to handhold unit owners to ensure safety and security of tourists. The Ministry has also requested IHMs to conduct short term courses for those engaged in providing service at accommodation units,” he mentions.
For domestic promotions, MOT will work with domestic tour operators. “We will take on board their suggestions regarding tweaking our strategies and act accordingly,” says Singh.
In fact, he shares that with both inbound and outbound operators having ventured into domestic tourism today, promotion of domestic tourism is the thrust area now. “In order to help them to take the leap and grow in their business, the MOT and the regional Indiatourism offices are regularly communicating with the travel industry (both inbound and outbound operators), on issues related to opening up of tourism sector, handling of tourists, protocols of safety and security, service standards etc. MOT has also been in coordination with the stakeholders and states/UTs for promoting domestic tourist itineraries to nearby destinations from the major cities,” he adds. However, on some well-known destinations getting crowded, Singh says, “We are working with the states, to ease the restrictions or have some more restrictions like having no vehicles zones or only green vehicles plying in the area. This is an ongoing process and results will be seen in some states.”
Commenting on the status of SEIS payments, Singh shares, “Several industry stakeholders had flagged appeals to the government to release SEIS Scrips for 2019-20 and DGFT had put up a detailed proposal for allocation for SEIS for exports made during FY 2019-20. Taking all the circumstances into account, the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has given concurrence to the proposal of Department of Commerce for continuation of SEIS for 2019-20 with a financial allocation of `2061 crore subject to the condition that the amount will be provided through the Expenditure Budget following the procedure of providing a New Minor Head under the MH 2037 -Customs. This will be opened under the Demand No 35- Indirect Taxes. Expenditure will be incurred when the scrips are issued. An amount equivalent to the scrips issued will be debited from the above head and will be credited to the Public Account. In the Public Account a new minor head to be opened under MH 8012- Special Deposit and Accounts. As and when the scrips are utilised for paying customs duty, these amounts are debited from the public account and credited to the MH-0037 Customs under a minor head to be created for the SEIS.”
However, he insisted that the good news is that the hold on SEIS that was there since 2019-20, has been lifted by the Finance Ministry. “This means that it is one step forward, and now the formalities must be worked out and then the amount will be reaching the beneficiaries,” he mentions.
International marketing strategy
Insisting that they are working towards opening international borders and how to welcome international visitors, he shares, “One definite message that we’ll have to give is that we are a safe and secure place to visit. Hopefully by then, most of the people operating in the tourism industry would have been vaccinated. I have also written to the chief secretaries of all the states to incentivise and prioritise vaccination for tourism stakeholders. It will be very important to build the confidence of foreign visitors. In the next phase, we will be gradually talking about the richness of India’s tourism, cultural heritage or culinary tourism, etc.”
Although the strategy in terms of incentives, promotions and media campaigns will be similar, Singh says, “One added change will be from 15th August, when we’ll move into the 75th year of our Independence.”
Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD
Sharing the status of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD schemes, the Secretary says, “Swadesh Darshan scheme is under review, and we have not been taking any new projects since 2018-19. Currently, we are only continuing with the older schemes and not sanctioning any new projects. There have been delays. In some states, it has taken 3-4 years because of local problems and the pandemic in the last 18 months. However, I believe that majority of the work will get over in this financial year. As far as PRASHAD is concerned, it’s progressing smoothly.”
Other measures taken by MOT
- Funding routes under UDAN scheme to connect tier-I and II cities
- Facilitating the use of seaplanes
- More routes on the cards for fixed-wing aircraft, seaplanes and helicopters
- Sixteen routes identified by MOCA for seaplanes
- Possibility of helicopter routes in the Northeast, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh