By: Saurabh Tuteja, General Secretary – Enterprising Travel Agents Association (North India)
Its actually a hard time for the travel fraternity in India. It all started with a defective GST mandate for the small players who are registered only in 1 state in India. As their hotel bookings became expensive by as much as 18% as compared to companies registered in all the states. So, in a way the GST system is a curse for a small travel agent who was getting nearly no commission from Airlines and can’t get GST input from Hotels booked in the states where they are not registered.
The conditions went on deteriorating with closure of Jet Airways, Pakistan air space, rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) with unethical prices in the name of marketing budget discounts and what not. Imagine a client sending a screenshot of a popular OTA requesting his travel agent to match the price of the hotel room offered and the hotel replies the travel agent that our price is higher it’s the OTA underselling this using their marketing budget. It’s a bubble which will surely burst one day but till the time will kill a huge chunk of industry.
Still the brave industry, keeping its spirits high was fighting all odds for bread and butter. Few leaving the battle changed professions or joined jobs with the bigger players.
Now comes deadly corona, right at the time where 3 months of business contributes to 50% yearly revenue.. the peak business time for travel industry. Every call that a travel agent picked requested for cancellation. Every second mail received is a travel advisory. Even mails received from Ministry of Tourism to discourage clients to travel in India or abroad. Most of the visas got cancelled, flights cancelled and whole focus is shifted on processing cancellations. The client is after the travel agent for refunds and he is continuously fighting as the client’s advocate with Airlines, Hotels, DMCs for refunds. The time is for Zero earning, with salaries to pay, burdens of office rentals and ofcourse regular family expenses, the hit is hardest. We don’t know how many people will loose their jobs and how many travel agents will shut their entrepreneur dreams.
The biggest nightmare in waiting is TCS. Its just not about making the International Travel Expensive by 5%, but also creating a fear on the minds of Indian tourists that their every travel is being recorded. Will they come back to these small players for their holiday plans when they will have manipulated options by bigger players registered outside our country to book the same holidays.
Is this a right time for TCS ??
Its actually the time, wherein Industry badly needs a booster.. rectifying and making GST easy for small travel agents, regulatory to keep a check on unethical practices by OTAs, cancelling plans for TCS for now. Government can always find more innovative ways to stop cash purchases or black money usage. Imagine a small time travel agent, working with a team of one or two people in office, Is it possible for him to complete the formalities needed for TCS. He is already over burdened with his GST returns.
I wish the industry gets a booster and saves the livelihood of thousands of families..