The tourism sector is going to be the next growth driver for India but to achieve that, it needs to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and revive, the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) said on Thursday.
Currently, each vertical of the tourism industry is under deep stress, it added.
“Our first goal is to move India into the top-20 ranks in global tourism competitiveness in 5 years post COVID-19 and then make our place in the top-10 in five years after that,” FAITH Chairman Nakul Anand said.
Indian tourism is estimated to contribute 9-10 per cent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) on a direct and indirect basis, he added while addressing the virtual conference on the India Tourism Vision Day.
“In the post-COVID-19 normal as our country moves towards the stated goal of becoming a $5-trillion economy, our vision is to have a tourism economic footprint of USD 500 billion. That would more than double the economic footprint of tourism from what it is today,” Anand said.
He added that this would unleash major employment growth for India. “Our industry has the potential to double the jobs that tourism influences from around five crore currently to over 10 crore.”
Each segment of the Indian tourism industry is committed to this goal. The way forward will entail contribution from each member association, he added.
“While we remain optimistic of the growth in Indian tourism and its role in serving national priorities, the question today is of the industry’s survival in the post-COVID-19 normal,” Anand said.
He added that this is the worst crisis ever to hit the tourism and hospitality industry, a crisis worse than the economic depression, the world wars and 9/11.
As an industry, tourism was the first to be affected and will be the last to recover, he added.
“Each vertical of our tourism industry is under deep stress – travel agents, hotels, tour operators, tourist transporters, restaurants, guides, and destinations. The list is endless. The RBI risk survey, the income tax and GST collections data and the GDP data all have repeatedly highlighted our industry’s plight,” Anand said.
From now, till the time the vaccine is deployed, we need to sustain tourism and the service talent that forms the core of this industry, he added.
“We believe this will be best served by our request for a Tourism COVID-19 Fund set up by the Ministry of Tourism where interest-free funds are given to support the employees and the operating costs of tourism companies,” Anand said.
This could be done through a direct benefits transfer against their PAN cards and GST identities, he added.
“The tourism industry has been identified as one of 26 most-stressed industries by the RBI expert committee, eligible for restructuring.
“We thus need to ensure that an across the board moratorium is made immediately applicable for tourism enterprises till March 2022 or till complete recovery happens and there should be no interest on interest during that period,” Anand said.
As we re-start tourism from a zero base today across all our verticals, we need revival policies in terms of GST correction, export status, infrastructure status , industry status, secured refunds, Services Export from India Scheme (SEIS), he added.
“Finally, we believe that just like the way the GST council is structured, Indian tourism also needs to be structured through a constitutionally-empowered legislative body, a National Tourism Council comprising all relevant ministries and all chief ministers,” he added.
This will enable fast track government decision making and work on a ‘One India-One Tourism’ approach, leveraging and utilising full synergies of India’s tourism potential across all states, Anand said.
In line with Made in India, the vision of FAITH is ‘Tourism – Made in India’, to make India one of the most preferred tourism destinations both for domestic and international tourists, offering best-in-class tourism experiences, infrastructure and services right here in India, he added.
“We are the next growth driver for India and like the white revolution, the green revolution and the digital revolution, the time now, is for a tourism revolution – leading to GDP growth, forex (foreign exchange) earnings and job creation. But, for that, we need to survive to revive,” Anand said.