Thursday, October 8, 2020

FAITH Organizes ‘India Tourism Vision Day’ Theme 2020-For Indian Tourism to Thrive Tomorrow, It Has to Survive and Revive Today

Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality, the policy federation of all the national associations representing the complete tourism, travel and hospitality industry of India (ADTOI, ATOAI, FHRAI, HAI, IATO, ICPB, IHHA, ITTA, TAAI, TAFI) today announced India Tourism Vision Day on  8th October. The Board & the Presidents of the 10 FAITH Associations held National press conference to address the theme for the year is Theme 2020-For Indian Tourism to thrive tomorrow, it has to survive and revive today. 

Mr. Nakul Anand, Chairman, FAITH presided during the event to address the issues Hospitality and Travel industry is facing owing to COVID-19 pandemic.   

Nakul Anand Chairman FAITH

Good morning ladies & gentlemen, members of the press, my industry colleagues and my fellow FAITH members.

On behalf of FAITH-the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality, I welcome the national media to the India Tourism Vision Day press conference. I hope all of you are healthy and keeping well.

All ten presidents of the associations that comprise FAITH are here to take you through the challenges that confront Indian tourism. Not just its future but its present.

Friends, when FAITH was launched in 2013, Indian tourism was ranked at 68th at the World Economic Forum Tourism Competitiveness study. FAITH along with the support of Ministry of tourism worked on many initiatives to better this rank. In the World Economic Forum, tourism 2019 competitiveness study, India was ranked at 34th.

Over the past 7 years, the FAITH Associations, their Executive Committees across the country   worked very hard with their respective state governments and with the central government to undertake countless initiatives to double the global tourism competitiveness ranking of our country. From 68 to 34 is a giant leap but we still have a long way to go. We endeavour to take it to the next level.

Our first goal is to move India into the Top 20 ranks in global tourism competitiveness in 5 years post covid and then make our place in the top 10 ranks of world tourism competitiveness ranking in the next five years.

To give you an estimate, Indian tourism is estimated to account for between 9 - 10% of Indian GDP on a direct & indirect basis. In the post covid normal as our country moves towards the stated goal of becoming a $ 5 trillion dollar economy, our vision is to have a tourism economic footprint of $ 500 bn. That would more than double the economic footprint of tourism from what it is today.

This would straight away offset major employment growth in India. Effectively our industry would be looking at more than doubling the jobs that tourism influences from around 5 crores currently to over 10 crores. Many more people in India will gain employment across the country due to the rise in tourism during that time period.

Each segment of our tourism industry is committed to this goal. The way forward will entail contribution from each FAITH association to achieving this goal.  We have a vision for each of our verticals and on the occasion of India Tourism Vision Day, my esteemed colleagues, the presidents of the 10 FAITH Associations will share the same with you shortly.

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 scenario. This is the worst crisis ever of a generation to hit the tourism and hospitality industry, a crisis worse than the economic depression, the world wars and 9/11. We were the first to shut down and will be the last to recover, that too depending upon the status of the vaccine.

Each vertical of our tourism industry is under deep stress - travel agents, hotels, tour operators, tourist transporters, restaurants, guides, destinations …the list is endless. The RBI risk survey, the Income tax & GST collections data, the GDP data all have repeatedly highlighted our industry’s plight.

Some months back I had outlined Survival, Revival & Thrival: the three phased recovery of Indian Tourism. From now, till the time the vaccine is deployed we need to sustain tourism and the service talent that forms core of this industry.

How is this possible? We believe this will be best served by 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. This should be done through a direct benefit transfer against their pan cards and GST identities.  

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. As we restart 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, SEIS, all of which will be detailed  shortly by the 10 Association Presidents of FAITH. These are the fundamental enablers of putting Indian tourism economy back on track.

Finally, we believe, like the way GST council is structured, Indian tourism needs to be structured through a constitutionally empowered legislative body -A national tourism council headed by our Honourable Prime Minister along with the presence of all chief ministers. This will enable fast track centre state level tourism decision making and work on a One India One Tourism approach leveraging and utilising full synergies of India’s tourism potential across all our states. This will raise the decibels for going Vocal with Local.

In line with Made in India , our vision 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 & services right here in India.

We are confident that both central and state governments are fully aware and committed to our tourism potential and the benefits it reaps for the economy.

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 India’s tourism revolution (‘Destination Revolution’ ) - a revolution of consumption and capex driven GDP growth, forex earnings & job creation through tourism.

But for that we need to survive and revive today and now. ...

As Chairman FAITH, I will be failing in my duty if I do not bring to light the gravity of the situation that confronts us. My industry colleagues will now take you through a more detailed analysis. Thank you.

Captain Swadesh Kumar, the President - Adventure Tour Operators Association of India

India has one of most unique natural heritage of the world. We have been rated by World Economic Forum as the 9th most competitive in natural and cultural tourism resources. 

Be it our 7500 kms of coastline, our Himalayan range  with some of the highest peaks in the world, our portfolio of 400 + Perennial , seasonal rivers backwaters , part of of 14500 km of inland waterways, our  25-30% , forest cover which covers more than 0.1 million sq km  of wildlife reserve being inhabited  with  almost 8% of world mammals, 6% of world’s bird & flora life, our world unique mangrove Sundarbans delta and 5% of country which is covered by our million year old, 0.2 million sq km desert area. 

We are a blessed country being only one of the 17 Megadiverse countries of the world. Each state of India has the potential to become a centre of excellence in natural and adventure tourism. 

Yet, in the $ 750 bn + world adventure tourism industry which is poised to touch $ 1.5 trillion in the post covid world, India currently has a negligible share. We look forward to working closely with the central & each of state government to move towards a  vision is to get at a respectable  market share of 5-10% in the medium to long run in the world adventure tourism market which is commensurate with our natural assets. 

To move towards that journey, we have to undertake a series of steps beginning today. 

At the outset, we must have a sustainable and responsible development plan around each vertical of natural heritage tourism be it in Mountaineering, cruising, trekking, wild life & reserve forests based activities,, snorkelling, para gliding, whitewater rafting,  conservatories, para gliding, ballooning, desert safaris and so on. These sustainable plans must be based on carrying capacities of the destinations and framed around sustainable guidelines developed by experts of our association ATOAI & those which have also been recommended by tourism ministry.  

Adventure & Natural Heritage Tourism happens in remote hinterlands. We need to have a robust hub & spoke, all season, inter- modal connectivity model across air, rail, road or water connecting such destinations across the country. 

We want to become one of the top ten nations in adventure tourism ranking in the post covid world and must accordingly  have  enabling policy mechanisms such as search and rescue , satellite phone connectivity, x visa, global insurance recognition and more. 

Most of adventure tourism activity is based on working with local population in hinterlands and rural areas and which is in unorganized sector. Currently all of them are unemployed with no work. We need a robust Social security mechanism effective immediately across the country on the lines of MNREGA for such tourism industry stakeholders. Some states such as HP, Kerala & Uttarakhand have started a support mechanism for such tourism stakeholders which needs to be replicated across the country. 

We need a financial legislative mechanism to make adventure tourism activities bankable at priority interest rates. The adventure tourism activities are based on natural assets & competences and not on collaterable assets and thus need a different financing guarantee  mechanism. 

Finally, to create structured global awareness we look forward to branding Indian adventure tourism though creating a Subbrand to our Incredible India main brand 

Not only India has the potential to become the world capital of both soft  adventure and hard adventure but also in the post covid era, our natural heritage based tourism can be co- bundled with multiple tourism products of meetings & convention, heritage, education & luxury tourism. 

PP Khanna, the president of Association of Domestic Tour Operators Association of India 

In 2019, India domestic tourism, recorded 2.3 bn plus domestic tourism visits in India. 

India’s domestic tourism market is estimated now to be the second largest in the world by size next to China which is estimated at double our size. However, our tourist penetration of domestic tourists per our population is low. In the pre-covid era the USA was estimated at almost 6 domestic tourism visits per citizen, China was almost 3.6 and India around 1. 7 domestic tourism visits per citizen. 

This is not commensurate with the size and scope of tourism that India tourism can offer. 

In the post - covid period our vision is to double India’s share of domestic  tourism to almost 4 bn domestic tourism visits  in 5 years post normal and then increase  it again to 8 bn domestic tourism visits in the next five years post that. This will rightfully put Indian tourism domestic tourism market as  a global leader. 

But today we need to address some issues in that journey.  The domestic tour operators are in bad shape as today people have just started only travelling short distances in their private vehicles . This situation is likely to continue till the time vaccine comes. 

To survive, the domestic tour operators need to be supported have an operating cash subsidy to pay their salaries and operating costs. 

To boost fast track revival for domestic tourism market there needs to made an income tax as exemption on travelling within India. Indian citizens can get income tax credits  for upto ₹ 1.5 lakhs when spending with Gst registered domestic tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and transporters. Not only will this organise the domestic tourism industry which is highly  unorganised, this will revive domestic demand in a systematic manner, a practice which is being followed in many countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Japan etc. 

Gst on Tour operators should be 1.8% with full set offs and not 5% which is making domestic tour operators uncompetitive. 

Outside of containment  zones all the states have to synchronise their border policies to enable Indians to travel freely and without confusion. 

For our domestic tourism to become world class, we have to have a consistent national focus on 3 S - Safety, Sanitisation, Sensitisation. 

The ideation drive by our tourism ministry to create Special Tourism Zones across states which would reflect  the unique heritage of India in integrated world class Infrastructure is commendable and its implementation must be fast tracked to boost tourism supply.  

We are confident that the Indian domestic tourism will be the biggest employment generator and will boost capital expenditure for our economy and our road to that vision begins by helping our domestic tourism Industry surviving through this pandemic and reviving accordingly. 

In recognition of the same, we have discussed with tourism ministry and they will be celebrating 2021 as the year of domestic tourism. 

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli , the Vice President   of  Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Industry of India 

India has an estimated more than 70000 hotels and over 5 lakhs restaurants.  Our vision is to make India the concept hospitality and cuisine capital of the world. 

India is perhaps the only country in the world where hospitality & accommodation products can be created around diverse segments of tourism be it adventure accommodation, pilgrimage accommodation, heritage accommodation, mice accomasation, forest accommodation, cruise accommodation, hills accommodation , sports accommodation student accommodation. 

It is also widely believed that in India  cuisine changes every 300 sq km. That would make India perhaps the  most unique country with an estimated 1000 regional & hyper local cuisines reflecting the diversity of India’s geography, history and culture. 

To make India the  global hospitality and cuisine tourism capital and create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship and  business models we need an enabling environment from  state governments and the central government. 

Foremost, hotels & restaurants across each state of India need to be declared and treated as an industry. Unlike commercial establishments we don’t just retail, we create and produce high quality service. Power and water utility rates must be at industrial rates effectively. 

GST rates for hospitality in India are one of the highest in the world. This makes both domestic and inbound tourism in India expensive. The 18% GST category for hotels above room rates  of ₹ 7500 must be abolished and merged with the category of 12% gst.  Gradually it should be brought down further below 10% with full set offs in line with global trends. 

Restaurants too have an 18% and also 5% slab but which is without  setoffs. The 18% category needs to be abolished and there needs to be an option made available of Gst at 12% with full set offs. Additionally, the needs to be no linkage to room tariffs above ₹ 7500 as it currently exists. 

Heat light power Costs, liquor excise  and also property taxes are all forms of very high cost input indirect costs on hotels & restaurants. These needs to be made available as input costs setoffs for gst to truly make us one country, one tax. 

These will make our hotels & restaurants truly cost effective  and will stimulate demand. 

E- Single window clearance at a national level must be enabled for hotels &restaurants through hospitality Development Promotion Board and all existing licenses, permits, permissions must be thoroughly examined for redundancies and standardised at a national level. This will bring down the cost of pre openings and also annual costs of compliance and make us more globally competitive. 

One of the key corrections which are important for revival of hospitality is attracting domestic mice tourism. However,hotels need to be able to levy IGST   to enable them to give Gst credits to Indian corporates who do Interstate events and do not take these events international. This will streamline the complete Gst chain and boost interstate corporate mice demand for hospitality. 

While the above are critical for revival, currently the single most important thing is to defer all annual compliances both for central & state governments till revival happens fully,  remove fixed compliance costs of power as is  been considered   in some states and give  a liqueur excise compensation proportionately for the time the business was lockdown as is being done in Delhi. 

For revival it is also critical to permit our restaurants to utilise their open spaces which is not only covid preventive but also revives demand.

Indian consumers may be incentivised to eat out like the  UK eat out subsidy scheme the same could be done for India to bring customers back to dining in. 

Today hospitality covers both conventional and also alternate accommodation such as b&b guest houses, short term rentals and so on.  It is thus critical to ensure there is level playing field in terms of compliances and entry requirements amongall  sub segments  

This is the darkest moment for the worst hit industry hospitality and restaurants and our constant dialogues make us confident that state governments  and   Central government will enable a lot of these policies to revive hotels & restaurants to enable us to move towards our vision. 

Hotels Association of India - MP Bezbaruah, Secy Gen 

Our vision is to increase the intensity of high-quality hotel accommodation in India which is currently low as compared to global tourism leaders. 

India has less than 0.2 million classified rooms.  This has a direct correlation to our global tourism share which is around 1%.  

To enable our vision of tourism leadership and to attain our goal of enhancing quality hospitality infrastructure we need to make enabling policy changes to Hospitality which is social infrastructure and is the core of tourism. 

If India targets 1 million classified quality hotel infrastructure, that would imply a mammoth capital expenditure of ₹ 25 lakh crores,  If we  assume a conservative weighted average estimate of ₹ 25 lakhs per room. 

Such kind of capital can only come from private sector and that requires a long term favourable low interest rate regime. Hotels are projects with long breakeven period. 

Hotels thus requires to be declared as a social infrastructure sector so that long term funds are accessible at suitable interest rates to attract private capital hospitality, to create all India jobs and build quality accommodation supply. 

Land banks are the most critical resource for hospitality projects. They are also the biggest capex drivers. Very high quality land assets are available with public sector units and government which can be used to enhance hospitality growth. However to do that, our hospitality PPP models need to be standardised across the  country which create lease structure which enable government share to be linked to business growth and not as a fixed payouts which will drive immense hospitality capital into India. 

FAR - floor to area ratio or FSI  floor space index  is a critical tool to bring down the per room cost of  hospitality. Like in the  USA, FAR policies which enabled vertical growth in mid towns and we need to create high FSI policies for hospitality standardised across the country which should be be changed to global standards for all our metroes. 

Inbound tourists are one the biggest sources of foreign exchange and a big component of Indian hospitality and accordingly we need to be recognised with an export status. Tourism Taxes are not to be exported and for our vision to create respectable global leadership in tourlsm that enabling change must come in. 

SEIS scrips help enhance our global cost competitiveness and increase our global market access and the SEIS scrip rate must be enabled at 10% for all future period and must be effective year 2019 -20. 

Amaresh Tiwari, Vice Chairman of India Convention Promotion Bureau 

The global mice industry is estimated to be upwards of $ 800 bn and India’s share is estimated to be around 1 %. This sector has a direct correlation the gdp. Thus In line with our gdp share of the world, our first goal post covid , in 5 years would be to double our mice share to 2.5% of the world and then doubling it over medium term. 

In the global  international congress associations rankings our goal will be to take India’s rank to the top 10 in the world from 28 where we are currently. We will also aim to benchmark our cities to the top global mice cities. Currently we have 1 city in the top 100 rank. Our goal will be having  3 Indian cities in the top 100 in 5 years post covid and 6 cities in top 100 in the medium to long term. 

So how do we go from here to there?

At the outset we need to recognise mice tourism as a distinct business segment and we need to create a sub- brand to the main brand Incredible India. 

To target global congress, conventions and conferences, and social events we need to create a global mice bidding fund with a corpus for ₹ 500 crores to enable our entrepreneurs undertake techno economic bids for events which have a bid cycle of 2 years plus. 

We need to create city convention bureaus in each of our main cities which will work with ICPB as their hub to carry out a global bidding activity. 

In the post - Covid era we also need to incentive Indian corporates to undertake domestic mice and to  prevent Indian mice events from going abroad. For that we need to offer a  200% weighted income tax expense benefit to Indian companies which are undertaking mice events in India . We need to enable IGST for our hotels which will complete the end to end gst chain and companies get Gst setoffs for companies undertaking mice events in states other than their state of registration. . Also our Gst rates are one of the highest in the world and to revive we should move immediately to a 12% Gst rate for all mice related events with full set offs and gradually to below 10% in the medium term with full set offs. 

Mice infrastructure is a highly capital-intensive long gestation business and thus we look forward to this being also declared as infrastructure sector to have long term funding access to low interest rates. 

Of the Special Tourism Zones being planned by tourism ministry we look forward to a mega tourism  zone which should be fully integrated world class mice city. 

As the virtual mice become the order of the day, we look forward to each state recognising this and supporting virtual mice on a structured & financial basis. 

Indian mice has the unique benefit of being bundled with the natural and cultural assets of India. We acknowledge the further easing of the mice sector through Unlock 5 and look forward to demand generation measures to move towards our vision.  

Sharat Chandra, Treasurer of Indian Tourist Transportation Association  

Tourist transportation is the backbone of domestic tourism. Globally in all countries stable and uniform policies for tourist transportation have stimulated growth. 

Thus our vision for Indian tourism is very simple and straightforward. 

We want to provide a seamless, safe and satisfying driving Experience across the lengths and breadths of India for city tourism, state tourism or national tourism. 

However to make that vision happen , we must address certain ground level realties today. 

As a long term solution and to truly have one country one tax, it is critical to make available all costs of tourist transport for GST set offs. These include  inter state taxes, taxes On fuel and taxes on parking, all of which exceed almost 40% of our cost of operations. 

To ensure that tourist transporters are enabled to provide world class experiences , permission must be provided to import of tourist  vehicles under EPCG by tourism services exporters. 

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