The Union Budget 2015-16 has considerably focused into the tourism sector. The successful Visa on Arrival Scheme which was introduced a year back for 43 countries has been increased to 150 countries in a phased manner. Focus on development of World Heritage Sites – churches and convents of old Goa, Hampi, Elephanta caves, Leh palace, Varanasi temple town, Jallianwala Bagh etc to be developed to make them more tourist-friendly. Let’s have a look at what the tourism industry have to say about this Budget.
Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook (India) said, “The Government’s pro-tourism strategic vision sees continuum and we applaud the vision and long term initiatives of Budget 2015 – 2016 including expanding the VoA scheme to 150 countries in a phased approach as also the welcome move of eliminating some of the concerns and apprehensions that tourists as well as operators had as to how this system operates; Focus on developing World Heritage Sites is of huge value given that many are in a bad shape and have received scant attention in the past. In addition to this, the investment of INR two lakh crore towards sanitation is critical for Incredible India’s image, overall. The rail and road infra thrust too will aid domestic and inbound tourism.”
Rajeev Wagle, managing director, Kuoni India, “The budget provides an impetus to economy achieving a high growth rate in 2015-16 of anywhere between 8.1 and 8.5 percent, and thereby laying down a foundation for a double-digit growth rate in future years. This is a great step towards a robust and sustainable growth for the Tourism Industry as well and will unlock the latent potential of India’s tourism industry. The Union Budget has recognized and shown commitment to tourism as an important revenue and employment generator for the Government. Proposals such as exemption to individual taxpayers, proposal to cut to 25 per cent corporate tax and a series of measures to boost consumption will allow the travellers to consider holiday and travel options more favorably. This will surely help in tapping the huge potential in India of the domestic and outbound markets and will help promote a significant increase in international and domestic travel.”
“The Budget speaks of quick change, faster growth and high levels of transparency and this will augment economic growth for the industry. A number of steps for tax rationalization will also help augment tax revenues for the Government,” added Wagle.
Ajay Bhatia, vice president and chief operating officer, Mercury Travels said, “We can see around 30 per cent increase in tourist arrival. Short haul from neighbouring countries will get boost. This will be a significant contributor to Indian economy as well as driver of progress through creation of Jobs, It will give India edge over neighbouring countries and will have multiplier affect on businesses connected directly and indirectly with Tourism foreign exchange earnings. The move will help in creating a robust tourism industry. Seems Achey Dins are for tourism industry.”
Vikram Malhi, managing director- Asia, Expedia said, “This budget has effectively addressed the key issues that impact the travel sector like infrastructure development, developing heritage sites amongst several other measures to make India an attractive destination for both inbound and domestic tourism, increasing revenues from the sector. Enhancing visa on arrival to 150 countries is a clear testimony to this. The government has also retained focus on softer aspects like women’s security and clean India that will eventually help creating positive perceptions around the country and drawing more women and foreign tourists.”
“The government has taken upon themselves to select certain circuits and destinations every year and develop them to resuscitate tourist traffic. The focus areas this year- Churches in Goa, forests in Rajasthan, Leh Palace in Ladhakh, Jaliahwalah Bagh in Amritsar, clearly indicate the government’s interest in getting repeat tourists, by developing alternate and experiential tourism or renewing old sites, to heighten interest in these heritage destinations. Transformative changes in the railways network and development of certain routes and destinations will also promote travel and tourism amongst the large cross section of consumers. A major announcement that is likely to positively impact the OTA segment is the government push to create a cashless economy, by aiding digital coverage and debit, credit card penetration in the country. This will catalyse greater growth opportunities for players in this segment as more opportunities emerge from a wider ambit of consumers,” added Malhi
Rakshit Desai, managing director India, FCm Travel Solutions and Flight Shop said, “The announcement for phase-wise extension of visa on arrival facility to 150 countries from the current 43 countries, is a welcome measure that will augment additional tourist inflow and foreign tourist arrival to India. The identification of nine Cultural World Heritage Sites in the country for time-bound improvement and development highlights the government’s focus on building India as a heritage tourism destination. Further, ease of doing business initiatives like a single clearance window will foster an environment of business growth and encourage inflow of investments. We appreciate the vision behind the budgetary reforms but the industry needs more robust confidence-building measures.”
Hari Nair, founder & CEO, HolidayIQ.com said, “Visa on arrival being extended to 150 countries is a huge step for Indian tourism. In addition, Tourism is a sector that is a beneficiary of improvements across multiple areas. The focus of Budget 2015 on areas such as infrastructure, skill development and rural development has the potential to provide a big tailwind for Indian tourism. In addition, the specific announcement relating to up-gradation of certain world heritage sites signals continued focus on Tourism. The question is, does the Indian tourism industry have the intrinsic capability to identify and quickly act on the opportunities thrown up by Budget 2015. The opportunities are certainly there.”
Neelu Singh, COO, Ezeego1.com said, “We are happy with the thrust on domestic and inbound tourism by developing key tourist destinations and sites and making them more tourist-friendly, such as World Heritage Sites of old Goa, Hampi, Elephanta caves, Leh Palace and Varanasi temple town. It will help draw a lot of heritage and religious tourists. The government has highlighted the desire to incentivise cashless transactions which is a positive development for online sites such as Ezeego1.com. With individual tax payers getting tax benefit up to income of INR4.44 lakh, disposable income will increase, which is likely to indirectly induce leisure tourism. The Budget also pays heed to positioning India as a safe country for single female travellers by increasing contribution to the Nirbhaya Fund.”
Sajid Khan, country manager– India, South African Airways said, “Allowing the visa-on-arrival facility to travellers from 43 countries was a positive move made last year. The facility increased the number of foreign tourists to India drastically. Extending this in a phased manner to travellers from 150 countries will further strengthen the travel and tourism industry in the country. Besides encouraging international carriers to consider fortifying operations in India due to a probable increase in tourist inflow, the move is also likely to contribute towards improving the domestic load factors. The FM’s announcements to restore and preserve the 25 Cultural World Heritage sites in the country by building visitor amenities is likely to aid tourism to historical locations. However, inclusion of entertainment facilities like amusement arcades, theme parks, water parks, concerts etc in the negative list for Service Tax restricts such establishments from fully reaping the benefits of the growth in tourism. Additionally, proposed changes to increase Service Tax rate plus Education Cess and Secondary and Higher Education Cess to 14 per cent will lead to a hike in air ticket prices.”