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T3 News Network

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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) & cause partner AIRDA has further revised upwards it’s value at risk to Indian tourism to ₹ 15 lakh crores.  

FAITH’s first guidance which was calculated and was shared with the Government in March 2020 had put tourism’s economic value at risk at ₹ 5 lakh crores from this pandemic.  FAITH revised this further during the quarter as the situation deteriorated and the value at risk was put at ₹ 10 lakh crores. This has been revised again to touch a value at risk of upto ₹ 15 lakh crores in terms of the economic output of tourism in India.

Given the way the virus is progressing, tourism supply chains have  broken down in India across all its key inbound, domestic & outbound markets and is not expected to recover for the next  5 months too making the total impact to a minimum of 9 months starting from March this year.

The direct and indirect economic impact of Tourism industry in India is approximately estimated at ~ 10% of India’s GDP.  This roughly puts the full year economic multiplier value of tourism in India at ~ ₹ 20 lakh crores. Minimum three quarters of tourism will be fully impacted

This value covers the whole tourism value chain from airlines, travel agents, hotels, tour operators, tourism destinations restaurants, tourist transportation, tourist guides. Each of these segments of tourism is non - performing or under performing and will stay that way for many months of this year.

This is evident across all segments of tourism. Pending refunds for travel agents,  shut down or vacant  hotels & restaurants,  empty or locked down conventions and meeting or wedding halls, no order pipelines for tour operators, tourist transport lying locked in parking lots, laid off or leave without pay staff , managers, the summer domestic and outbound holiday season gone,  no visible bookings for the peak October - March season, meetings shifted to virtual apps , non - essential travel closed and so on.  

Be it leisure ( inbound, outbound, domestic) corporate travel, heritage, adventure, meetings incentives, exhibitions & events religious, spiritual and in upcoming high value niche tourism products such as sea & river cruises, camping, rafting, golf  film tourism, jungle tourism, agri tourism and many more across all states, this will the worst performing year for tourism in a century.  

Tourism has one of the largest economic multipliers and FAITH based upon its industry estimates believes that each rupee spent on tourism could have an economic multiplier of upwards of  3- 4 times more for India given its most globally unique natural and cultural heritage spread across the Indian hinterlands. The cumulative job losses for the full year both in organised & unorganised category of tourism could go as high as 4 crores.  

FAITH has been requesting over the past 5 months that for revival of any demand in tourism, it is first important that the survival of tourism businesses in India has to first remain intact.  

The following are immediately critical to maintaining the survival of tourism businesses 

 

- A Tourism fund which can be used by tourism enterprises in India for taking care of their employees.

- A multi-year moratorium by RBI on principal and interest payments by tourism, travel & hospitalty businesses.

- An immediate full year waiver of all central and state statutory liabilities be it PF , ESi, income taxes, GST , fixed power and utilities tariffs, property , excise , inter-state tourist transportation taxes and license fees, all without any accumulated or penal interest has to be done immediately.

- Robust booking payments refund mechanism for travel agents & tour operators from airlines, railways, state tourism parks and other suppliers.  

Skyscanner is launching a data visualisation tool at the aviation sector continues to recover from the Covid-19 shutdown. The new tool – part of the company’s Travel Insight offering – combines Skyscanner’s extensive global flight search data with key Covid-19 events and announcements from governments in multiple countries.

It aims to help businesses in the travel and tourism sector identify trends and make strategic decisions for the future. Flight search data is visualised in a simple and intuitive interface showing the volume of 2020 searches over time.

Searches are indexed against the highest volume from a particular time period and can be easily benchmarked against 2019 volumes. Compared to other sources of aviation data, flight search data can provide an unrivalled insight into early intent and changing traveller behaviours.

Michael Docherty, Data Partnerships Lead, Skyscanner, said, “As the travel landscape fundamentally changes, collaboration and innovation have never been more important to ensure a sustainable route to recovery. That is what we are bringing to market with this new tool, the latest in our suite of Travel Insight products. Understanding demand trends and being able to plan accordingly will undoubtedly help airlines and other organisations execute their recovery strategies with greater effect and efficiency. We continue to invest in data innovation and aim to introduce even more products to help our partners later this year.”

Travel Insight provides a comprehensive view of current aviation market performance, trends and insights into how organisations can optimise versus their competitors.

It analyses the behaviour of millions of Skyscanner users to reveal where people are looking to travel in the next 12 months, allowing airlines and other businesses to rapidly respond to market changes, understand emerging trends and optimise or plan new routes.

RCI, the global leader in holiday exchange and part of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands, welcomed a brand-new affiliation, Sanskruti Suites & Resort to its existing 4,300 resorts base. With this new addition, RCI’s India portfolio has reached to 214 resorts in the country.

Located equidistant from Pune and Mumbai in Karjat, the resort makes for a perfect Weekend holiday. The resort offers 30 luxury villas, featuring a living room, kitchenette, one master bedroom and one children’s room on the attic floor. It has 36 Studio Suites, featuring a small living room area, well equipped kitchenette and a king size bed and 6 Studio Suites, featuring a small living room area, well equipped kitchenette, a king size bed and a large terrace. Additionally, the resort is a pet friendly property.

Rishi Verma, BD Head, Indian Sub-continent, RCI said, “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Sanskruti Suites & Resort into the world’s largest vacation exchange network and we look forward to working closely with them to build new and innovative programs that will provide increased flexibility, benefits and opportunities for their owners and our members. At RCI, we believe in creating family holidays with unforgettable memories, and our partnership with Sanskruti Suites & Resort will complement this vision.”

The resort offers a pure vegetarian multi cuisine restaurant, a 24/7 Coffee Shop, a sports bar, a large Banquet Lawn admeasuring 45,000 sq. ft and in room dining. It also offers a Swimming Pool, an open air jacuzzi and massage rooms. Several cultural activities take place at the resort such as pot making, bullock cart rides, puppet shows, rangoli and bangle making etc.

Shrikant Ashok Chopda, Partner, Sanskruti Suites & Resort, said, “We look forward to working with RCI to provide our Resort Owners with global exchange options. Timeshare exchange is a great vacation selection for travelers worldwide and we are confident that working with RCI will make Sanskruti Suites & Resort a popular vacation destination for those looking to enjoy a weekend getaway in Karjat.”

Vistara took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo aircraft in New Delhi. The aircraft, arriving from Airbus’ final assembly lines in Hamburg, Germany, features fully flat beds in business class. Overall, Vistara’s A321neo features a three-class layout with 12 seats in business class, 24 in premium economy and 152 in economy class.

The aircraft is the first of six A321neo for the airline, on lease by Air Lease Corporation and part of the 50 A320neo Family aircraft order signed in 2018. All Vistara A321neo will be powered by latest-generation CFM-Leap 1A engines.

The aircraft will be supported by Airbus’ Flight Hour Services Tailored Support Package (FHS-TSP) programme to optimise and secure Vistara fleet operations and will also complement Vistara’s current Airbus fleet of 32 A320 Family aircraft.

Leslie Thng, Chief Executive Officer, Vistara, said, “We are excited to welcome our first A321neo aircraft, the latest addition in our growing fleet. The new aircraft ensures operational enhancement, cost efficiency as well as reduction in carbon footprint for us while enabling extra payload capacity, greater fuel efficiency and higher range. The new cabin products on our A321 aircraft truly complement our promise of providing a premium and world-class flying experience to travellers from and to India. All of these aspects perfectly align with our international growth strategy.”

Vistara commenced its commercial operations on January 9, 2015. The airline has a fleet of 42 aircraft including 34 Airbus A320, 1 A321neo, 6 Boeing B737-800NG and 1 Boeing B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.

The move from Vande Bharat Mission to bilateral "Air Bubbles" for the smooth resumption of international flight operations is significant in the Indian aviation industry.  The Union Civil Aviation Ministry announcement to resume international air travel through bilateral air bubbles between select countries such as the US, France, and Germany, after almost 4-months of its suspension will bring cheers from all over the world.

Substantially a good move from India, when US Transportation Department restricts Vande Bharat flights citing, unfair and seeks to restore a level playing field for US airlines. This decision will be a huge relief to lakhs of Indians stranded outside India and many who want to reach their destinations aboard too. And now, India is creating bilateral air bubbles with certain countries to ensure that eligible passengers can continue to travel directly to and from these states and their airlines, till resumption of regularly scheduled flights post-COVID 19, pandemic.

India has suspended international passenger flights since March 24, 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Also, almost all countries worldwide, closed their border for foreigners to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Exemptions were only extended to some cargo flights and evacuation flights to bring back stranded Indian passengers home under the Vande Bharat Mission and allowed to continue their services.

India has the world's largest repatriation exercise namely Vande Bharat Mission and we should be proud that Vande Bharat Mission along with Operation Samudra Setu has created history by being the most acclaimed repatriation the world has seen in all these years. When the central government decided to offer a helping hand, it launched a paid repatriation mission rather than free evacuation mission Probably, it could be a 10th freedoms of the air setting new treaties in granting a country's airlines to enter and land in another country for evacuation program with traffic right and privilege to commercially collect money from repatriating passengers.

Like in the case of Kuwait refugees, a free of cost, repatriation or evacuation should have been extended to the real deserves, who were migrants, jobless, homeless, and moneyless.  It was quite disheartening and disappointing that many Indians were forced to pay very heftily, exorbitant money, like ransom, for getting a seat over the chartered flights. Also, had witnessed that, many private players minted money over chartering flights for rescue operations, especially where VBM not in the schedule.  Few had quoted India based charter rates, but invoiced and remitted money from abroad, pocketed 18 to 9% GST, apart from the inflated prices. For many, it was a blessing in disguise and like 'hawala' business, had their agents collecting money in India and passenger boarding from abroad.

According to the aviation ministry, in the fourth phase of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), Air India and Air India Express will operate over 400 flights and private airlines have contracted to operate about 500 flights within July, as DGCA continued suspension of international flights till 31st July 2020, with a special provision, to allow selected routes on a case to case basis', which itself is a blanket permit to allow loved ones.

IAAI had approached all Indian carriers operating under Vande Bharat Mission to allow travel agents to issue tickets and also to carry passengers to and from India instead of ferry operations and there was no positive response. Meanwhile, an NRI Businessman from UAE contacted our new initiative AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS FORUM for want of his return flight to Dubai and had coordinated through our Legal Cell /counsel,  filed a Writ petition No. 13747 before the Hon. High Court of Kerala on 7th July against Air India Express. Within the notice period, Air India accommodated him in a repatriation flight.  Also, bilaterally Emirates started operation, and subsequently, all repatriation flights are granted the rights to carry passengers up and down – repatriate stranded passengers to India and carry resident permit holders stranded in India to UAE. This has changed the modus operandi - ticket sales permitted through Airline websites as well as Travel agencies and surprisingly, fares slashed tremendously down to a competitive edge.

Indians stranded in GCC countries other than UAE finds it difficult to repatriate, as VBM flights are very less and carriers from that states are reciprocally not permitted yet to fly to India. The alternative is only to depend on charter flights at the whims and fancies of certain vested interests. 

Recent UNWTO reports related to travel restrictions in all countries worldwide, 156 governments have completely closed their borders to international arrivals. Such travel restrictions are likely to remain in place in the coming weeks, and possibly longer. It is not yet clear when a more widespread re-opening of borders will occur, and under what conditions. Where borders are open, some countries may have mandatory quarantine periods for people coming from abroad.

In the present scenario, it may take months or years to recover the passenger trust from the devastating impact of COVID-19, but the airline industry will play a pivotal role in the recovery of the economy worldwide.

Air travel will no longer be casual, until there is a clear cure or vaccine the public will be always concerned about general or essential travel. Passengers will consider many factors before making a booking or buy a ticket, Covid-19 protocols and safety, quarantine and health standards including insurance coverage. In terms of convenience and cost, undisputedly, international travel will become costly due to the additional precautionary hygiene protocols, which will be in place for a very long time.

“Vande Bharat" mission (VBM) is a prestigious and great achievement which helps millions of expatriates to reach home safe during these difficult times. Kuwait's evacuation program in 1990 was non-commercial. Here, the "vision" itself is purely commercial. A way of cartelization and monopolization. If VBM is to "save the life" of Indians stranded abroad, why this mission was exclusively given to Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express, expressly when these Airlines are already listed for SALE? Good to see that 4th phase of VBM is operating 1210 flights included with indigo and Go Air. Considering the pandemic as a world disaster, if all Indian carriers were made involved in this great Vande Bharat mission, many of the Indians could have been financially secured from the private charterers.

India is now promoting one to one tie-up, bilateral air bubbles with the USA, UK, Germany, and many other countries and we appreciate the government in taking this bold step to boost the international flight operations. Air ticket prices can be brought down if India establishes bilateral air bubble arrangements with more countries, which must allow more flights connecting these countries, but not only Air India. One should see that after India and UAE entered into a bilateral pact for resuming international operations, the ticket prices have been dropped to Rs 13,000.

All international flights operating as scheduled or chartered have to mandatorily follow the SOPs - safety, security, distancing, and quarantine measures set forth by WHO, ICAO, and IATA and the Covid-19 related protocols and public health requirements. The situation is dynamic, and the world countries may open their borders at different times.

Nevertheless to say that, while encouraging the global traffic, we request the government of India that, the fifth phase of Vande Bharat mission should be based on bilateral air bubble agreements with full commercial traffic rights allowing all carriers to operate and carry "eligible" passengers under the purview of government norms and the SOPs notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Especially in today's scenario where demand for charted flights is gradually declining, this will let more airlines to operate quality services and increased self-service, to make it easier for passengers.  As the ticket pricing depends on the demand and supply, the competition will reduce airfares and passengers will have the advantage to make ticketing directly through airline websites or travel agencies at their convenience.  

Such a move at this economically paralyzed stage will naturally give a ray of hope for airlines, GDS and NDC companies, travel agencies, and tour operators who all are involved in ticket sales in India and abroad. Change the old normal to the new normal. And, it will be the first global step towards the revival and recovery of the travel and tourism segments, which was almost shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March 2020.

To this effect, IAAI along with Air Passenger Rights Forum panel member Adv Ajith Marath wrote to the Civil Aviation Minister and all concerned authorities to consider COVID as a tool of power to revamp the Indian skies as a role model in the global aviation industry.

by Biji Eapen, President, IATA Agents Association of India.

GoAir has today introduced GoFlyPrivate wherein customers can book multiple rows and create their own private zone. GoFlyPrivate allows the customer to have the confidence to travel and decide how many rows or seats he / she wants to block.

Jeh Wadia, Managing Director, GoAir, said, “GoAir is the first airline in India to bring the confines of a charter flight to someone who can’t afford it at the moment. GoFlyPrivate costs a fraction of a full-fledged private charter flight and it provides the same sense of privacy that the customer would otherwise feel it in a private charter. There was a growing demand from customers for this kind of a service and I am pleased to announce the launch of this service for the domestic flights.”

Recently GoAir has introduced slew of value add services to provide confidence to travelers including “Quarantine Packages” (customers can choose from a range of hotels including budget or high-end hotels in Kochi, Kannur, Bengaluru, Delhi or Ahmedabad starting at Rs. 1,400 (approx. US$19) per person per night; GoMore wherein passengers can book another adjacent seat on the same PNR in order to provide additional safety; ‘Online Doctor Consultation’ in association with MFine, wherein passengers get instant access to 3000+ doctors across 500+ hospitals network on a beck and call by just paying consultation fee of Rs 99. 

Seaside Finolhu has introduced Beach Bubble for social distancing during vacation. Located in a secluded spot along Finolhu’s 1.5km sandbank, the Beach Bubble is available exclusively for, one- night-only ‘Dream Eclipse’ experience under the stars. After a short Dhoni ride from the main island to Crab Shack, jetty a short sunset stroll leads guests to their very own Bubble Beach hideaway where they can chill out, enjoy a private beach BBQ with a Maldivian twist, and then retreat into their unique transparent suite for an unforgettable night under endless stars. On waking from this experience, guests can watch the sun climb into the sky as they linger over breakfast at the water’s edge. Surrounded by the UNESCO-protected Baa Atoll in the Maldives, the Beach Bubble stay is an unforgettable experience.

As the first and only member of Design Hotels in the Maldives, the resort’s design combines Maldivian-inspired touches with ultra-luxury modernity and the Beach Bubble is no exception. Under the luxurious clear dome, guests can expect a contemporary design mixed with a distinct organic edge, offering all the comforts of a hotel suite, including a double bed and bathroom.

Qatar Airways Group has launched four international investment arbitrations against the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Republic of Egypt. Since 2017, the four states have imposed an illegal air, sea and land blockade against Qatar. The arbitrations seek redress for the blockading states’ actions to remove Qatar Airways from their markets and to forbid the airline from flying over their airspace. Qatar Airways is seeking a total of at least US$5 billion from the blockading states as compensation for their unlawful actions.

For three decades, Qatar Airways made substantial investments in the four blockading countries in order to serve hundreds of thousands of passengers and to transport tens of thousands of tons of cargo to and from each of these countries annually.

Commenting on the launch of the investment arbitrations, Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, said, “The decision by the blockading states to prevent Qatar Airways from operating in their countries and flying over their airspace is a clear breach of civil aviation conventions and several binding agreements they are signatories to. After more than three years of efforts to resolve the crisis amicably through dialogue yielded no results, we have taken the decision to issue Notices of Arbitration and pursue all legal remedies to protect our rights and secure full compensation for the violations. The blockading states must be held accountable for their illegal actions in the aviation sector, which includes a failure to comply with their obligations under bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements and international law.

“Qatar Airways is one of the world’s leading airlines, providing millions of customers around the world with the highest level of passenger and cargo services. Despite the efforts of the blockading states, we have maintained our global position and will continue to promote air travel as a right for all.”

Starting on 5 June 2017, without prior warning, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt took collective measures targeting Qatar Airways and its operations. These measures specifically targeted Qatar Airways, with the objective of shuttering Qatar Airways’ local operations, destroying the value of the airline’s investments and causing widespread damage to Qatar Airways’ global network of operations. In particular, these measures included, but were not limited to, closing their airspace and airports to Qatar Airways’ aircraft and revoking Qatar Airways’ licenses and permits to operate in the blockading states. These measures persist to date and continue to disrupt Qatar Airways’ global operations.

Qatar Airways is seeking full compensation for these damages in four investment arbitrations, brought under three separate treaties, namely: the OIC Investment Agreement; the Arab Investment Agreement; and the bilateral investment treaty between the State of Qatar and Egypt. The Notices of Arbitration make clear that by imposing the measures against Qatar Airways, the blockading states have violated their obligations under the agreements, including by expropriating and failing to adequately protect and secure Qatar Airways’ investments, discriminating against Qatar Airways, and failing to provide fair and equitable treatment to the airline and its investments.

United, Lufthansa Grouop, American Airlines and International Airlines Group (IAG) have requested the United States and European Commission for a safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe. In a letter to Mike Pence, Vice President of United States and Ylva Johanson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Scott Kirby, Chief Executive Officer, United; Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board & Chief Executive Office; Doug Parker, Chief Executive Officer, American Airlines and Willie Walsh, Chief Executive Officer, IAG have jointly urged to consider adopting a joint U.S.-EU COVID-19 testing program to enhance safety and build confidence in critical transatlantic passenger air services.

T3 reproduces the letter below:

Dear Leaders:

As the leading airline groups in Europe and the United States, we are writing with urgency to you as leaders of the response to COVID-19 to request the safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe. We urge you to consider adopting a joint U.S.-EU COVID-19 testing program to enhance safety and build confidence in critical transatlantic passenger air services.

The response to this crisis continues to require the cooperation of governments, citizens and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Regarding passenger airline travel, we appreciate the leadership of aviation safety and health bodies within U.S. and EU institutions in issuing comprehensive guidelines to maximize the safety and health of passengers, crews and personnel at each step of the travel journey. These guidelines have much in common and form a solid basis on which to restart transatlantic travel safely. Many airlines and airports have also taken significant steps to protect passenger and employee health that often go beyond the government guidelines.

Given the unquestioned importance of transatlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the U.S. and Europe. In addition to all the significant and unprecedented actions that governments and airlines are taking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a coordinated COVID-19 testing program could be key to providing confidence to permit services to resume without quarantine requirements or other entry restrictions. COVID-19 testing is becoming more and more common throughout the world as a tool to avoid these other more intrusive measures. We recognize that testing presents a number of challenges, however we believe that a pilot testing program for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together and find ways to overcome obstacles and explore all solutions to protect health, build confidence, and safely restore passenger travel between the U.S. and Europe.

Nobody will benefit from a prolonged closure of this most indispensable corridor for global aviation.

Rural Electrical Corporation Limited recently announced a contribution of Rs 23.52 crore under Corporate Social Responsibility to Shri Kedarnath Utthan Charitable Trust (SKUCT). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this regard was executed today in New Delhi between Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, REC Limited and Ila Giri, Additional Spatial Commissioner, Uttarakhand.

Welcoming the initiative of REC Limited, Minister of Tourism, Uttarakhand, Satpal Ji Maharaj, said, “Kedarnath is the dream project of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji, which the State Government is constantly striving to realize. The development and strengthening of public infrastructure is the key to this objective. I am grateful to the REC Foundation for its involvement in this noble cause. "

Dilip Jawalkar, Secretary – Tourism, Govt of Uttarakhand informed that according to the MoU, the amount will be used for the ground building works and administrative offices and hospitals etc. in Saraswati Plaza. In addition, the amount will be used for the development of infrastructure between Saraswati Edge and Temple Street and various types of infrastructure work in Kedarnath city and adjoining areas. He added, local people will get employment in construction works, as well as construction of tourism infrastructure will attract more devotees to this destination which will strengthen the local economy.

 

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