A delegation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) led by Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, Sherry Bhatia, Vice President, Vivek Nair, Member of Honour & Chairman & Managing Director, Hotel Leela Kempinski, Kamlesh Barot, Past President, FHRAI and Tejinder Singh Renu, HRAWI co-ordinator for Nagpur, met the Chief Minister (CM) of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis recently to present the hurdles faced by the hospitality industry and discuss the way forward for the Government to facilitate tapping the tourism and employment potential this industry provides. The discussions pivoted around the critical issues faced by the hotel and restaurant industry and the CM was presented with a docket outlining suggestions and scope for promoting hospitality employment, foreign exchange accruals and tourism for the State.
Kohli said, “In the meeting, the team focused on presenting to the CM the need to fully actualise the Ease of Doing Business through the Single Window Clearance system. The team also emphasised the benefits the State would reap with the creation of Special Tourism Zones backed by Hospitality’s presence; and deliberated with him the specific problems faced by many hotels and restaurants in tier 1 and 2 cities of Maharashtra. The CM acknowledged the fact that HRAWI pioneered conducting FSSAI’s FoSTaC programmes which trained and certified over 1200 hospitality professionals in Food Safety. He also appreciated the Association for supporting the State’s ban on use of plastic across all its member hotels and restaurants as well as for our contribution in Swasth Bharat’s Eat Right Movement.”
Of the several points presented to the CM, the team highlighted the need for bringing enterprises including Airbnb, IIBB, OTAs and Homestays under the organised sector. It also brought to the CM’s attention the fact that the industry has yet to receive industrial rates post being granted an industry status. While discussing issues related to Excise, the team informed the CM about the exorbitant transfer fees for liquor licence and requested for reduction of dry days, as well as for implementing online renewals and one-day licences. The team also discussed matters related to renewable energy, and ways to maximize the utilization of solar power in the hotel industry.
Barot added, “We have informed the CM about the ‘USPs’ this industry boasts of, as well as the accolades HRAWI brings for the State, but not without the hurdles that hotel and restaurant members have to face, specifically about the points related to the departments of Tourism, Excise, Home, Urban Development, Collector’s Office, BMC and CFO. The report presented to the CM extensively covers each obstacle faced from every department, for example the need for scrapping of the Health license u/s 394 by BMC due to the FSSAI or the Drinking Permit for alcohol consumption, removal of demarcation of permit room and eating room area, among other issues on the Excise front, just to name a few. Such detailed issues have been enumerated for each department in the docket. Post our briefing, the CM has assured us a resolution on most of the issues and has called for a joint meeting within a week, with the Chief Secretary of the State and his Departmental Secretaries from each of the above departments for resolving each of their specific issues one by one, in his presence.”
In addition to the discussed points, the delegation has also submitted recommendations dedicated to improving the tourism infrastructure of Aurangabad – the tourism capital of Maharashtra. The points include suggestions on bettering the air, rail and road connectivity; infrastructure conservation, creation & maintenance and about the need for destination regeneration.
Kohli said, “We are delighted with the CM’s immediate call for action and the support we have received from the entire department. We thank the Chief Secretary Shri Ajoy Mehta for expediting the meetings between various departments and HRAWI. We are grateful to him for arranging our meetings with the respective secretaries of the Excise Dept. and Energy Dept. on June 24, the Tourism Dept. on June 25 and Urban Development Dept. on June 27. We have so far discussed various issues with the Excise department for a considerable reduction in the exorbitant transfer fees, reduction in dry days from 9 to 4 days, sorting the issues related to one day licences and simplifying the process, demarcation of areas for liquor, eliminating the need for duplication of records and keeping unnecessary books for records and removal of nokarnama, among others.”
HRAWI with members across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa and the Union Territories of Daman, Diu & Silvassa is considered as the voice of the hospitality industry. The industry is the third largest contributor to the country’s Foreign Exchange earnings with a member’s base of employees last estimated by the HRD Ministry at 17 million.
Kohli further said, “Both the State and the Central Government have been vocal and proactive towards the upliftment of hospitality and tourism sector. Ever since the Prime Minister - Narendra Modi took the mantle of developing Indian tourism hub there has been tremendous impetus on improving the infrastructure required to support its growth. The PM has reiterated his stance about making tourism and hospitality one of the five pillars driving the economy. The HRAWI is grateful to the Hon. Prime Minister and the Hon. Chief Minister for their vision and commitment towards propelling the growth of hospitality and tourism in the country.”