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Beyond Union Budget 2022-23!

The Union Budget was a mixed bag for the hospitality and travel industry. The hospitality sector had reasons to cheer as the government has extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) up to March 2023 with a further addition in outlay to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore. This will benefit the hotel industry as it would help them tide over the immediate crisis.

The government emphasis on improving road infrastructure is expected to increase connectivity and also speed up access to remote areas, something that will benefit the travel industry in the long run.

However, the tour operators and travel agents have been disappointed as they did not receive any concessions. The airline industry also was ignored in the budget.

However, now that the budget is behind us, we should now focus on opening up of inbound tourism as that’s the best sop that the industry will cheer as we look at recouping the losses incurred. The good news is that the Omicron wave is ebbing in India.

The world over, governments have relaxed quarantine rules for inbound travellers and it’s no longer mandatory. However, the Government of India had issued a directive in January this year mandating a seven-day quarantine for those coming from at-risk countries. These include most of the European countries and some from Africa. These are the destinations from where we get most of our inbound traffic and this is a deterrent for those intending to holiday in India. This should be scrapped and like all countries, we should insist on a 48–72-hour negative RT-PCR test report along with vaccination confirmation. This will help ease movement.

Second, we should do away with the Air Bubble Arrangement that we have with countries and open doors to all commercial flights. This is being done in Europe, USA and Middle East. This will make air travel less expensive and also boost travel.

Third, the government should restart e-visas that were suspended for a few countries as this will ease travel restrictions. We should also encourage tourism from neighbouring countries which are a short flight away from India.

With restrictions easing in India and as people emerge from the third wave with less sickness and fatalities, the need of the hour is to resume normal activities.

What can give the industry confidence is that many of the listed entities namely, Indian Hotels, EIH Ltd, IndiGo and the like have posted profitable third quarter results, and this indicates that people have started travelling once again. Corporate travel has also gone up. IndiGo has stated that they have almost restored flight capacity to pre-covid levels. This is a welcome sign and gives confidence to the industry.

However, we should continue to follow Covid appropriate behaviour and as an industry keep advising tourists that it’s the need of the hour.

So, instead of thinking of what the budget has it in for us we should be back in business.

 

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