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The travel and tourism industry is expecting a plethora of good news from the Union Budget 2016-17. “Tourism has been a key contributor to the Indian economy with immense possibilities of growth. While the government’s initiatives to strengthen domestic connectivity as well as international accessibility have borne positive results, there is a huge gap in terms of travel facilities, infrastructure, hotels, recreational outlets, high taxes and tourist safety that still needs to be addressed,” Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group and Member, CII National Committee on Civil Aviation, said and added that a thriving tourism industry not only reinforces the hospitality sector but contributes significantly to the economic growth and drives direct and indirect employment. “This union budget we are hopeful that the government will focus on the overall environment of the tourism industry and help drive the industry towards its projected growth. It is time to showcase brand India globally and provide sufficient impetus to put India firmly on the international tourist radar and we are hopeful that the government will consider effective solutions for the same,” Bhatia added.

Similar expectations came from other quarters as well. “India is on a high growth path and with the tourism friendly policies of the new government, we hope to see more and more developments. I strongly think that the government should focus more on infrastructure and develop airports and provide better connectivity to smaller towns leading to even faster growth in the travel sector. As against to over 4300 operating railway stations, India has only about 130 operating airports -- in comparison to 200+ airports of China, which is spending Rs.78,000 crores this year on civil aviation infrastructure. In order to improve facilities available to tourists, the government should also come up with SOPs for infrastructure investments in travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, said Aloke Bajpai, CEO & Co-Founder, ixigo.

Speaking on the aviation industry, Bhatia opined that the Indian aviation industry is on a high growth trajectory and is poised to become the third largest travel market by 2026. “The draft aviation policy as well as airport development in tier-I and Tier-II cities is a welcome move in identifying certain relevant aspects affecting the aviation sector. Yet there are several challenges related to complex policies, aggressive price cuts, multi-tiered tax system and infrastructure deterring the true potential of the Indian aviation industry. I look forward these challenges to be addressed in the upcoming union budget. There is an immense growth potential for Indian civil aviation and with the right infrastructure and policies will serve as a key enabler for economic growth, employment creation and tax revenues. It is imperative that success of civil aviation is seen as a national priority, a goal shared by different ministries, government agencies and the industry," Bhatia added.

According to Bajpai, the current government's focus in the Indian startup ecosystem is very positive and the union budget 2016 must encourage investment in the Indian startup space. “We also need a better definition for online aggregators and their taxation norms in every vertical as India houses over 1000 online aggregators across various verticals. The government had initiated the idea of defining online marketplace recently but not much progress has been seen here till now,” Bajpai added.

Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra.com says, “Last year’s budget provided the tourism industry with a strong impetus in the form of opening up e-Visas and Visa on arrival for a number of countries, thus easing the path for inbound travel to India. We are hopeful that this year’s budget shall move a step further to showcase India as a great tourist destination for global travellers and putting in place, steps to ease the travel to and within India. The government also has to take a closer look at addressing issues like safety and infrastructure to develop the image of India as a visitor friendly destination.  We are hopeful that the budget gives a strong direction on improving road infrastructure to many untapped tourist destinations within the country, and also points to addressing any residual issues around traveller safety, particularly that of women travellers. The “Make in India” initiative should also have a positive impact on the travel and tourism industry, which in turn, can catalyse further employment and economic opportunities within the eco-system.”

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