This month seems to be truly action packed. From Berlin to Bali, tourism experts seem to be on the roll. March also brings with it high power post Budget analysis and discussions across sectors from tax consultants, finance experts to market analysts, and of course, the common man. Each sector tries to read between the lines and check what the Union Budget has in store, which charts the future course of action and investment decisions. The tourism sector is no exception. Though this Budget has received some positive reviews from other sectors, the tourism sector seems divided in its opinion.
Though the Visa on Arrival decision to 150 countries seems to be a welcome move, tourism associations feel there are few a pertinent issues that have still not been addressed. IATO has been clearly stating that their plea with the government that Tourism Service Export be treated at par with physical exports has fallen on deaf ears. They had hoped for the tourism sector to be extended benefits that are being given to physical exporters, including exemption of service tax based on their foreign exchange earnings, which have not been met. Instead of doing so, the government has put an additional burden by increasing service tax rate from 12.36 per cent to 14 per cent, which will make tour packages costlier.
However, the 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 seems to be forthcoming. What’s also positive is the decision to invest in sanitation facilities, which is the critical need of the hour. I remember my appeal and question made to the government at the IATO Bhubaneswar conference in 2008, asking for basic hygiene and sanitation facilities for improvement of tourism, seems to have gained some voice.
Finally, our cover story this issue celebrates WORK, done with grit and grace. Enjoy the issue and let us celebrate the power that we all have within.