After cyclone Fani, Coronavirus now hits Odisha’s hospitality and tourism sector; Souvagya Mohapatra seeks relief measures
Mohapatra has urged for forming State Level Tourism Task Force to continuously monitor and implement a revival plan for the tourism sector badly hit by COVID-19
After overcoming the disastrous effects of Cyclone Fani, the state of Odisha is now reeling under the economic crisis posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. The State’s tourism and hospitality sector are witnessing a sharp fall in the number of tourist arrivals for second consecutive year.
As a preventive measure to curb the spread of virus, all tourism activities in the state were suspended from mid-March onwards and now with nationwide lockdown being announced, the sector has come to a grinding halt. While the cyclone Fani had near-complete damaged the infrastructure of the major tourism centers in Odisha, the crisis posed by Coronavirus is unprecedented in terms of immediate as well as long-term impacts.
Given the unfolding situation and economic impact of the pandemic on the hospitality and tourism sector, Souvagya Mohapatra, Chairman FICCI Eastern Region Tourism Committee, Executive committee member of Federation of Hotels & Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) and Executive Director, MAYFAIR Hotels and Resorts has expressed his concern on number of issues.
Talking about the consequences of the on-going restrictions, Mohapatra said, “With restriction being in place for barely a month in the state, the very existence of several tourism-related establishments has been threatened. And if such curbs on travel continue for the coming 3-4 months, one can only imagine the catastrophe that awaits.”
Further he highlighted that “in the month of February and March which are generally considered peak season for inbound tourism have already witnessed a 70-80% downfall in revenues and if the extant situation is anything to go by, the holiday season of May-June will be no better or maybe even poorer followed by a tepid business cycle of three months.”
While Mohapatra has praised the efforts taken by Odisha Government to contain the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), he has also urged for forming State Level Tourism Task Force specifically to continuously monitor, strategize and implement a revival plan for the tourism sector badly hit by COVID-19.
Highlighting about the need for proper policy, he said, “The tourism prospects of Eastern and North-Eastern India have already suffered much due to inadequate hospitality infrastructure. It is extremely imperative that proper policy initiatives are taken to shield the sector from the deleterious impacts of this virus, failing which there is a risk of undoing the years of efforts to bolster the tourism growth of these destinations.”
Among others incentives, Mohapatra has also asked for business-related interim relief measures for the revival of the industry:
- A deferment for twelve months of all statutory dues with respect to license fee, property tax and excise fees.
- A deferment in the increase of insurance premium for 12 months such as standard fire and special perils rate for fire, loss or profits.
- The removal of fees for any upcoming licenses and permit renewal for the hospitality and travel industry across states is needed. Hotels pay a hefty bar license in addition to many taxes like property taxes.
- The validity period of these taxes and licenses be extended by at least one year without further payments. The tax should be on sale/purchase of liquor and the fee should be completely waived off.
- 500 units of electricity and water usage per month are requested to be provided free of charge to tourism & hospitality units. Thereafter, it should be charged at a subsidized rate.
- waiving off the GST charges across all categories of accommodation in order to spur demand along with rolling out of alike nature economic incentives to resuscitate the critically ailing tourism and hospitality sector.
- SGST is requested to be waived off till the time the situation becomes normal and a state bailout package for protecting jobs and paying salaries to employees.
- Once the situation normalizes, states should target their promotions to the domestic market across different segments, improve last mile connectivity to tourism destinations and look at increasing more budget accommodations to suit the travellers.
- FICCI has also urged the Union Government to set up National Tourism Task Force specifically to continuously monitor, strategize and implement a revival plan of the tourism sector badly hit by COVID-19.