Strengthen tourism infrastructure to boost overall GDP

The Union Budget needs to prioritise domestic tourism to revive the hospitality sector, generate employment opportunities and give the GDP a much-needed fillip

Tourism infrastructure, GDP, Zaid Sadiq, Prestige Group, Hotel news India

In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to visit 15 domestic tourist destinations in India by 2022 to promote domestic tourism. The reason – local tourism has been neglected as most travelers looked at international destinations. Understandably, hospitality and travel companies catered to their need ignoring the glorious tourism opportunities that existed in their backyards.

This is why the government now wants to promote domestic tourism and contribute at least 2% to the GDP by 2025. This is a welcome move and Zaid Sadiq, Executive Director (Liasoning & Hospitality) Prestige Group tells Vinita Bhatia that growth in this sector will boost economic development and create more job opportunities. The upcoming Budget is a great opportunity for the government to walk the talk.

What was the impact of the pandemic on local tourism?

India is a glorious tourist destination and we have seen more Indians exploring the country post easing of the lockdowns. The pandemic has shown that Indians love to travel and have the propensity to spend. It will be great to see the Union Budget promote Indians to travel within India even after the pandemic is behind us.

Why should the government focus on this sector?

The tourism opportunities in India can grow multifold with the resumption of international travel. It has tremendous opportunity in generating employment and can have a more significant impact on the GDP.

India, known for its ancient tradition of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' or ‘guest is god’ has been a gracious host for ages. The service and hospitality in India is one of the finest in the world. Our country has several great destinations – adding to the natural beauty in the country are world class hotels and convention facilities – all together this can be major contributor to the GDP.

I am optimistic about the long term opportunities of tourism and hospitality in India. The country can gain a lot with improved tourism related infrastructure. The expectation from the Union Budget is to support the infrastructure through easier and safer access to tourism destinations by air, road and rail.

How measures can the government announce in the Budget to help the travel and hospitality industry?

The government can support tourism by facilitating the entry of large conventions in India. Convention centers in India are under-utilized. Most large convention centers across the world are supported by their governments for getting large conventions and exhibitions though tourism bureaus. A policy to support to Tourism Boards and Tourism Bureaus will be a big step for increasing tourist inflow into India.

Can a debt restructuring package also help industry stakeholders?

The hospitality and tourism industry is under great pressure as new challenges are emerging due to the pandemic. The industry was the first to be hit and maybe the last to recover.

Most hotels in the recent years have been built on debt, the pandemic has crushed the projections of these hotels. For these hotels to survive and to reduce NPA’s, hotel projects started in the last 5 years will need restructuring of debts to stay afloat.

Any relaxation in taxes, especially for F&B will be of great help. The excise fee that hotels pay is relatively high. This, along with the additional taxes ends up being a large burden on our guests thus resulting in reduced consumption. The excise laws are not friendly towards industry and guests. Relaxations that can cut down on the long processes and fee will help hotels especially in the current circumstances.

How can the granting of an industry status help hoteliers?

The hospitality and tourism sector provides employment to millions in the country. The sector has tremendous opportunity to increase foreign exchange earnings with more foreign tourist inflows and on the other hand by reducing foreign exchange spend with more Indians travelling within India.

Unfortunately, the industry has not received enough limelight. An industry status will help in the right representation of the needs of the sector. Hospitality and tourism are very often considered as luxury and not productive for the country – this is a fallacy and must be corrected.

We at Prestige have put in tremendous investments in making our hotels environment friendly, despite the large investments and our hotels being ecofriendly, energy consists a large part of our operating costs. The inclusion of hospitality as an industry will help hotels represent the government for lower power tariffs.

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