Mumbai: Travel agents’ body TAAI on Saturday has asked the government to step in to support the tourism industry that has been facing a crisis-like situation over the past 14 months. In an open letter to the prime minister, it has sought the following relief measures
1. Livelihood / Survival of Our Trade:
Our member entrepreneurs; travel agents and tour operators and their employees; have not even been able to do a business of more than 5% as compared to the pre-lockdown/pre-pandemic times since the last 14+ months.
Basic Survival has become a challenge.
The worst-hit is our junior and mid-level teams, who are unable to survive ever for basic needs. They include frontline counter staff, ticketing staff, tour planners, accountants, airport representatives, porters, drivers, guides, sales and marketing staff, administrative team, etc. The middle and senior members, including the owners, are affected too.
Further, with no respite whatsoever in statutory compliances like PF, ESIC, Professional Tax, GST, Income Tax, TDS, etc., and with the introduction of the New Irrational Tax like TCS ensures that our establishments are forced to close down.
Although respite through MSME loans was given by the Hon. Finance Minister, to existing loan/overdraft holders, who had obtained them prior to February’20. However, there has been no consideration for our members who were working on their own finances, to obtain new co-lateral free loans/overdraft and rebated interest thereon. Many banks and financial institutions have blacklisted Travel and Tourism organizations being non-revenue generators since April’20. Even the existing limits, if any have been reduced.
We seek your attention in providing immediate support to all engaged in travel and tourism:
a. Moratorium for at least 2 years from all loan EMIs for our staff and members.
b. Grant of Rs 10,000/- per month per employee for the next one year until normalcy resumes. This shall be paid back, free of interest to the Government in installments over 24 months thereafter or deducted at 15% of their salary and paid back to the exchequer.
c. Fresh co-lateral free loans/overdraft facilities to our member organisations and personnel are provided at rebated interest for a period of at least 5 years until things are restored back to normalcy. This shall give support to them to meet their administrative overheads and promote travel and tourism effectively. The same could be computed on the last 3 years’ average.
d. Income Tax Holiday for next 5 years for member Travel Agents and Tour Operators.
e. Rebates on Digital payments: The Credit Card companies / Banks are charging between 2% to 3.5% for payments received through credit cards or wallets. This is hindering the purpose, revenue, and ease of doing business.
Further, the airlines too are not accepting digital payments from us vide credit cards or wallets, due to the same reason of higher percentage of deductions by the banks. This should be brought down to 0.5%.
f. In the current scenario where many small establishments, like our members, are trying to work from home. With zero income, they have cut down on their lease rentals. Work from Home should be considered as an establishment for registered travel agents/ tour operators, as many authorities are not permitting official addresses at residences. This should be directed through your good offices so as to safeguard health and safety.
g. May we also urge you to direct the States to consider waiver and reduction of electricity charges/water taxes/property taxes/stamp duty / commercial licence fees / other local taxes for another 3 years. This shall help and support the trade to survive.
h. Syncronisation of all employee benefits like ESIC, Professional Tax, PF, Gratuity, etc. under one head so as to ease compliances and do business effectively, smoothly and motivate us to generate more revenue for the country.
2. Industry Status for Travel & Tourism along with Cabinet berth for Tourism and Culture Ministry:
The contribution from this Ministry and the Trade especially in the last 5 years, deserves a Cabinet berth in your Government. Travel & Tourism was one of your key stakeholder partners in ensuring to make India the USD 5 Trillion economy.
Strategizing for setting up an efficient regulatory body along with TAAI and other stakeholders in the travel and tourism trade with MoCA and MoT like SEBI / IRDA etc. which shall not only protect the interests of the general public but also of the principals, travel agents, and tour operators.
The letter states “We do not seek grants as alms, but seek support in terms of repayable loans. This shall be repaid back to the Government post the 5-year period after the crisis ends. This shall only be an interim working capital for survival and revival along with ease of doing business.”