As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget for FY 2018-19, Here are the key reactions from Thomas Cook India and SOTC to the 2018 Budget.
Thomas Cook India
Mr. Madhavan Menon, Chairman, Thomas Cook Group
“This time, the Union Budget focused on two aspects: boosting the rural economy and making healthcare accessible and affordable to every Indian. These are steps towards India’s growth and development, aligned with the government’s vision for the country. There is also big push towards increasing the digitization in the country.
We are heartened to note the focus on rural India – right from boosting the Smart Cities programme to laying down a blueprint for better connectivity through the UDAN scheme. Upgrading India’s Infrastructure by modernizing the railways, airports and roads as well as introducing more airports to connect various parts of the country, are initiatives that will help boost tourism in India. The Budget also indicates a clear commitment to improving rail networks by announcing that all stations with more than 25,000 footfalls will have escalators and trains will be provided with Wi-Fi and CCTV monitoring facilities to ensure safety.
However, the one thing that the Budget did not touch upon was the hospitality sector. We were hoping for a rationalization on taxes for hotels in the country. There is a clear shortage of organized hotels in the country and if we want to boost the tourism sector further, it is important to address these issues as well.”
Mr. Rajeev Kale, President & Head -Leisure Travel at Thomas Cook India Ltd.
“While the Union Budget 2018 did not directly address several of the demands being made by the travel and tourism industry, it addressed a pertinent need that acts as a catalyst for the growth of this sector – infrastructure. The Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley emphasized on the government’s vision to improve infrastructure across railways, airports and heritage sites in the country.
The Railway capex has been pegged at Rs 1.48 lakh crore, up from Rs 1.31 lakh crore last year. In addition to this, the announcement of initiatives to improve connectivity by developing close to 600 railway stations in India, will give a much-needed boost to domestic tourism. As will the move to connect cities via the successful UDAN scheme. The move to develop 10 prominent sites into iconic tourist attractions is also a move that would lead to boosting of tourism.
The National Heritage City Development Augmentation Scheme that has been undertaken to preserve and protect heritage cities in the country will definitely boost inbound tourism as well as domestic tourism in India. These proposals, if implemented, will help in providing impetus to India’s domestic and inbound tourism.”
Mr. Vishal Suri, Managing Director, SOTC Travel
“While the Union Budget 2018 did not directly address several of the demands being made by the travel and tourism industry, it addressed a relatable need that acts as a medium for growth of the infrastructure sector. The budget emphasized the government’s vision to make 10 prominent tourist sites iconic tourist destinations, with an amalgamation of private funding, marketing and branding giving a much-needed boost to domestic tourism. Right from boosting the Smart Cities programme to laying down a blueprint for better connectivity through the UDAN scheme, modernizing the Railway infrastructure, introducing more airports to connect various parts of the country are initiatives that will contribute towards sustainable growth within the sector.
In 2017 the government launched the UDAN scheme which promised to connect tier 2 and 3 cities in India to metros and other key cities. It is encouraging to note that in today’s Union Budget, schemes that would enhance India’s aviation sector were announced. The regional airport development scheme will connect 56 un-served airports and 31 un-served helipads, and 16 airports are currently under operation. The government has also proposed to increase the airport capacity to handle 1 billion trips a year. Focus on the National Heritage City Development Augmentation Scheme to preserve and protect heritage cities in the country will be a positive move for domestic tourism.
Rationalization on taxes to benefit those involved in promoting and delivering travel & tourism services would generate new impulses for tourism. Addressing Issues like tax exemption benefit extended to the NRI Holiday business for tour operators and clarification on the flexibility of transfer and grant of GST credit on hotels would create the necessary boost in the tourism sector further.”