Our wish list for tourism in this budget

On the concluding day of this rarest February (all seven days of the week have appeared four times in the 29 days month, probably after 500 years) when the finance minister Arun Jaitely rises to present his budgetary prescription for 2016-17, quite obviously the expectation of all industrywallahs cutting across different sectors would be no different than the previous occasions. They would like to see the FM singing the right tunes and doling out incentives which they believe will be catalysts for their businesses. Afterall, a Santa Claus act is what we ultimately expect from the FM on his d-day.

But going by the quintessential essence of the budget, they are not simply meant to endear themselves by allocation hike or giving tax rebates here and there. They can do something more formidable – by setting up the growth direction of specific sectors and here the push could also be non-fiscal in nature. The representatives of tourism sector too are keenly eyeing to see if Jaitely could spring some surprises for them from his briefcase. Within the tourism space, the most high decibel voice is from the hospitality industry which is demanding the threshold investment limit for infrastructure status to be reduced. With the new civil aviation policy and new tourism policy continuing to remain works in progress for reasons best known to the ministry mandarins (the much awaited policies will have direct bearing on Indian tourism’s growth story in the medium to long-run), somewhere it does become imperative for the finance minister to come out with measures which could signal government’s seriousness in paving the structural and holistic growth of tourism business. This is what we propose, measures which could be a game changer for the sector…

The government sets up a task force to set up national commission for tourism. This will identify what is truly unique about India, suggest making around them experiences that are truly exceptional and world class in quality and depth; provide connectivity both international and domestic including last mile; provide inter connectivity between each of them to enable a new circuit approach. Tackles issues such as competency and skills and integrates best examples from national programmes such as Skill India and Digital India.

Creation of 20 special tourism zones that will become magnets for investment, development of authentic Indian products for national integration and international discovery. These must be independently driven, with a learning lesson behind us gained from the fault lines detected in the creation of Delhi’s Aerocity. Single window mechanism that proves ease in doing business has truly arrived.

Through these, restore, rejuvenate Indian art and heritage.

Create or extend policy of supporting start ups in tourism related infrastructure. In cuisines, small hotels and motels on private land, up gradation of dhabas towards making authentic and truly representative of Indian ethos. Start ups in hotels need to be defined as many amazing experiences around the country lack decent accommodation. These would be in budget or 2/3 star category.

Create urgently a sustainable environment for aviation and make the different arms like airports and airlines evolve a mutually acceptable and beneficial framework for long term.

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