Category Archives: MOT

J&K signs MoU with MOT for tourism projects

A Tripartite Memorandum of  Understanding (MoU) for implementation of tourism projects in Jammu and Kashmir was signed between Ministry of Tourism, NPCC & NBCC and Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The MoU was signed in the presence of Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Tourism and the signatories for the MoU included Suman Billa, Joint Secretary , Ministry of Tourism; Shamim Ahmad Wani, Managing Director, J&K Cable Car Corporation;  K K Sharma, Executive Director, NPCC; and Alok Rastogi, Chief General Manager (BD), NBCC. The Prime Minister announced the Development Package (Reconstruction Plan) for Jammu and Kashmir on 7.11.2015. The Ministry of Tourism under the new initiative -Development of Tourism in the State–New Projects has sanctioned two projects to NPCC and NBCC in J&K for being implemented this September. Integrated Development of Tourist facilities at Gulmarg–Baramulla–Kupwara–Leh to NBCC for Rs. 96.92 crore and Integrated Development of Tourist facilities at Mantalai–Sudhmahadev–Patnitop in Jammu & Kashmir to NPCC for Rs.  97.82 crore. Major components sanctioned under the projects are Yoga centre, wellness SPA, Log Huts, heliports, Open air theatre, walking trail, landscaping, solar lighting, solid waste management & public amenities etc.

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Inbound sector completely ignored

Rajan Sehgal, Chairman, TAAI- Northern Chapter, has a stern opinion on Union Budget. “For the last so many years, there has been no mention of tourism. This time as well, tourism was mentioned only for two minutes. We cannot think of growth and promotion of tourism internationally without having our house in order. No monument in India is of international standard, and people only know of the Taj Mahal, which is the only monument we can sell, which too is not tourism friendly.” On how the Budget ignored the inbound sector, Sehgal says, “Tourism brings in foreign exchange as well as creates employment. Very cleverly, the government has seen outbound tourism where they have seen two crore people are travelling, and thus they should come in the tax bracket. But they have not emphasised on inbound, which would bring the foreign exchange. They are just trying to collect tax, but they have not understood the potential of tourism. We have to have direct interaction with the Prime Minister’s Office. Tourism needs to be a very easy industry, and the tax should be simplified in this sector. Other countries follow this and are booming.”

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Allocate more funds for commerce ministry

Sarab Jit Singh, Vice-Chairman, FAITH, appreciated the Finance Minister for taking cognizance of FAITH’s recommendations. “The positive in today’s budget is acceptance and announcement by the Finance Minister of creating five special tourism zones, which was FAITH’s recommendation. Secondly, the announcement for Incredible India branding to be relaunched internationally and 35 per cent increase for its allocation is also a positive from our perspective,” he says. He goes on to explain the flip side. “The negative point according to me is the fact that the government is saying that exports are going down. However, tourism is the only industry which can now bring foreign exchange and generate employment, and the only incentives we were getting from were from the Ministry of Commerce, whose total allocation in the budget has now been reduced. Thus, it is a counterproductive feature. If the government wants to increase imports and wants growth, they cannot have lesser allocation for commerce ministry.” He contemplates on the status of tourism industry post this budget and says, “Tourism in the country is not growing for many years. We have lost for decades together; we have lost marketplace completely internationally; as well as we have lost to competing countries. Until the government moves all the aspects together with full force, we will not have results. I agree that the Prime Minister should talk to the industry directly.”

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5 special tourism zones announced in Union Budget 2017-18

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting Budget 2017-18 announced that the government will establish five special tourism zones in the next financial year. “Tourism is a big employment generator and has a multiplier impact on the economy. Five special tourism zones anchored on SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) will be set up in partnership with the states,” Jaitley said on Wednesday. Other key takeaways for the tourism industry with respect to the Railway Budget are dedicated tourism/pilgrimage trains, 500 stations to be made differently-abled friendly, Coach Mitra facility to be introduced and bio-toilets for all coaches by 2019, offer competitive ticket-booking facility and no service charge for tickets booked on IRCTC, and new metro rail policy to be announced soon. In a boost to infrastructure development, Jaitley announced allocation of Rs 64,000 crore for national highways. He also announced Rs 2 trillion for transport sector. Jaitley has also announced that Head Post Offices will now be used as the front office for passport services.

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PNR data to be submitted to Indian Customs

Albert Tjoeng, Assistant Director, Corporate Communications, Asia Pacific at International Air Transport Association (IATA),  takes heart from the Union Budget. “The Finance bill 2017 has added new provisions for the future introduction of submission of PNR data by airlines to the Indian Customs, he says. He adds that IATA hopes that the established global standards for transmission of PNRGOV data would be adhered to. “We would also urge that stakeholder consultations precede the development of any regulations detailing the form and data elements for this information,” he concludes.

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Not much to help the industry

Vikram Madhok, Managing Director, Abercrombie & Kent India, says that the budget really has not taken tourism into much consideration. “Yes, a lot has been said about the railways in the budget and we welcome any other infrastructure investment, but there is not much that is going to help the industry directly. This year’s budget has nothing much for tourism,” he added.

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Key tourism issues omitted

IATO President Pronab Sarkar says budget did not give any encouragement to the tourism industry. “There was no mention of the tourism industry, and no benefits or plus points were announced. Apart from speaking about five tourism circuits and second phase of the Incredible India campaign, nothing else was mentioned.” Detailing their expectations and the disappointment that followed, Sarkar says, “We were expecting e-visa changes to be applicable, which were announced in December. The Prime Minister is talking about branding India and mentioning tourism amongst the five pillars, but no one has looked into the prospects of this Industry. Thus, the government needs to be sensitised. As association, we tried seeking appointment with him and did write to him on Twitter, but haven’t heard from anyone as yet.”

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Rural and infrastructure focus will boost tourism indirectly

P.P. Khanna, President, ADTOI, says, “The Union Budget didn’t directly focus on tourism, but was more directed at the rural sector, youth and infrastructure. However, there was a mention of the Global Incredible India campaign. Also, the proposal of developing India International Institutes for foreign languages would really benefit the tourism industry, and would offer employment to almost 1 lakh students graduating from these institutes every year. The dedication towards Clean India and Skill India would also result in a boost to tourism and creating employment in this sector, and boosting domestic tourism.” He highlighted another positive which is the waiving off of Service Charge on IRCTC bookings. “The focus on rural tourism might lead to better infrastructure and education in these areas, which in turn would help bring tourists to these areas as well. However, the effect of all these things would only be seen in three to five years.”

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Tourism left to fend for itself

Homa Mistry, CEO, Trail Blazer Tours India, takes a very despair outlook to the omission of tourism and hospitality from the Union Budget 2017-18. “Tourism has been going through very tough times and we have realized we are on our own. I did not have any expectations from the government and as always the Budget did not have anything for the tourism and hospitality industry. I am just not surprised,” he says. Mistry remains cautious about the upcoming Goods and Services Tax. “We are however looking forward to the Good and Services Tax (GST) Bill which too shall be more of a bomb dropped on us,” he adds.

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India grants 5-year multiple entry visa to Thai nationals

The Government of India has liberalised its visa policy for Thai nationals. It has decided to grant five-year multiple entry Tourist Visa and five-year multiple entry Business visa to Thai nationals with immediate effect with continuous stay of 90 days during each visit. It has also started Express visa service where visa will be issued by next working day. Separate Immigration counters and facilitation desks will be provided for Medical Visa. This service will initially be available at international airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. India has also relaxed the minimum salary limit and fixed at Rs 9.10 lakhs per anum for Employment visa to those Thai nationals who will be engaged at teaching faculty in the IITs, Central Universities, NITs etc. Foreign teaching faculty employed at South Asian University and Nalanda University will be exempted from minimum salary limit for the purpose of employment visa. Indian Embassy will grant Intern Visa to Thai nationals to pursue internship in Indian companies, educational Institutions and NGOs up to a maximum of 50 interns per year. Indian Embassy will also encourage Thai nationals to shoot feature film in excellent Indian locations and they will be provided Film Visa.

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