MOT formulates guidelines for approval of Online Travel Aggregators

The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) has formulated the guidelines for approval/re-approval of Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs). The scheme is expected to set standards towards accreditation and add value to the dependability and reliability to the aggregators in the online space operating in the organised tourism sector. This is a voluntary scheme open to bonafide online travel aggregators to bring them on a common platform in the organised sector and the guidelines will be rolled out online by year end.
There are several players in the OTA segment operating now without any accreditation/validation. One of the risks of letting the market operate unhindered is that unscrupulous players can vitiate the entire market through unethical trade practices. In order to engage with the OTAs constructively, it is imperative that a system is put in place with qualitative benchmarks to accredit them. The paramount concern would be the assurance of quality of service delivery for the customer by the OTA.
The major features of the guidelines are: recognition as an approved OTA shall be granted by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, for five years, based on the inspection report/recommendations of a committee comprising the concerned Regional Director (RD), a representative of FHRAI and a representative of IATO, and approval of Competent Authority (Chairman, HRACC); the re-approval shall be granted for five years after inspection conducted by a committee of the same constitution, based upon an application, complete and free from all deficiencies, made by OTA along with the requisite fee/documents on the online platform, at least a clear 6 months prior to the expiry of the previous approval. In case the application is complete in all respects and free from all deficiencies is not received at least a clear 6 months prior to the expiry of the previous approval, it will be treated as a case for fresh approval; the documents received from applicants after scrutiny in all respects would be acknowledged online. The inspection for first approval/re-approval shall be conducted by the inspection team within a period of forty working days from the receipt of complete and deficiency-free application and confirmation of payment of fees by Pay & Accounts Office, Ministry of Tourism.
Moreove, it shall be mandatory for an approved OTA to prominently display the certificate of approval given by the Ministry in the office premises by displaying it in a photo frame, so that it is visible to a potential tourist and also under a prominent link on the home page of its main website. Apart from it, the decision of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in the matter of approval/re-approval shall be final. However, the Ministry may at their discretion refuse to re-approve any firm or withdraw/withhold at any time approval/re-approval already granted.