In 2019, India attracted 10.5 million foreign visitors; 5 million NRIs travelled back home to be with family and friends; 1.8 billion Indians travelled within the country for holidays, pleasure and leisure; 26 million Indians travelled overseas for tourism…. India has an estimated 53,000 travel agents, 115,000 tour operators, 15,000 adventure companies, 911,000 tourist transporters, 53,000 hospitality companies and five lakh restaurants … the industry employs an estimated 3.8 crore people. And these statistics do not include numbers for aviation and starred hotels which are not in the medium & small enterprises count.
Let us look at 25 possible trends in the near future, each important in its own way:
The 5 key factors, however, in the overall travel scenario that will drive all of the above trends will be:
The business may take anything between 9 to 24 months to start climbing back to previous peaks. Till then the headwinds will be strong and severe. Some will succeed, some will struggle, some will perish.
Indian agriculture provides employment opportunities to more than half of our population. It includes more than 12 crore smallholder and marginal farmers, most of them face annual risks related to low rainfall, price volatility, inflation, weak infrastructure, debts and so on. Covid-19 pandemic is an added challenge for this sector and its stakeholders, effecting majority of population due to its large outreach. On one hand rural sector is one of the neglected sectors and on the other hand, global tensions left us to concentrate more on local consumption and production, leaving no other option to look upon producers, local enterprises and rural economy.
We have heard “Necessity is Mother of Invention” since our childhood, and this pandemic proved it right for Indian agriculture sector too. We have seen various steps taken by government during this pandemic time, many of those were required since decades. Covid-19 surprised us all and provided stakeholders an opportunity to experiment, test, learn and implement innovative ideas. Pandemic struck when farmers were about to harvest their Rabi (winter) crop and prepare for Kharif, everyone thought of worst to happen, reasons were many; including global pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, global tensions, trust deficit and lack of experience in handling similar issues in past. In particular, lockdown brought challenges to Indian agriculture system; these are mainly related to shortage of labour, equipments, supply chains and fragmented demand.
Initially, people started storing extra grains and cereals in panic, then bumper production of cereals and oilseeds faced issues related to expensive labour and late arrival in markets, and then commodity loaded trucks never reached their destined locations. If we see in terms of supply chain challenges, shorter supply chains faced lesser challenges than long supply chains. Longer supply chains were mostly linked with medium and large enterprises, and hence affected agriculture related medium and large enterprises.
Pandemic left no choice for large enterprises (based on agriculture) than to innovate or optimally utilize available resources and infrastructure; like ITC used ‘E-Chaupal’ platform to procure agri-commodities, Government launched ‘Kisan Rath’ app to support farmers and transporters in locating each other, some agri start-ups delivered fresh vegetables and fruits, future group optimally utilized its already existing supply chain during this tough times. Reports show that farmers have received Rs. 75,000 crore by selling wheat, giving hope to boost local economy in rural areas.
Government took proactive and calculated decisions to handle the situation it never faced and minimised losses. On one hand it announced agriculture commodity as ‘Essential Commodity’ to maintain uninterrupted urban supply chain for milk, vegetables and fruits while on the other hand brought some changes in regulations ensuring smooth agribusiness operations throughout the country. Some of the steps taken are:
1. Allowing farmers to sell their produce to any trader throughout the country, helping them get best price for their produce.
2. Allowing farmers and other stakeholders to get into futures agreement for their far, produce.
3. Removed stock limits for farmers and traders on cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes to encourage infrastructure-related investments in agriculture.
We all know that Covid-19 crisis is temporary and problems in Indian agriculture ecosystem are not new, but this pandemic has reinstated the need of focussed policy on rural development with agriculture and rural population at its core. In long term, this pandemic will definitely going to be seen as turning point for positive changes in Indian agriculture space, including strong supply chains and establishment of agri-enterprises in rural and semi-urban areas.
In my view, the government should focus on following points to make agriculture more resilient and shockproof.
a) Establishing more agri-entrepreneurs and support local value addition
b) Investments in agri-infrastructure including storage, logistics, transport, etc.
c) Utilize Information Technology in agriculture to reach unreached and get hold of real time data.
d) Shortening supply chains to make it useful for farmers as well as medium and large enterprises.
e) Strengthening community based enterprises like producer groups, farmer producer companies, federation etc. to utilise larger base.
f) Create space for innovation in agriculture sector, whether it is farm practice or IT based or something related to logistics.
Let me sum up by saying that Covid-19 gave all of us an opportunity to innovate and test our ideas in a real-life social lab, where we can pilot, test and incubate big ideas to expand and become scalable model. Business environment need to see this time of redesigning and restructuring. Ideas may fail, but we should learn from these failures, something or the other will work and that will help sector to grow.
– by Dr. Agyeya Tripathi
While discussing the revival strategies that can be adopted by the hoteliers, Sumeet Mehta (hotel valuations and finance specialist and the CEO of Paradigm Advisors) said that “Hospitality and Leisure Sector have faced the brunt of COVID-19 Lockdown with Summer Holiday Season totally washed out due to nationwide lockdown. Recovery in the sector is now visible as people have started stepping out and travelling. Hoteliers will have to focus on innovative marketing communications to created confidence in potential travellers that their properties are safe. Increased focus is required on cleanliness and sanitisation of properties to create confidence and evince interest. Premium properties that focused largely on MICE and corporate bookings will have to shift focus on individual travellers. Hoteliers will have to come up with attractive schemes and offers to pull guests and increase occupancy levels. Increased usage of technology and reduction in human interface to ensure safety along with a unique experience will ensure domestic travellers will be enticed to travel, thereby reviving hospitality and leisure sector.”
Rajkumar Sarrof, who owns the Pristine Travels private limited (a mid-sized Kolkata based IATA approved travel agency) gives insight into the problems being faced by the travel operators. As per Sarrof, the tour operators are a deeply divided lot, not just in size and scale, but also in terms of type of business, viz, groups, MICE, FIT, special interest, adventure tours, etc. Different segments have different ailments. The best general support can be to bring in a nodal agency, which can frame rules and announce them. Currently, rules are announced by different authorities, changes rapidly, and is very difficult to keep track of. Rules are in a complicated language and often interpretive, rather than made easy to understand. Support can be in the form of minimal interference, and by bringing in logical rules. Flight restrictions on certain days, keeping a resort open but most of its facilities closed, simply does not make sense….
Nitin Singh, the co-owner and Director of Royal Heritage Camps & Safaris, feels that while considering the revival of the tourism industry “the government should focus more on reforming policies for taxes, permissions, NOC, sanctions, and licenses; constructing more roads for better access especially for niche tourism destinations, and help in creating experiences and not merely sightseeing spots.”
While the revival of this industry must be made into a prime concern for the GOI, it is also essential that post COVID-19 the Indian tourism industry makes a move towards adopting a more sustainable, hygienic, and responsible form of tourism; the mantras being: hygiene, safety, health, quality, and value for money
There has been an increased interest in country’s ancient medical and wellness therapies including yoga, Ayurveda or various practices that come under the AYUSH ministry, Prahlad Singh Patel said. India witnessed a footfall of 6.97 lakh foreign patients on a medical visa in 2019. India, known for its Ayurveda and wellness practices, could benefit immensely from medical tourism as the world gradually recovers from covid-19 pandemic, said Prahlad Singh Patel, minister of state, ministry of tourism and culture on Thursday. He was addressing a session on ‘Reviving the stressed sectors to support the post-covid recovery for India’ at ASSOCHAM’s virtual conference.
“There has been an increased interest in country’s ancient medical and wellness therapies including yoga, Ayurveda or various practices that come under the AYUSH ministry. I feel that India will gain immensely from our ancient knowledge of medicine in a post covid world. Our ancient system of medicine, herbal cures and wellness methods are what people will look for in the coming months as they will deal with the challenges posed by coronavirus infection. After covid, medical tourism in India is expected to rise and we must be prepared for this opportunity,” he noted.
To be sure, India witnessed a footfall of 6.97 lakh foreign patients on a medical visa in 2019. This accounts for 6.9% of total foreign tourist arrivals, as per the estimates put out by ministry of tourism. This leaves a huge headroom for growth. Patel also said that the way Prime Minister NarendraModi led government handled the coronavirus crisis has improved the perception of India at the global level.
“A number of foreign tourists who were stuck in the country due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown chose to stay back in India as they felt safe here than their home country. Corona is almost over now and whatever damage that it had to do has already been done. My focus is on ways to address the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry,” he added.
Patel said that he has accepted the loan restructuring proposals from the hospitality industry and forwarded it to the finance ministry for further approval. He also highlighted that the domestic tourism has started showing early signs of revival and the ministry will continue to promote various sectors such as wildlife and heritage.
“We are witnessing a shift where a majority of travellers are preferring to stay at small and unexplored properties than big hotels. It could be in various tiger reserve projects or other serene places where we have to focus now. Though I feel big hotels will continue to be relevant as international travel and events resume,” he added.
Quite similar to what was shown in the 2011 Hollywood movie Contagion, the Coronavirus has not only caused more than a million deaths, but it has also created abrupt changes in the daily lives of people within a very short time, while adversely affecting global economy and causing widespread panic….
In such a dismal scenario it is imperative that the Government of India takes notice and plays a crucial role in helping the tourism sector to revive itself. Perhaps it can start by bringing in some immediate measures that would reduce the rate of Goods and Services Tax (GST), such as, consider the lowering of GST rates on room tariffs between INR 1000 to INR 7500 for a specific period of time, and lowering the GST 18% on commission earned by tour operators and travel agents for providing certain services. Besides these, the TCS or Tax collection at Source, which is made while making payments to various hotels and airlines, can also be considered for exemption under tax relief measures.
Extending the time for availing Input Tax credit (ITC) for the FY 2019-2020 to March 31st 2021 will help to reduce pressure on cash outflow. Along with this, especially because tourism industry is facing severe losses, reversal of ITC can also be suspended until March 31st 2021. Extending due dates for filing GST returns, providing immunity from tax payment under reverse charge mechanism, and allowing GST on cash or receipt basis until March 31st 2021 can also be considered to help the tourism industry tide over this crisis period.
Courtesy: Monidipa Dey
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