Miscellaneous

Union Budget 2021: Roadmap for smooth progression of tourism

by
Anshuman Bhargava

03 Mar, 2021

This year’s Union budget has been one of the best we have seen in several years. Crisp and transparent, with no lengthy technicalities and undecipherable jargons, no roundabout and shenanigans, this budget has ticked all the right boxes with little room for complaint.

Understandably the industry has given thumbs up to it and an upbeat market rallied behind the positive cues like never before. All the sectors have been catered to as best as possible, despite the limited scope of manoeuvring given the devastating effect corona pandemic had on the global economy that shrunk markets and hit trade.

However, it must be remembered that tourism was one of the worst-hit industries in the pandemic that lasted almost a year and its effects are still on. With curtailed flights and trains and limited movement of people, thousands associated with the industry lost their job and thousands such entrepreneurs had to shut shop in the face of heavy losses.

The provisions in the 2021-22 budget hold significance by way of what the tourism sector has got.

This time the government has allocated Rs 2,026.77 crore for the sector, which is no mean amount by any yardstick. The budget has allocated Rs 1,088.03 crore specifically for the development of tourism infrastructure for FY 2021-22.

The tourism industry is a big enterprise that directly or indirectly employs lakhs of people in various positions and capacities. It has a huge ancillary support system – right from tour operators, to small vendors, suppliers, labour force, truckers, small shops, handicrafts etc. a whole lot of businesses are associated with it.

Therefore, lack of finances has a cascading effect on the whole economy. There are over 75 million people who are directly and indirectly employed in this industry. However, despite some despondency in some quarters, the overall future seems bright as other economic indices have been strengthened adequately, which can create the right ecosystem for the revival of tourism.

Union budget of such a big country like India, that too in such challenging times as these, is a delicate balancing act that may not suit every convenience to the degree we want it. It is through some hits and misses, some trials and errors, some gains and pains that the economy is run and there can be no please-all, perfect-fit budget even if this one comes close to that Utopian premise.

If we see closely there have been some broader issues addressed in the budget, which in the long run is going to help sustainability of the tourism industry.

For instance, the impetus given to enhancing and strengthening road infrastructure in the country through aggressive construction of new expressways can be a support system for the tourism industry as strong connectivity is the backbone of tourism.

Likewise, speeding up of trains and expanding the railway network to far flung areas hitherto unserved, can work as a catalyst in boosting the tourism sector because the more facilitated the ancillary infrastructure is, greater will be people’s movement and leisure outing, that is a bonus for the hotel and hospitality sector.

Higher allocation of Rs 64,180 crore on healthcare, which also includes Rs 35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccines is committed to ensure fast rollout of mass vaccination and restoring normalcy.

This is also expected to give much impetus to the travel and tourism industry in the coming year. Moreover, the privatisation of airlines, allocation of Rs 1.10 lakh crore outlay for railways and boost to infrastructure development such as development of new highway projects is a welcome step. The target of the government has been to ensure the overall increase in the spending capacity of individuals.

Non-addition of any tax burden is an example in that direction. These moves help liquidity flow in the economy that is again going to support tourism and the hotel industry as people will have more expendable income and they will be motivated to pay up and use the liberty to travel about.

Digital transactions that help seamless movement also encourage travel. The onus to some extent also falls on the tourism industry to innovate and improvise through better services, a higher standard of professionalism and cleanliness and smart management to resurrect itself.

This is an opportunity for it to shed flab, become more customer-oriented and offer attractive deals through some price correction or goodies to lure tourists. These things are still largely lacking in the hospitality industry and need to be revisited for a better customer interface and satisfaction index to boost the prospects.

Even if the immediate benefits are not visible, in a long-term perspective, the plans and schemes of today are going to reap rich dividends for all stakeholders in a year or two from now. We are going to have a seminal expansion of world class railway, road and air facilities, which in any case is going to ease business and travel, which has a direct impact on hotel and hospitality.

Our excellent COVID management has already opened up several industries which were suffering the lockdown woes and there has been a renewed activity in several sectors due to the early effective tackling of the pandemic, a feat that many developed countries failed to achieve.

This too has cleared the roadmap for a smooth progression of tourism activities as the months roll by. There are several mega projects underway in various states specifically targeted at tourism promotion, and hotels and other industries are going to benefit from them.

Overall, the government has given a long-term goal to the industry to fight the challenges and recover – and more importantly – sustain. A short-term financial booster would not have done it a world of good in the long run. The Finance Minister took care of that.

That a new era of revival has been ushered in by the government will be visible by and by as the advantages and benefits of the schemes unveiled today start unfolding before our eyes in their full glory in the days to come.

(The author is writer and journalist by profession)

 

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(Disclaimer: This blog post is solely the opinion/beliefs of the author. It does not reflect the views of Press Information Bureau in any way.)