Coronavirus pandemic-hit tour operators seek relief

The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), which represents more than 1,700 tour operators for inbound tourists, has sent an SOS to the Ministry of Tourism seeking relief measures amid “zero business, zero billing, zero cash flow” since the nationwide lockdown that started in March.

In a memorandum to Meenakshi Sharma, director general, Ministry of Tourism, the association pointed that the industry was on the ‘brink of closure’. A lot of small tour operators had shut and the larger ones that were still running were working with skeletal staff. required for maintenance, creditors and supplier’s payments and payment of mandatory government dues.

“The closure has led to direct economic loss of ₹6 lakh crore and indirectly the economy has lost ₹15 lakh crore, which is about 9-10 % of the economy. In terms of employment, more than 4 crore jobs have been lost [in the sector],” IATO said. The situation had become alarming and did not seem to be look like improving in the next six months too, the association said.

The association has sought that tour operators be provided special non-collateral, interest-free, long-term loans under the MSME loan scheme. As per current rules, new borrowers are not being given any loan. It added that a moratorium of 24 months be given to operators who had already taken loan with no interest charged on the interest.

Further, tour operators, travel agents, tourist transport operators should be given a one-time financial grant of 75-80% of the gross salary amount paid to staff, on the basis of the FY19 balance sheet, IATO said.

IATO has also requested for raising of incentive under SEIS (Service Exports from India Scheme) from 7-10% for the tour operators for financial year 2019-20.

“We have approached all the ministries, Finance, Commerce, Niti Aayog, RBI, MSME through the Ministry of Tourism and had various meetings. But unfortunately, none of our demand has been met….Government should support the stakeholders before they become bankrupt and come on the streets. Most of us are at the verge of collapsing as all are small and medium tour operators,” it said.

The industry body also asked that advances paid by the members to the airlines for air tickets, hotels for accommodation, and government departments such as IRCTC for luxury trains, be refunded to operators.

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