New Delhi: The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO)- a body representing more than 17,00 tour operators specialising in inbound tours, has written to prime minister Narendra Modi seeking the release of Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) benefits for 2019-20 which could help tour operators survive and revive their businesses.
SEIS benefits are given to the tourism industry based on its foreign exchange earnings under FTP and these funds are used for promotions, marketing and packages to attract more foreign tourists to the country. But, for 2019-20, SEIS benefits have not been announced by the government. IATO said its members had already spent their funds to compete with neighbouring countries this year, anticipating SEIS will be given to tour operators.
In his letter to the prime minister dated October 27, IATO president Pronab Sarkar stated the inbound travel and tourism industry is the worst affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic as all tourist visas have been suspended since March 2020. “Offices of inbound tour operators are closed since March 25, 2020 and there is zero business, zero billing and zero cash flow,” Sarkar stated in his letter and added: “Our government had announced various financial packages in the past few months, but unfortunately our industry did not get any such financial help. All our members are reeling under financial crisis as it has become very difficult for them to manage anymore and survive without any earnings in last seven months. No bank loans are available for us as banks have declared tourism a high-risk business.”
Sarkar wrote under the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20, a provision is made for the tourism services to get SEIS scrips benefits every year on their foreign exchange earnings during 2015-20.
“Without the support of SEIS benefits, tour operators shall not be able to perform and compete with their neighbouring countries and attract more foreign tourists to India,” he stated and added: “This will result in loss of business, thus losing valuable foreign exchange and loss of jobs for the country.”
He has requested for announcing SEIS scrips for 2019-20 at the earliest besides increasing the SEIS scrips percentage from 7% to 10% for the tour operators and travel agents.
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