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    India needs to make working credit available for tourism industry: UNWTO Director

    Synopsis

    Suman Billa, director at World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said India had issued safety and hygiene guidelines for reopening the sectors and the UNWTO has supported the Indian government by reviewing the guidelines in line with international best practices.

    Agencies
    Suman Billa, director at World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)
    NEW DELHI: India should look at policy fixes which can help the tourism industry following the Covid-19 pandemic and the basic requirement is the centre should make working credit available to the industry, said Suman Billa, director at World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and former joint secretary, ministry of tourism, government of India, in an interview to ET.

    Billa is posted at the Madrid headquarters of UNWTO, the United Nations agency, which offers support to the sector in advancing tourism policies worldwide.

    “From an Indian perspective, the basic requirement is for the centre to make working credit available. Tourism businesses operate on thin margins and hence, centre should provide access to institutional capital,” he said.

    “The centre did announce some relief measures for the MSME sector and most tourism establishments will fall under that. Banks prefer to work with those with whom they have a prior relationship and hence the need for a liberal approach to ensure access,” he added.

    He said India had issued safety and hygiene guidelines for reopening the sectors and the UNWTO has supported the Indian government by reviewing the guidelines in line with international best practices.

    Billa said states in India should look at waiving or deferring charges like utilities and property tax.

    “There has been no business and hotels are not making money. They should charge them on an actual use basis rather than on past consumption patterns. Establishments have not made any money on liquor so the existing liquor licenses could be extended for another 8 more months or so. This will help the industry. From an industry perspective, it is good to ask for what you need. But they also need to be realistic because governments are also stressed. We should look at policy fixes which can help us,” he added.

    As per internal UNWTO estimates, there are likely to be 1 billion lesser people travelling this year and the tourism industry worldwide is likely to clock $ 1 trillion less in terms of revenues, he said.

    On July 30, UNWTO stated 40% of all destinations worldwide have now eased the restrictions they placed on international tourism in response to Covid-19.

    “We are looking at something that is unprecedented. India should be out of the woods in another 2-3 months. Countries like Spain and Italy are opening up their economies. Even without a definite medicine or vaccine, we can restart the sector by having strong safety and hygiene protocols. We may not have the luxury of waiting for a vaccine considering the situation of the industry,” he said and added that by September October, India also needs to have an aggressive strategy for focused markets.

    “We need to figure out what our value proposition is and attack markets as they open up. Products like yoga, Ayurveda, spirituality etc would be promising. It has to be a localised and focussed campaign rather than a general campaign. That is when the industry can also request the government for some support.”

    He said most countries are stocking up the war chest for the health sector. “You don't know how much medical care needs to be augmented for. The real stimulus will come after you have reasonably seen off the pandemic and you want to press ahead with the business again.”
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