Travel agents and tour operators’ businesses, in the past 14 months, have been down to about 5% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI). In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the association said basic survival has become a challenge.
“Our members tried their best to sustain their staff for a few months, however with the second and a possible third wave, we are compelled to reach out to you for guidance, assistance and encouragement so as to take care of the livelihood of the personnel working in the trade,” the letter said. “The worst hit are our junior and mid-level teams who are unable to survive ever for basic needs. This includes frontline counter staff, ticketing staff, tour planners, accountants, the airport representatives, porters, drivers, guides, sales and marketing staff, administrative team etc. The middle and senior members, including the owners are affected too,” it added.
TAAI highlighted that the travel and tourism employs over 11% of the total workforce in India. “We generated 10% of the National GDP, the largest in services sector contributing to $234 billion in 2018 and Foreign Exchange earnings over $30 billion in 2019. From 2015-19, 14.62 million additional jobs were created,” the letter said. “Moratorium for at least two year frsom all loan EMIs for our staff and members, a grant of Rs 10,000 per month per employee for the next one year until normalcy resumes. This shall be paid back, free of interest to the government in installments over 24 months thereafter or deducted at 15% of their salary and paid back to the exchequer.”
It aid fresh co-lateral free loans and overdraft facilities to the member organizations and personnel be provided at rebated interest for a period of at least five years until things are restored back to normalcy. “This shall give support to them to meet their administrative overheads and promote travel and tourism effectively. The same could be computed on last three years average,” TAAI said. “Income tax holiday for next five years for member travel agents and tour operators and rebates on digital payments.”
The association pointed out that credit card companies, banks are charging between 2% to 3.5% for payments received through credit card or wallets. It said this hinders the purpose, revenue and ease of doing business. Many of its members have been trying to run their businesses from home to cut down on lease rentals. “But several authorities are not permitting residences to be used as official addresses,” the TAAI said. As such, it urged the prime minister to direct the states to help the travel agents out in this regard.