The Union Cabinet is likely to consider a set of policy measures for the tourism ministry, including granting it infrastructure sector status. The tourism industry has been one of the sectors hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions.
A report by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) stated that India’s tourism industry lost about 21 million jobs in just three quarters of the last financial year due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In 2018, the travel and tourism industry estimated to be worth $234 billion was the largest service industry in India. It has no doubt been one of the largest foreign exchange earners in India.
The Government is making serious efforts to boost investment in the tourism sector. According to Business Today, the grant of such a status will allow companies in the tourism sector to access longer maturity loans and flexibility refinancing through specialized lenders, with benefits including easier clearances for foreign direct investment.
The government is also considering refund of Goods and Services Tax (GST) to foreign visitors for purchases made during their travels in India. This is being practiced by overseas destinations, including the European Union.
Moreover, the proposed new National Tourism Policy will fulfill another long pending demand, that is, the revamp of India’s visa, immigration and customs policies. The changes aim to boost tourism, including medical tourism. In July 2021, the ministry drafted a proposal titled ‘National Strategy and Roadmap for Medical and Wellness Tourism’ and has requested recommendations and feedback from several Central Ministries, all state and UT governments and administrations as well as industry partners to make the document more comprehensive. And earlier in May, Prahlad Singh Patel, the Union Minister of State (IC) for Tourism & Culture, participated in the G20 tourism ministers’ meeting to collaborate with member countries in protecting tourism businesses, jobs and taking initiatives to frame policy guidelines to support the sustainable and resilient recovery of travel and tourism.
Furthermore, the government is planning to leverage on the lighthouses in the country. As such 71 lighthouses have been identified in India which will be developed as tourist spots. The lighthouses will feature museums, amphi-theatres, open air theatres, cafeterias, children’s parks, eco-friendly cottages and landscaping according to its capacity.