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30 months ago | Published on : 02:06 pm, 17 Mar 2012

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) The travel industry Saturday panned the union budget, accusing the government of neglecting it.

Travel operators said apart from the hike in service tax, the larger picture was worrisome.

"We have been neglected. We were expecting the budget to be pro-tourism but are disappointed," Gour Kanjilal, executive director of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), told IANS.

"Increasing the sales tax will hit all components of travel and hospitality industry. We will never be able to compete with destinations like Thailand and Singapore."

According to Kanjilal, the industry has the potential to generate employment opportunities in backward and remote areas of the country too provided it is encouraged.

"You need to have a pro-active approach towards tourism especially when there’s a global economic recession.”

George Kutty, secretary, northern region of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), said that the industry had never got its due in the past and even today the budget held nothing positive.

“Our government is not serious about promoting tourism and just wants to tax us heavily. There focus remains software industries,” he said.

But the industry honchos did welcome the government's proposal to allow cash-strapped airlines to directly import aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to reduce oil costs.

“Our aviation industry is facing turbulent weather, and we hence welcome the announcement of $1 billion ECBs (External Commercial Borrowing) for airlines to fund their working capital requirements,” said Madhavan Menon, managing director of Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

Added Kanjilal: “The 14 percent increase in allocation of funds for developing road transport and highways will boost tourism. People will be encouraged to venture out more due to smooth roads and reduced distances.”

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday proposed building 8,800 km of highway under the national highways development project (NHDP) for 2012-13 fiscal, enhancing the allocation by 14 percent to Rs.25,360 crore.

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