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Visa system, heritage sites take centre stage in India's tourism budget
Rohit Kaul, New Delhi, March 2, 2015
 

THE Union Budget 2015-2016 unveiled two days ago, lauded as a sensible, pro-business one by economists, has drew a mixed response from the Indian travel industry.

 

Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that the government will be extending e-visas to 150 countries in phases, up from the current 43, and restore tourist facilities at 25 of India’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including landscaping, signage, parking, toilets and access for people with mobility challenges, among other amenities.

 

TTG Asia e-Daily understands that China, Malaysia, the UK, Spain, France and Italy are likely to be some of beneficiaries.

 

Welcoming the visa programme extension, Rajesh Magow, co-founder and CEO-India, MakeMyTrip, commented: “This would definitely boost tourism for the country and will give a competitive advantage to India against other destinations in South Asia and the Middle East.”

 

Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook India, said: “The focus on developing UNESCO World Heritage Sites is of huge value, given that many are in a bad shape and have received scant attention in the past.”

 

However, the industry expressed frustration at the increase in service tax from 12.4 per cent to 14 per cent.

 

“We have pleaded with the government to extend exemption of service tax to tour operators based on their foreign exchange earnings. Instead of doing so, the government has put additional burden (on tour operators) by increasing service tax, which will make our packages costlier,” said Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators.

 

Also expressing disappointment by the lack of improvement on the aviation front, Rohit Kapur, president, Business Aircraft Operators Association, said: “Regional and remote connectivity cannot take off in India unless the larger issues are addressed. Aviation turbine fuel costs in India are highest in the world and 90 per cent of Indian aircraft are being maintained overseas due to high duties and costs.”

 
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