Defer statutory dues for pandemic-hit tourism, urges CII

Industry body also wants hotels opened without time curbs

To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has made recommendations including waiver of fixed charges, deferment of statutory dues, and allowing all hotels to remain open without time restrictions.

“With the new guidelines issued under Unlock 3.0 by the Government of India, we would be extremely grateful if economic activities and business are allowed to operate as permissible under the MHA guidelines,” said Puneet Chhatwal and Deep Kalra, the chairman and co-chairman, respectively, of the CII National Committee on Tourism & Hospitality, in a letter to Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel.

The letter, dated August 13, stated that all categories of hotels, including accommodations, restaurants, banquet halls, bars, spas and gyms, should be opened without any restrictions of timings.requested the Ministry of Tourism to issue an advisory to all State Governments in this regard. It also suggested that while large public gatherings continue to be prohibited, banquets and convention centres may be allowed to take meetings, conference, seminar and social functions with no restrictions of numbers, but linked to the size of banquet hall for 36 sq. ft per person, as safe social distancing for such gatherings. To boost liquidity, the CII suggested that all fixed charges such as electricity, water, LPG and property tax, for the lockdown period be waived. It also sought a 12-month deferment of all statutory dues.

The industry has also requested that loans be made more accessible via a long-term moratorium, interest rate reduction and/or longer repayment schedules which could “aid in salvaging an entire industry”. “Budget 2020 proposed a new TDS levy similar to TCS under GST law, whereby travel agents/tour operators/OTAs are required to withhold 1%/5% TDS while remitting payments to airlines, hotels etc. Keeping in with the fact that the entire industry is heading towards a loss year, the proposed provision should be rolled back,” the letter said, adding that proposed TCS on sale of overseas packages in the Finance Bill 2020 is detrimental to tourism business in India and should be rolled back.

Measures to boost domestic tourism have also been recommended by the industry body, including making e-visa, including tourist, business, medical and conferences visas, free or at a nominal cost till December 2021, zero-rating GST for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) business and on bookings made on domestic travel and tours, and temporary reduction in GST on hotels for a period of two years.

It also suggested the use of a ‘COVID Passport’ for easing travel-test certificate acceptance and a common protocol for quarantine among State governments for seamless inter-State travel.

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