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New Delhi (India), February 23: Since almost all the business activities across the world have to undergo painstakingly hard times for the last two years (since the beginning of 2020) due to the unprecedented pandemic (COVID) situation, the mass vaccination drive globally has now been a ray of hope for letting the sordid state of affairs limp back to normalcy.
Thus, the hospitality industry called the hotel business, chiefly dependent on tourism and footfalls of the tourists, is claimed to be recouping after the lifting of bans and gradual relaxations in the restrictions imposed earlier by the respective nations for strictly enforcing the COVID protocols.
It’s obvious on the part of a stakeholder of this hotel industry to nurse the long-cherished wish of reclaiming the pre-COVID growth rates.
Noted hotelier Souvagya Mohapatra recounted that the last two years inflicted upon a nightmarish experience and put them to the acid test of both patience and perseverance.
“The hospitality industry encountered challenges never seen before, and every passing day was a fierce battle to be fought in a bid to overcome the pandemic pangs both physically and psychologically. Needless to say, the acute financial losses kept on piling up and up,” Mr Mohapatra lamented.
Quoting an article of March 2020 in a news portal then, the ace hotelier said that 70% of hotels and restaurants were inching fast to be shut down, and there had been no tangible relief from the government.
The hospitality industry was left in the lurch to fend for itself, he confided.
Mr Mohapatra narrated that he was then the chieftain of a reputed hotel industry of eastern India that owned 12 luxurious properties across the country when the imposition of lockdown struck like a bolt from the blue. All their bookings got cancelled, screeching the business transactions to a grinding halt—the financial losses accrued to the tune of crores INR.
“Each and every hotelier, be it a big shot or small fry, was in a precarious position of inability to pay even the salary of the respective employees,” Mohapatra groaned but heaved a sigh of relief, noting that their laudable quality of resilience acted as a lifebuoy following which the industry is gradually keeping pace to be back as a thriving sector.
He opines that domestic tourism in our country has often played and is still playing a pivotal role in bringing the hospitality industry back on track. It is because the lesser-known tourist destinations are being highlighted today owing to the social media revolution, for which more and more tourists are getting lured to those spots. This has also been a blessing in disguise for the local communities for eking out a living.
Hotelier Mr Souvagya Mohapatra beamed, saying that the upward graph of the tourism, as well as hotel industry, has regained momentum in the wake of the complete lifting of lockdown and extensive relaxations in the pandemic protocols. A sudden rush in the tourist footfalls is being witnessed now, pumping an elixir of life to the hospitality business.
“Besides the boom in the domestic tourism, our hotel industry is pinning high hopes on the plethora of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) along with weddings and other parties/banquets,” he further beamed optimistically.
He also contended that tourists from abroad would start flocking soon after the international flights resume their usual travel schedules.
The renowned hotelier, who originally hails from Odisha, urges the Indian government to declare the tourism sector as a “priority one for the next two years” and “offer it an industry status.”
He also expects and reiterates that there should be provisions in the Union Budget to “lend loans with rates of interest as offered to other industries with the flexibility of restructuring the loans at least twice because of the lean cycles the hospitality business venture into every now and then.”
Mr Mohapatra also expects, “There should be an offer of tariffs at par with the industry if not offered lower. Tax concession should be provided to hotels and resorts in India in a bid to boost up the demand for both the domestic and inbound tourism.”
He further bats, “Tax subsidy to the travel agents should be provided as they help in promoting Forex earnings through inbound tourism. The travel agents should also be offered incentives for earning Forex as has been the case in the exports sector.”
The well-experienced and successful hotelier also has other major points to raise before the Government of India for consideration and implementation.
The highlights are like “creating a budget provision for appointing several large PR companies globally to promote Product India with all its diversity and hospitality, providing tax refunds to domestic travellers spending a substantial amount from their vocational purse during their sojourns in India and also offering financial tax support to the corporate or associations conducting their meetings and organizing events here in India.”
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