The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) is one of the strongest travel trade associations of India, which has, over the years, been judiciously working with the Ministry of Tourism to seek reliefs and benefits for the members of the association in particular and travel trade community in general, in an endeavour to up the business numbers as well as image of India. The strong and dedicated team of IATO, comprising Mr. Pronab Sarkar, (President); Mr. E.M. Najeeb (Senior Vice President); Mr. Rajiv Mehra (Vice President); Mr. Rajesh Mudgil (Hony. Secretary) and Mr. Ravi Gosain (Hony. Treasurer) have been the torchbearers of the same.
As the IATO Elections are just round the corner, here is a look at some of the landmark achievements of the Association in the last two years –
1. The efforts of IATO with Bureau of Immigration about the problems being faced by the foreign tourists at the Immigration Counter for clearance and also for the e-Tourist Visa applicants to complete the formalities for bio-metric process the yielded fruitful results
• First/Business Class counters restored
• 55 additional immigration counters planned
• Additional Bio-metric machines installed
• Additional staff posted especially for peak hours.
• Instructions given to address the issue of long queues at the immigration counters
2. With regular follow up from IATO Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India on 20th December 2017 exempted the cruise tourist arriving with E-Visa at the ports of Mumbai, Cochin, Mormugao, Chennai and New Mangalore from the requirement of biometric enrollment for a period of three (3) years i.e. till 31st December 2020, for the persons above the age of 12 years and below the age of 70 years.
3. On IATO recommendations many short distance circuits under Regional Connectivity of Udaan Scheme were added by Ministry of Civil Aviation.
4. Inclusion of IATO recommendations on GST in strategy papers by department of economic affairs, ministry of finance, government of India
5. IATO made representations and had regular meetings with Ministry of Finance, GST Council, State Finance Ministers, Tax Research Units. The results were:
• Input Tax Credit (ITC) of input services in the same line of business at the GST rate of 5% in case of tour operator service have been achieved.
• GST under Reverse Charge Mechanism on services like monuments entry fee, guide fee, camel, horse, jeep Safaris has been deferred till 30th September, 2019.
• Hotel rate of tax on accommodation service shall be based on transaction value (Value of Supply) instead of Declared Tariff.
• Lower rate of GST of 18% on hotel room rent below Rs. 7500/- which was earlier 28%.
6. On the recommendation of IATO the Global Media Campaign, which was started by the Ministry in 2018 on IATO recommendations continued for 2019 also.
7. IATO liaised with various ministries on cascading effect of GST on tour operators, E-Visa, according status of deemed exporters to Tourism industry and extended all benefits to tour operators, revised Guide Policy, Group Reservation Policy with the Railways, based on feedback received from members.
2019 & 2020 till date
1. On the persuasion of IATO, GST rates were lowered to make India more a competitive destination.
2. With regular follow up of IATO and with the support from the Ministry of Tourism Government of India, e-Tourist Visa Fee was reduced by the Ministry of Home affairs. Government of India announced the reduction of VISA FEE
3. The landmark 35th IATO Annual Convention was organized from 12-15 September 21019 in Kolkata at Kolkata with commendable attendance of over 1000 delegates. The inaugural, well-appointed sessions, state presentations, FAM Trips and the presence of policy makers augured well for the promotion of tourism, especially West Bengal – the gateway to Eastern India.
4. IATO planned apt sessions of training programme in 2019 and organized 7 training programme (April- July) and were attended by over 270 participants. Training Programme covered subject viz. Tourism – Opportunities for Gen-X’., Office Attendants, Digital Marketing Workshop on Double Your Leads & Get Overbooked – The Science of Attracting Clients Magnetically.
5. IATO prepared a vision document – “TOURISM – AN ENGINE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH AND EMPLOYMENT GENERATION” that elaborated the problems which Indian Tourism industry is facing and the suggestions to overcome such problems.
6. IATO video on women safety was launched by the Hon’ble Minister of Tourism on 14th September 2019 during the Valedictory Function of the 35th IATO Annual Convention. It would immensely aid tour operators in marketing India globally. IATO has made one exclusive Video on Thematic Destination which was also released by the Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Government of India on 23rd October 2019 at the inaugural function of ITM at The Ashok Hotel.
7. IATO New Look Newsletter is the first of its kind and an instrument for maintaining link with our membership.
8. With the regular efforts of IATO the validity of Airport Passes was extended till 31st March 2020 for the tour operators.
9. On issue of SEIS a representation was made by IATO in consultation with M/s. Ernst & Young with follow up meetings with the authorities. We placed before them that the SEIS benefit was a relief to boost our industry which has encouraged tour operators to venture into new markets to promote and market India Tourism at their own cost. This has been sorted out and pending cases have been cleared.
10. Tax Refund for Tourists (TRT) Scheme would significantly boost India’s appeal for travelers and put local retailers on a level playing field in competing with regional travel and shopping destinations such as the UAE, Thailand, Singapore, China and Malaysia – each of whom offer a tax refund scheme for visitors. This will significantly increase the Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) for the country and foreigners will be encouraged for shopping in India.
11. IATO successfully took up with Air India, IndiGo, Spice jet and Vistara to introduce or add additional flights on certain sectors which are important for the tourism industry and need better air connectivity
12. Mr. Pronab Sarkar and Mr. Rajiv Mehra were felicitated by Aurangabad First (AF) and Aurangabad Tourism Development Foundation (ATDF) for taking painstaking effort in taking up the demand of air-linking Aurangabad to major destinations like Udaipur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, in one year