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India plans to boost tourism, travel in annual budget

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New Delhi: India is planning to cut taxes on travel and tourism in next month’s federal budget and give more incentives to the $210 billion sector, government sources said, hoping to boost economic growth and create more jobs.

The move could add to a domestic tourism boom in the world’s second most populous nation, where low inflation and rising incomes are changing lifestyles and consumption patterns of an estimated 250 million middle-class Indians. With scores of destinations introduced on airline routes last year, air travel is also surging.

India’s tourism sector grew over 10 per cent in the six months ending September, compared to near 8 per cent in the year-ago period. According to an industry report, tourism employs 40 million people in India and could add 10 million jobs in a decade.

 

“We’ll announce measures in the budget to promote investment in the tourism sector,” a top finance ministry official told Reuters, adding that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley favours lowering a 28 per cent tax on hotel tariffs, and offering incentives to attract private investments.

If the moves come about, companies expected to benefit include airlines like IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, and Jet Airways and hotel operators such as Indian Hotels, that owns the Taj Mahal chain and EIH Ltd that operates the Oberoi hotels in India.

Tour operators including Cox & Kings and Thomas Cook are also likely to gain.

In India tourists, on average, pay 30 per cent tax on hotel rooms and travel compared with less than 10 per cent in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, said Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO).
Another government official said the budget was likely to “significantly” raise allocations for tourism infrastructure and raise income tax exemptions on investments in new hotels.

A third official, who is aware of the finance ministry’s pre-budget consultations with industry groups, said Jaitley was expected to lower income tax on corporate profit, offer tax incentives on hotel construction, allocate more funds for new tourist trains and building roads to tourist destinations.

The government will offer incentives to more regional airlines this year to cover new, under-served airports, the official added.

All three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to provide numbers or share further details.
India needs about 200,000 new hotel rooms, Tourism Minister K J Alphons told parliament this week.

“We have reached a plateau point and need more resources to create new infrastructure and develop tourist packages,” Alphons later told Reuters, adding there was huge potential in developing areas that were not the usual tourist destinations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said developing tourism, particularly in India’s remote north-eastern states, is one of his top priorities.

Hotel occupancy levels in India are at their highest levels since 2008, even though many hotel chains have raised prices.

The need for rooms has been spotted by foreign investors with Japan’s SoftBank Group backing start-ups like OYO Rooms, which has emerged as the largest aggregator of budget accommodation across the country with hotels in over 200 destinations.

One major driver of the domestic tourism boom has been the launch in 2017 of five regional budget airlines on over 100 routes, which are given incentives by the government to offer cut-price flights to uncovered and remote areas, encouraging thousands of families to explore flying for the first time.

“We have reached a plateau point and need more resources to create new infrastructure and develop tourist packages,” Alphons later told Reuters, adding there was huge potential in developing areas that were not the usual tourist destinations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said developing tourism, particularly in India’s remote north-eastern states, is one of his top priorities.

Hotel occupancy levels in India are at their highest levels since 2008, even though many hotel chains have raised prices.

The need for rooms has been spotted by foreign investors with Japan’s SoftBank Group backing start-ups like OYO Rooms, which has emerged as the largest aggregator of budget accommodation across the country with hotels in over 200 destinations.

One major driver of the domestic tourism boom has been the launch in 2017 of five regional budget airlines on over 100 routes, which are given incentives by the government to offer cut-price flights to uncovered and remote areas, encouraging thousands of families to explore flying for the first time.


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US to eliminate Iran oil sanctions waiver for India, 7 others:Report

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Washington: The United States is expected to announce that all importers of Iranian oil will have to end their imports shortly or be subject to US sanctions, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The source confirmed a report by a Washington Post columnist that the administration will terminate the sanctions waivers it had granted to some importers of Iranian oil late last year.

US President Donald Trump has been clear to his national security team over the last few weeks that he wants the waivers to end, and national security adviser John Bolton has been working the issue within the administration.

 

The US reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East.

Along with sanctions, Washington has also granted waivers to eight economies that had reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months

They were China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.

But on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce “that, as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country that is currently importing Iranian crude or condensate,” the Post’s columnist Josh Rogin said in his report, citing two State Department officials that he did not name
Frank Fannon, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, repeated the administration’s position that “Our goal is to get to zero Iranian exports as quickly as possible.

“Other countries have been watching to see whether the United States would continue the waivers. Last Tuesday, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey expects the United States to extend a waiver granted to Ankara to continue oil purchases from Iran without violating US sanctions.

Turkey did not support US sanctions policy on Iran and did not think it would yield the desired result, Kalin told reporters in Washington.

Washington has a campaign of ‘maximum economic pressure’ on Iran and through sanctions, it eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke Tehran’s main source of revenue.

So far in April, Iranian exports were averaging below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Refinitiv Eikon data and two other companies that track such exports and declined to be identified.

That is lower than at least 1.1 million bpd as estimated for March, and down from more than 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were reimposed last May. Brent crude futures , the international oil benchmark, were up nearly 2 per cent at USD 73.25 a barrel, on the report that the waivers were to end.

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Maruti drives in Baleno with BS VI compliant petrol engine

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New Delhi: The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Said it has launched its premium hatchback Baleno with BS VI emission norms compliant petrol engine, priced between Rs 5.58 lakh and Rs 8.9 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

The auto major has also introduced two variants of the car with smart hybrid technology. The trim with 1.2 litre DUALJET, DUAL VVT petrol engine is priced at Rs 7.25 lakh, while the Zeta variant is tagged at Rs 7.86 lakh. As per the company, the models with smart hybrid technology would deliver a fuel efficiency of 23.87 km/litre.

“At Maruti Suzuki, we strive to bring newer, better and environment friendly technologies to our products. Baleno Smart Hybrid with BS VI stands testament to the same. We are confident that the premium hatchback Baleno will present a complete package in line with aspirations of evolving customers,” MSI Senior Executive Director Marketing & Sales R S Kalsi said in a statement.

 

The company said in order to achieve the stringent emission regulation requirement, it has upgraded both engine hardware and software along with exhaust system.”Baleno is country’s first premium hatchback to be offered with Smart Hybrid technology,” it added.

MSI has sold over 5.5 lakh Baleno units since its launch in 2015. It sold more than 2 lakh units of the hatchback in the last fiscal year.

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SpiceJet, Emirates sign MoU for code share partnership

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Mumbai: Budget carrier Spicejet announced signing of an initial pact for code share partnership with Gulf carrier Emirates.

The reciprocal partnership will allow opening of new routes and destinations for passengers of the two airlines, SpiceJet said in a statement.

“I am delighted to announce that as part of SpiceJet’s international expansion strategy, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a code share agreement,” SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said in the statement.

 

SpiceJet passengers from 51 domestic destinations will be able to access Emirates’ network across the US, Europe, Africa and Middle East, it added.

Code-sharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.

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