Regarding Refund of advance payments made to Airlines for air ticket and State Government for luxury trains and Wildlife Safaris.
18th May 2020
Mr. Rakesh Kumar Verma
Joint Secretary (Tourism)
Ministry of Tourism
Government of India
New Delhi -110001
Sub: Regarding Refund of advance payments made to Airlines for air ticket and State Government for luxury trains and Wildlife Safaris.
Greetings from IATO !
First of all, on behalf of the members of IATO, I would like to thank our Ministry for setting of Joint Working Group for Tourism Sector in the wake of Covid-19 and calling the first meeting of the Joint Working Group on 15th May 2020.
As you are aware, due to Covid-19, Tourism industry is worst affected. To prevent spreading of Covid-19 in our country and safeguard the citizen, Government has issued various orders, which started on the very first day when international flights for some countries were cancelled from first week of February followed by suspension of Visa/E-Visas announced for different countries and finally cancellation of all the international and domestic flights on 25th March 2020 including sealing of states boundaries and suspension of all visa for all foreign nationals. Tour Operators followed the Government orders in letter and spirit and cancelled all prevailing and immediate future tour bookings. This has put tourism industry into big loss and zero billing with no scope of generating any business and revenue for survival.
Due to the above unexpected situation, all the tour operators have come under acute financial crunch with no cash in hand and zero billing. It has become very difficult to run their organisations and pay salaries to all supporting staff and meet regular expenses.
There are many challenges/hurdles being faced by the tourism industry, some are as follows:-
1. Refund of Air Fare for the bookings made and cancelled for the foreign clients for travel on domestic sector
Tour operators who had booked domestic air tickets for foreign tourists, booked safaris for wildlife safaris, booked seats on luxury trains and made advance payments to airlines and State Governments. Advance payments made by them, have stuck as no refund is being made the airlines and the state governments. Foreign tourists who had to cancel their tour to India, are demanding refund as there were no flights and no visas and we have to refund the advance payments received from foreign clients. Foreign tourists for whom arrangements were made, do not know when the situation is going to improve and they are not sure whether they will travel again.
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation vide her office memorandum dated 16th April 2020 had advised DGCA that for the air tickets booked during the first lock down period i.e. from 25th March to 14th April for travel during the lock down 1st lock down period from 25th March to 14th April and for the 2nd lock down period from 15th April to 3rd May 2020, the airline shall refund the full amount collected without levy of any cancellation charges and the refund shall be made within a period of 3 weeks from the date of cancellation.
The above office memorandum does not serve any purpose as there were hardly any international and domestic bookings made during the lock down period as operation of all international and domestic airlines was closed.
The problem our members are facing with the domestic airlines is about the refund of air fare for the cancellations of air tickets booked by our members for the foreign tourists who could not visit India due to cancellation of E-Visa/Visa from different countries on different dates starting with cancellation of e-visa/visa for Chinese nationals on 1st February 2020 followed with visa cancellations for different countries with total cancellations of e-visa/visas on 13thMarch 2020. Also during the period of February and March, DGCA ordered suspension of flights from/to certain countries. During this period Covid -19 spread was also increasing globally due to which lot of restrictions were implemented by many countries and tourist movements were stopped. Our request which airlines are not understanding is that if any foreign tourist could not enter India effective 1st February 2020 onward due to suspension of visa/e-visa by the Government and suspension of international flights by Ministry of Civil Aviation, in that case if any foreign tourists who had booked domestic air ticket for travel in India and for neighbouring countries through Indian Tour Operators, should be given full refund as they could not enter India due to restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs/Ministry of Civil Aviation.
We raised this issue with Joint Secretary (Civil Aviation) expressing our concern vide our letter dated 21st April 2020 but we have not received any response from Ministry of Civil Aviation/DGCA.
2. Refund of Advance paid for booking on Luxury Trains without any Cancellation Charges run by:-
· RTDC - Palace on Wheels
· IRCTC - Maharaja Express, Golden Chariot and Buddhist Train.
· MTDC - Deccan odyssey
Similarly, due to coronavirus outbreak, tourists could not travel on Palace on Wheels during March & April 2020 which is operated by RTDC. All our members and the foreign tour operators who are promoting Palace on Wheels worldwide and generating good volume of business on PoW are suffering as they have made the advance payment. We have been requesting to Principal Secretary Tourism, Rajasthan Government to refund the advance payment but there is no reply received from Rajasthan Government/RTDC.
3. Request for full refund of advance payment made for bookings of Wildlife Safaris from State Govt Tourism Departments
Another issue which we are facing with Rajasthan Government and other state government is that many of our members had booked Wildlife Safaris in Rajasthan, and other states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra, etc. and have made the advance payment made for booking of wildlife Safaris for the foreign tourists.
The problem our members are facing is that so far no refund has been made by the Rajasthan Wildlife Park Authorities and other state governments except some partial refund by Maharashtra Government. Whereas the fact is that they could not visit India due to cancellation of E-Visa/Visa from different countries on different dates as stated above. All this had resulted all bookings made for foreign tourists by our members got cancelled including cancellations for the Jungle Safaris of Ranthambore and other national parks and asked for refund.
Now our foreign agents are threatening our members to take them to Court if full refund is not made to them under force majeure conditions.
It is almost unlikely, that foreign tourists who has booked India tour, would re-book the tour as we do not know whether he/she is still healthy, he has not lost the job, or business has not been closed so far. Foreign clients presently are fighting for survival like all of us and have no intention to travel abroad in the near future.
This is to request you to kindly intervene and request you for the following:-
- To impress upon the Ministry of Civil Aviation to issue directives for full refund of the advance payments for all the booking cancelled for travel starting first week of February 2020 irrespective of date of booking made.
- Rajasthan Government/RTDC/IRCTC and Maharashtra Tourism/MTDC be requested to refund the advance paid for Luxury Train.
- All state governments be requested to refund the advance paid for Wildlife Safaris.
May I request your personal intervention in getting refund from the Airlines and all state government at the earliest as members need funds for refunding the same to their foreign clients.
Thanking you and with best regards,
Enclosure – Following four documents are enclosed:-
1. MoCA letter dated 16th April 2020
2. IATO letter dated 21st April 2020
3. IATO letter dated 25th March 2020
4. IATO letter dated 9th May 2020