Request for Refund of advance payment made for bookings of Wildlife Safaris in Madhya Pradesh and cancelled due to COVID -19
4th June 2020
Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Sub: Request for Refund of advance payment made for bookings of Wildlife Safaris in Madhya Pradesh and cancelled due to COVID -19
Greetings from IATO!
May I draw your kind attention to our letter dated 30th April 2020 regarding our request for Survival Measures/Relief Package to the tourism industry.
While we are looking forward to supporting from Madhya Pradesh Government for the survival of tourism industry, I would request you to kindly look into para 7 regarding Refund of advance payments made for Wildlife Safaris for the foreign tourists and bookings cancelled due to Covid-19. A huge amount has been paid by the tour operators as advance payments to Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Department for booking of Wildlife Safaris.
The problem our members are facing is that so far no refund has been made by the Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Park Authorities for bookings made and cancelled for the foreign tourists. Foreign tourists 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 by visa cancellations for different countries and finally cancellations of e-visa/visas on 13th March 2020 from all countries. Also during the period of February and March, DGCA ordered the suspension of flights from/to certain countries followed by the closure of all international and domestic flights on 25th March 2020. During this period COVID -19 was fast spreading globally due to which a lot of restrictions were made by many countries and tourist movements were stopped. All the foreign tourist visiting India were also told to leave the country immediately from the second week of March.
Due to the above reasons, all bookings made for foreign tourists by our members got cancelled including cancellations for the Jungle Safaris of Wildlife Parks in Madhya Pradesh (Kanha and Bandhavgarh) and our foreign operators/ clients are asking for a refund.
Now our foreign agents are threatening to take us to the court if full refund is not made to them under force majeure conditions.
It is almost unlikely, that foreign tourists who have 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. Tour operators in India are also facing acute shortage of funds due to zero billing and not in a position to refund unless they get back the refund from MPTDC / Forest Department.
This is to request you to kindly intervene and issue directives to the concerned authorities in the Wildlife and Forest Department to give a full refund to the tour operators with Nil cancellations charges at the earliest enable refund the same to our foreign clients at the earliest.
We need to keep our country’s image high to secure future business and cooperate with foreign counterparts/clients in this time of global crisis.
Looking forward to your support and cooperation.
Thanking you and with best regards,
Shri Ashok Barnwal
Principal Secretary (Forests)
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mr I.C.P Keshari, IAS
OSD-Cum-Commissioner, Tourism &
Shri Rajesh Shrivastava
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests
O/o PCCF, Satpuda Bhawan, Bhopal
Shri H.S. Mohanta
Forest Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mr Gopal Rai
Chairman IATO Madhya Pradesh Chapter
C/o. Rai Travels Pvt. Ltd.
30th April 2020
Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Sub: Survival Measures/Relief Package to the tourism industry
Hon’ble Chief Minister Sir
The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) is the National Apex Body of Tour Operators with membership of over 1700 across the country. Our membership consists of the nation’s inbound tour operators, travel agents, hotel chains, airlines, state government tourism departments/development corporations, press and media and other stake holders in the tourism & hospitality industry. The Membership of IATO controls over 90% of all inbound tourism into India.
As result of the ongoing pandemic COVID-19, tourism, travel & hospitality industry in India has reached dire straits today. There are nil revenues and almost all tourism businesses are running out of working capital and are staring at mass unemployment and bankruptcies.
Offices of all our members all over the country are closed. The entire tourism industry has come to stand still with no business. There is zero billing and no cash flow. There is uncertainty amongst the tour operators as to how and when they are going to revive their business. It is expected that the vaccination shall take about one year to come in rescue of human life that is April 2021 and by that time again our off season will start from April 2021 to September 2021 to make the period of revival to 18 months.
This is expected to impact the tourism economic value of almost 5 lakh crores in one year and employment of an estimated 3.8 crore jobs which are created directly and indirectly by tourism in India.
Out of over 1700 members of our association, 90% of our membership consists of small tour operators and under the present financial crisis, they do not have funds to pay salaries to their staff and they are looking forward to support from the government with bailout package.
To salvage the industry, we need support from the Government of Madhya Pradesh for our members who are based and have registered offices in Madhya Pradesh and request for the follow support for survival and revival of tourism in Madhya Pradesh.
1. Bailout Package of 23-25% of the total turnover to pay salaries:- Bailout financial package to defray the salaries of the employees which can be decided based on the turnover of the company in last financial year and the employees strength. Along with this we may add the other operational cost of the office. The average operation cost works out to 23-25% of the total turnover of the company. This can be worked out by the government as per the turnover of the company /annual return filed by the company for the financial year 2018-19. Alternatively, it could be a financial grant to support basic salaries with ‘direct transfer’ to affected tourism employees.
2. Deferment of Statutory Dues: - A complete deferment for twelve months of all statutory dues payable by tourism, travel & hospitality industry at the Central Government level, state and municipal government level without attracting any penal interest. These could include GST, Advance Tax payments, PF, ESIC, customs duties, excise fees, fixed power & water charges.
3. Creation of Tourism Covid 19 Relief Fund:- A support fund ‘Tourism COVID 19 Relief fund’ to be set up by the State Government to support salaries and establishment costs. It can in the form of non-collateral interest free loan to Tourism corporates for repayment of the principle within 5- 10 years.
4. Creation of National Tourism Task Force:- A national tourism task force of all relevant ministries of the Central Government along with ministry of tourism and chief secretaries of State governments and industry stakeholders to be created. This should be with legislative powers on the lines of GST council for state wise standardized tourism response.
5. SGST Tax Holidays:- A complete SGST Tax Holiday for the Tourism, Travel & Hospitality Industry for a period of twelve months.
6. LTA incentives: To boost Domestic Tourism, incentivize residents of Madhya Pradesh through LTA for holidaying within India. The facility of booking such tours under LTA scheme for all the employees of Madhya Pradesh Government and its subsidiaries, Public Undertakings, and Autonomous Bodies should be available with all the tour operators recognized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and not just restricted to Government tour operators only.
7. Refund of advance payments made for Wildlife Safaris: -A huge amount has been blocked as advance booking payments made to state Government Authorities for visit to wildlife parks. After the directive from the Central Government, all foreign tourists had to cancel their tours and waiting to get the refunds. State government to urgently refund all tour operator & travel agents the advance payment for wildlife Safaris. The refund should be considered from the date of suspending Visa/E-Visa by the government for tourists from various countries and suspension of international flights as and when it was announced by the Government.
8. Refund of Road Tax paid for Tourist Transports:- Tour Operators/Tourist Transport Operators have deposited transport tax/road tax for their tourist vehicles but after the visa/e-Visa for foreign tourists were suspended and international flights were cancelled starting from 1st week of February 2020, tourist transport vehicles are not operating and are vehicles are not in use. It is requested that the transport tax/road tax paid for such vehicles be refunded. Also, exemption of road tax/transport tax is given for at least 12 months i.e. till 30th April 2021, till the time tourism in India is revived.
9. Looking after un-organized employees in the tourism sector:- For all un-organized employees working with the tourism sector and who will not be covered by PF / ESI ensure coverage of sustenance wages and medical condition.
Sir, we look forward to your support and to the kind support from the Government of Madhya Pradesh to bail out Indian tourism - the industry with the highest employment intensity and look forward to urgent relief announcements.
Thanks & with warm regards,
Pronab Sarkar Gopal Rai
President Chairman, Madhya Pradesh Chapter
(M) 9811102111 (M) 09893054246