Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the union interim budget 2024 in Lok Sabha today while also emphasising significant developments in the travel and tourism sectors. Highlighting plans to propel growth in these areas, Sitharaman announced substantial investments in infrastructure and initiatives aimed at promoting tourism across India. The overall budget for the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has also been increased to INR 2,000 crore from INR 1,600 crore last year.Infrastructure boost for travel and aviation sectors
Sitharaman revealed plans for a massive infrastructure push in the travel and aviation sectors, with an allocation of INR 85,000 crore for the development of 72 new greenfield airports. By 2025, the government aims to build 71 new airports, bringing the total count to 220. Additionally, projects for port connectivity and tourism infrastructure on India’s islands, including Lakshadweep, are set to be undertaken, promising employment generation and increased investments.
The finance minister underscored the importance of promoting tourism in India by announcing a framework for rating iconic tourist centers based on the quality of facilities and services. Long-term interest rate loans will be provided to states for comprehensive development and branding of these centers, fostering domestic tourism and attracting foreign visitors.
Reaction on budget from the industry
Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet and President, ASSOCHAM commended government’s push for infrastructure and increase in spending that will have a multiplier effect on the economy. “It is an India-first budget. I commend the evident railway corridors and the one lakh crore fund for research and development and the startup sector. The emphasis on clean energy, technology and digital infrastructure will make India a world leader. This is India’s moment and this budget is part of a continuous process of making policy that will provide massive opportunities for India and Indians,” he further mentioned. Gautam Aggarwal, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said government investment in the tourism sector is a welcome step that bodes well for the Indian economy. ” Coupled with a strong focus on infrastructure development, it will lead to the emergence of new tourism corridors, resulting in greater interest from domestic and international travellers to visit the less explored parts of the country. Mastercard is closely aligned with the government’s vision of tourism, contributing USD 1 trillion to India’s GDP by 2047,” he said.
“Government of India’s continued focus on domestic tourism in the interim Budget 2024-25 is encouraging. Empowering iconic destinations and local entrepreneurs through interest-free loans and quality ratings will elevate India’s tourism landscape. The projects to enhance connectivity in the country through the development of airports, railways, metro lines, ports in our unexplored island including Lakshadweep, and tourism infrastructure will enhance demand and generate employment. This is not just a boost for tourism, it’s an investment in India’s potential. We are optimistic about additional futuristic support from the Government in granting infrastructure status to hospitality and tourism, which will help us achieve a long-awaited status. We foresee that this will have a multiplier impact and drive significant investment from the private sector,” said KB Kachru, Chairman Emeritus & Principal Advisor, Radisson Hotel Group, South Asia sharing his reaction.
Tejinder Gupta, Partner and Tourism & Hospitality Industry Leader at Grant Thornton Bharat, hailed the focus on tourism promotion, emphasising its potential for entrepreneurship and soft power diplomacy. “The promotion of spiritual tourism and domestic tourism is India’s way of building soft power by reinforcing the Indianness amongst the Indian diaspora across the world. This is a great way of building diplomatic power in a multi-polar world,” he said.
Aashish Gupta, Consulting CEO, FAITH, expressed hope for continued support in the actual budget later in the year, emphasising the need for infrastructure status for the hospitality industry and incentives to boost tourism. “Since this was a vote on account and an interim budget, no big announcement was expected. It is hoped that the actual budget in July will take forward the statement of Intent announced in the interim budget of international promotion, developing iconic destinations in partnership with states through an incentive-based system, further focus on domestic tourism and recognition of mice tourism capabilities of India further to G20 in India and also continuing focus on new airports and Vande Bharat trains and high traffic highways,” he said.
Rajiv Mehra, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), stressed the importance of overseas promotion efforts to attract tourists to India and called for urgent action in this regard. “Though we welcome the increase in budgetary allocation to INR 2,000 crore from last financial year’s INR 1600 crore and mention of branding in the budget speech of the FM, we must remember that unless we dont do roadshows overseas, Familirastion trips and publicity campaigns abroad till then we would not be able to draw tourist to our country. Every country in our neighbourhood is courting Indian tourists, but our effort towards drawing tourists from abroad is zilch. We have to understand that we need to compete, but the urgency and the importance this matter should receive is still missing,” he mentioned.
Aloke Bajpai, Co-founder & Group CEO of ixigo, welcomed the focus on regional air connectivity and infrastructure development for offbeat tourist destinations, foreseeing a positive impact on the tourism sector. “We are also happy to see the government taking steps to develop new tourist destinations in India that can compete on a global scale. Infrastructure development and improved connectivity for offbeat tourist destinations like Lakshadweep will help build and promote the unexplored and hidden gems of India and will help further boost the tourism sector,” he said.
Nishant Pitti, CEO & Co-Founder of EaseMyTrip, lauded the government’s attention to tourism, aviation, and railways, highlighting the potential for economic growth and job creation. “The dedicated efforts towards developing aviation and rail infrastructure, especially through the commendable initiatives of UDAN and the PM Gati Shakti scheme, encouraging States to promote iconic tourists’ centers by providing interest-free loans are noteworthy with a special focus on developing island tourism and fortifying port connectivity, including Lakshadweep,” he mentioned.
Pradeep Shetty, President, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), also welcomed government’s enhanced focus on the promotion of MICE, religious tourism, iconic tourism centres and domestic tourism, which according to him will lay the foundation of tourism development in the Amrit Kal and equip the sector to achieve the ambitious target of welcoming 100 million tourists by 2047.
“This strategic initiative promises a seamless experience for tourists and unlocks tremendous growth avenues for the hospitality sector. By enhancing infrastructure it aligns with a mission to exceed evolving traveller expectations, making Lakshadweep a premier destination for discerning travellers. This visionary approach transforms the islands into a magnet for tourists, creating new opportunities and propelling the hospitality sector into an era of unparalleled growth within India’s dynamic tourism and hospitality landscape,” he added.
Chirag Agrawal, Co-Founder of TravClan, emphasided the importance of investment in tourism infrastructure and expressed optimism about the government’s initiatives. “We hope for more measures from the government that continue to build our air infrastructure and hospitality sector. This development will not just invite the world to explore our heritage but also ignite local economies and our pride,” he stated.