CHENNAI: Should Tamil Nadu give industry status to the tourism sector to help it tide over the pandemic-induced crisis? Under debt for more than a year, and with rooms lying vacant, the industry is banking on the plan being formulated by the State Tourism department to revive the sector.
Chief Minister MK Stalin proposed to release a master plan to realise Tamil Nadu’s tourism potential, and last week, Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Secretary B Chandramohan gave nod to the Commissioner of Tourism to set up a 14-member committee to prepare a revival plan for the tourism sector.
T Natarajan, CEO, GRT Hotels and Resorts and secretary of the South India Hotels and Restaurants Association, says the State government should give industry status to tourism sector. “With industry status, power charges and property taxes will reduce. Bank loans and MSME status are dependent on getting industry status,” says Natarajan.
Currently, the tourism sector is seeking financial aid and advertisements for its revival. Dependent on doctors and frontline workers, who pay Rs 2,500 per room, Natarajan says there are now no restaurants or banquets, and the entire sector is in the doldrums.
“There were no international flights for the last 15 months, and the number of flights to Chennai reduced by 20 per cent,” says Natrajan, who has hailed the formation of the committee. “We are also pressurising the Centre to grant us infrastructure industry status so we can take loans at low interest rates for 15 years. Right now, hotel payback is 10-12 years but loans are only given for seven years. Infrastructure loans are available for as low as 4-5 per cent. We are paying 10 per cent interest,” he says.
Natrajan adds that the State should follow the examples of Gujarat and Karnataka. “Gujarat has given a 50 per cent reduction in property tax. Karnataka has declared tourism as an industry. In Tamil Nadu, nothing has been done for the sector. We have paid property tax. Bars have been closed for three months though we have paid,” he says.
M Vasudevan, former chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Trichy Zone, and managing director of Sangu Chakra Hotels, told Express there is a need for a budget for the revival plan, and State and Centre should provide sops for at least five years. He also says many hotels pay property tax though the property isn’t generating income, and wants it to be waived, and GST deferred.
MK Ajit Kumar, founder and spokesperson of South India MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and a member of the newly-formed committee of the Tourism department, says government should first ensure all workers in the sector are vaccinated, and then launch a publicity campaign to promote tourism.