Express press service
CHENNAI: Should Tamil Nadu grant industry status to the tourism sector to help it weather the pandemic-induced crisis? In debt for more than a year, and with vacant rooms, the sector is banking on the plan drawn up by the National Tourism Directorate to revive the sector.
Chief Minister MK Stalin has offered to release a master plan to realize Tamil Nadu’s tourism potential, and last week Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments Secretary B Chandramohan gave a nod to the tourism commissioner to set up a 14-member committee to prepare a recovery plan. for the tourism sector.
T Natarajan, CEO of GRT Hotels and Resorts and Secretary of the South India Hotels and Restaurants Association, said the state government should grant industry status to the tourism sector. “With industry status, electricity costs and property taxes will decrease. Bank loans and MSME status are dependent on obtaining industry status,” says Natarajan.
Currently, the tourism sector is seeking financial aid and advertising for its revival. Dependent on doctors and frontline workers, who pay 2,500 rupees per room, Natarajan says there are no more restaurants or banquets, and the whole area is in the doldrums.
“There have been no international flights for the past 15 months and the number of flights to Chennai has decreased by 20 percent,” said Natrajan, who welcomed the formation of the committee. “We are also lobbying the Center to grant us infrastructure industry status so that we can take out low interest loans for 15 years. Currently, the payback period for hotels is 10 to 12 years, but loans are only given for seven years. Infrastructure loans are available for as low as 4-5%. We pay 10% interest,” he says.
Natrajan adds that the state should follow the examples of Gujarat and Karnataka. “Gujarat has granted 50% reduction in property tax. Karnataka has declared tourism as an industry. In Tamil Nadu, nothing has been done for the sector. We paid the property tax. The bars have been closed for three months although we paid,” he says.
Mr Vasudevan, former Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Trichy Zone and Managing Director of Sangu Chakra Hotels, told Express that there was a need for a budget for the stimulus package, and that the State and the Center should provide grants for at least five years. He also says that many hotels pay property tax despite the property not generating revenue, and wants it removed and the GST deferred.
MP Ajit Kumar, founder and spokesperson for South India MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and a member of the tourism department’s new committee, said the government should first ensure that all workers in the sector are vaccinated, then launch an advertising campaign to promote tourism.