Rajiv Mehra, President, IATO, has requested the government to eliminate roadblocks that are impeding the resurgence of inbound tourism to our country, as well as help travel agents get from Jet Airways.
In his communication to the Ministry of Tourism, Mehra has requested the Hon’ble Tourism Minister to impress upon the Government to withdraw the requirement of submission of the self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha Portal for foreign nationals. Presently all foreign tourists who intend to visit our country need to submit a self-declaration form and attach documents which foreign tourists especially the elder person find very difficult. Due to this reason, many foreign tourists are reported to have been offloaded which is giving negative publicity and now many tourists are skipping travel to India. On one hand, we are looking to bring more foreign tourists to India and on another hand, we are making it difficult for tourists to consider India as a destination by creating hindrances. Now under the present situation, many countries have abolished all hurdles to attract more tourists. This is high time that when the situation is much better now we should consider removing such hurdles for foreigners. IATO has, therefore, requested that the requirement of submission of a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvida Portal should be removed to encourage foreign travellers to visit our country so that inbound tourism to India could be revived.
In a letter to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Rajiv Mehra has brought to the knowledge the foreign travellers are facing while travelling in India due to compulsory Web Check-in forced by all the domestic airlines. In his letter to the MoCA, Mehra has mentioned that the basic purpose of web check-in is to avoid rush at the baggage counters but the very purpose of the same is defeated as all travellers have to stand in queue for handing over check-in baggage as there are no separate queues or counters for those who have already done the web check-in. Also, airlines are charging Rs. 200/- per traveller who have not done the web check-in. IATO has requested that directives should be issued to all the domestic airlines, not to make it compulsory for the travellers to do web check-in and the facility of issuing Boarding Pass should be available from the airline check-in counters at the airport for those who have not done web check-in. It is the responsibility of the airline to issue boarding passes and baggage tags to the air travellers, hence there should not be any additional charges of Rs 200 for the boarding pass.
In another letter, IATO has also raised an issue of pending refunds of the travel agents from Jet Airways for over two years. While welcoming the resumption of Jet Airways Flight operation in the next quarter of this year (July-September 2022) for which DGCA has granted Jet Airways its air operator’s certificate (AOC), officially paving the way for the grounded airline to take to the skies once again, Mehra has written to the DGCA that large amounts are lying with Jet Airways accounts for over two years towards the amount paid by the ticketing agents which Jet Airways has not refunded in spite of repeated reminders by the agents. In addition to this, advance deposits towards group bookings made by the travel agents for the ticketing of groups are also with Jet Airways. IATO has requested that
- The operations of Jet Airways flights should be kept in abeyance till the time refunds are made to the travel agents whose funds are lying with Jet Airways.
- It should be made compulsory for all the airlines operating in India to give bank guarantee / financial security to be kept with DGCA or an appropriate Statutory body to protect the interest of travel agents/tour operators/airline travellers in a situation when an airline goes bankrupt or ceases to operate like in the case of Jet Airways, Kingfisher and several other airlines in the past.
Earlier IATO has also requested the Government to start Marketing and Promotions; Participation in major international travel marts/fairs and roadshows; overseas marketing and promotions through electronic and print media; reduction in airfares by reducing taxes on ATF by the centre and the State Govts; restoration of e-Tourist Visa for the international travellers from the countries such as the UK, Canada, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, etc. and Validity of 5 lakh free tourist visa to be extended till March 2024
Mehra is hopeful that our requests will be favourably considered by the Government.