The Office Bearers of TAAI updated the membership on the multiple activities undertaken during the pandemic lockdown between March to September'20.
Assuring the members, ensuring all concerns of our trade are addressed for survival and revival.
We have been updating the membership on the activities undertaken by the committee from time to time, be it through Regions/Chapters, web call meetings, emailers, WhatsApp updates, etc.
Times are difficult, but the office bearers have left no stone unturned. We have used all our resources to appeal to Government of India, The Hon'ble Prime Minister, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Niti Aayog, Members of Parliament, State Governments, IATA, Airlines, Tourism Boards, Consulates, Airport Authority and all involved stakeholders possible, from where assistance could be sought.
UFTAA and FAITH have been incredibly supportive all throughout and have been taking forward our concerns.
Regular meetings have taken place virtually with all the authorities to bring out necessary reliefs and considerations to our appeals.
1. Airline refunds:
• Refund processing back on GDS, after our appeals and dialogues.
• RA access permitted to all users of BSPLink at no additional cost.
We impressed upon the Director General of IATA, IATA-India and through UFTAA to ensure that RA be permitted to basic version users of BSPLink. Our appeals were considered twice and for now in the time being IATA has kept the RA facility active, until further notice.
• Transfer of credit shell/vouchers to agency floats.
Airline meetings were held on repetitive basis, specially with Indian Low-Cost carriers to ensure credit shells be transferred to agency float accounts and the advances lying in floats to be credited to members banks. Indigo has started the process, while others like SpiceJet, GoAir and Air Asia have refused to transfer float balance to the bank.
International Carriers like Qatar and Cathay Pacific were instantly crediting the refunds, followed by All Nippon, United/Delta/AirFrance/KLM and others carriers like Singapore Airlines, Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, FlyDubai, Ethiopian, etc. are all now refunding the airfares. Etihad and Oman Air too, finally have commenced the GDS refunds.
• Appealed to MoCA to ensure Air India to refund all airfares without cancellation penalties. Phased manner process has commenced. Better late than never.
• Abolishing of RAF charges is still pending with APJC / MoCA.
Some Airlines like Kenya Airways, Thai Airways, Aeroflot, are still not refunding any amounts and are extending credit vouchers only to be utilised within a year/two. Since the global skies are gradually opening, we are confident that our persuasive efforts with these airlines too shall bring some result.
We are also concerned about the Refunds for groups/series which are currently not happening, but we are ensuring with the dialogue and persuasive efforts with MoCA and the airlines individually, there shall be soon a consideration and action.
We have also demanded interest on the delayed refunds from the airlines, which has caused working capital - interest loss/penalties to our member agents.
Many members who connected with our committee, on specific concerns, were individually assisted and guided by our committee members at National / Regions/Chapters. We have tried to assist in most cases wherein we could bring about full or partial relief.
2. Financial support due to pandemic:
Representations to Central Governmental Ministries and organizations to survive and revive our business impacted by COVID. The same has been done jointly with FAITH as well as individually by TAAI. Some major reliefs requested include:
• Enhancement of Working Capital Limits/Over Drafts at interest free rates
• Support Fund - majority for salaries and establishment costs
• Waive off PF contributions for Employer & Employee for 12 months
• Waive off ESI for 12 months
• Refunds of cancellations & advances of travel agents & tours operators from Airlines/IATA
• SEIS 10%
• Deferment of GST Liability for 12 months
• Complete GST & Income tax holiday for tourism, travel and hospitality industry for period of twelve months
• Roll back of TCS introduced in 2020 budget
• 200% weighted exemption for MICE for Indian corporates
• LTA like tax benefit for Indians
• Reduction in credit card charges
• Credit Control
• Credit cards to be accepted by all airlines with no extra charges
• Reduction in Credit Card merchant fees by banks to below 0.75%
• Support and incentivise members to make promotion of domestic tourism more lucrative.
• Challenges faced to retain employees, their salaries and avoid unemployment in the sector.
• Moratoriums and reliefs to trade due to Covid19 lockdown and loss of business.
• Revival challenges and long-term facilitation for the trade with airlines.
• Protection of the Agents from Airline Defaults and Suspension of services.
• Mandatory registration/recognition of Travel Agents/ Tour Operators so that appropriate records and guidelines and practices are followed.
Out of the above, only working capital and OD concerns were partly addressed under the MSME scheme of the Govt.
3. TCS Abolishment:
Our major concern and top priority is TCS which we have been taking up on war footing with the Government individually and along with FAITH. Our President, this week personally met the Commissioner of GST under whose jurisdiction TCS falls and has appealed to abolish the same, citing multiple disadvantages to the Indian travel trade, loss of revenue to the exchequer, compliance concerns, etc.
During the lockdown, we have been providing statistics, suggestions and draft policies/recommendations and implementation procedures on all our concerns to the Government. Detailed presentations/documents have been submitted to Finance Ministry, RBI, Niti Aayog, Commerce Ministry from time to time.
The global pandemic lockdown and economic crisis has hit our trade so hard that we were consistent and persistent in our efforts with perseverance, which ensured that Hon. Minister of Tourism, Shri Prahlad Singh Patel along with Director General - Tourism and Addl. Director General -Tourism have been personally working with TAAI and ensured that we all had a joint meeting with the Hon. Minister of Civil Aviation, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, to resolve our issues. This is the first time ever that both the Ministers personally met TAAI President, Mrs Jyoti Mayal along with their teams to work out a way forward.
4. Vande Bharat flight bookings for Agents:
• On TAAI's insistence and persuasion MoCA permitted Travel Agents to book seats on VBM flights on Air India. Other airlines followed.
• We further insisted and ensured these be opened on the GDS for BSP settlements.
• Apart from that, since now the global skies are opening, our appeal is pending with MoCA for due consideration for opening all sectors, especially for underserved markets where air bubbles and VBM flights are not operating.
5. State Governments:
• We connected with every State Government, through their Chief Ministers/ State Tourism Secretary/Ministry and appealed for rebates, reliefs and has also suggested way forward with for survival and revival of travel and tourism as per the demographics of the state, its population, inbound/outbound and domestic tourism avenues.
• Most of the State Governments in 20 Regions/Chapters of TAAI's presence have taken our suggestions positively and have implemented them in their SOPs as well as Tourism Policies.
• TAAI office bearers of Regions/Chapters are in direct and regular contact with your local state authorities including drafting of guidelines and ensuring implementation.
6. Financial Security from the Airlines:
Since January this year, when the office bearers met the Hon. Civil Aviation Minister in New Delhi, we have given the suggestion on protection of travel agents against defaults from airlines, delays in payment of group deposits, taxes, abolishing of RAF charges etc.
Our proposal of Insurance to be charged on the ticket has been discussed with MoCA several times, since January'20 and has undergone many positive amendments and upgrades. Recently too during the meeting held, with Civil Aviation Minister and Tourism Minister jointly, the same was reiterated and a detailed presentation on Insurance charge to be levied on each ticket was given including Covid like pandemic situations. We have asked for a task force to be setup under the Chairmanship of the Hon’ble Minister -MoCA, along with the Airlines to ensure all aspects of coverage are considered in the Insurance charge so that the Airline or Travel Agent does not suffer and the trade at large prospers.
7. IATA issues:
Our regular appeals and talks with IATA with support from UFTAA:
• Ensured 3 extensions of due dates for Renewal of Insurance - financial security due to lockdown
• Withdraw the irrational administrative charges being levied by airlines by way of ADM
• Withdraw additional IATA certificate charges @ USD 150 being levied to many agents
• Reduction in Annual accreditation fees for the year January to December 2021
• Acquiring bank refund issues faced by many airlines/agents for tickets issued by Credit Card
• To place all sales proceeds of airlines in escrow account until all refunds are processed.
• Features like RA, TIP, Ticketing Authority queries, Sales Summary etc. be part of the basic BSPLink version of every IATA agency.
• Through UFTAA we informed PAPGJC and necessary steps have been taken by IATA to stop airlines like Air India which are seeking copies of Agent Credit Cards for their records.
• Re-instatement of Accreditation, for all members who appealed through TAAI who could not make settlement payments due to the lockdown.
• Reworking/Amending/ Appending on the current Resolutions of IATA, enabling adequate protection of funds and issues of travel agent members.
We have been blunt with DG-IATA and have criticized on the failure of the BSP mechanism in this pandemic time. We shall be working towards a complete change in the structure and policies protecting the member agents and ensuring smooth and hassle-free business environment.
8. Tourism Revival:
• Recommended enhanced positive changes in the MDA scheme of the Government for the trade, which was well accepted.
• Skill development for Women in Travel along with all members. FICCI-FLO and TAAI signed a MOU with MoT on skilling development.
• Our Regions and Chapters are similarly co-ordinating on State Tourism Policies like, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, J&K, MP&CG, AP&TS. Our unified and state specific suggestions are being well accepted and implemented.
• Educational Webinars with Tourism Boards, hoteliers, holiday planning, DMCs, Visa facilitators, Tax Consultants on MSME / GST, etc.
• State wise training for members under Dekho Apna Desh
• Made suggestion on starting of Special Tourism Zone(STZ)
•Recommendations to Bureau of Indian Standards on standardisation of norms.
• Discussions are on with MoT on the New National Tourism Policy
• Swachh Bharat initiatives of PM and MoT, we recommended state wise monitoring of cleanliness of monuments, establishments, locations etc.
Our initiative with one of the largest Pharma companies provided an insight to the trade on Covid and anti-body testing RT-PCR, which was well accepted and is enabling to open state and international borders. Our suggestions to the Government was positively accepted and promptly implemented for travellers.
9. TAAI in Media:
Our office bearers/committee members have been interviewed not only by trade newspapers/channels, but you must have seen TAAI being covered on National Television/ Local and international media as well.
We have been regular on social media updates too be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin too. Many of our comments and media reports have been covered under the aegis of FAITH, which gave our issues a larger outlook and made our voice heard.
Due to the lockdown, we efforted hard and ensured NamasTAAI, our very own inhouse magazine, reaches you all. We digitised it and two issues have been digitally circulated, for which have got appreciation from members, government, and global acclaim too.
10. Training and Skill Development:
Our initiatives during this lockdown and way forward shall include skilling and training of our members, their teams be in on airline, tourism products, taxation matters, health and safety concerns, on knowledge and sustainable tourism. TAAI represented India on the Global Tourismojobs initiative enabling job opportunities of the trade.
Global Tourism Boards – Maldives, Abu Dhabi, Nepal, Dubai, Indonesia, Vietnam, Canada, Kenya, Namibia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bhutan, UK, USA, Zanzibar, South Africa, New Zealand have been connected with us and we have and shall be conducting knowledge sessions in association and for the benefit of the membership.
TAAI has also been talking to their Tourism Ministries/Missions on bi-lateral tourism development to India, which shall enhance our inbound tourism.
We are also in the process of confirming training programs with Airlines and IATA on their products and easy modules of conducting business.
We have ensured our members get appropriate connect and invites for global exhibitions and marts, which are happening virtually, for which we have tied-up with ATM-Dubai, SATTE, VTM, ITB Asia, WTM-London etc.
Friends, we the committee members are elected by you all, to represent you. We represent all of us jointly with the Airlines/ IATA / Government / Tourism Boards / Consulates & Foreign Missions/ Visa facilitators, and all other places/persons/ authorities, where we need to go with one voice.
We all are a group of individuals/persons/ organisations who gather as one uniform voice under the aegis of a group called an Association, being TAAI. There have been many non-members and other organisations which are trying to dis-repute TAAI and its legacy. Their sole motive is to not only break the unity of our group (TAAI), but also give an advantage to our principals and other authorities to whom we are appealing. TAAI has always been democratic, transparent, forceful and the single largest nodal trade voice since 1951. We are proud that our members are from all sections of travel, tourism and hospitality sector.
We are one of You ! We assure you that, We are Your Voice. Convey to us your concerns and we shall ensure that we not only take it forward, but get logical solutions to them in the best possible manner. Our matters are still not resolved, but are being worked on with due consideration, at all levels and we have a long way ahead. We endeavour to work in the most aggressive manner to protect the dignity, stability, growth and respect of our members.
We have hereby highlighted some of the points that we have taken up and tried to resolve, in interest of our colleague members and the trade at large.
We request you humbly, to have faith in the Committee which You elected and encourage us in order to ensure that we resolve all unresolved matters at the earliest. We will keep you updated from time to time on all matters.