GST may Kill Tourism; Bala Sir’s Last Word; #MeToo

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As we get ready for yet another World Travel Market (WTM) in London, visitor numbers reported by destinations worldwide reflect a strong demand for international travel in the first half of 2017, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Destinations globally welcomed 598 million international tourists in H1, 2017; about 36 million more than during H1, 2016. International Tourist Arrivals (ITAs) worldwide grew by 6 per cent, well above the consistent trend of 4 per cent in recent years, making the latest January-June period the strongest half year since 2010.

In India, the Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) during the period January-September 2017 were 71.20 lakh with a growth of 15.5 per cent over same period in 2016. So, does everything look promising?

Kerala’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the GST regime, with taxes shooting up to as high as 33 per cent (28 per cent for high-end hotels and another 5 per cent for tour operators), complain industry players. The tourism tax structure prevailing in South East Asia ranges from 7 to 12 per cent, while Sri Lanka is at 16 per cent. Domestic air fares are already sky high and GST could well be the death warrant for Kerala. Official figures say FTAs to Kerala in 2016 were 10,38,419 –marginally up from 977,479 in 2015 while domestic tourists grew 5.67 per cent and touched 1,31,72,535 visitors. But the ground reality is far different from what the numbers claim. In Kerala, one out of four new jobs created are in the tourism industry. With the GCC economy in trouble, more hands are returning home and need to be gainfully employed. But with GST, things could go haywire. If the Centre disregards the frantic prayers of the tourism industry to revisit the GST rates, it is going to be very trying times ahead.

‘The Last Word’ will from now on, be penned by C Balagopal, Bala Sir to many, founder president of TiE Kerala, founder MD of Penpol (now Terumo Penpol), angel investor, mentor and author. This couldn’t have been better. Welcome sir to the family and thank you for agreeing to enrich this magazine.

On a personal note, I would urge all of you to support the #MeToo campaign. This is far more consequential than we all imagine and never too late. Anyone trivialising or ignoring it is tacitly endorsing the rape culture. Let’s ask ourselves #HowIWillChange.