2017: The year that was…

2017 was an exciting time for the travel industry! Governments in India and around the world were putting serious focus into promoting tourism in anticipation of a rapidly growing global middle class, new technology and fiercer competition in the industry. From the introduction of GST to a cabinet reshuffle there were a lot to report in the outgoing year. So we have decided to revisit stories reported on over the year in order to present you the year 2017 in a nutshell.

January: Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of The United States and its impact on India

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Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election was one of the most shocking and surprising events in world politics. But the real drama only began when he ascended to arguably the most powerful post in the world. There was a lot of focus on its impact on India. India and the world wanted to understand how the world’s most economically developed nation’s president affected the world’s fastest developing economy. Notably, Trump’s opinion on India has largely been positive. However, on the flipside his controversial travel ban on various middle-east countries and his stringent stance on immigration has had adverse impact on travel, tourism and global exchange.

February: FM Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget for the year 2017-18

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FM Arun Jaitley presented an inclusive and growth oriented Union Budget for Financial Year 2017-18. The Union Budget rekindled the hope in India’s growth story and aimed to revive the economy and boost spending post demonetization that had significantly slowed down the economy. The budget had some good news for the tourism industry. While introducing the Union Budget, he also mentioned the launch of the Incredible India 2.0 campaign across the world. Furthermore, he announced the setting up of five special tourism zones in partnership with the states across the country. In addition, it was announced that airports would be developed in tier-2 cities under PPP to improve regional connectivity. Finally, for the first time in India’s history the Railway Budget was subsumed into the general budget in which, the Indian railways got a boost of Rs. 55, 000 crores. Dedicated trains for tourism and pilgrimage were also announced.

March: Financial Year Ends, impact of Demonetisation continues

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On November 8, 2016, PM Narendra Modi announced demonetization of higher value notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000. People got time till December 2016 to exchange demonetized notes. Whether we agreed with the objectives of the demonetization or not, it adversely impacted our economy in short to medium term. The financial year-end therefore was a time for a lot of calculations, innovative fixes, theories, and speculations. The silver lining however is that the demonetization has given a big push to the digitalization of our economy, encouraging use of digital and online payments. For the first time millions of Indians including small business owners like local shopkeepers, autowalas etc. started using digital payments. Also, with a lot of fanfare Yogi Adityanath was appointed as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 26 March 2017 after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2017 State Assembly elections. Also, Air India announced direct flights to Tel Aviv, Israel.

April: TnH Awards 2016 was held with much fanfare at The Imperial, New Delhi & ‘Experiential Travel’

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The month of April was very important as the IIIrd Travel and Hospitality Awards ceremony was hosted at The Imperial, New Delhi. The TnH Awards are the ultimate recognitions of excellence and achievement in the Indian travel and tourism industry. The event was graced by the crème de la crème of the Indian government, diplomacy and industry. Some of the prominent guests present at the occasion were L.K. Advani, Suresh Prabhu, Dr. Jayant Sinha, Rahul Bhatia, Ajay Singh, Ashwani Lohani and the list goes on. This time there were 29 awards presented in six broad categories to select individuals/organizations for their most outstanding achievements and contributions to the Indian travel and tourism industry. In the month of April, the trending phenomenon was ‘experiential travel’. Another significant occurrence was the opening of 13 new facilities in different cities by VFS Global and the Government of Japan to prepare for the impending 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

May: 3 years of Modi Government

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May 2017 marked the completion of three years of the Modi government. Some of the remarkable accomplishments of the Government in these years include the new integrated transportation initiative for roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation, introduction of the new Civil Aviation Policy and UDAN scheme. Around 4800 crores have been invested in constructing tourism circuits. The MoT launched a multi-lingual helpline number to help foreign tourists. In order to improve foreign tourist arrival, ‘E-visa’ was launched and expanded to include most of countries. The Modi government also announced and has spearheading ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ to make India clean. In these three years, the Modi Government took some positive steps for the development of tourism, however the tourism industry thinks that the government has not lived up to their promises. On May 22, a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, England, after Ariana Grande concert stunned the world with terror by killing 22 and injuring 59.

June: The news of GST broke down

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The government broke down the news of the goods and services tax (GST), which is the biggest tax reform since Independence. It announced the mega launch of GST on midnight of June 30. However, the hospitality industry was disappointed over the GST rates announced for hotels and restaurants. On June 17, another major metro rail project ‘Kochi Metro’ was inaugurated by PM Modi. It was the 13-km corridor between Aluva and Palarivattom and longest to be inaugurated in the first phase. Also, BJP announced Ramanath Kovind as its Presidential Candidate for Presidential Election. Cox & Kings Global Services (CKGS) announced the opening of Algeria Visa Application and Information Centres (AVAIC) at six different locations including Mumbai. The other AVAICs are based in Pune, Ahmedabad, Goa, Indore and Chennai respectively. Korean Air honored as the “Best Airline Service Provider” by topping the Global Customer Satisfaction Index for 13 consecutive years. Serena Hotels East Africa appointed Nijhawan Group as their India Representative.

July: GST came into force

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India’s biggest tax reform Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect from 1 July, 2017 to make India a single market with a common tax structure. The GST Council pegged 18% GST rate for hotels charging room rentals between Rs. 2500 and Rs. 5000 and 28% for those charging above Rs. 5000. This was criticized by the hospitality industry. In July, the beautiful city of Ahmedabad was declared as the First World Heritage City of India by UNESCO. In addition, a buzz of the privatization of Air India started. The first meeting to discuss the process for same was held at finance ministry led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and attended by Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the then Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, Power minister Piyush Goyal and the then Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani. Ram Nath Kovind took over as 14th President of India on 25 July 2017.

August: Privatization of Air India was the buzz

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The privatization of Air India became a very important point of discussion in the government and the civil aviation sector in August. With the announcement of disinvestment of Airline, IndiGo publicly expressed their interest in Air India. The Tata group also sought details from the government in informal conversations to acquire it. In August, the government of Malaysia introduced the new Multiple Entry E-Visa facility for Indian tourists with effect from August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018. The Country Inn & Suites by CarlsonSM made its debut in Kota, Rajasthan. The hotel became the first international brand in the city. Also, the month marked around 11% growth in FTAs. Travel Agent Association of India’s 64th annual convention was supposed to be held at Kunming city of China from August 18-20, but due to the border-tension between the countries, the convention was postponed. Dipak Misra was sworn in as 45th Chief Justice of India on August 28, 2017.

September: IATO convention, Union Cabinet Reshuffle & introduction of much-awaited Bullet train

 

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September saw a big Union Cabinet Reshuffle 2017. Alphons Kannanthanam was appointed the new Minister of State for Tourism, replacing Dr. Mahesh Sharma, who will continue to be Minister of State for Culture. Piyush Goyal was appointed as the new Railway Minister replacing Suresh Prabhu. Further, the appointments committee of the cabinet appointed the then Air India Chairman & MD Ashwani Lohani as the Chairman of the Railway Board. Lohani took over from A.K. Mittal, whose resignation was accepted by the old railway minister Suresh Prabhu. Rajiv Bansal, additional secretary and financial advisor in the Petroleum Ministry, joined as the new chairman of Air India. Also, PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe inaugurated India’s first and much awaited bullet train project. The train will connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad. On the trade side, the 33rd IATO was held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. ‘Time-to-reinvent-ourselves’ was the theme for the convention recognizing the stagnation in the tourism industry and the need to reinvent.

October: Festive month of the year, TAFI Convention in Turkey

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The month of October had been a festive month as most of the festivals were occurred during this month. From Eruvathiyetam Onam (in Kerala) and Muharram to the biggest festival of India, Diwali attracted many domestic as well as international tourists. The long festive weekends also made a trend of tourist influx in India this year. The next festival in line was Chhat Puja, the festival of the Sun which attracted many international tourists this year. The Sharjah Tourism board conducted a 4 city tourism promotional roadshow for stakeholders & travel agents in Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Ahmedabad from October 9 – 12, 2017 respectively. Also, at the end of the month Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) 2017 convention was conducted in the beautiful country of Turkey at two unexplored cities i.e. Dalaman and Antalya. The convention was held from October 27-31, 2017.

November: WTM 2017 in London, ADTOI in Vizag; Moody upgraded India after 13-14 years

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The much awaited annual travel show, World Travel Market (WTM) 2017 was conducted from 6-8 November, 2017. This year Responsible Tourism was one of the key themes of this prestigious international travel trade show. Another important travel event, conducted by Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) 2017 at Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) and the theme of the convention was “Explore India – One Country, Many Worlds.” The business sessions were focused on new ideas, the MICE industry, weddings, and infrastructure growth. Moody upgrades India after around 13-14 years to attract investments in India. The news of legislative election to take place in Himachal Pradesh was issued on November 9. Also, taking another step in providing good transportation, PM Modi inaugurated the Hyderabad Metro and took the first ride at Miyapur Station to Kukatpally on November 28. He took the journey along with Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao and Governor ESL Narasimhan.

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