Huge incentives for tourism and travel sector in Indian Budget 2023-24


  • 50  new tourist destinations to be identified and promoted
  • 50 new airports, heliports, waterdromes to be developed
  • Information-driven app to be created for tourists
  • State capitals to have ’Unity Malls' to showcase handicraft/GI-marked products
  • Focus shifts to promotion of domestic tourism


NEW DELHI: Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman has announced a slew of measures in the Union Budget 2023-24 for tourism development with focus on promotion of domestic tourism and enhancement of regional connectivity. The tourism sector would from now on function on mission mode, the Minister said while presenting the Union Budget 2023-24 in Parliament on Wednesday (February 1).

Key among the proposals contained in the Budget, presented in Parliament on February 1 (Wednesday), are sector-specific skilling and entrepreneurship development to achieve the objectives of the Dekho Apna Desh initiative, development of around 50 new tourist destinations, creation of an information-driven app for tourists, and establishment of ’Unity Malls' in State capitals to showcase handicrafts and products with geographical indication (GI) status. The Finance Minister has not enhanceed the Budget allocation for the tourism sector, which remained at Rs. 2,400 crore as last year.

The 50 tourist destinations to be developed would be selected through a challenge. They would be developed using an integrated and innovative approach. The mobile app will provide tourist-friendly information like physical and virtual connectivity, and details on tourist guides. Availability of high quality street food would be ensured at all major tourist destinations to enhance the tourist experience, Ms Sitharaman said.

The allocation for the regional connectivity scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been doubled from Rs. 600 crore to Rs. 1,244 crore. Development of new heliports and waterdromes was first mooted in 2017 under the regional connectivity scheme. So far only nine heliports and two waterdromes have come up and not all of them are operational.

The sector-specific skilling and entrepreneurship development programme is intended to achieve the objectives of the Dekho Apna Desh initiative. The scheme was launched as an appeal to the middle class to pick domestic destinations over international ones.  Under another scheme, the Vibrant Villages Programme, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be facilitated in border villages.

The Finance Minister said States will be encouraged to set up a 'Unity Malls' in their capital cities, or the most prominent tourism centre, or the financial capital. These malls would work towards the promotion and sale of each State’s own ODOP (one district, one product) and other handicrafts. They would also provide space for such products of all other States.

“The country offers immense attractions for domestic as well as foreign tourists. There is a large potential to be tapped in tourism. The sector holds huge opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship for youth in particular. Promotion of tourism will be taken up on mission mode, with active participation of States, convergence of government programmes and public-private partnerships,” she said.

Industry feels much left to be desired

Although the tourism industry has welcomed budget proposals, there is a sense of angst that some of the key demands of the industry, such as rationalisation of GST, infrastructure status, etc., have not been met. Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) president Rajiv Mehra said that while measures like development of tourism infrastructure at border villages and the development of 50 tourist destinations were quite encouraging, none of the industry's major demands like rationalization of GST on tourism industry, exemption of GST on foreign exchange earnings and refund of tax on shopping under Tax Refund to Tourist (TRT) Scheme on shopping, for which there is already a provision in the GST Act, have been considered.

Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) Chairman Nakul Anand welcomed the Finance Minister's announcement that tourism would from now on be developed on mission-mode, but the failure to accord infrastructure status  was a major setback for the industry. If infrastructure status were given and the industry treated at par with merchandise exports, it would have givne a big fillip to the tourism industry's efforts for global marketing, he said.

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