The Ministry of Tourism has been allocated Rs 2,400 crore in the Union Budget which is 18.42 per cent higher than the allocation for the financial year 2021-22, bringing some relief to a sector ravaged by the Covid pandemic.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) up to March 2023 and said its guarantee cover will be expanded by Rs 50,000 crore to a total of Rs 5 lakh crore.

The additional will be earmarked exclusively for hospitality and related enterprises.

Union Culture and Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy said, "I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for an 'Atmanirbhar Bharat ka Budget'. As India celebrates 75 years of Independence with Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we are entering Amrit Kaal and this budget presents a blueprint for India at 100."

"Vikas (development) and Virasat (heritage) go hand-in-hand and this is evident from the fact that this year's budgetary allocations for Tourism and Culture Ministries have been significantly higher."

Of the proposed budget allocation of Rs 2,400 crore, a major portion of the outlay amounting to Rs 1,644 crore is earmarked for the development of infrastructure for tourism and Rs 421.50 crore is meant for promotion and publicity activities.

From the budgetary allocation for major tourism infrastructure schemes, Rs 1181.30 crore is earmarked for the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, and Rs 235 crore for the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual and Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) Scheme.

Rs 130 crore is set apart for the development of iconic sites and the remaining would be used for funding other schemes like capacity building for service providers, Champion Service Sector Scheme, Information Technology and also to meet the establishment expenditure of the Ministry and its subordinate office, the India Tourism Offices, in the country and abroad.

Sitharaman said in difficult hilly areas National Ropeways Development Programme will be taken up on PPP mode and may also cover congested urban areas, where a conventional mass transit system is not feasible.

Contracts for eight ropeway projects for a length of 60 km will be awarded in 2022-23, she said.

An allocation of Rs 227 crore has been earmarked for the northeastern States for the year 2022-23. Rs 98 crore has been allocated under the Tribal Sub Plan for the creation of tourism infrastructure in the tribal areas.

The Loan Guarantee Scheme for Covid-affected Tourism Service Sector (LGSCATSS) has been started during the current financial year.

Guarantee-free loan up to Rs 10 lakh each for Ministry of Tourism-approved travel and tourism stakeholders (tour operators, travel agents, tourist transport operators) and up to Rs 1.00 lakh each to RLGs/IITGs approved by MoT, Tourist Guides approved by state governments and Union Territory administrations is covered under the Scheme.

Around 10 scheduled commercial banks have launched the scheme and cheques/ sanction letters have been distributed to some of the beneficiaries of LGSCATSS. An allocation of Rs. 12.50 crore is provided under the ministry's Budget for 2022-23 for this purpose.

FAITH, the policy federation of all the national associations representing the complete tourism, travel and hospitality industry of India has said that more direct and immediate support could have been extended.

It said the extension of ECLGS expansion till 2023 with an additional corpus of Rs 50,000 crore dedicated to hospitality and allied industries will help provide relief.

"The Union Budget provides some relief and medium to long-term infrastructure measures to stressed tourism travel and hospitality industry.

"But there was an immediate opportunity for more direct intervention to support the highly stressed tourism travel and hospitality companies and their employees," said Nakul Anand the chairman of FAITH.