Centre to recognise online aggregators to boost tourism

The Union culture ministry will consider granting recognition to the OTAs which have been in “continuous operation” for a minimum period of three years. (PTI File Photo)

The Centre is moving towards recognition of online travel aggregators (OTAs) to boost quality tourism in India and abroad.

The Union culture ministry will consider granting recognition to the OTAs which have been in “continuous operation” for a minimum period of three years.

A minimum paid up capital or capital employed of Rs 1 crore and a minimum office space of 1000 sq ft are among other prerequisites for grant of recognition to the OTAs.

“This is a voluntary scheme, open to bonafide OTAs to bring them on a common platform in the organised sector,” the ministry said, framing guidelines recently for the application and grant of recognition to the OTAs.

5-yr recognition

The recognition as “an approved OTA” shall be granted by the ministry for five years, based on the inspection report.

Recommendation of a committee comprising the respective regional directors, a representative of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) will also be taken into consideration, besides approval of the Chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Approval and Classification Committee, the  guidelines stipulate.

The ministry has defined OTAs as those functioning as an intermediary or agent selling travel products and services such as the airlines, car rental, cruise lines, hotels/accommodation, railways and vacation packages on behalf of suppliers using Internet as a medium.

“The scheme is expected to set standards towards accreditation and add value to the dependability and reliability of the aggregators in the online space operating in the organised tourism sector,” a ministry official said.

In the recent past, several OTAs aggregating rooms in various accommodation segments have emerged.

Game changer

“The bed and breakfast establishment and homestay segment have always suffered from inadequate marketing owing to the small scale of business. The emergence of OTAs can galvanise this segment and emerge as a game changer,” the official added.

To get the ministry's recognition, the OTAs will have to obtain no objection certificates and other clearances from their respective State governments and local authorities.

“If at any stage, it is found that the OTA has not obtained any clearance from the local authorities and/or the State government/Union Territory administration, or it is found that such clearances have been obtained on the basis of misrepresentation of facts, the approval shall stand withdrawn with immediate effect,” the guidelines state.

The owner and office bearers of such an OTA shall be liable for facing criminal proceedings, it stipulates.

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Centre to recognise online aggregators to boost tourism

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