The tourism ministry is consulting the road transport & highways ministry and the law ministry, among others, on options for the hospitality industry after the Supreme Court said its ban on alcohol sales near highways includes hotels and restaurants, apart from liquor vends.
“Inter-ministerial consultations are going on to gauge the next steps in the matter and to see which way this is going. We are willing to be proactive and sympathetic and there is a feeling that some kind of relief needs to be given,” Suman Billa, joint secretary in the tourism ministry, told ET. “Now it is up to the aggrieved parties to place the matter before the court. If they do, as the Ministry of Tourism, we would have a position on that and we would be happy to convey that to the court.”
Billa said the court’s decision will adversely affect incoming tourist numbers in the coming months. Foreign tourist arrivals in India climbed to 8.89 million in 2016 from 6.97 million in 2013. Foreign exchange earnings from overseas tourists rose to $23.15 billion last year from $18.45 billion in 2013.
“There will be a negative impact – no two ways about it. We are not concerned about the liquor vends as such, we are only concerned about the hotels. Hotels are close to airports and manufacturing hubs and I don’t think people are going to the five-star hotels to drink and tipple on their way,” said Billa. The ministry official said there needs to be a distinction between people driving on highways and travellers staying in fivestar hotels. “The hotels affected currently would see a drop in incoming numbers. Business events could move to other countries,” he said.
The apex court’s March 31 ruling on the liquor ban within 500 metres of national and state highways came as a rude jolt to the hospitality industry, forcing affected hotels, restaurants and pubs to stop serving alcohol, leading to a drop in sales and tax revenue. The court’s decision is aimed at curbing road accidents and deaths caused by drunken driving.