Unlock 1.0: Tourism Sector Dying to Say Welcome

Tourism has always been one of the first sectors to be affected whenever there is a change in a country’s economy. In a situation in which an economy is adversely affected tourism bears a major brunt. People who love to see places usually start to cut down travel budget. Coronavirus has also played a direct role in incurring loss in tourism and hospitality industry all over the world. The industry has a long chain with hotels, restaurants, travel agents, tour operators, destinations, sports and amusement venues and so forth. There is a huge reduction in the number of tourists visiting places via land, sea and air. All international and domestic airports, train stations and ports were shut during the lockdown which covered the peak seasons of tourism in India. In Unlockdown 1.0 only the domestic flights are allowed to travel only if found necessary by the authorities. Flights are not available for tourists yet. In one of its biggest challenges the Indian tourism sector faces loss upto twenty five percent this year as international travel is yet to be resumed.

According to a report of the World Travel and Tourism Council, there has been a potential job impact of the pandemic on the travel and tourism sector globally. The sector holds around 12.75% of employment in India.  Around fifty million jobs are at risk for both white and blue collar workers. There is a reduction in jobs to the tune of twelve to fourteen per cent. The Indian tourism sector incurred a revenue loss of Rs. 69,400 crores during the lockdown. The pandemic has affected all sections of the tourism industry including leisure, adventure, meetings, conferences, exhibitions, cruise. Most summer holiday bookings have been cancelled in states which attract tourists from around the world.  All hotels and travel agencies had to refund the amount paid to them, including the cancellation fee. Domestic tourism in Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa, Darjeeling and Sikkim has faced forty to fifty per cent loss. The hotel sector experienced a loss of more than sixty five per cent in occupancy since March, 2020. According to an estimate of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, hotel, aviation and travel sectors together will suffer a loss of approximately eighty five billion rupees. The official members of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality reported that it has sought financial help from government sources for survival of the industry. It has also asked to consider a complete GST Tax-free Holiday for the tourism, travel and hospitality industry for the next twelve months, till the recovery happens.

During this difficult time, the tourism sector has decided to keep up its head high. It is also trying to devise appropriate strategies to fight against the adversity. Travel is an important part of everyone’s life. It ensures enjoyment and releases stress. If the gradual unlockdown allows tourists to fly within the country the industry will be able to revive to some extent. The revival process may start with the domestic sector which may for some time take advantage of the tourists’ inability to go international at this moment. Simultaneous opening up of hotels and homestays will be an important step. So we may have a ‘domestic first’ strategy to set the tourism ball rolling again.