Government must heed tourism industry’s cry for rescue

Government must heed tourism industry’s cry for rescue

The UNWTO has rightly said that words alone will not save jobs in the tourism sector and governments must take decisive and concrete actions to save millions of jobs in this sector. In India too, the industry is desperately looking to the government for its survival, with its cry ‘HELP US SURVIVE FIRST’.

By Prem Kumar 

The UNWTO is leading the cry for firm actions by governments across the world to support the recovery of the travel and tourism industry. The sector across the world is going through the most turbulent phase in a century due to the global health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 spreads from human to human, its spread goes against the spirit of free and desired movement of people, discouraging people to travel and move freely. The free and seamless movement of people is a necessary condition for travel and tourism, without which the sector cannot function and realize its full potential. In the wake of the outbreak, people have been forced to maintain physical distance from one another, avoid gatherings and crowded places. Subsequent stringent measures such as lockdown, although necessary to prevent the spread of the disease, has crippled the industry, bringing it to halt, and putting millions of jobs at risk.
While free movement of people from their home to their destinations of choice is key to travel and tourism, the same free movement of people made the outbreak of the COVID 19 a global pandemic infecting millions of people and taking lives of thousands of people. The result people are scared to travel unless very important. All over the world, government after government have placed restrictions on domestic as well as international travel. Today, almost all airlines are grounded and stare at their uncertain future, most hotels have negligible occupancy, and destinations wear deserted looks as the crisis is yet to come under control. According to UNWTO, the UN’s specialized agency for tourism, the entry’s to 80% of destinations across the world is restricted due to COVID-19.

“The virus has been a major disruption to lives across the world on every level. Every business has been affected in one way or the other. But tourism, of all economic activities, has been hit the hardest. Due to global restrictions and embargoes, we cannot even operate if we wanted to. One word – decimation – can say it all about how the virus has impacted the travel and hospitality industry,” said Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel.

In order to restart the economy, some countries are starting to ease restrictions and allow some economic activities and movement of people, it will take a long time before people start travelling without fear and restriction. People will remain hesitant to travel in the near future even if restrictions are relaxed.

In 2029, the travel & tourism industry’s total contribution to the global GDP was over 9,258 billion dollars. Globally travel & hospitality sector employs 10 % of the total workforce, with some countries more dependent on the tourism sector than others.

Worried over the plight of this industry, UNWTO has sought decisive actions by national governments to safeguard millions of jobs that are under threat as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.

UNWTO LOGO

According to CII, India’s tourism sector may lose 4-5 crore jobs due to COVID-19. The sector may lose Rs 5 lakh crore as revenues. According to KMPG, the country’s travel & hospitality, as a result of the pandemic crisis, may lose 38 million jobs, which would be 70% of the total jobs in the sector. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has pegged this loss of jobs at 9 million. The sector accounts for 12.75% (5.56% direct and 7.19% indirect) of total employment in the country. The sector employs over 87 million, according to the country’s tourism ministry.

Overall, the sector, directly and indirectly, contributes around 10% in the country’s GDP. Considering the country’s vast size and big diversity, India is yet to realise its full tourism potential and still has immense untapped potential. All this makes necessary to save this industry and millions of jobs it provides, and once normalcy returns, the industry can grow further to realise its latent potential.

Therefore, at his critical juncture, it is incumbent upon governments (centre & states) to extend all necessary supports to this sector to survive and recover. India’s finance and tourism ministries must respond to the industry’s cry for help, and immediately offer relief package to this sector.
“The priorities of our associations are very clear: help us survive first. Various industry bodies across the country have appealed to the government multiple times for a financial support package,” said Kohli. “If the industry does not get some financial support, 25-30 million redundancies are expected in the next 60-90 days. “It’s that grave. We hope the Finance Ministry understands the depth of the problem we have found ourselves in,” added Kohli. Besides offering financial package, Kohli recommends, India’s tourism ministry should reset all their old systems and policies; look at the world afresh and create new strategies.

The survival of the sector is not only in the interest of the people engaged in the sector but also in the larger interest of the county, which has a high rate of unemployment and huge young population.

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