With travel, tourism, and hospitality among the worst-affected sectors by the pandemic and in desperate need of assistance for a quick recovery, the Centre has asked states to vaccinate tour operators, hotel employees, drivers, and other industry stakeholders as soon as possible to restore confidence in the tourism sector.
"We have made it clear to state governments that vaccination of all tourism-related stakeholders, including drivers, tour operators, hotel employees, and hotel management, should be prioritised so that we can have confidence that all tourism stakeholders are fully vaccinated," Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh said.
"Customers who wish to go somewhere safe will feel more secure as a result of this. He will feel more confident if he knows that all of the staff and people he would encounter have been properly vaccinated,” he added.
The tourism industry began to feel the heat as soon as the first few instances of Coronavirus were announced in early 2020. However, the industry faced its greatest crisis in history when the countrywide lockdown was declared in March of last year. Immediately, millions of jobs were gone. With no signs of a quick recovery in sight, a large number of tour companies were forced to close their doors.
According to a study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), 14.5 million jobs were lost in the first quarter of FY21 (April-June), 5.2 million in the second quarter, and 1.8 million in the third quarter, compared to an estimated 34.8 million (direct) jobs in the pre-pandemic period of 2019-20.
The government has provided some monetary, fiscal, and compliance assistance to the business, but travel & tour operators, hotels, and other concerned parties have deemed it inadequate. Loans on favourable conditions under a credit guarantee programme, deferral of statutory compliance deadlines, and a moratorium on loan repayment are among the government's relief measures.
"Perhaps we did not satisfy all of society's expectations since there were many expectations of further fiscal advantages and monetary reliefs, but the Finance Ministry and all of us are in constant conversation and interaction with the industry. They are adopting whatever short-term steps are announced and then whatever medium-term or long-term measures are to be done,” said the Union Tourism Secretary at an industry event hosted by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) and the Services Export Promotion Council.
According to NCAER estimates, the tourist economy or tourism direct gross value added (TDGVA) fell 42.8% in Q1, 15.5% in Q2, and 1.1% in Q3 due to the broader economic slowdown in 2020-21.
TDGVA is predicted to have dropped by as much as 93.3% in Q1 2020-21 over the same quarter the previous year due to a large reduction in visitor arrivals and hence tourism expenditure during the pandemic. It improved somewhat in the second quarter, falling 79.5% in the second quarter and 64.3% in the third.
With the steep reduction of COVID cases in the festive months of October-December last year, the tourist sector saw some green shoots and an upswing in demand, but with the arrival of the second wave of the pandemic in April this year, operations came to a virtual halt once more. There are hopes that widespread vaccination and herd immunity would improve the situation, but many public health officials are sceptical of a third wave.
Source: United News of India