The Bumpy Road Ahead for Tourism Industry

The experience of exploring new places is just magical. I recently visited Cochin in Kerala. It had various places to visit such as Fort Kochi, St.George's Forane Church, Rosary Park and Lulu mall. While visiting these places, I interacted with various strangers. Although we could not interact in the same language, they responded with a welcoming smile.

On one occasion, I got stranded in the middle of nowhere, some 20 kms away from my hotel room. It was dark and there was no means of public transport available. This is when I met Ashar, an auto driver, who, after learning my situation, volunteered to help me. It is experiences like these that keep the zest for travel alive.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the travelling spirit, rendering people unable to travel. The statistics show that global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74 per cent according to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of USD 1.3 trillion in export revenues - more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.

The crisis put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises. Looking ahead, most experts do not see a return to pre-pandemic levels happening before 2023. In fact, 43 per cent of them point to 2023 while 41 per cent expect a return to 2019 levels only by 2024 or later. UNWTO's extended scenarios for 2021-2024 indicate that it could take two-and-a-half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.

Limping Back to Growth
The government of India is taking steps to bring the tourism industry back to its previous state. In the budget allocated to tourism industry, out of the proposed amount of Rs. 2026.77 crores, about Rs.950 crores would be used for creation of tourism infrastructure at different destinations spread over different States and about Rs.670 crores would be spent on tourism promotional activities. The remaining allocation would be used for funding other Schemes like Capacity Building for Service Providers, Champion Service Sector Scheme among others."The emphasis on infrastructure creation in the budget will help boost the tourism sector," says Arvind Singh, Secretary in Tourism.

Also, while presenting the budget for Indian railways, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that more VistadomeLinke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches will be introduced. Such initiatives can give a major boost to the tourism sector in India. However, there will be a need for behavioral shift in the way people travel and measures will have to be taken from both sides - the solution provider and the customer.
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