Arvind Singh, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India yesterday said that the pandemic caused severe setback to the tourism industry and the biggest challenge today is to accelerate recovery of the Indian tourism sector. It requires strong collaborations and engagements with the industry as well as with the state governments, he said.
Addressing the virtual plenary session of the ‘2nd Travel, Tourism & Hospitality e-Conclave: Resilience & The Road to Recovery’, organized by FICCI, Singh said that the government is working on various areas and themes for the recovery of the sector- fiscal and regulatory relief measures, confidence-building measures, domestic tourism, opening of international travel, digitalisation of the tourism sector, and a new tourism policy and other sectoral strategies. “Domestic tourism is showing signs of recovery in many parts of the country. Some states have reported an uptake in domestic tourism. Under the Dekho Apna Desh campaign, we are trying to create awareness about and promote unknown tourism destinations, and lesser-known facets of popular destinations. We are working with different states for a uniform policy for all states regarding COVID-19-related travel protocols to lift travel restrictions and to boost domestic travel,” he said.
Speaking on the recovery of international tourism, the Secretary said that the govt is working with other ministries for a calibrated opening of international travel. “We are in the process of finalising a media plan for overseas markets, and as and when it opens, we will release our media campaigns. We are also working with Indian missions abroad in promoting inbound tourism. The ministry is planning to appoint market representatives in certain markets,” he added
“We are in the process of drafting a new National Tourism Policy. We have got feedback from some stakeholders that focus on sustainable and responsible tourism,” he said.
Further, the Tourism Secretary informed that there have been a lot of proactive steps that have been taken by various state governments. “States like Karnataka and Maharashtra have already given industry status to the hospitality and hotel industry, which gives substantial relief in water and electricity tariffs. Other states have also given some relief depending on their financial resources. The general mood and trend is that the state governments are broadly supportive of the hotel and accommodation industry in this financial year,” he noted.
Valsa Nair Singh, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra, said that Maharashtra worked on three verticals- policy level initiatives, infrastructure, and marketing and branding of domestic travel to boost the sector. “This is a golden opportunity for us to promote domestic tourism. Maharashtra has a large number of outbound tourism and for the last two years we have been able to arrest it and getting them to ‘rediscover Maharashtra’ as a tourist destination,” she said. Singh also expressed hope of a better conditions of the sector by end of the month.
Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary Tourism, Culture and Public Relation Dept and MD, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Board, Government of Madhya Pradesh, said that the state has opened for domestic tourism and there are no restrictions for the travellers. “The COVID situation is very much under control due to the ongoing successful vaccination drive in the state. Tourist destinations like Khajuraho, Amarkantak and Panchamarhi are fully vaccinated, and 30 other destinations have been shortlisted for complete vaccination by end of this month. Our frontline workers are being vaccinated on priority. The past month has been very successful for the hospitality sector in Madhya Pradesh, and we need to now focus on destination-based tourism. We are trying to develop destinations in a holistic manner. Wellness is the topmost agenda for us in Madhya Pradesh,” he said.
Pankaj Kumar Pandey, Secretary to Government, Tourism Department, Government of Karnataka said that a policy, like vaccination certificates, is needed to allow traveling to various states. “We were the first state to come out with a protocol for the tourism sector. The state govt is working on various policies to aid the sector, among which is reducing property tax for all the hotels, resorts and amusement parks by 50 per cent,” he said.
Suman Billa, Director, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), Technical Cooperation & Silk Road Development, said that countries that can achieve quick and complete vaccination are going to race ahead and kickstart their economies sooner. Countries that are prioritizing vaccination will reach optimum level of production sooner. This will widen economic disparities cross the world.
Speaking about the tourism and hospitality sector, Billa said that COVID will level playing fields across the globe and vaccination will play an important role in this aspect. “Whether I am in Sri Lanka, India, or any part of the world, if I had my two shots of the vaccine and I have a certificate to prove it, I should be able to travel. There is going to be some amount of asymmetry on this front. From an Indian perspective, therefore, what we need to do is to well and truly open up travel, especially for those who are vaccinated. For international travellers, we need to jettison the principle of reciprocity.
Jyotsna Suri, Past President, FICCI & Chairperson, FICCI Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Committee & CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said that while the last quarter of 2021 was brighter and was taking us upwards, things have started to look a little bleaker with the imminent third wave in the first quarter of this financial year. “Various initiatives have been taken by the government to bail the sector out but most of those initiatives, especially the ones that pertain to liquidity, were planned before the second wave. In the current situation, we are sitting on a time bomb where six months from now we will have to be compliant with things that will be difficult for us to comply with,” she said.
Anil Chadha, Co-Chair, FICCI Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Committee, Chair, FICCI Hotels Committee & COO, ITC Hotels Tourism, said that the travel and hospitality sector is one of important sectors of the country, as well as globally. It has been the key instrument for economic development in many countries and is the single largest employer. “Tourism contributes approximately 10 per cent to the Indian economy and is our biggest ambassador to the world. Foreign exchange earnings in 2019 were US $ 30 billion. India witnessed the strongest growth in the world in the number of jobs created in the travel and tourism sectors at 6.36 mn between 2014–19. In addition, the sector creates an estimate 60 to 70 mn informal jobs,” he added.