Speaking at the inaugural function at the recently concluded 36th Annual IATO Convention at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, G Kamala Vardhana Rao, Director General (DG) – Tourism, Government of India, struck an optimistic note predicting a “roaring recovery” for India’s tourism sector in 2022. Rao said that the post-pandemic crisis that has engulfed the tourism sector is under constant vigil and the government is monitoring the situation closely for the first sign to start opening country’s travel and tourism sector and that “the intent is very clear.”
“Hon. Prime Minister has repeatedly been mentioning about the post-pandemic revival of tourism. He spoke about it when he inaugurated Somnath Temple earlier, and recently, when he was in Varanasi and also when he went to Kushinagar to inaugurate the international airport there. So, the intent of government, whether it is the Government of India as a whole or Ministry of Tourism, is very clear,” Rao said underscoring the seriousness that the government at the highest level is attributing to tourism’s recovery in the country.
“As far as this crisis (Recent surge in Omicron cases) is concerned, we are monitoring the situation daily with a view to opening country’s tourism sector. Only two days ago, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has said that our relaxation of international air travel purely depends on the infections from Omicron,” he further added.
“To reach out to you (tourism trade) and interact with you more on day-to-day basis we have already taken up outreach programmes. We have conducted meetings in the North-Eastern states, we have conducted meetings in Ladakh, we have conducted meetings in Kashmir, we have gone to Bengaluru to interact with all of you, all the tour operators there along with the Minister. So, participation in these meetings and discussion and deliberation with the stakeholders on a regular basis is happening to get feedback from all of you, so that we take steps to redress whatever grievances you may have,” he said.
Of course, there are certain pending issues and we are regularly meeting Finance Minister and officials from the Finance Ministry to come out with some kind of mechanism to find solution to the grievances.
Rao also highlighted some of the initiatives of the government that was aimed at providing succor to the tourism sector players. “As far as Ministry of Tourism’s response is concerned, the loan guarantee scheme was announced in 2020, and again in June 2021 another scheme was announced to help the tour operators which had loan guarantee of Rs. 10 lakh,” he said. He also informed about the sops for the tour guides who have been badly affected in the absence of international tourists. “We are waiting to introduce many schemes which Ministry will come forward with and explain later,” he informed.
On the positive side, the DG Tourism pointed that as far as domestic tourism is concerned it has really boomed after the Delta variant driven second wave of Covid-19 pandemic ebbed. “Domestic tourism has really picked up a lot. Everybody started visiting places which they had not visited earlier. Hotel rates were really high, whether in Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala. But people were still visiting,” he noted.
“Tourism is not one particular department but is an amalgamation of various departments, whether it is national highways or rural roads or other sectors, eventually also adds benefits to the tourism sector,” he mentioned. He also spoke about the four-laning of Char Dham that will go a long way in boosting tourism all along the road network. “So, any infrastructure happening in North-Eastern states or Ladakh or Kashmir or in the Southern part of the country, it will give impetus to tourism in those areas,” Rao said.
While concluding the DG said that the important takeaway from today’s event is “confidence and courage.” “These two things we should never lose. Let’s be strong. There are going to be wonderful days ahead. For domestic tourism, there was a big boom. It is gaining. For inbound tourism, we have, unfortunately, lost this season, but we will definitely try to come back stronger next year (2022). People are talking about road to recovery, we will have a roaring recovery in the tourism sector,” he said while ending his address on an optimistic note.