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T3 News Network

T3 News Network

With a growing focus on the use of technology to transform the world’s business ecosystem amid the global pandemic, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has partnered with Microsoft to further streamline data-driven services offered to stakeholders, enhance the e-learning platform for Dubai College of Tourism (DCT) and adopt an innovative approach towards showcasing the city as a must-visit destination.

The wide scope of collaboration between Dubai Tourism and Microsoft is largely based on leveraging the Azure cloud platform, which provides a range of services from computing to networking, databases to analytics and artificial intelligence designed to help organisations run their digital systems and processes more efficiently.

Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, commented: “As we plan for future scenarios, cloud based solutions have emerged as a crucial element of Dubai Tourism’s digital transformation strategy because of the secure, sustainable and scalable nature of the technology.  The diversity of our partnership with Microsoft will add to our efforts to embed world class technology solutions to our business systems and further enhance the scope of cutting-edge digital services that we provide our stakeholders in real-time, to help ensure Dubai stays ahead of the curve and also maintain its position at the forefront of the world’s leading travel destinations.”

Driven by the need to make data processing faster and aligning with its vision of progressing from data analytics to artificial intelligence products, Dubai Tourism became one of the first government entities to migrate multiple online dashboards to the state-of-the-art Azure architecture developed by Microsoft within the UAE cloud regions including a dashboard that regularly tracks and provides data on visitor arrivals from key source markets. These dashboards will be hosted on Microsoft’s Middle East cloud regions, based in the UAE, that provides organizations with access to scalable, highly available, and resilient cloud services while maintaining data residency, security and compliance needs.

“Microsoft Azure has been at the heart of the company’s efforts to form several strategic partnerships across UAE’s public and private businesses and accelerate their digital transformation agendas by migrating to the cloud,” said Sayed Hashish, General Manager, Microsoft UAE. “Our partnership with Dubai Tourism enables their platform to seek better customer engagement, empower its workforce,  optimise operations and reinvent products and services. This is made possible by our two cloud regions in the UAE serving customers across the region to innovate and grow.”

Following the airline’s resumption of services from London Heathrow to Hong Kong, New York JFK, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Barbados, Virgin Atlantic has unveiled its planned passenger flying restart to India.

All customers eligible under the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs as per the Air Bubble scheme will be able to travel onboard Virgin Atlantic’s direct services to London Heathrow and US.

The airline plans to operate three flights a week from Delhi to London Heathrow from 2nd September. Mumbai service restarts from 17th September and will operate four flights a week to London. 

Both the destinations will provide connections to New York JFK and will operate on 787-9 Dreamliner.

Alex McEwan, Commercial Manager India, Virgin Atlantic commented: “This year marks 20 years of flying between UK and India and we’re delighted to resume our passenger services to this beautiful country. We know many of our customers will be excited to reunite with friends and family and we are looking forward to welcoming them onboard, taking to the skies safely in true Virgin Atlantic style.

The health and wellbeing of our customers and crew remains our number one priority and our teams have been working tirelessly to implement new measures and evolve our experience so customers can feel confident to book and fly with us. This includes social distancing at the airport and onboard wherever possible, meticulous cleaning of the aircraft and individual Health Packs for all customers, containing medical grade face masks, hand sanitizer and surface wipes.”

The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19) has devastated the world economy and taken the whole world into its severity. All the major economies of the world are brought to a deadlock situation. Tourism is one of the worst affected of all major economic sectors. Due to the imposition of travel restrictions and slump in demand among travellers, the tourism sector is witnessing all-time low hit. Travel is standstill, fear is gearing up, and the future is uncertain.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a 22 per cent fall in International Tourist Arrivals (ITAs) during the first quarter of 2020. It could decline by 60-80 per cent over the whole year as per the latest report of UNWTO.

The UNWTO Panel of Experts Survey indicates the sign of recovery by the final quarter of 2020 but mostly in 2021. Domestic demand is expected to recover faster than the international demand, and within it, leisure travel is said to recover more quickly than business travel.

In the upcoming months, there is a sign of an increase in travel and tourism activities. Now, travel and tourism companies are focusing more than ever before on digital or social media channels to directly connect with their customers as part of their marketing strategy. No one had anticipated the way 2020 chucked out. Almost all the brands and marketers are making an adjustment to their original strategies to leverage business profit, customer empathy, company’s mission and vision and agility for building brand’s connection with the customers, even when they are at home during lockdowns and for this, they are giving more emphasis to various social media channels viz Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and the like. Customers behaviour has changed dramatically after the outbreak of COVID-19and will continue the same over the next few months. Skift (a media company that furnishes news, research and marketing services for the travel industry) used BCV’s datashows that 40 per cent of social media users are questioning on property and destination reopening instead of asking for cancellations. Penland analytics (a marketing research firm) says that organisations that opened well after a crisis and continue communications with its audiences see a 20 per cent increase in its brand value compared to those who reopened poorly. Building trust with the customers in the new normal is the first and foremost priority of travel and tourism personnel. Marketing personnel have changed their social media marketing strategies from building brand awareness to communicate about safety, from showcasing their product to caring for the society and community.

Driving demand in the new normal for the travel and tourism industry is the biggest challenge for the marketers. Alvin Jacobs, AVP-Sales and Marketing, Cinnamon Resorts, in the Maldives, elaborated a four-phase process for driving tourists to the destinations back. The first phase includes assistance for rebooking and refund, changing the social media content and monitoring real-time as extenuating negative reviews. The second phase encourages customers to share photos and to grant a two-week stay voucher with the promotion of health standards and safety measures taken by the brand. The third phase includes allowing guests flexibility on booking terms and plans to stay anytime until October 2021. The fourth phase would start when the destinations open up, and people will be able to travel to the destinations.

During a crisis, communication plays a key role for businesses to run and individuals to survive. In the plight of COVID-19, social media is playing a pivotal role for both companies and individuals. For leveraging travel and tourism, marketing personnel need to amend their existing social media marketing tactics. They must give more emphasis on building customer trust by providing adequate, accurate and timely information, ensuring them for their safety and security, enhancing customer service and satisfaction by responding to their complaints more sincerely and genuinely and reshaping their offering in a more customised way.

In a nutshell, travel and tourism companies need to revive their business strategies in such a way that more emphasis should be given on being empathetic and responsible rather than merely profitable. Social media serves this purpose by reaching out to audiences and ensuring their safety and security while offering travel offerings, customising travel plans, building trust by furnishing accurate, adequate and timely information.

(This article is written by Professor Sheeba Hamid, Coordinator (Master of Tourism and Travel Management), Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University and Mohd Azhar, UGC-Junior Research Fellow, Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University. The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the authors.) 

The Travel Corporation (TTC) and its portfolio of 40 travel brands have announced its $300 million “Peace of Mind Promise” to its loyal Travel Advisor community and their clients.

As a privately-owned company, information around the financial status of the business is not released. However, these challenging times call for transparency and the reassurance of TTC’s current financial strength and integrity. The company has decided to share tangible financial information so that agents are fully aware that their clients’ monies and future travels are safe.  

Within the group of TTC brands is the five-star Red Carnation Hotels (RCH was just named the 4th Top Hotel Brand in the World by Travel + Leisure magazine – July 2020) which owns 14 exceptional properties, situated in prime locations around the world including the highly anticipated opening of their Xigera Safari Lodge. RCH is audited by the international accountancy firm, Mazars, which confirms that the company has unencumbered fixed assets in excess of $300,000,000 as of December 31st, 2019. TTC is sharing this solely to give clients the comfort in knowing that the organization is highly solvent.  

“As The Travel Corporation celebrates our 100th Year Anniversary, we continue to be a very stable and solvent company. Our “Peace of Mind Promise” gives the reassurance to our loyal Travel Advisors and their clients that their monies for future travel are safe and this goes beyond our commitment to having a memorable holiday with us,” said Brett Tollman, Chief Executive of The Travel Corporation. “The guest experience is always at the heart of TTC and we have further enhanced our well-being protocols and added our brand-new Well-being Director positions as we look forward to warmly welcoming back each and every guest on a future trip,” he concluded.

In direct response to clients’ needs for more flexible booking options in a post-COVID-19 world, TTC has implemented a refundable $99 deposit*, which allows guests to secure the trip they want, risk-free. Combined with amended flexible booking terms, customers are allowed to make free changes up and until 30 days prior to travel.

The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) has proposed multi-step strategies for revival of tourism to the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Govt of India. These issues were identified to enhance tourism demand while protecting tourism supply in India.

Tourism encompasses multiple ministries and happens across states. It thus requires a coordinated approach across all the ministries at the central government level and between centre and state. FAITH have proposed a dual task force strategy. An inter- ministerial task force at the central government level and an inter- state task force. These two task forces need to be empowered and need to be agile to fast track decision making as tourism will be the last sector to revive.

To stimulate domestic tourism FAITH recommended dispelling consumer fear and confusion by ensuring uniform inter-quarantine air & land border policy across all states. This will provide confidence and give knowledge to bath business and leisure tourists.

FAITH 10 associations proposed incentivising two segments domestic conferences and domestic consumers to travel within India by creating structured tax breaks.

As travel bubbles have started between India and international countries, FAITH associations proposed a multiyear e- visa holiday for all visa categories as and when till inbound demand to India stabilises. This needs to be complemented by publicising widely the revised 96-hour RT PCR policy for COVID testing and ensuring standardisation across all airports.

They also discussed holding the Indian Tourism Mart for international tour operators to establish confidence and showcase the incredible Indian tourism products in the first or the fourth week of November.

Marketing communication of tourism should be kickstarted which should focus on positivity & safety of Indian tourism while weaving these messages around different product segments, destinations, and incredible concepts of Indian tourism.

These could be multiple series of social media ads each with different versions of Indian and international languages to help stimulate both domestic & international tourism.

Tourism demand can truly be activated if the tourism supply and value chain is healthy and doesn’t break down anywhere across travel agents, hotels, tour operators, tourist transporters or restaurants. Faith associations recommended multiple support and revival strategies for the same.

Tour operators and travel agents recognised by tourism ministry should be allowed to operate tours for adventure, religious, or education purposes which are recognised as LTC enabled agents & operators.

For the tourist hinterlands, remote last mile air connectivity must be enabled through a hub & spoke system under the Udaan policy with increased state support till private demand picks up. To ensure best practices in adventure, satellite phones and helicopter search and rescue needs to be enabled for adventure tours across the beautiful Indian adventure spots. 

The meetings segment has to begin its revival process and FAITH associations said guidelines must be considered to be revised upwards by allowing 300 indoors and upto 500 in open areas. A fine example of safe gatherings is the inauguration of the holy temple site by the Prime Minister which can be showcased as a role model gatherings format. Meetings segment must now formally also include, recognise and officially support all forms social gatherings and movie shoots and virtual meetings. It is also critical for IGST to be enabled for hospitality industry which will enhance cross-state Indian meetings industry movement with companies getting gst credit while using hotels for meetings tourism in other states

FAITH has requested Delhi Hotels to be unlocked as Delhi is the gateway of North India. They have also requested for all states to support hospitality by giving a statutory waiver on all fixed liabilities power costs, liquor permits, property cesses and so on. They have suggested that GST be rationalised for hotels above ₹7500 to be brought down to 12% from 18% which will stimulate domestic travel.

FAITH to revive restaurants also requested for the GST option with full setoff made available for restaurants and restaurant GST be delinked from hotel tariffs.

To financially protect the tourism companies, till the resolution plan is set in motion by the RBI, FAITH Associations proposed extension of the moratorium of tourism & hospitality companies. They have also requested for automatic extension of all tourist transport and tour operators  permits , liquor licenses and other extensions.

The Indian travel agents are key enablers of the travel distribution. FAITH Associations requested for an even more healthy partnership approach between Indian travel agents, IATA & Air India. Travel agents and consumers also need to insured against airline payment defaults of their advances and cancellations and mechanisms need to be put in place.

FAITH spokesperson said that he is hopeful that the demand generation measures and supply protection measures for tourism will be implemented quickly to kick start Indian tourism and express their gratitude to Tourism Ministry for initiating this exercise.

Airbnb contributed over US$320 million to India’s Gross Domestic Product and supported close to 50,000 local jobs in 2019 alone, according to the Oxford Economics’ The Economic Impact of Airbnb in India report released today.

The landmark report explores the total economic impact of Airbnb in India between 2015 and 2019. The report found that between 2015 and 2019 Airbnb guest spending grew at an annualized rate of 83.4% and Airbnb’s contribution to the Indian economy grew more than tenfold in real terms.

Importantly, the report also highlighted how Airbnb is spreading the benefits of tourism to local communities and supporting micro-entrepreneurship and small businesses. In 2019 alone Airbnb guests spent more than USD $249 million (INR 18 billion) in India, including more than USD $94.3 million (INR 7 billion) in local shops and restaurants. 6500 Rs out of every 10,000 Rs spent outside accommodation by Airbnb guests in India went on shopping or food.

Ashish Kumar, Co-Chairman of FICCI Travel Technology Committee, said " This report mirrors and reflects that travel has progressively resonated with more consumers each year, as well as benefiting the local economies & communities. Tourism spends have continued to go up in the past few years, and understanding this pattern is the key to maintaining business interest, driving business transformation, innovating with  continued  investment  in this  sector, especially during the current critical times of recovery. Airbnb’s model is primed for supporting recovery through the mode of enabling communities.”

James Lambert, Oxford Economics’ Director of Economic Consulting in Asia, said: “Airbnb is well-placed to play an important role in bringing tourists, and their spending, back to destination economies, and in supporting the earlier recovery of domestic travel by helping households, particularly those who seek to substitute an international trip with a domestic one, discover new areas in their own country to visit.”

Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager - Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said “The recovery of tourism and the recovery of the Indian economy are inextricably linked. The report shows how the authentic, affordable, and sustainable travel experiences offered by Airbnb can help accelerate recovery and create value for local microentrepreneurs, businesses and local communities. Looking forward, we want to continue to work closely with local governments to grow high-quality, sustainable tourism, support microentrepreneurship and help communities recover as quickly as possible. Our focus will continue to be to drive unique connections between our hosts and travel communities across segments.”

Sharjah has reopened for tourism with the assurance of top-level safety for visitors. All safety measures and precautions in place are validated through the ‘Sharjah Safe for Tourism’ stamp, launched by the World Travel and Tourism Council to reassure travellers.

Visitors are expected to flock to the Emirate’s tourism establishments. Tourists travelling to Sharjah are required to take a COVID 19 test at the Sharjah airport upon arrival (results usually out within 24 hours) and Indian passengers will also undergo another PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test upon arriving at Sharjah Airport and must self-isolate until the results are out.

"We are extremely happy and ready to welcome tourists and we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of residents and visitors alike. Additionally, we have established a ‘Safety Assured’ stamp which follows the measures set out by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) ‘Safe Travels’ initiative. The stamp follows the measures set out by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, the world’s first global safety and hygiene stamp for travel and tourism. SCTDA, in collaboration with Sharjah Health Authority (SHA), have dedicated teams inspecting various establishments in the emirate to ensure compliance with the required health and safety measures. Residents and tourists visiting the emirate can look for the ‘Safety Assured’ stamp displayed in the establishment prior to making a booking or upon entry. The stamp is a visual symbol which gives instant recognition of the establishment’s compliance to the precautionary measures being implemented by the government, reassuring consumers of the safety of the location, ensuring that tourists feel safe while enjoying the beauty and unique experiences of Sharjah." said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, SCTDA.

Sharjah is home to top tourist attractions including the Rain Room, Al Noor Island and Sharjah Mosque which opened its doors for the first time to the public in 2019. Sharjah welcomed more than 143 thousand guests from India last year, reflecting an increase of as much as 26% of visitor arrivals and representing a total market share of 8%.

India’s struggle to freedom is a significant chapter in the nation’s history and holds a value greater than any significant event of the past. The Ministry of Tourism as part of its ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ webinar series to commemorate and honour nation’s most significant day has lined up a series of five webinars that  collectively touch upon themes encompassing the freedom movement, places significant to it and pioneers who had a notable participation in helping India secure its independence.

The Ministry of Tourism organized a webinar titled “Memoirs of 1857 -A Prelude to Independence “on 8.8.2020.  This is first in this series of ‘Independence Day’ themed webinars and the 45th among overall Dekho Apna Desh webinars. Dekho Apna Desh Webinar Series is an effort to showcase India’s rich diversity under Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat and it is continuously spreading spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat through virtual platform.

The webinar was presented by Nidhi Bansal, CEO, India City Walks & India with locals and.Soumi Roy, Researcher and Story Teller and moderated by Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism. The Webinar took a virtual tour of the saga of our independence and the first war of India’s independence fought in 1857 and the string of events kept following till we attained complete independence in 1947. The presenters highlighted the monuments and buildings that bore the brunt of the revolt or came up as a result of it. From Delhi, Kanpur, Meerut, to many other cities across the country, the presentation showed the viewers story of valour, sacrifice and bravery.

The presenters touched upon  the reasons  that sparked the revolt like  pathetic socio economic conditions, problems of land and revenue administration, destruction of economy, low position of Indians in administration, Doctrine of Lapse, ill-treatment of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Annexation of Oudh, biased Police and Judiciary, and discrimination  with Indian sepoys.

In March 1857, Gilbert Hadow, an army surgeon in the employment of East India Company, wrote the following lines describing a strange movement afoot in 1857, in a letter to his sister in Britain.  “There is a most mysterious affair going on throughout the whole of India at present.  No one seems to know the meaning of it.  It is not known where it originated, by whom or for what purpose, whether it is supposed to be connected to any religious ceremony or whether it has to do with some secret society.  The Indian papers are full of surmises as to what it means. It is called the Chapati movement.” The entire chapati ‘movement’ left the British Empire shaken to the core. The British controlled India with a relatively small number of men (100,000 in all), subjugating a huge population of 250 million, so they were well aware of just how inadequate these numbers would be in the event of a serious rebellion.

The speaker spoke about the role of Mangal Pandey- An Indian soldier in the British army, one of the key figures behind Sepoy Mutiny or India’s First War of Independence in 1857. They narrated the incident of the afternoon of 29 March 1857, when Lieutenant Baugh, Adjutant of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, then stationed at Barrackpore was informed that several men of his regiment were in an excited state. Further, it was reported that one of them, Mangal Pandey, was pacing in front of the regiment's guard room by the parade ground, armed with a loaded musket, calling upon the men to rebel and threatening to shoot the first European that he set eyes on.  Due to his attack on two British soldiers, Mangal Pandey was hanged to death on April 8, 1857, at the age of 29.

The webinar captured the sequence of the revolt after the outbreak of the mutiny in Meerut and how the rebels quickly reached Delhi, whose 81-year-old Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was declared the Emperor of Hindustan. Soon, the rebels had captured large tracts of the North-Western Provinces and Awadh (Oudh). 

The presenters brought to light some lesser known facts and personalities associated with the First War of Independence 1857 like Raja Nahar Singh, the king of Ballabgarh, Faridabad who guarded Delhi's borders from British forces and kept Delhi liberated for over 120 days. The other battles highlighted included:

·         The Battle of Badli-ki-Serai fought early in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, or first war of Indian Independence.   

·         The Siege of Cawnpore

·         The Bibigher massacre when the violent resistance to the British rule from Eastern part of India was soon coming towards the North

The East India Company establishing a base on the Delhi ridge and with the help from reinforcements, Kanpur was retaken by mid-July 1857, and Delhi by the end of September. However, it then took the remainder of 1857 and the better part of 1858 for the rebellion to be suppressed in Jhansi, Lucknow, and especially the Awadh countryside.

The Company established a base on the Delhi ridge to the north of the city and the Siege of Delhi began. The siege lasted roughly from 1 July to 21 September. For several weeks, it seemed likely that disease, exhaustion and continuous sorties by rebels from Delhi would force the Company forces to withdraw, but the outbreaks of rebellion in the Punjab were forestalled or suppressed, allowing the Punjab Movable Column of British, Sikh and Pakhtun soldiers under John Nicholson to reinforce the besiegers on the Ridge on 14 August.

An eagerly awaited heavy siege train joined the besieging force, and from 7 September, the siege guns battered breaches in the walls and silenced the rebels' artillery. An attempt to storm the city through the breaches and the Kashmiri Gate was launched on 14 September. The attackers gained a foothold within the city but suffered heavy casualties, including John Nicholson. After a week of street fighting, the British reached the Red Fort. The British exiled Bahadur Shah Zafar to Rangoon in British-controlled Burma (now in Myanmar), after convicting him on several charges.

 

The presenters listed various places and sites associated with the First War of Independence and how one can experience the popular trail of 1857 in the following places:-

a) Barrackpore- Known for cantonment area, Mangal Pandey Cenotaph and park.

b) Gwalior- Beautiful Gwalior Fort where Rani Laxmibai sought shelter while fighting the Britishers, Samadhisthal of Rani laxmibai.

c) Jhansi- Rani Laxmibai also known as Manikarnika was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi. Jhansi Fort, Jhansi Cantonment cemetery,

d) Lucknow- Residency complex, La Martiniere College, Tomb of General Havelock, Alambagh Palace/Kothi Alamara, Alambagh, Sikander Bagh and Palace, Dilkusha bagh and Palace.

e) Kanpur- All saints memorial church located in the cantonment area, Nana Rao Park (former site of Bibighar massacre), Sati Chaura ghat.

f) Agra- Agra Fort, Agra college library is one of the oldest libraries.

g) Meerut- St John’s Church, British Cemetry,Parade ground etc.

h) The seat of power- Delhi.  There are two trails i) Kashmere Gate ii) The Northern Ridge trail

Northern Ridge trail- Vice Regal lodge built in 1902, Flagstaff power, Khooni Jheel, Hindu Rao House now converted into a hospital, Mutiny memorial.

Kashmere Gate Trail- Kashmere Gate, St. James Church, Nicholson Cemetry, British magazine, a fortified building use to store ammunition, Telegraph memorial, Khooni Darwaza.

Apart from these, there are many museums associated with the revolt of 1857 which can be witnessed showcasing the valour and struggles are Museum on 1857, Red fort, Azadi ke Diwane museum, Shahid Smark And Government Freedom Struggle Museum etc.

Brar in her concluding remarks spoke about Ministry of Tourism’s   Incredible India Tourist facilitator certification programme which will also act as an enabler for transforming and encouraging the citizen with knowledge about destination, products and story trails.  The saga of India’s freedom movement cannot be told without referring the notable contribution made by the Indian National Army (INA) led by Subash Chandra Bose. India’s military history is very fascinating and visits to some of the museums like Jaisalmer War Museum, Jaisalmer, Air force Museum, New Delhi, Indian War Memorial Museum, New Delhi, Naval Aviation Museum, Goa, Samudrika naval marine Museum, Andaman and Nicobar etc.  These museums showcase the weapons, vehicles and aircraft used by the Indian military over the years. We salute all the valiant Indian Army personnel and recall with pride their indomitable spirit, valour and sacrifices in making India a safer place.

Lufthansa has announced that, effective immediately, Indian citizens are eligible to travel on Lufthansa flights to India from the US, Canada, and other countries worldwide. Following a bilateral agreement between India and Germany, inbound passenger flights to India, one of Lufthansa’s most important international markets, will be reinstated as of 13 August for the following routes: Frankfurt to Delhi, Munich to Delhi, Frankfurt to Bangalore and Frankfurt to Mumbai.

Lufthansa has already been operating outbound flights from India for several months, departing from Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore to its Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

“We are very glad and feel privileged to be able to help people return to India and to enable business travel as the world gradually begins to open up,” says George Ettiyil, Lufthansa Group’s senior director for South Asia sales. “Our flights to and from India underline Lufthansa’s ongoing commitment to enable travel in unprecedented times for our Indian customers while upholding the highest standards of safety and hygiene.“

Since July, Lufthansa has been offering Indian customers a convenient option at Frankfurt and Munich airports to test for coronavirus at short notice. These PCR coronavirus tests only require only a throat swab and are certified by German health authorities. “Both coronavirus test centres at our hubs in Frankfurt and Munich provide customers the opportunity to avoid being quarantined when arriving in Germany, with a negative coronavirus test in their hand,” says Ettiyil. Results are usually available within four to five hours after testing and are linked to the customer’s flight ticket. Ettiyil: “This also makes it easier to travel safely to other countries worldwide that accept a certified PCR coronavirus test, thereby avoiding quarantine. “

Passenger safety is and will remain Lufthansa's top priority, especially with regard to maximum hygiene on the ground and on board. For this reason, all procedures throughout the entire travel chain have been and will continue to be reviewed in order to guarantee the safety of everyone. These are based on the latest findings and hygiene standards advocated by experts.

Aircraft operated by Lufthansa Group airlines are equipped with filters that clean the cabin air of contaminants such as dust, bacteria and viruses. Even in the current situation, with the restrictions that sometimes accompany it, the Lufthansa Group strives to offer its guests maximum comfort and safety.

Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS), a research, campaign and advocacy NGO working on social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of tourism on local communities in India, has recommended the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt of India to withdraw the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 and conduct a detailed and broad public consultation involving all stakeholders and the public in order to draft a strong and robust Act.

“The proposed draft EIA Notification falls short in many ways, particularly with respect to tourism. It fails to take into account that tourism requires a robust environmental scrutiny. The COVID-19 crisis has brought out to the world the increased need for robust environmental protections. Given the learnings from this crisis, it is important to take this time to rethink and restructure the EIA framework in India, which can be the lifeline of environmental governance, bringing in the balance between environmental sustainability and development,” EQUATIONS said in a letter to Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt of India. It urged the Ministry to go for a detailed and constructive public consultation process to take stock of the current status of the environment and assesses the impacts felt by communities across India from various projects is the need of the hour.

Detailing more in the letter, EQUATIONS says that the draft should include a holistic and comprehensive Tourism Carrying Capacity within the EIA, in such a manner as to consider the multi-dimensionality of tourism, and with the involvement of the local community at all stages. “Most importantly, development of any area must respect the voice of the local communities. Three important dimensions of tourism have to be considered : physical-ecological, socio-demographic and political-economic. The physical-ecological element includes ecology, natural heritage, climate, water, power, fuel and other such components. The socio-demographic element includes interrelation between local communities, tourists, tourism facilities, cultural identities and other characteristics. The political-economic element includes the linkages to local economy, governance structure, policies and such characteristics. Local level planning and development is the responsibility of the Panchayati Raj. As tourism carrying capacity is also a process for management and planning of the area, it is imperative that local participation is sought at all stages,” the letter reads.

The letter further states that tourism should be included as a separate industry within the Schedule. “Tourism was included as an industry within the 1994 EIA notification, but was removed in 2006. The 2020 notification also does not include ‘tourism projects’,” the letter states adding that tourism has several negative impacts on the ‘destination’, including generation of waste, depleting water resources, changes in biodiversity and changes in social structures.

“Therefore, it is important to recognize it as a separate industry and assess its impacts. The 1994 notification recognized that impacts of tourism projects in high elevation areas or along the coasts and above 5 crores investment is required to take an Environment Clearance. Following a similar categorization, we recommend that tourism projects should also be assessed at different levels, based on location, in ecologically fragile areas and above a certain investment threshold. Such an assessment should also include a ‘Tourism Carrying Capacity’ analysis,” the letter adds.

The letter further proposes that infrastructural projects in ecologically fragile areas, including mountains and coasts, be included in the EIA as Category A or B1, without size thresholds. The role of Panchayats in regulating land usage, building construction, waste management and others has been recognized under several state-level Panchayat Raj Acts for tourism. “The EIA process must recognize the critical role of Panchayats in managing tourism development in the area, and ensure the full participation and consent of the Panchayat from the Scoping stage itself. Similarly, the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the Biodiversity Act 2002 recognize the role of Gram Sabhas in self-governance. Under both these laws, committees have been created with the explicit purpose of environmental protection. Hence, these local environment protection committees must be closely involved in the process of assessing impacts and planning mitigation measures,” it says.  EQUATIONS also recommends the inclusion of Golf courses as a separate industry within the Schedule.

It strongly recommends that tourism projects be looked at in a comprehensive manner and measured for the tourism related impacts on the environment and on local communities, not merely for individual infrastructure components. This would also bring about a huge shift in the frame of reference required to measure environmental impact assessment, the letter reads.

 

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