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Centre asks States to vaccinate employees in the travel and hospitality sector on priority to revive tourism

New Delhi: With travel, tourism and hospitality being among the worst-hit sectors by pandemic and in dire need of a helping hand for early revival, Centre has asked states to vaccinate tour operators, hotel employees, drivers and other industry stakeholders on priority to bring back confidence in the tourism sector.

“We have taken it up with state governments that vaccination of all the tourism related stakeholders — be it drivers, tour operators, hotel employees, hotel management– should be taken up on priority so that we gain a sense of confidence that all the stakeholders in the tourism sector are fully vaccinated,” said Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh.

“That will give a sense of confidence to customers who want to go to a safe place. If he/she knows that all the employees and persons he is going to meet are fully vaccinated that will instill a sense of confidence,” he added.

As soon as the first few cases of Coronavirus were reported in early 2020, the tourism sector started feeling the heat. But as the nationwide lockdown was announced in March last year, the sector faced the worst crisis in its history. Millions of jobs were immediately lost. With no hopes of early revival in sight, a sizable number of tour operators had to shut their shops.

As per a National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) study, 14.5 million jobs were lost during the first quarter (April-June period) of FY21, 5.2 million during Q2 and 1.8 million jobs during Q3 as compared to an estimated 34.8 million (direct) jobs in the pre-pandemic period of 2019-20.

The government has extended some monetary, fiscal and compliance relief to the industry but they have been termed grossly insufficient by travel & tour operators, hoteliers and other concerned stakeholders.

Among the relief measures extended by the government are loans on concessional terms under a credit guarantee scheme, deferring statutory compliance deadlines and moratorium on loan repayment.

“Maybe, we did not meet the expectations of all the stakeholders of the society because there were a lot of expectations of further fiscal benefits and monetary reliefs but the Finance Ministry and all of us are in continuous dialogue and interacting with the industry. They are taking up whatever short-term measures are announced and then whatever measures are to be taken up in the medium term or long term,” said the Union Tourism Secretary at an industry event organized by Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) and Services Export Promotion Council.

Due to overall economic slowdown during 2020-21, tourism economy or tourism direct gross value added (TDGVA) saw a fall of 42.8% in Q1; 15.5% in Q2 and fall of 1.1% in Q3, as per NCAER estimate.

Due to significant drop in tourist arrivals and hence tourism expenditure, during the pandemic, it is estimated that TDGVA plummeted by as much as 93.3% in Q1 of 2020-21 over its level in the same quarter of previous year. It picked up slightly to post a fall of 79.5 per cent in Q2 and that of 64.3 per cent in Q3.

The tourism sector started witnessing some green shoots and uptick in demand in the festive months of October-December last year with the sharp drop in Covid cases but with the onset of the second wave of pandemic in April this year the activities came to a virtual standstill again. There are hopes of the situation improving as a result of mass vaccination and herd immunity but many public health experts have warned of a third wave.

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