The Indian tourism sector has been facing massive disruptions for the last few years. First, it started with the economic meltdown, and then came the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, when the industry is gradually recovering from the pandemic impact, the Russia-Ukraine war and its deep driving impact are again hammering the industry.
We had Covid to celebrate the last two years. Then came the War!
I had the opportunity to travel to Europe in April and I was happy to see those nations have decided to treat Covid as normal flu and lifted almost all restrictions. In some nations like Denmark & Netherlands, there are absolutely no covid restrictions at all. The biggest of my joy was at Innsbruck, the University town of Austria where thousands of students are back for their reunion after two long years! But it was a pity to see many business establishments are closed for life and many others are suffering a shortage of employees.
Now the main talks are on the ongoing war (many say the “crazy war”). People have a fear which is multi-faceted and it can make an impact on Indian tourism. It is quite natural that nobody wants to leave their home and families for a long haul destination when there are disturbances on the domestic front. It is really not a war fear, but a precaution, an emotional string in anyone’s life.
There are many other situations getting into the discussions about the high airfares, inflation across the world, non-transparent covid restrictions and protocols and so on. In India, it’s all funny and pure red-tapism at the government levels. Last week one of my travellers sent me a message asking me whether it is still mandatory to get an E pass on jagratha portal to visit Kerala. I could not blame him because he found it on the website of Indigo Airlines. We can’t blame Indigo because the Kerala government has not revoked its earlier order on this.
When I flew from Germany to India a few days before, I was asked to fill in at the Air Suvidha portal which needs some documents to be uploaded within certain sizes etc. I had to take a real pain in doing this as I was travelling in Europe all these days. And to my surprise, absolutely nobody asked for this document at any point of my travel. Should we continue such gimmicks on behalf of Covid precaution?
Many of our industry leaders and colleagues come out with many assumptions about the scope of an inbound surge of Indian tourism in 2022. I would like to express my opinion here which is purely my feeling after meeting a good number of overseas partners and travel experts in Europe.
Covid fear may not create much impact now as people are more or less practical after the experiences of two years plus. But there will be lesser travellers from the 70 plus community.
If war persists, definitely there will be a big reduction in the number of travellers from our main source markets. The only way is to pray for Putin & Zelensky for having better ideas than war!
There is an ever-increasing demand for sustainable travel solutions and India has a big potential for growth. Especially States like Kerala with its responsible tourism may make real progress in the coming years. The biggest advantage will be for the small units like sustainable tour operators, homestays, community-oriented responsible tourism products and family-run small hotels.
Supercharged airfares will pull many travellers back from travelling to long haul destinations. I fully understand the oil price situation which made an impact on airfare. But this height is just superficial. I was travelling on the train throughout Europe this time and all trains were tightly packed always which shows that people travel very much but within Europe.
Thanks to the social security measures taken in the developed countries, I could not find a financial crunch in these places and it’s a good point for tourism because people have money for travel. When I was talking to my Danish partner a few days back, it was interesting to note that they could operate so many groups in 2021, but all groups to some low focused destinations like Jordan which even did beat highly focused Turkey. Hence we should see how the traveller’s mind works now.
My humble request to our Indian tourism authorities is to immediately start the real PR for India along with clearing the channel for arrivals. We should make our visa process transparent and Nationalities like British should be allowed online visas. Also, the Online Visa issuing authorities are like machines who just reject visa applications and never even try to help them to re-apply.
It was such a desperate situation, when I tried to sort out the visa for a Dutch traveller who has no reason for a visa rejection, even I wrote to the Director-General of Indian tourism, but nobody helped me. I am sure there are many other instances too. Indian tourism is a stagnant body for a few years which is a sad situation for India.
If we are smart enough to capitalise on the existing opportunities in the midst of problems, Indian tourism can at least have a glimpse at the end of the tunnel in 2022.
(George Scaria is the Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife Certified Tour Operator.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Partnersincrave.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)