The Indian tourism industry has been suffering due to the crisis arisen by the Covid-19 pandemic. The government inaction has multiplied the woe.
Is GST or Forex collection the only fancy of the tourism industry for a Government? Did any of the sensible ministers or tourism officers ever think how tourism industry sustains or how the entire tourism process happens? If they knew it, the ruling governments would have cared about the tourism lives in the country during this unexplainable suffering.
Tourism is the face of a country. And tourism professionals are the backbone of the delivery. If the delivery fails, then the country will lose its face as tourism is discussed in the global arena. The “People” component in the sustainability part of tourism clearly indicates how best we should take care of the people – the entire human element in hospitality.
How irresponsible were our governments in having a watch on how tourism lives survived the last 10 months? Can we still continue like this? Is it not the world watches on how we treated our tourism professionals during a crisis?
Most boasted 55 million employees are in deep distress for months. At least 75% of them lost jobs. Many MSME business houses are out of the picture because of absolute inaction of the government in getting them working capital assistance through banks. We failed miserably. Or we are pronouncing loudly that India doesn’t care about sustainability in tourism!
It has come to a ‘do or die’ stage for the tourism fraternity in India. Hence the protest “Save Indian Tourism – Tourism Lives Matter”. The tourism fraternity across India has called for a campaign to protest against the inaction of the Governments. Anyone working in the tourism industry, who had distress during the Covid-19 period, may join the protest by supporting the campaign on social media and a physical demonstration on 5th February at their own destinations.
This is just to make sure that the authorities are aware that there is a community called tourism. This may be just a humble beginning as the so-called blue-chip travel associations are not with the suffering poor ones. But finally, the numbers will win.
The proposed protest demands the following immediate survival needs which are just practical.
GST holiday for two years for tourism industry
This can bring down the tour prices considerably, and the fasten up of tourism activity will accelerate the employee rehabilitation and cash flow
Rehabilitate tourism industry employees who lost job during Covid-19
Reopening of tourism will bring opportunities for the workforce. Governments also should instruct the businesses to take back their former employees on priority. Many business houses are smart to go for new faces as they can buy them cheap.
Immediately open international tourism and no state-wise restrictions for all tourists
We have clearly seen that the tourists were not the reason for Covid-19 spread. Moreover, they are more careful because they never want to contract Covid-19 in an unknown place. So it’s important that India opens up its skies and borders to all tourists with a mandatory condition that no state should fix parallel controls once a nation-level SOP is fixed.
This can ease a big crisis in the tourist transportation industry where our professional drivers are jobless since April 2020. Nobody even talks about them. A majority of them across the country are contract workers and not eligible for any benefits.
Exempt road tax of taxis and tourist vehicles for one year
This is a state government stimulus which can facilitate the tourist transport industry to start their operations once the tourism is open. Most of the transport owners are in deep debt and not able to pay the loan instalments even. And the demonic banks added to their suffering by initiating legal recoveries and threats.
Exempt hotels from paying electricity bills and building tax for one year
Again a state part but very important to ensure the units are able to take a breath and start operating. The giants are happy that they could manage with their alternative resources but the small and medium ones are at the edge of perishing.
Enforce industry status to tourism
The sad fate of the tourism industry, which should have enjoyed a better position in the country. Now at the mercy of MSME which is an ocean where tourism is not even visible.
Ensure Banks extend additional working capital support for tourism industry
Someone should take ownership of Indian banks. Otherwise, we don’t need institutions like RBI or Directorate of Financial Services. Banks performed the most inhuman attitude to hospitality industry during a pandemic related lockdown which was no fault of the stakeholders. Governments have a duty to perform during such a crisis. They can’t just sit back and relax.
Release SEIS benefit for 2019-20 immediately
It’s in the news that Indian exchequer has excess money to be spent as the year-end is approaching fast. Nobody knows why the Finance Minister is not allocating the funds for releasing the SEIS for 2019-20 which is an obligatory payment by the government to entrepreneurs. This is an offensive action. Industry seeks relief on this approach.
The Industry is trying their last option. It’s not a fight. It’s just an eye-opening request to the ruling governments before many stakeholders vanish from the industry.
(George Scaria is the Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife Certified Tour Operator.)
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