The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard. As a result, many employees in the sector have lost their jobs creating a huge void that might bring another crisis of workforce shortage once the tourism industry goes back to a near-normal situation.
Aditi Devo Bhava!
What a unique caption for Indian Tourism & Hospitality services! The question is: Who will make the guests Gods in future?
Indian hospitality was known for its people who represented our varied culture and traditions in a huge country like India. Unfortunately, the majority of the human resources in tourism and hospitality fall in the private sector. In the recent Parliament session, Hon. Tourism Minister Mr Kishen Reddy himself announced that around 21.5 million people lost their jobs in Tourism.
Mr Reddy said this was one of the key findings of the study done by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) for the Ministry of Tourism to assess the extent of losses to the sector. (I am sure many might have been missed in this counts). So the question is on who will deliver the divine services to the guests post-pandemic.
I personally have listened to the mighty praises of many Tourism Ministers and officials on our highly commendable Tourism workforce for their tremendous job in serving guests. But when it came to a real situation, we don’t even see crocodile tears for them. While the governments (whether it’s State or Centre), lament on the job losses and other sufferings, nobody has come out with a proposition to see how to survive these poor souls so that we have our workforce still with us during our revival.
What kind of sustainability in Tourism, when we forgot to sustain our “People” factor?
Even Hon. PM loudly proclaims that India is moving towards Sustainability. But what kind of sustainability in Tourism, when we forgot to sustain our “People” factor? The entire tourism fraternity was discarded by the governments. Recently I heard a senior government official saying that Tourism entrepreneurs are all millionaires who can afford any losses. I decided not to comment on such an idiotic superstition. Most of us think that Tourism means Taj & Oberois. We never count the ground level people and the MSMEs in Tourism.
Tourism industry can be affected immediately by any kind of disaster, war, economic recession, natural calamities and now even just a virus!
As a person closely working with the tourism professionals in Kerala, it was very difficult for me and my colleagues to handle the situations in the case of many of our friends working in Tourism. It’s true that Tourism is a flashy business branch where the employees have a pleasing presence and an accepted decorum. At the same, this is an industry that can be affected immediately by any kind of disaster, war, economic recession, natural calamities and now even just a virus!
We had many informal discussions on the lives of Tourism employees many of who lost jobs or others who just get a survival allowance from the kind employers. Especially those in the age range between 35 to 50 have big liabilities and financial commitments due to housing loans, vehicle loans and children’s education etc. None of these payments waits for the pandemic to be over.
Even when the entire Tourism Industry across the globe have great hopes that the Industry will bounce back latest by 2023, nobody brings out a solution for the survival of these human beings until then. If you look at the developed nations, at least their governments provided an appreciable sustenance benefit to each of their citizens.
Even when the Parliament discusses the job losses and other economic losses, none of the responsible Ministers or MPs say anything about a solution. This is where India fails. Tourism is not just a revenue source for a country. It’s the biggest source for cultural exchange which brings positive vibes towards the growth of a Nation. The government should realise this fact and do their best for the sustenance of the Tourism employees.
Sometimes I heard from the officials saying that if a government does some special assistance to the Tourism sector only, it may invite severe criticism from other areas. This is because of the ignorance of the importance of tourism. The employees need to have a certain skill to service tourists and if we lose them, it’s not easy to deliver a similar “Aditi Devo Bhava” kind of service again. It will backfire our entire efforts on promoting tourism for the last so many years.
Recently I was invited to give a lecture on Career Opportunities In Tourism to a batch of graduate students in Tourism. As a person with a working experience of more than 25 years in Tourism, I had no fear to tell those youngsters that there will be opportunities in Tourism. But when they ask questions on how the government looked after such a skilled section in India, I had no answer. This makes a big difference when we believe in big announcements from the government and they just forget what they announce daily.
I could see many of my known colleagues switched from Tourism to manage their families. Waiting for a revival for more than 18 months is too much. And even now the Central Government has not even started discussions on reopening the borders and visas.
Tourism is an area that needs the best and advanced planning. And this is what India Tourism is lacking. If we wish to open our borders in November 2021, the government should announce it now, at least. Or still, they wish to add on the job losses and close-downs of businesses, then they should not talk about Sustainability in Tourism.
We have seen thousands of crores was returned to the exchequer from the Ministry of Tourism because the funds were not utilised during the fiscal. They should have used it for the survival of these poor souls which would have been the biggest and loudest advertisement Incredible India could have. But we fail again and again.
When I write this article, I feel ashamed of spending the best part of my life promoting Tourism, not because of my financial losses or zero revenue for so many months, but because of the lack of planning of a set of officials and Ministers even when they have written records that Tourism is the worst hit.
I feel sorry for all my colleagues in Tourism who lost their jobs. I feel sorry because they were not attended by anyone. How do we expect that they will return to service in hospitality when normalcy returns?
Also Read: Role of sustainability in post-Covid travel
(George Scaria is the Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife Certified Tour Operator.)
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