The world began 2020 with new hopes and plans for the year ahead, but like they say, “Life doesn’t always go as planned”. This year brought with it a new virus that has resulted in affecting more than 1,45,000 people all over the world and has killed about 5,500 people in a span of just a few months. This year really bruised China, as it became the first country to become the epicenter of the disease.
As coronavirus cases surge around the world, factories, supply chains, aviation, hospitality and tourism sector are bearing the brunt. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says up to 50 million jobs could be lost because of the pandemic and the travel sector could shrink by up to 25% in 2020. As various places around the world live in a lockdown, the economies are bound to shrivel down rapidly.
India is no exception, Hotel room sales have dropped to about 50% specially in the country’s capital Delhi. The hotels are however taking all the measures to ensure sanitation in their properties and are slashing prices upto 30% to attract guests. Business conferences and meets around the world stand cancelled which has impacted the industry at a massive level. After ITB Berlin, ATM Dubai and ITB India was also cancelled and shifted to a later date. The Indian tourism industry had major hopes for ITB India as this was the first time that ITB was coming to India, but now the dates have been shifted to April 2021. The organizers of domestic travel trade marts and conferences are also facing a dilemma as cases in India soar to 84, and two deaths have already been recorded.
In a bid to take preventive measures, this bruise to the travel industry has been worsened as Government of India on Wednesday decided to restrict the entry of foreigners and kept on hold the visa-free facility given to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders from 1200 GMT Friday. “Our total volume of inbound tourism is 10 million (people) annually. We think the impact (of the government order) is going to be around 1.2 million (less) tourists and a revenue loss of about $3 billion,” said Pronab Sarkar,President, Indian Association of Tour Operators(IATO) in an interview recently.
Trips to tourist destinations in India are being cancelled right from the coastal state like Kerela to the Royal state of Rajasthan. A 50% drop in bookings has been recorded within India between March 2 and 9. Airlines are also abstaining from flaring prices for the summer season considering the already weakening of demand on the domestic side. According to the data shared by a Air tickets booking site, average one-way fares compared to a week ago are down by 33%, 27% and 16.8% on the New Delhi-Hyderabad, New Delhi-Mumbai and New Delhi-Bengaluru routes.
The civil aviation ministry has received a letter from Association of Private Airport Operators (APAO) seeking an relief package to deal with the higher expenses incurred to prevent the spread of the disease such as screening of passengers and disinfection. According to a UN report, “India is estimated to have an impact of about $348 million and the country figures among the top five economies most affected as slowdown of manufacturing in China disrupts world trade”.
The Indian aviation industry, which was already seeing a chronic period of single-digit growth in domestic passenger traffic, is expected to incur more losses in the coming quarters. InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which operates the country’s largest domestic airline IndiGo, said that the bookings have dropped 15-20% in the last few weeks. As the Indian Government announced its decision International carriers are still processing the impact and accessing what these restrictions around the world would do to the industry.
In view of these problems the Tourism Industry headed by FAITH (Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality) took a huge step and presented their concerns to the Minister of Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel yesterday I.e. 13th March, 2020. They presented statistics showing the impact on the industry and suggested some measures that could be taken to avoid unemployment of people from the tourism and Hospitality industry. We can now only hope for the economy and the tourism industry to be saved before getting crippled and without letting the government compromise on the preventive measures.