This World Tourism Day, there was no celebration, but an earnest appeal.
Let us roll back this year a bit to get a sense of what has happened.
By January 2020, concerns were developing over the world about the Novel Covid - 19.
By February, Europe's worries about the virus spreading were coming to the fore as the virus raged in Italy and was slowly spreading across its neighbors.
Now, I vividly remember how the travel industry's sentiments in India were at that time and surprise surprise: "We were positive". Not about the virus of course, but over the fact India had '0' active cases in the country. There were 3 detected in the state of Kerala and they all recovered which definitely brought good news for the whole country and especially the travel industry.
What we had hoped for was an opportunity, could we be the safer alternative for travellers coming to Asia? After all, China was already was not an option at that time to arrive to.
By March, a month later, all those hopes were quashed. A couple of weeks into March, our bookings started to tumble and various cancellations started coming in.
Focus was on trying to get back current tourists in India back to their home destinations as Europe was going under lockdown and flights were being suspended, both domestic and international.
By March end, the country went under a lockdown over reports of rising cases.
The whole economy was practically shut.
A month on, the government started to unlock things slowly giving much needed livelihoods back to apply.
However, one industry that clearly could not benefit from this was the tourism industry. Travel sentiment can hardly be positive during a pandemic. And now that India seems to be one of the worst affected, there really is a cause of concern for all of us.
Is it a big deal? Well, let us mention some numbers here.
If such a huge section of the country's economy is under attack, it is fair to say we are heading towards a crisis.
Mass scale job losses and bankruptcies are what can be witnessed on the horizon, hence, the government just cannot turn a blind eye and has to come in.
The travel fraternity of India has come together to make an earnest appeal to the government.
To raise awareness, a drive to #savetourism was organized on World Tourism Day.
Over 200 vehicles and 300-400 people participated.
The appeal to the government in simple but straightforward without going overboard:
* SEIS ( A regular subsidy) - Immediate Release for FY 2019-20 & Enhancement to 10 % for FY 2020-21.
* Atma Nirbhar Loans: Collateral Free & Deferred loans with low interests @ 6% with moratorium till October, 2022 with an enhancement from 20% to 50%.
* Tourism Ministry, Government of India approved and MSME Registered to be given Soft Loans even if they do not have past borrowings.
* Entry Fees to be either free or, reduced at all Monuments and National Parks till March, 2022.
* Road taxes on Tourist Vehicles to be withdrawn or, reduced till March, 2022.
* Abolish tax regimes like TCS that put Indian companies at a disadvantage. Clients and overseas tour operators would be incentivized to book directly with destination companies. This would entail severe losses of revenue including foreign exchange to the Indian government.
* Higher Income Tax exemption limits to smaller companies
* Subsidies electricity and license charges for hotels till March, 2022.
* Create Tourism Bubbles between Friendly Nations with a simple VISA regime.
* Faster RT-PCR Tests and results so as to facilitate travel between Countries.
The above are steps that would help the tourism fraternity to survive the current challenges and be alive as well as robust in taking advantage of the pent up travels that are expected to happen at the end of the pandemic when vengeance tourism is largely anticipated. Tourism could become 20% of GDP then as the tsunami of visitors is unleashed.
Here are all of us hoping that the government steps up to #savetourism.