India's pandemic-hit tourism sector hopes for 'quick revival'

Representatives of travel groups say more support needed from government.

India's pandemic-hit tourism sector hopes for 'quick revival'

As World Tourism Day is marked on Monday, people associated with India's tourism sector are hoping for a quick recovery of the industry, which was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, a global forum for the travel and tourism industry, the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product in 2019 was 6.9% of the total economy, or approximately $194.30 billion.

With domestic travel resuming in the country and tourist destinations receiving large numbers of visitors, representatives of the industry are now hopeful that the sector will recover, as it is now heading for a comeback.

Jyoti Mayal, a well-known travel sector expert and president of the Travel Agents Association of India, told Anadolu Agency that the country's tourism sector is very resilient and has bounced back quickly and stronger each time there has been a calamity.

"I see that happening again, though the pandemic has been the worst of all and will leave a scar for a longer period," she said. "COVID-19 is a pandemic, and everyone on this planet has been devastated by it."

She noted that there is a need to "focus on the changed demographics of tourism, both for the traveler and the destination."

Domestic tourism has not only bounced back but they have also seen an increase in domestic travel, said Mayal.

Several parts of India had witnessed heavy tourist inflows amid the second wave of the pandemic, which also spurred a rise in tourists that could trigger new COVID-19 outbreaks.

"This [increase] has been due to most of the international borders being closed, huge challenges while travelling, and everyone wanting to move out of the lockdown," she said.

"Some avenues of tourism like wellness, friends and family reunions, adventure, luxury and rural areas have seen huge spikes in numbers."

Riaz Munshi, president of the Outbound Tour Operators Association of India, told Anadolu Agency they are hopeful that with cases of COVID-19 going down, the sector will see a recovery.

"People are waiting for travel, and not once, but multiple times," he said.

He noted that India has huge potential and will bounce back shortly because as soon as things settle down, people will start travelling again.

"When people travel or there will be incoming tourists, the sector will see a revival," said Munshi, who is also the owner of Chirag Travels in New Delhi.

Shala Farooq, who runs a tour company in New Delhi, said companies like his are now waiting for international travel to start.

India last month extended the suspension of all scheduled international commercial passenger flights until Sept. 30.

"The pandemic has hit the tourism sector badly. We are waiting now for international flights to resume again completely. Only then will foreign tourists come to India in large numbers,” he said. "I am sure the sector will see a recovery as soon as international flights resume normally."

Scope

According to Mayal, India, with its growing economy, can also become the largest travel hub between the East and West.

"As we all restart tourism from ground zero, we need to rebuild, reinvent and reboot tourism. We need to collaborate and coordinate amongst countries and stakeholders to thrive. We definitely also need to build on sustainable tourism," she said.

She also noted that they have received some support from the government but "require much more, if not in the form of fiscal benefits, then it could be in the form of statutory reliefs and rebates."

"We are in continuous dialogue with the government in advocating better policies in bringing in ease of business and correct procedures to enable tourism to grow more and more," she said, adding Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands that tourism will drive a faster revival of India’s economy.

Hüseyin Demir

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