The Narendra Modi government must prioritize the country’s tourism industry—the seventh largest in the world—to revive economic growth, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. As international travel remains restricted, the government needs to promote domestic tourism and allow hotels, restaurants and pubs to operate normally albeit with precautions. The biggest problem at present is lack of consistency in the tourism industry as each state has set its own travel and quarantine norms.
“A strong recovery plan for this sector will go a long way in helping the sector and those dependent on it indirectly as well,” said Nirupama Soundararajan, senior fellow and head of research, Pahle India Foundation. The sector will also be one of the first sectors to attract income spend, she added.
The industry, which is a foreign exchange spinner and accounts for about 9 per cent of the total employment, has come to a near halt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides, as more and more people take to travelling, the tourism sector can no more be given a step-motherly treatment. In 2017, as per the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, as many as 1.3 billion tourists spent about a whopping $1 trillion across the globe.
A study by the Pahle India Foundation noted that several countries are dependent on tourism for its economic growth. While in Maldives tourism directly accounts for 39.6 per cent of its total GDP, in Cambodia the figure is 14.1 per cent and in Vietnam 9.3 per cent, the study pointed out.
In UK, tourism accounts for 3.7 per cent of its overall economy and 2.6 per cent in case of the US. The tourism industry has strong inter-linkages with many other sectors, including logistics, aviation, hospitality, and handicraft among others.
Several Asian countries are making necessary changes in their policies related to infrastructure development, visas and hospitality to boost tourism.
Subhash Goyal, chairman of Assocham’s tourism and hospitality council, said that the government must open up hotels and restaurants at the earliest to save jobs and boost revenues. In a letter to the Civil Aviation Ministry, he said that it was imperative to bring in a uniform interstate quarantine policy to boost travel.
“If a tourist gets his or her Covid-19 test done just before the travel, there should be no quarantine required, there is absolutely no need. We need to frame policies which give confidence to people to travel and the importantly there should be no compromise on safety,” Goyal said..