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Tourism industry faces spectre of losing another year of business to pandemic

Prabhulal Joshi, president of Maharashtra Tour Organisers Association, pointed out the industry is looking at another year of losses due to the second wave of infections, which started wreaking havoc just when tour and travel operators had begun hoping for a normal season.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
May 10, 2021 8:40:10 pm
Tourism industry faces spectre of losing another year of business to pandemicSecurity personnel patrol on a deserted street during COVID-induced curfew in Srinagar, Saturday, May 8, 2021. (PTI Photo)

For the second consecutive year, the tourism industry is staring at a complete washout as advance bookings get cancelled, once again, due to surging Covid-19 cases. With estimates about the loss incurred by the industry ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 500 crore, insiders say it will take minimum two years before things return to normal for them.

Tourism, along with the hospitality industry, has been among the sectors worst hit by the pandemic. Now, for the second year in a row, as travel becomes restricted and complete lockdowns become more common across states, people have started shelving their holiday plans for summer.

Summer seasons of April and May are usually the peak months for the industry as schools are shut and several people travel with their families.

Prabhulal Joshi, president of Maharashtra Tour Organisers Association, pointed out the industry is looking at another year of losses due to the second wave of infections, which started wreaking havoc just when tour and travel operators had begun hoping for a normal season. “Post October, things had picked up… bookings had started for the April-May holiday season also. But everything now has again come to a standstill,” said Joshi. The combined loss to the industry is estimated to be nearly Rs 200 crore, he said.

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For tourists from Maharashtra, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh are the most favourite holiday destinations, said Joshi. With every single tourist booking to another state, over 30 indirect jobs are created in the destination state, he said.

“Given the complete washout in the sector, the number of job losses and financial distress created is immeasurably huge,” said Joshi. Other than the tour operators, cab owners, hotel owners, tourist guides and others have also suffered in the last two years. Many medium and small-scale tour operators have shut shop, unable to sustain two consecutive years of losses, said Joshi.

Bahram P Zadeh, chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India’s Pune chapter, said this year they were hoping for a revival of the tourism sector. “Almost 95 per cent of the bookings were for domestic tours but all of them have been canceled,” he said.

The sector faces a bleak prospect as people will think twice before travelling now. “We feel that it will take at least two years before people get the confidence to travel again,” said Zadeh.

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