Covid 19 pandemic is more or less faded away by now, if not completely. The most important is that the fear psychoses among the people is close to zero at the moment. The common man again has resorted to a normal life, though still a very small proportion is still following a mask protocol in any crowded places. This has impacted tourism business a lot. This is even more important since tourism sector is one of those that provides maximum employment in the economy. An NCAER report, which I was also a part of the research team, shows that during peak pandemic period, i.e., 2020-21 (Q1), the employment in tourism sector had gone down more than 35 million, if one considered direct tourism jobs. And, if the indirect jobs are considered because of tourism sector, the job loss was more than 15 million. These indirect jobs are those that are generated in the sectors that are supplying various goods and services to the tourism sector.
I do not think it is needed to even highlight the importance of these many job losses in a sector on household income and also on overall economy. Several small businesses have been closed. Large number of hotels, tour operators, homestays etc. stopped their operations. Many of those who were dependent on tourism such as tourist guides, Dhabas (road side informal restaurants), tea stalls, souvenir shops and many others lost their livelihoods. Losing livelihood of household head or any other member has immense impact on lives of the household members in various ways. It affects healthcare, education and all other spheres that are normally not visible when we see people. But these have long term impacts that ultimately impacts a country’s wellbeing.
A saving grace, to some extent was, the decision of corporates to allowing work from home. This allowed several people to travel to various places and stay there for some time while working from there. However, contribution of that to make up the losses caused by pandemic was minuscule. Fortunately, with fading impacts of corona virus, again tourism sector picking up its activities. Again you will find the accommodations in various tourist destinations are again booked well in advance. You will find it difficult to book tickets in train or flights. When this is challenging for the individuals what to travel, it is a good sign from tourism industry perspective. with the impact of corona pandemic, domestic tourism will play a significant role in tourism activities revival in the country.
However, while boosting sentiments of the tourism sector, especially through domestic tourism, it is also critical to focus on sustainability part, especially, the physical and cultural environments fronts. This needs to be remembered that the triggering factor for tourism development in any country or region is their offering towards unique experience. Every tourist, unless they are visiting for social or professional reasons, look for unique experience which the destinations offer. These experiences are offered through 1) natural endowments and 2) cultural endowments. If proper care is not taken, the destinations will lose their value to the tourists. Therefore, every stakeholder, be it the central or state governments, local businesses and the tourists need to make sure that these environments are protected so that the uniqueness of the destinations are preserved.