Can Indian tourism industry sustain the COVID-19 Crisis?
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill. Almost every sector is badly hit by this pandemic. The tourism industry is one of the major sectors that has been the worst affected. The latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicates that COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020. It also states that the global tourism industry has had 67 million fewer international tourists up to March which means a loss of US$80 billion in exports. At present it is difficult to predict if these huge figures of loss are the peak level of losses or just the tip of the iceberg. The Indian tourism industry too has grown in leaps and bounds since independence. In 2018, travel & tourism contributed 9.2% in India’s GDP and generated 26.7 million jobs in that year. This industry not only employs workers in cities but also provides an earning base for the rural population. The tourism sector accounts for 12.75% of employment in India. Over 87 million people were employed in the travel sector in 2018-19 in India, according to the Ministry of Tourism (MOT) annual report for 2019-20. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a cataclysmic impact on the Indian tourism industry, affecting both the footprints and monetary receipts. Almost two months post the lock-down, the industry is hovered with the threat of unemployment. stares at the threat of unemployment hovering. The tourism industry has supported millions of livelihoods by offering variety of employment opportunities. It needs to be noted that Small and medium sized enterprises make up around 80% of the tourism sector (data released by World Tourism Organisation). This segment of the tourism industry is expected to be particularly impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, the sector has consistently proven its resilience and its ability not only to bounce back as a sector but to lead the wider economic and social recovery. The tourism industry has faced such crises even in the past. May it be the SARS (2003), economic crisis of 2009, the industry did overcome the tides of depression. However this is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began (1950). This paper attempts to understand the deepening impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Indian tourism and come up with viable solutions for making the dream of Travel Tomorrow a reality. Based on it’s unique economic nature and social acceptance by large, tourism industry is expected to jump back to it’s original shape and size. It’s just to see the time that it will need for doing so.