The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) scare and the central government’s decision to cancel all existing visas — except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project ones — till April 15 is likely to have an adverse impact on the tourism sector, which is already grappling with an economic slowdown.
Although the government has not come out with any assessment on the impact on the tourism sector, an industry chamber, the Confederation of Indian Industries’ (CII) assessment report said the impact is expected to be 60-65% of the projected revenue of $28 billion for the October 2019 to March 2020 season.
The CII tourism committee report said the bookings for April-September period is expected to be bleak because of the restrictions on international travel. “The cancellations in hotel booking peaked in March, as 80% cancellations were reported from several Indian locations,” the report, which was released on Thursday, said. It warned that unless Covid-19 is contained, the projection for the season is at risk. In Kerala, where the tourism sector accounts for 40% of its revenue, tour operators say they are hit by bulk cancellations. “Some foreign tourists have cancelled their itinerary planned in September. The tourism industry will take long to recover from this,” said P Vinod, a resort owner in Munnar. “It is a double whammy for us. Most of us have invested in our properties damaged after the floods. Visa suspension is the last straw,” said a resort owner who didn’t wish to be named. State tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran said the tourism sector, which was reviving after the 2018 and 2019 floods, is hit. “All tourist destinations were packed till February but most were cancelled after the outbreak,” he said.
Goa, another popular tourist destination, is almost empty. “Around 8,000-10,000 tourists, who would have come to Goa from the UK and Russia, won’t arrive,” Ernest Dias, a tour operator who handles chartered flights, said. Nilesh Shah, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, said if the government had exempted Russia and the UK from the ban, the impact would had been lesser.
Tourist flow to Taj Mahal is dwindling with each passing day. The Archeological Survey of India’s data shows that about 10,000 tourists visited the monument on Holi , a dip of over 50% as compared to the same period in 2019. “The decision not to allow foreigner tourists into India till April 15 is a major setback,” said Rajiv Saxena, vice president, Tourism Guild of Agra.
In Varanasi, only a few hundred foreign tourists came for Holi celebrations on Tuesday. “Our fear is that the impact will be prolonged,” said Rahul Mehta, president, Varanasi Tourist Welfare Association. The tourist inflow to Amritsar and adjoining areas has dipped since the Border Security Force (BSF) banned visitors at the Beating Retreat Ceremony at Attari-Wagah border.
In Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand, the tourism departments reported a dip of about 50% in hotel occupancy. In Assam, prolonged protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act since last December and Covid-19 had resulted in dip in tourists. “The drop in both domestic and foreign tourists is around 80-90% as compared to the corresponding period last year,” said Sachin Goswami, adviser, Tour Operators’ Association of Assam.
(With inputs from agencies)