Kochi

Tourism stakeholders observe Black Day

Expressing angst at the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the Centre and State governments in helping out the crisis-ridden tourism stakeholders and the over-a-million-strong workforce in Kerala, members of the fraternity observed May 1, Workers’ Day, as Black Day through protests, including through social media.

The observance of Black Day comes at a time when the resurgent pandemic has resulted in foreign and domestic tourists cancelling or postponing their trips to the State which banks heavily on the over ₹40,000-crore annual revenue from the sector.

“Foreign tourists alone brought an average of over ₹10,000-crore revenue each year to Kerala. Soft loans and other measures announced by the State government to help such people out have not benefited even a fraction of the over 2 lakh tourism workforce who lost their jobs due to the pandemic-induced crisis, since banks have discretion in sanctioning loans, and they do not care much for the State Level Banking Committee (SLBC),” said George Scaria, president of Tourism Professionals Club, who also teaches responsible tourism at an Austrian university.

The Centre, which is much better placed to help the labour-intensive sector from crumpling further, is remaining a mute spectator. Most countries have announced plans to reopen borders for tourists. The Tourism Ministry is doing little, not even rolling out a plan to receive guests during the tourist season that begins in October, despite enquiries from foreign clients. They will thus travel to other countries, resulting in India losing the second tourist season in close succession, he added.

Fed up with the Centre’s alleged apathy, select tourism stakeholders had approached the High Court of Kerala, seeking refund of 7% of forex they helped bring to India, under the service-export incentive scheme (SEIS). The court ruled in their favour, sources said.

Tour cancellations

“The wide coverage of the COVID-19 resurgence in India in the foreign media has led to a spree of cancellations,” said Santosh Tom, who owns a heritage homestay in Fort Kochi. It might take up to 2023 for the situation to get back to normal, he added.

Foreign tourists cancel trips

Many foreign guests who arrived in Kerala on medical visa for Ayurveda treatments cut short their tours and returned to their countries, heeding to pressure from their family members.

Among them was Giorgia, a young Italian who returned to her country this week after undergoing ‘pachakarma’ treatment in Kerala. However, she has promised to return, impressed by the warm hospitality at locales in Kerala. “I am forever indebted to Kochi-based Italian-speaking travel guide Jessy who accompanied me on tours to Varkala, Kumarakom, and Alappuzha. She helped me learn much about local life, lifestyle, food, religions, and the condition of women in Kerala. People were kind and friendly. I hope to return again, especially to see the churches and temples,” she said over phone.

“I hope the government gets its act together and manages to rein in the pandemic, since French and Italian tourists begin arriving in Kerala from July, while those from the US, Canada, UK, and Germany visit in the October-March season,” said travel guide Ms. Jessy.

Shajeeb Shihabuddin, a Russian speaking guide based in Thiruvananthapuram, too echoed similar sentiments. The second wave of the pandemic recently resulted in a group of Russians cancelling their Kerala visit, he said.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 2:34:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/tourism-stakeholders-observe-black-day/article34461171.ece

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